Sketch a sci-fi submersible craft: tips for beginners


Diving into the ocean’s depths is a daunting endeavor, requiring intensive training, certificates, and licenses. But what if it were as simple as getting in your car to take a sightseeing trip? Using graphite pencils on paper, let’s take a look into how to design and draw an improbable mode of transport: the personal submarine.


  • 0.7 mm mechanical HB pencil
  • Non-photo blue pencil
  • 2H, H 4H, HB, 2B, 4B and 6B Staedtler pencils
  • Black Prismacolor pencil
  • White Prismacolor pencil (or white pastel or gouache)
  • Ruler
  • Ellipse guide

Quick sketches

Using an HB lead in a 0.7 mm mechanical pencil, I fill a page with rapid sketches, no more than five minutes’ work each. Depending on the project, I may spend a whole day powering out as many ideas as will fit, exploring every shape, form, and function I can imagine.

Blue line sketch

I want a very accurate final drawing, so I take time to do a fairly rigorous layout sketch on 9" × 12" with Mars non-photo blue lead in a Staedtler lead holder. It is very important to scale the submarine in a believable way to the person operating it.

Pencil line art

Switching back to the HB mechanical pencil, I draw over the blue lines, both freehand and with rulers and ellipse templates. The result is still a little rough, so I tape a sheet of vellum over the drawing and retrace it for the cleanest possible look.


Starting at 4H and working mostly with the side of the pencil, I shade from light to dark through 2H, H, HB, 2B, 4B, and 6B Staedtler art pencils. The bottom of the image needs more darkening, which I add with a black Prismacolor pencil. For the final, I overlay white Prismacolor, chalk pastel, and gouache after spraying the drawing with workable fixative.

Final Image: A dark background clearly places the vehicle underwater. It’s a good idea to preserve a version of the original drawing before adding this.

Find this tutorial and more professional tips in
Beginner's Guide to Sketching: Robots, Vehicles & Sci-fi Concepts

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