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How to Draw with a Grid

Updated on September 19, 2014
Drawing with a Grid
Drawing with a Grid | Source

Learn How to Draw with a Grid System

People learn how to draw in all different ways.

Drawing techniques can involve drawing geometric shapes to form a figure or structure like John Gnagy in the '50's. Click on his name to see some of these antique treasures.

Or, they can be completely free hand drawing looking at an actual object, drawing from a photo or from a picture in your mind's eye.

My personal choice for beginners is to use a grid system to copy a picture. It helps you

  • Look at the relationships of lines to each other
  • It helps you focus on just a small part of the bigger picture making the overall process less threatening
  • You end up with a drawing that has good perspective and proportion.

The best part in using the grid is that you are unlimited in what subject you can draw. It could be a face, a car, a flower, a bird, a landscape; anything you want.

Looking Back In History

Drawing with a grid actually dates back to the 16th century when Albrecht Durer designed a grid that he could use to look through to see his subject. Since there were no camera, scanners or computers at that time, he had to make a mechanical grid.

He would look through the grid and then draw on a paper he had draw a grid on. He would sketch square by square until he had a finished drawing. His purpose for doing this was to capture the right proportions and perspectives of things he wanted to draw.

You can read more about Albrecht Durer at "The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain." It is available at Amazon or in bookstores and libraries.

"Drawing on the Right Side of Your Brain"

This book also gives you some practice images to help develop more skill. I think the most fascinating one was having you draw a knight on a horse, upside down.

Using the grid system, it was really awesome to have to focus on just on square at a time, and when you are all done, there is this fantastic drawing of the knight and horse.

How to Draw with a Grid

I have produced a video which demonstrates how to draw a grid to copy a picture you would like to draw onto paper. The drawing technique is very simple because all you do is copy the lines you see in each square.

You don't have to worry about if it is in perspective or at the right proportion, as long as the square you draw looks just like the one you are copying.

It is really quite rewarding the first time you try it and come up with a very respectable completed outline of a drawing.

What Do You Do Next?

Once you have completed the drawing outline on a paper, you have several options:

  1. You can trace it onto the canvas or paper you are going to actually paint it on. If you are going to use tracing paper, be sure to use graphite paper only.
  2. You can change the size of it either using different size squares or by scanning it
  3. Or, you can use it to sample how you are going to do the completed painting by working on the drawing itself.

Rule of Thirds
Rule of Thirds | Source

Using the Rule of Thirds to Improve Composition

Using a grid to help layout a painting is a very good way to plan placement of key elements such as the focal point. The most common one is "Rule of Thirds."

Here you can see that I have placed the focal point at the cross hairs at the right top intersection, making the distant tree the point where I am trying to lead people. You can use any of the four central points depending on what you are trying to focus on.

The other advantage of this grid is that it divides the painting into 9 squares. For a painting to be good, no two squares should be alike. Also, each square should be able to stand on its own as a painting.

Breaking the painting down into the 9 squares, gives you a chance to look at each square and adjust it so it meets both criteria but still fits into the painting as a whole.

Looking for Asymmetry and Balance
Looking for Asymmetry and Balance | Source

Checking for Balance and Asymmetry

The second most frequently used grid is the half grid.

By dividing the painting in half you can see if each side is different from the other. In most cases, you want asymmetry, but yet balance between each half. If the two sides are very similar, or if one side feels heavier that the other, then you can make changes to improve the composition.

Just like with the "rule of thirds," each side should be able to stand on its own as an individual painting. The only time this would not apply is if you have purposely made something symmetrical.

How Do You Feel About Using a Grid to Draw?

See results

For More Art Instruction go to

This is an instructional website I write covering a wide variety of topics related to painting. It is a work in continuous progress so check back frequently to see what is new. I know you will not be disappointed.

Also, be sure to take a look at my other Hubs. Many of them are art related.

"How to Draw What You See"

I have found that using the grid to begin a drawing has been very helpful in making me pay attention to drawing what I see. It makes you look at the relationship between lines and shapes.

The next natural progression is to start drawing free hand. You can look at an object and use the newly developed skill of paying attention to relationships.

This book is one I highly recommend for further developing your free-hand skills. It definitely focuses on attending to how objects relate to each other.

Additional Books, etc. Recommended by Amazon Readers


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    • lbrummer profile image

      Loraine Brummer 

      4 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      Very useful information for drawing using a grid. I've used this method when I've wanted to magnify the size of an image by a great amount. Works great.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thank you so much for your detailed answer. I really appreciate it! Relating to my approach towards the teacher now, I think I was very open to learning and I really wanted to feel that I am taking something even if it was little.But, you see the specific teacher wasn't really providing any help. She would just give us something and tell us to draw it. I don't remember learning anything and also I hadn't taken a clear answer to whether I could develop any cartooning skills or it was just a matter of talent. Anyway, thank you again for your time and interest. Wish you the best!

    • Judy Filarecki profile imageAUTHOR

      Judy Filarecki 

      5 years ago from SW Arizona and Northern New York

      @mina009: Cartooning is tricky. It definitely requires a great imagination and the ability to think in the abstract. I have a problem with both of these things. I've tried cartooning without success, but painting abstractly has improved with courses I have taken over this past year. Over the past year I have focused on more impressionism in my paintings with focal areas devote to reality. This has come from a great deal of practice and course instructors that have critiqued my work and pointed areas where things could be more impressionistic. All of this has helped me. Perhaps you should look for a cartooning books to try to develop the basics. That way , there is no pressure. If you do take a class, do not feel threatened by what the teacher says, but take it as a learning experience. Some suggestions my teacher gives me I don't particularly like, but they make me start thinking about ways to change the painting to improve it. Other suggestions are great and I carry them over to other paintings. the thing is, you have to please yourself, not someone else. Once you realize that, you will grow. Try doodling first or zen-tangles (google it for more info) and that helps free up your mind to be more creative. Thanks for commenting and good luck.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I had once had few drawing lessons because I really wanted to see whether I could draw cartoon type of characters. The only thing I would do during the lesson was to try to copy movements or faces. I didn't do badly, in fact a lot better that what I would have expected. Then I stopped because I wasn't sure whether I was taking the right kind of help from my teacher. I really wanted to know at that time if talent was the only condition for someone to be able to draw cartoon characters or one could develop the skill of drawing. What I mean is that you see people creating figures just like that on a piece of paper. That is purely because of their imagination and talent or it can be the result of learning and following some techniques? Maybe it is a bit of both but if one doesn't have the talent can he or she have some good results? Still, wondering about all these things :)

    • KamalaEmbroidery profile image


      5 years ago

      I want to learn to draw. Thanks for the reminder.

    • kathysart profile image


      5 years ago

      NOTE TO SELF... DRAW MORE! Thank you so much for the reminder.. yay. Lovely work.

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 

      6 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      I've got that book (Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain) and have worked through part of it. I should get back into it. While I was using it my drawing improved radically.

    • Escapes2 profile image


      6 years ago

      Love your tips! I will try these. I've always wanted to learn to draw.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Wow! I didn't know that drawing could be so easy. Thanks for the tips!

    • Judy Filarecki profile imageAUTHOR

      Judy Filarecki 

      6 years ago from SW Arizona and Northern New York

      @soaringsis: I'm constantly learning new things from people here on Squidoo and other art forums. It is always fun to try new things.

    • Judy Filarecki profile imageAUTHOR

      Judy Filarecki 

      6 years ago from SW Arizona and Northern New York

      @raelcalu: I'm essentially self taught. I have never really had any formal education in art but just spent time trying new things, doing a lot of reading and practicing what I learned. Hope you find some time to do the same.

    • raelcalu profile image


      6 years ago

      nice from birds to landscape...i begin to draw, usually for boys, doing cartoons...i haven't really explored my talent but hopefully in time...i did not take fine arts before because I don't see the practicality of it, I guess I was wrong.

      thanks for the share.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I am learning so much from kind Squidoos like you. I must revisit to get all of your

      instructions and tips. Thanks for sharing

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I sent the link to this page to my wife.

    • Judy Filarecki profile imageAUTHOR

      Judy Filarecki 

      6 years ago from SW Arizona and Northern New York

      @WooHue: Thanks Woo Hue from a fellow Etsian..I'll check it out

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I love this - especially the recommendation for a book and workbook. Thanks! :)

      Lisa from WooHue

    • WildFacesGallery profile image


      6 years ago from Iowa

      Drawing is the most fundamental skill when it comes to the arts. No matter if you are a painter or work in sculpture a good beginning in drawing will help achieve your goals.

    • Timewarp profile image


      7 years ago from Montreal

      Nice job on the drawing with a grid video, blessed!

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this lesson. The video is especially helpful, and I look forward to seeing the rest of it on your web site, as well as to trying the grid technique in my next drawing study.


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