ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Draw (Sketch)

Updated on April 14, 2019
rickzimmerman profile image

Rick has sketched and cartooned since the age of 4 (going on 64 years now) and can give you some helpful tips.

Rough Spontaneous Sketching

Crayon Mickey
Crayon Mickey | Source

Some Background

There are those who feel they can't draw a straight line to save their lives. Others think they have no talent for art at all. Well, I'm here to tell you that anyone can draw. Just follow along with me, and you'll be drawing in no time.

First, allow me to clarify the title of this article, that is, the supposed difference between drawing and sketching. When artists talk about sketches, they are usually referring to the rough, loose and experimental images they create while trying to develop the look of a finished piece. Many times, the finished piece is a drawing; sometimes it's a painting or a sculpture or a mural or a collage or a construction. Likewise, architects may produce final construction drawings for a building, only after throwing away many preliminary sketches. Sketching is actually a fairly modern term. Historically, painters and muralists had always referred to their preliminary or rough concept sketches as cartoons (derived from the same French word that gives us carton, something composed of the same cheap paperboard cartoons were usually drawn on). Cartoons at times became patterns or stencils for final art. And a cartoon that exaggerates, satirizes or lampoons a subject is often called a caricature. But whether you are trying to produce a sketch, a drawing, a cartoon or a caricature, you're still doing just one thing: trying to produce a useful or enjoyable image, employing only your hand and a simple utensil. Mankind has been doing that for eons; it's about time you got started.

Getting Started

Begin with any old writing utensil you can find, and any old surface you feel like drawing on. Early man used bits of clay and singed wood as utensils and a wall of rock as a surface; you're sure to find something. And it doesn't really matter how sophisticated your utensil and surface are, only what you do with them. I created the picture of Mickey leading off this article using only rough scrap paper and the 16 colors of a kid's crayon box. Use whatever utensil or surface is ready at hand and inexpensive. That way you won't get hung up about wasting precious supplies on your not-so-precious early efforts. Over the years, I have completed fine drawings in pencil, crayon, chalk, finger-paint, roller-ball pen, felt-tipped marker, charcoal, watercolors, oils, fabric paint, molded clay, even carefully arranged colored beads — you name it; anything works. Experiment with what you have on hand, then try something new when you can. You can always move up to better quality artist's materials and supplies as you improve.

Sometimes 'Messy' Works Best

Felt-tip & Sharpie Marker Cartoon
Felt-tip & Sharpie Marker Cartoon | Source

Stay Loose & Limber

Next, get loose. Don't go choking your pen or pencil, crayon or marker, as you might when you write. Writing makes use of the fine movement of the fingers and thumb relative to one another (or not-so-fine movement, as the case may be; just check out your last handwritten prescription!). But drawing and sketching often require a lover's touch: a loose yet supple, tender grasp of the art-making object. Act like you care about your drawing implement, and you expect great things from it. That will take some of the tension and anxiety out of your hand and arm (and, by transference, your brain). Rather than moving your digits relative to one another, keep them all in a relaxed, comfortable position, and use the easy, gentle movements of your hand and arm to circumscribe arcs and swooshes and circles. Pretend you are gently stirring soup, until you develop a fluid hand movement. I drew the happy chef above from a series of loopy swirls, as if I had just stirred six adjacent cups of hot cocoa. You will find ellipses, circles and fluid waves come much easier and look more realistic if you remain relaxed.

Sketch While Observing to Capture Life

Backyard Squirrel
Backyard Squirrel | Source

Sketch Anything (and Everything)

Try to sketch or draw everything you see, no matter how mundane. I have sketchbooks full of pictures of doorknobs, bookshelves, dirty dishes, keyholes, railings, shoes, and every other conceivable bit of household clutter. I also happened to create the above sketch of a squirrel while glancing out the back window one morning. I began the sketch as the little critter posed as shown, but of course he soon ran off. Continuing to watch him and other squirrels intermittently throughout the morning, I was able observe further details to complete the drawing. Don't be put off by the quality of what you first produce; it's a beginner's sketch, after all. If you need a precise and accurate and fully recognizable image, take a photo. If you want something that captures a bit of your personality and emotion and particular vision, do a sketch or drawing. In fact, do many sketches and drawings — you'll eventually see some that are quite good. (To get over feeling badly about your initial attempts, you might also go online or visit the library to see what passes for the greatest drawings of someone as renowned as, oh, say Picasso. Hey, at least your initial drawing of your cousin has one eye on each side of the nose!) And, draw, draw, draw, then draw some more. I began drawing horses at age 3 or 4, and they looked it; they more closely resembled the offspring of a camel and a bicycle. But after drawing horses for a little over 40 years, I was actually starting to generate realistic-looking ones. Like the Rockin' Horse pictured below (though I admit that's not a very realistic-looking Appaloosa hide).

WONE 97.5's Rockin' Horse

Part guitar, part horse, all rockin'
Part guitar, part horse, all rockin' | Source

Copy (Pay Homage)

Learn from the masters. Online or at your nearest library, there are literally thousands of sources of drawings by others, renowned artists, professionals and amateurs alike. Find someone whose work you appreciate, and practice copying the kinds of sketches, drawings or paintings you admire. Note how artists may choose to draw some lines, while leaving others out. Shading and cross-hatching may be used to intensify an image or add depth and shape. Line quality may become delicate and fine to illustrate lace, or bold and broken to indicate heavy timber. The artist may select an unusual pose or perspective to add drama or focus to his art. Almost every beginner's class in drawing or painting includes time spent copying and learning from the best works of others. Only by duplicating their efforts — the line quality, the tone, the form, the layout, the proportion, the intensity, the emotion — can you become truly facile at drawing, and thereby able to imbue your own drawings with some of those same qualities. Create practice pages within a sketchbook, where you can try out different styles and techniques of drawing to see what works best for you, or gives the most satisfying results. Pictured below is a sample practice page on which I was experimenting with rendering different types of trees and shrubs (all with only a black felt-tip pen).

Felt-Tip Pen + Paper = Art

One Day's Sketch Studies
One Day's Sketch Studies | Source

Refine Your Own Style

As you develop a facility for the loose and easy sketch, you'll find that it you can apply or adapt it quite readily to diagrams, maps, posters, newsletters or other more precise or exacting compositions. Often your sketching style will bring with it a personality and flair. Illustrated below is my sketch diagram of a proposed monument sign for a large mixed-use development. Here the 'sketchiness' of the drawing makes it more visually appealing and comprehensible to the average viewer, yet the image contains sufficient detailed information and technical precision to be a fair representation of a future reality.

Sign Diagram by rlz
Sign Diagram by rlz

Branch Out

As you become more and more comfortable (and skilled), you will find you can experiment with lots of different media and a variety of drawing styles. Mess around with markers on newsprint. Create with chalk on your driveway or sidewalk. Fool around with fabric paints on gifts or household items. Pick your favorite pencil and do your pet's portrait. You'll be able to integrate drawing, sketching and an enjoyable creative flair into just about any aspect of your life.

And, above all, make it fun!

Mixed Media

Spatter paint, cut paper, marker, colored pencil, gouache, crayon.
Spatter paint, cut paper, marker, colored pencil, gouache, crayon. | Source


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Drawings are really good!

    • rickzimmerman profile imageAUTHOR

      Rick Zimmerman 

      8 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      That 'own best critic' thing seems to be common among artists of all kinds. Van Gogh was a depressive (and probably schizophrenic), and no painting of his ever sold for even a modest amount during his own lifetime! Keep at it! You'll only improve, and you'll probably enjoy the process along the way. Regards, Rick

    • profile image

      Sunnie Day 

      8 years ago

      Wonderful hub! I have always loved to draw and I think my favorite is charcoal pencils and blending with my fingers, which is messy but fun. I have recently discovered that I can sketch, scan to the computer, and then use paint which is interesting. This has been done I am sure for a long time however I just am now getting are a very talented artist and I love your drawings. I love doing whimsical type drawings and learn something new every day...however I am my own worst critic. Thank you again Rick...

    • rickzimmerman profile imageAUTHOR

      Rick Zimmerman 

      8 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Thanks much, Andrew! Means a lot coming from such a fine artist.

    • Insect Artist profile image

      Insect Artist 

      8 years ago from UK

      I already said this Rick, but that's some of the nicest shading in the Mickey Mouse drawing that I've seen for a while: full marks! All the best, Andrew

    • rickzimmerman profile imageAUTHOR

      Rick Zimmerman 

      9 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Glad you like the little backyard buddy. Good luck with your drawing!

    • Magdelene profile image


      9 years ago from Okotoks

      Nice Hub, my fav is the squirrel, that's what I want to be able to do some year. I will attempt to apply your methods and with a lot of practice perhaps someday I will be able to produce close to your quality of work.

    • profile image

      Christy Zutautas 

      9 years ago

      Great hub, I have to show this to my 14-year-old son who is an artist.

    • rickzimmerman profile imageAUTHOR

      Rick Zimmerman 

      10 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Agreed, waynet. It's great getting in the flow.

    • waynet profile image

      Wayne Tully 

      10 years ago from Hull City United Kingdom

      Awesome artwork!

      Drawing is just ace and it relaxes when stress creeps in.

    • rickzimmerman profile imageAUTHOR

      Rick Zimmerman 

      10 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Thanks, snowfence!

    • snowfence profile image


      10 years ago

      WOW! Awesome article!

    • rickzimmerman profile imageAUTHOR

      Rick Zimmerman 

      10 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Chef Jeff: Sounds like you'd be a great candidate for calligraphy, especially some of the very artistic traditional Chinese and Japanese styles. They're also great training if you want to develop better brushwork for painting. (I like watercolors and gouache, myself.) — Regards, Rick

    • Chef Jeff profile image

      Chef Jeff 

      10 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

      Love the drawings! I do mostly still-life, buildings, and stay away from close-ups of people. I am fairly good at faces, but my best work is in scenes. I do love trains, so I do some work there as well.

      Great hub and I'll get to work on my drawings! Also, I do like to write in ancient script, looking to original sources for inspiration.


      Chef Jeff

    • rickzimmerman profile imageAUTHOR

      Rick Zimmerman 

      10 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      In fact, I draw more often for fun than I do for any other purpose. And — presto — the drawings always seem to come out better, too.

    • K Kiss profile image

      K Kiss 

      10 years ago from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

      oh the horse is priceless!

      nice hub!

      i totally agree with the fact that drawing requires a certain lovers touch to it for it to turn out to be something good. Observing an object requires more time than the actual drawing itself in certain cases.

      the information you provided on the difference between drawing and sketches was quite helpful. Thanks


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)