Sketching in four steps: tips for beginners


There is so much more to creating an interesting sketch than marking a quick outline. In the following tutorials you will find sketch processes of different subjects depicted in four key steps. These key steps signify crucial turning points in a drawing: the basic shapes, line art, light and shade, and texture details. They bring into focus the most commonly misinterpreted points of each sketch and show how the subject matter can be tackled successfully. Noted below is an explanation of the four key steps and how they work to guide you through your own sketches.

Chicken © Anna Howlett

01. Basic Shapes

As discussed in the Basic Shapes section, these are very simple shapes that even the most complex objects and figures can be reduced to. By working out the basic shapes of a sketch subject you provide yourself with a strong, clear base for the rest of your sketch. When starting with basic shapes you also have much more freedom to experiment with the pose and perspective of your subject as the shapes can be easily altered or removed before you get into the more detailed parts of the process.

02. Line Art

With the basic shapes in place you can now focus on drawing a clean and orderly version of the subject, showing the main outline and any significant internal lines or markings. The line art stage is where the subject first becomes recognizable but it is not yet detailed, so this is a good step to refine any areas of the sketch that look incorrect. Some people may choose to leave their sketch at this point in its evolution, especially if it is only intended as a rough draft for another artwork. However, to achieve a higher level of finish in your sketch, attention to the next two steps is essential.

03. Light and Shading

Light, and how it is depicted, has an important effect on any artwork, regardless of whether it is a finished painting or a quick sketch. It is a strong indicator of the sketch subject’s place in an environment or scene and it can have a great impact on the viewer’s perception of a sketch. In the processes shown in this book the light is largely depicted from a single source positioned high above the subject, to either the right or left side. The cast shadows this creates show the three dimensional forms of the subject and, combined with the brightening effects of the light itself, add a sense of depth to an otherwise flat sketch.

04. Texture

In the final drawing for each process, you will see that surface texture is added to give the sketch greater realism and to add further interest. For accomplished artists, light effects and texture will often be tackled at the same point in the process. However, as texture has its own challenges and nuances, it is helpful to have the light and shade effects preemptively marked out to ensure a sense of depth is maintained as the sketch gains detail. You will find a wide range of texture details in this book so we strongly recommend that you look at the Line and Mark-making section and consult the Texture Library as you explore suitable textures for your subjects.

Practice your skills with these examples...


© Boti Harko

Armored car

© Evgeny Kashin


© Dejvid Knezevic


© Hazem Ameen

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