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Drawing tip: How to design a drawing using bounding boxes

You might have noticed that I use the word bounding box a lot in my drawing tutorials. Today I’ll show you how to design a drawing with these bounding boxes. I’ll show how they can help you simplify your drawing and design process. Let’s quickly dive into it!

What are bounding boxes in art?

Bounding boxes are primary shapes, usually circles or squares, that guide as a layout reference in which a certain subject’s coordinates lie. (You don’t want to know how much time I spent on formulating that sentence :’) ).

Bounding box:

In simpler terms: bounding boxes are used to map out the size and (roughly) the shape of an object. The object’s outer lines should stay within that bounding box.

When should I use bounding boxes when I design a drawing?

You should use bounding boxes when you…

  • … are sketching
  • … are thumbnailing
  • … don’t have time to draw something yet

Before I sketch I always mark where the top, bottom, left and right parts of my drawing sit on my canvas. I do this so I maintain my correct aspect ratio and don’t run out of space.

If I can’t spend a lot of time on a certain part I draw a quick bounding box so I know what part to leave empty.


Bounding boxes are merely a guide; they help you see the total picture. Don’t spend too much time refining them!

How to know which shapes to use as a bounding box?

Primary shapes how to design a drawing

It depends on what you are drawing. If I draw a daisy flower I go for circles.

Match the closest matching primitive to your subject and draw that. But most importantly it has to make sense to you. If you rather draw a square instead of a circle then that’s totally fine too.

Which bounding box should I use when I’m dealing with a complex shape?

Abstract bounding boxes

Bounding boxes don’t have to be primary shapes. It can be an abstract blob if you want. The reason I go for primary shapes is that everyone knows how to draw a circle and a square. It’s easier and less confusing for readers, and sometimes myself.


Don’t forget you can also combine shapes!

Design a drawing with with this useful trick

Remember when I said that an object’s outer lines should stay within that bounding box? Here’s how to break that rule:

Bounding box break the rules

For example, when drawing flowers I use a circular bounding box. Since I want my flower to be realistic, aka imperfect, I need my petals to vary in length. I can use the bounding box as a baseline. With every other petal, I go slightly above or below that baseline. This way my flower stays consistent but varied enough to look realistic!

How to design a drawing using bounding boxes

So, for this one I want to draw flowers on the inside of an envelope. 

1. Circle placement

Floral layout design

Since I’m drawing flowers I am using circles as bounding boxes.

I start with the circle in the middle. This will be my focal point. Then I work my way to the outsides. 


I want it to look organic, so I avoid symmetry. 

2. Center lines

Next, I draw in centerlines for the stems. 

After this step comes the sketching part. I don’t have a picture of this.

3. Lining our sketch

Lastly, I line my sketch and there is my finished envelope! 

If you’d like to see my sketch & a speed video of my lining process you can watch it on my Instagram under my reel tab.

Here’s a different drawing I made using bounding boxes. Tap to see the next image.

How to design an illustration using bounding boxes

1: First I draw a circle for the moon. The oval in the middle will be a castle on a mountain. 

2: Then I draw an ”oval” for my character. She’s sitting in a boat so my bounding box is a triangle.

3: Next, I draw a line that is going to hold grass blades.

4: Lastly,  I draw some background triangles representing mountains.

See how simple it is to plan your drawing’s layout? Sure, you’d have to come up with sketches before you reach your final artwork. But having everything layed out gives you a clear view of your illustration.


How to design a drawing became a whole lot easier, didn’t it?


I hope you got something useful out of this drawing tip. Will you start using bounding boxes yourself? Or was it already part of your process? Let me know!


See you next tutorial,




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