Last Updated on November 26, 2023 by Dee
Ever felt that your pencil sketches lack pizzazz or your doodles seem a tad dreary? Whether you’re a budding Picasso or just looking to refine those scribbles, this is your golden ticket. Dive in as we unravel how to improve your drawing with these 11 game-changing tips. Ready to bring out the artist in you?
Drawing is an incredibly therapeutic and calming activity to be involved in. It is the foundation of all other art forms and so it is really good to be practicing this skill regularly and trying to improve your drawing ability.
But… you have been drawing for a while and you just can’t seem to get certain things right. Your proportions are out and your drawing just looks ‘wrong’. Somehow you need to improve your drawing skills!
We all have experienced this feeling, no matter how advanced we may be in drawing.
The frustration of trying your best to produce a drawing – and it’s just not working.
Perhaps you want to create drawings that are highly expressive or realistic?
The most important factor involved in determining whether you are going to improve in your drawing or not is your reason why. The desire for wanting to improve in drawing is such a personal thing but it has the biggest impact on your performance.
Fortunately, there are things you can do that help to hone your skills and improve your drawing!
Table of Contents
Here are 11 different ideas to help you improve your drawing skills. Some of these ideas will help you develop skills, others will help with improving the quality of your drawings, and some will help with both!
11 Ways to Improve Your Drawing
1. Draw from Life
I chose to put this as my first point because I think it is one of the most important ways to improve your drawing skills. Drawing from life delivers the most effective results because you are able to incorporate all of your senses into your drawing experience. Practice drawing everyday objects, drawing shapes, and even straight lines when you start drawing.
When you are looking at a subject, you can see how it interacts with other objects, light and shade, color, and so on. You will find that you even begin to memorize shapes and forms more easily when drawing this way.
Drawing from life is also a great way to work on your composition. There really is no better way for you as an artist, to learn how to compose within the boundaries of a page.
This will teach you more about visual weight and how to balance shapes in this area thus developing your abilities.
Whether you’re indoors or outdoors, you can find a huge variety of subject matter to choose from. Sit on a park bench and draw a tree, or ask a friend to pose for some figure drawing. Working outdoors also means you may have to work at a speed in order to capture changing weather conditions.
[Related article: Art Challenges -Get Your Creativity Flowing]
Drawing from life stretches our brain’s ability to “see” things and translate them into marks on a page. It gives us an opportunity to truly analyze the three-dimensional subject and find solutions to producing a drawing that has depth and volume.
2. Draw from Photographs
This provides a static reference that we can draw directly from. A photo gives us a flat image and helps us to see the borders and boundaries of shapes and form.
You can also convert your color photos to black and white in order to get a better idea of tonal variation in the image. This can be a great tool to use when you are struggling to accurately render shadows and highlights.
When you are looking at a photograph to draw from, simplify your view and focus on the main features of the subject. Look for the largest shapes that make up that particular form and block these in first.
This is because when using a photo as a reference, there are most likely many details which will distract you from your overall drawing goal. By initially blocking the major shapes in, you are setting yourself up for an easier and more satisfying drawing experience.
Photographs can be a great tool for inspiration as well! By seeing what someone else has created, we have the opportunity to look at it from a different perspective and use it for our own learning purposes. You could ask yourself, “How would I have approached this differently?”
If you do happen to draw from photos, be sure that the image is one of high quality. There are some situations where we have poor resolution and/or focus which can result in a less effective drawing experience when working from your photo reference.
3. Look at Other Drawings and Draw from them
Copy drawings of the old masters like DaVinci and Michelangelo, or more contemporary masters like Lucian Freud.
By copying their drawings, you get a sense of what and how they see their subjects and how they translate this into drawing. This helps you to think about their methods and improve your drawing skills.
You can learn a lot by using their techniques.
4. Experiment with Different Mediums
Play with other drawing mediums such as charcoal, markers, colored pencil, pastel, ink, and crayons.
Each drawing medium produces a specific texture and line on the page.
Many artists find that charcoal offers more freedom, for example, to make expressive drawings than pencil does.
They might also find that they don’t like the stark contrast of a black and white drawing, so switching to colored pencil will help them solve this issue.
It is important to understand how each medium works, but it is also important to try out other media in order to help you figure out what your preferred mediums are for producing your artwork.
Here are a few drawing mediums you can explore to expand your drawing skills:
- Colored Pencils (oil and wax based)
- Markers (water-based and oil-based)
- Pens (fountain, ballpoint, gel, rollerball)
- Pastels (hard or soft)
- Watercolors (aqueous, gouache, or tempera)
- Wax Crayons
5. Turn Your Subject Matter Upside Down
This is called the Picasso exercise and it teaches you to see things with fresh eyes. Turn your subject matter upside down and look carefully at the actual lines and shapes you see. Not what you think you see.
Have a look at my article on Upsidedown drawing if you would like to find out more about it.
6. Draw in a Mirror
Drawing your reflection, or an object reflected in a mirror. This is another exercise we can use to push ourselves to see things in a new light.
You may find it helpful to use a mirror and place an object directly in front of you, with a sheet of paper on top.
You can then draw this object without having to figure out how you might capture the image.
This is one way that artists help themselves see through different eyes and to help them develop their artist’s eye so they can learn to draw.
Drawing from a mirror will help you to create drawings with lively and expressive marks because you are exploring a new way of perceiving things.
When you wish to see whether the general effect of your picture corresponds with that of the object represented after nature, take a mirror and set it so that it reflects the actual thing, and then compare the reflection with your picture, and consider carefully whether the subject of the two images is in conformity with both, studying especially the mirror. ‘Leonardo Da Vinci’
7. Draw Subject Matter That is Moving
When you attempt to draw a moving subject, you are forcing yourself to find solutions to create the illusion of movement on a static page.
Not only will drawing a moving subject help you develop your skills at creating the illusion of movement, but it can help to make your drawings more interesting and engaging.
When I first started sketching on location I spent time trying to draw things like ants, people walking, or even wiping a window at a local café.
These simple tasks helped to build my confidence and help me to understand how certain effects can help create the illusion of movement on a piece of paper.
It took time for me to change my approach, and when I did it really help me to learn how to draw things as they moved.
One of the best ways to help develop your skills at sketching moving forms is to simply practice!
Often the use of repetitive lines or shapes can be effective in capturing this sense of motion. Artists often blur the edges of forms.
8. Keep a Sketchbook
By drawing in your sketchbook regularly you are keeping a record of how your drawing changes and develops with time. This process will help you to understand where you are going and help you to find your own style. Try to incorporate a daily drawing practice in your life.
Your sketchbook could contain drawings, notes, images from magazines or even items that inspire you. A sketchbook can be a great way to help develop your drawing skills while keeping everything in one place. It is also a great way to help you remember and to review previous projects.
I love the idea that I can access my sketchbook at any time, even years after it was created. The drawings in your sketchbook help you learn by reviewing them regularly.
You can also record your drawing experiments so that you can remind yourself what worked at a later date.
A sketchbook of drawing often provides a springboard for other artwork ideas that you may have.
You can also make your own sketchbook.
Use a heavy-weight paper such as sketchbook paper or drawing paper.
You can also use watercolor pages, large postcard sizes (which are often used for making flip books), scrap book papers, and everything in between.
Easily bind your homemade sketchbook by using staples or a stapler and have fun with it.
[Related article: Best iPad for Drawing]
9. Stand Back
If you want a professional artist you will see that they often stand back away from their work to get a wider view of what they are creating.
When you stand back from your work you are forcing yourself to consider how everything appears together as one whole.
It is easy to get lost in the details and lose control of your drawing when you only focus on a small part at a time.
This trick will help to help you see how everything fits together. If possible stand with one foot back while looking over your artwork or even walk around it so that you can look from different angles.
This is a simple trick that can help you improve your drawing skills in almost any setting.
Many artists use this same technique when looking at their work to help them find solutions for problems that they may see within their artwork.
It will help you make the changes or corrections that are necessary while helping you to avoid getting lost in the details or perfection of your artwork.
It is really important to stand back and evaluate what areas you need to work on and what is working.
10. Ask for Constructive Criticism (online or in “real-life”)
This can be quite a difficult thing to do, especially when you feel vulnerable about your drawing.
If you have a friend or family member that you trust then you can ask them to give you feedback on your artwork. Ask them to try and best describe what works in your drawing and what seems ‘off’.
In some cases, the help of an online critique group can help you to improve your drawing skills.
Online forums are also a great place for help with drawing and many people will be willing to help you out if you ask politely.
Many people find it easier to give feedback on artwork when it is posted online. This is because they do not need to concern themselves with relationship issues or any kind of social interaction.
The help that you can find online is often quite detailed and specific and helpful with things like fixing problems areas, suggesting new ideas, showing examples of how something should look, and giving helpful tips with practice exercises for your drawing.
There are lots of people willing to help you to improve your drawing skills if you are willing to ask for help.
11. Take Breaks
Make sure to take a break every hour to rest your eyes and look at something other than your reference image. Have a cup of tea or take a walk outside.
By having a change in scenery every once in a while, you are able to see your drawing in a new light with fresh eyes.
Your eyes will be rested and you can help to think of new ideas or draw upon existing ones. If you don’t need a break then give yourself one anyway!
This simple step is very easy to implement when beginning with sketching. A lot of people find that it helps them to concentrate on the task at hand and helps them to draw better when they are more relaxed.
There is nothing worse than getting into a drawing rut, and it is important to take a break.
11 Quick Steps to Improve Your Drawing
- Practice daily: To see improvement in your drawing skills, try to practice every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Consistency is key to progress.
- Use references: Collect and study reference images to help you understand the subject matter better. This will aid you in representing the subject accurately in your art.
- Break down complex subjects: Instead of trying to draw an entire figure or object all at once, break it down into smaller shapes. This makes the drawing process simpler and helps improve accuracy.
- Experiment with different tools: Try using different types of pencils, pens, and brushes to discover your preferred drawing techniques and styles.
- Master the basics: Focus on mastering fundamental drawing skills like perspective, proportion, and shading. This strong foundation will help you advance your artistic abilities.
- Take breaks: Give your hands and eyes a break when drawing for long periods. Remember, your body needs rest too!
- Learn from your mistakes: Analyze the areas where you struggle or make mistakes in your drawings. Use this information to practice those specific techniques and improve upon them.
- Seek feedback: Share your work with other artists or peers and ask for constructive criticism. This feedback will help you identify areas to focus on and improve.
- Study the masters: Observe and analyze the work of great artists, paying attention to their techniques and styles. You can learn a lot from their successes and apply those lessons to your own art.
- Set goals: Establish clear and achievable goals for your drawing practice, such as completing a certain number of drawings per week or working on specific techniques.
- Be patient: Lastly, don’t forget that art takes time and practice. Remember to be patient and kind to yourself as you work on improving your drawing skills.
As we wrap up our artistic journey, remember that every stroke, every shade, and every line contributes to your unique style. Embracing these 11 methods on how to improve your drawing is just the beginning. Keep practicing, stay curious, and let your imagination flow freely.
The canvas of creativity has no limits—so pick up that pencil and make your mark. After all, the world deserves to see the masterpiece that is you!
If you found this article interesting, have a look at some of our recommended drawing exercises to fuel your creativity…
Please pin this post 🙂
Other articles you may enjoy…