beautiful drawing of a building in a sketchbook with coffee and a pencil nearby

How to Get Better at drawing: 7 Tips to Improve Dramatically

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Want to know how to get better at drawing? I’m assuming so, or you wouldn’t be here. How annoying is it when you want to draw something you have in your head, and then as soon as you put pencil to paper you want to crumple it up and break all of your pencils?

You probably already know that in order to improve your drawing skills, you’ll need practice. And lots of it. But, the “lots of it” part shouldn’t be a deterrent. You quite literally need lots of practice to get better at anything. And the good thing about lots of practice with drawing is that it is fun, you can do it anywhere, you’ll (agin, quite literally) see your improvement, and if it’s something you love to do it won’t feel like work.

Here are 7 drawing tips that will improve your drawing dramatically. Consider this an exercise routine for your drawing muscles – working different parts of your brain, eyes, and hands to give you a well-rounded command of the skill of drawing.

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Is Drawing a Talent or a Skill?

If I were to scream an answer to this, it would be: SKILL! SKILLLLL! You may have been born with an innate drawing talent, but that will only take you so far. I have seen plenty of people with natural drawing talent who did not pursue drawing (raises hand), and those who maybe didn’t draw so well out of the gate, but with practice became amazing at drawing.

man's hands drawing with pen in a sketchbook as illustrating how to get better at drawing
Photo by Kaizen Nguyễn on Unsplash (tattoo)

How to Get Better at Drawing

If you truly want to get better at drawing, you should have a little sketchbook with you at all times. This does not mean you need to turn into the obsessed, tortured artist society loves to romanticize. You can have a healthy life balance where you still just happen to draw a lot and get really good at it. You’re welcome.

Back to the sketchbook.

#1 This is tip #1 in how to get better at drawing. A sketchbook acts as a physical reminder that you should be drawing. If you can get to the point where you reach for your sketchbook before you reach for your phone, this is drawing master success #1.

With that said, you may need to try a few different sketchbooks before you settle on one you love. While some people swear by their Moleskine sketchbook, others feel more comfortable with a cheapo pocket sketchbook they can blast through while they are practicing upleveling drawing skills.

#2 At first, draw anything and everything you see. Draw your dog, your mom, your bedroom corner, your cup of mushroom tea with collagen powder and a splash of almond milk. Besides being a skill, drawing is a habit, and the more you do it, the more you will want to do it. Just wait until your brain immediately prompts you to reach for your sketchbook because you notice something you MUST draw.

This notion gives me goosebumps, so because I love to geek out on art wins, please let me know when this happens to you. < Instagram link so you can let me know. 🙃

#3 You don’t need the most expensive supplies. Even though it pains me to admit this, even an art supply snob such as myself knows that you don’t need fancy supplies to get better at drawing.

As a beginner, you will want to blast through sketchbooks and supplies as you draw, draw, and draw some more. Save the Caran d’Ache supplies for later (bookmark my post on the best drawing pencils for later as well.)

But, while some artists have chosen ballpoint pens as their drawing tool of choice, I still recommend a pen or pencil that will give you. little bit of a leg up. If you are a pencil person, start with Blick studio drawing pencils or Staedtler pencils. If you choose to only draw with pens, grab a set of Microns.

sketchbook and drawing pencils on table

#4 Okay, here’s where it gets fun. Getting really good at drawing requires a bit of a shift in how you look at things. I remember in art school, when I was drawing a model and the scene around her, and I started really seeing how the light was hitting everything, and how it all related to each other.

The more you draw what you see, the more you will see: the way the edge of your dog looks darker next to the light blanket, the shadow the one leaf makes on the one below it, etc.

The cool thing about this is that you can practice drawing when you aren’t drawing. Put your freaking phone down and STARE at things. (This is such a fun way to make people uncomfortable in public.)

Look at colors, light, shadow, shape, negative space, perspective, size relation. Study it. This will help you to draw what you actually see instead of drawing what you have in your mind that you think something should look like.

#5 Take a class. You can practice until your fingers bleed, but sometimes it superspeeds progress when you have a great instructor. That well-timed suggestion from someone who sees your drawing objectively (and expertly), can give you the ah-ha moment you need to break through a drawer’s rut.

Even online classes like those from Domestika, Skillshare, or Udemy can give you tips and tricks from the pros on how to improve drawing skills.

#6 Switch up your drawing subjects. If you are completely obsessed with drawing your hands, that is awesome. Hands are notoriously difficult to draw, and you will learn a lot. However, you will learn more and get better at drawing if you challenge yourself sometimes.

Transport yourself over to your window and draw what you see out there. Sit in a city and draw some buildings. Draw your face in the mirror. The point is, the more you can push yourself to draw things outside of your comfort zone, the better you will get at drawing in general.

#7 Draw quickly. When we start out trying to get better at drawing, we tend to tighten up and nitpick over every little line. What you want to do instead of this is warm up, loosen up, and enjoy the process. Sometimes this requires getting in a few drawings, and sometimes you will want to do some drawing warm up exercises.

If you have a large cheap drawing pad or even newsprint (super cheap), blast through a few pages by drawing over the entire page with large, expressive lines. In figure drawing sessions, we would warm up by drawing 30 second gesture drawings of the model. This forces you to hurry and get the most important lines down before the model moves, and you know whatever you draw will look bad and that is the whole point.

So. Take some time to just draw some quick sketches of anything around you, and draw it as big as your paper will allow, then try to approach your slower drawings with a bit more of this relaxed state.

Ready to challenge your drawing skills? Move onto my list of really hard things to draw!

Note: Some of these tips may seem obvious or intuitive, but it’s important to actually put them into practice. If you have the desire to get better at drawing, you can make a few small shifts and see huge improvement quickly if you stick with them. Happy drawing!

Main photo by sunorwind on Unsplash

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