Knowing how to draw basic shapes is one of the fundamentals of drawing. It’s simple, but can be tricky. Knowing how to draw a circle is, for sketching purposes, a must. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to quickly sketch a near-perfect circle. Let’s start!
How to draw a circle the right way
Can you draw a perfect circle?
You can absolutely make a perfect circle. It involves math or a tool to help you get it mathematically accurate, or in other words, perfect. More on which tools to use later. It has not been proven though, that perfect circles exist in nature. So don’t be too hard on yourself for not being able to draw one :’)
Since you and I are both humans and not computers, drawing a circle freehanded becomes somewhat harder, but not impossible. It won’t be 100% perfect but we can get pretty close, as you will see soon.
How to make a near perfect circle?
Since we’re sketching, our circle will appear kinda wobbly, even my guidelines. You can clearly see my lines aren’t super straight, but you’d be surpirsed at how close we come to a perfect circle with this technique.
1. Draw a square
Step 1. First, we need to draw a square. Squares are a lot easier to eyeball since they require only 4 straight lines. We can estimate easily if a square is actually square-shaped. Make sure all your lines are the same length. Use your fingers to measure your first line, then draw the 3 other lines.
2. Add centre lines
Step 2. Divide each line in half and mark it with a dot. Now we connect each marked dot with the opposite marked dot. You should end up with a cross. Where our lines cross will be the centre of our circle.
3. Sketch in circle
Step 3. The points where we marked our dots will be the points where the circle touches the square. Start with sketching in the circle. The first few ‘’rounds’’ of circles wont be that perfect. Keep going until you see a ”perfect” circle starting to appear.
TIP: Look at the positive and negative spaces. Try to match each quadrant with the other quadrants to get a balanced look.
TIP #2: Turn your page so you can see each line from a different perspective.
4. Define circle
After turning my canvas I noticed that the right bottom quadrant was slightly off. After fixing it I went over the circle one final time, accurately as possible outlining the sketch one more time.
5. Carve out circle
Next we carve out our circle by erasing lines of our sketch that are ”off”. This will thin out our circle.
6. Erase guidelines
Lastly we erase our guidelines. Feel free to clean up your circle even more but don’t change the shape. That’s it!
Check: Actual circle overlay
I overlayed a red mathematically accurate circle to see how close we’ve gotten. Pretty close, huh? So close that it’s hard to see the red. Some beauty imperfections here and there, but pretty close.
How to draw better circles
The only thing that will make you draw better circles is, surprise surprise, practice. Illustrators often start their workday by doing a warm-up. They draw a bunch of circles and lines so they feel confident to start working on their projects. Here are some extra tips:
1. Try to not move your wrist but use your arm instead: use your shoulder as a pivot point and keep your wrist sturdy.
2. Keep your guidelines light to prevent them still showing after you erase them
3. Doodle circles when you’re bored, all those little doodle practices will have a big impact all together
4. Remember you’re a person, not a computer
5. Keep in mind negative and positive space
6. To easily draw a circle in perspective, draw your square in perspective
7. A tool if you want perfect circles
There’s absolutely no shame in using a tool. People who say it’s wrong to use tools are the ones who either aren’t artists, or they’re beginner artists who think everything you draw should be without help, or it won’t be valid.
A regular old compass is great for drawing circles. You can easily change the diameter of your circle plus they are very cheap.
Remember those circle templates you used in high school? It’s actually a great tool to use for your drawings. They have different sizes of circles for you to quickly trace. They sometimes also function as a ruler.
BONUS: free practice circle template
Fancy some practice? Here’s a free download template for you to print (or use digitally) to practice drawing circles. Have fun!
See you next tutorial!