How to Sketch for Beginners -Tips and Tricks to Follow

How to Sketch for Beginners

You’ll always find people skipping things in life because they find it hard to do. Just like every other thing we bail on, sketching “Seems” hard at first. For complete newbies, at least. Yet, once you look deep enough, sketching is just like any other process.

It’s just that you’ll need to follow some techniques and guidelines. Make it a habit to practice the sketching tips and tricks if you’re a newbie. Develop a routine of your own and you’re well on your way to becoming an artist someday.

I ain’t kidding, people! Sketching or Doodling takes practice, yes. But at their core, these two things are nothing but a set of basic shapes. The fact is, professional artists, do the basics well. So much so that they often come up with their own version of these tricks.

This is what we artists call, “Personal Style of Art.

But here’s the kicker, “Beginners don’t know where to start.” Yes, you’ll find many blogs teaching people various things. Mine included. But these articles are just written tips. People need to follow them to yield positive results.

Having said that, I’ll be speaking to aspiring sketch artists about some of the “How to Sketch for Beginners” in this article. These are steps that I followed when starting out. I’ll also be recommending you some of the best art supplies scattered here and there while I’m at it.

Let’s get started with the lessons, shall we?

Figuring Out Art-Style is Crucial Before Sketching or Doodling for Newbies

I must be honest with my readers: The beginning steps of two sketch artists WILL MOST LIKELY vary during their early years. This is because not all of us start out by drawing the same shapes or sizes. Not all of us have the same goals set in mind either.

This is why you need to set specific goals in mind. Think of these goals as stepping stones of your career. For example, People who want to draw for anime have a unique vision in mind.

They prefer a specific art-style where fantasy is a big part of the process. It takes a lot of imagination and insight as well. You’ll often find unique shapes, vibrant colors, and hyper-realistic background in their drawings.

On the other hand, some people go for portraits, other people, and animals. Their view of the world and imagination tend to be grounded in reality. They’ll go for natural shapes, sizes, straight and curve lines rather than irregular ones.

The first thing to do for beginner sketch artists is to figure out which path they’re going to take. Are you more realistic and prefer natural things while drawing?

Or, are you gunning for the Anime Industry, comics (manga, in Japan), and graphic novels? Choose your path, set goals, and shape your practice according to those goals.

Knowing the Tools for the Trade is Important!

Now, here’s where people get confused most of the time. They can’t get a fix on what to choose and when. You’ll see some of the best art markers for drawing. These are basically for drawing of whiteboards. People need to adjust to thick and thin marker lines with these.

Then, there are people searching for some of the top-rated pens for sketching and doodling. I don’t see anything wrong with it. If you’re well-versed in doodling or sketching, go with pens and a variety of papers (as well as other surfaces). Power to you!

However, there’s a catch. Drawing, for dummies (first-timers), is a bit different. You’ll have to trace and re-trace your steps until you get them right.

Obviously, there’ll be a lot of smudging and erasing stuff. Choosing markers or pens hereby is a problem. Oftentimes, you cannot erase your mistakes. That’s why I hold pencils in high regard. You’ll find numerous brands of pencils for sketch and doodle artists. Pick one.

Ideally, noobs (okay, first-timers) need three types of pencils for their adventures. Buy an HB, 2B, and 6 – 8B pencil. Okay, you’re fine now. However, you’ll rarely be needing HB.

Do yourselves a favor and buy a metallic pencil sharpener as well. Trust me, you’ll need them a lot when we start the process.

People will need something to draw on. Yes, sketching paper it is! Rather than going for sheets of such a thing, go for sketchbooks. To me, these are memoires of my work. These things are tailored to your needs. The paper quality is actually good.

You’d obviously need an eraser to do away with your mistakes, right? Go for Graphite Erasers or Soft Rubbers while you’re at it. In my experience, I’ve found Kneaded erasers quite good when I wanted to erase lines in tight areas.

Is it too hard to find one? Don’t worry, people can go with Tombow Mono Zero Eraser with their eyes closed!

I hope you’re not tired yet. We could do well with one or two more (optional) sketching tools in our arsenals. Slightly experienced people use blending stumps or Tortillions to blend different layers of pencil strokes.

Setting Goals Help to Learn Faster

Now that we have our tools to sketch and draw, we better set our minds right. Let’s get two things straight. Learning to doodle or sketch is a tedious process. You’ll need to set up some mind goals to get better at this and get to milestones. Let’s see what you need to do.


Setting Goals to Learn

Make Sure to Take Sketching as a Daily Task

Doodling, basic sketches, and detailing take time to master. Set a goal to practice daily. Getting the basic idea of a task and leaving it mid-way will hamper your progress. Ultimately, you’ll have to start over and over again to make things right.

That’s why, I’ll advise my readers to start small. People should at least keep sketching day-to-day. Even if they do it for 10 or so minutes. This will keep the ideas fresh. It will ultimately develop their perceptions as artists.

You shouldn’t worry about how or what you draw at this point. Make sure to draw daily.

Set Specific Time Limits for Drawing

This might get confusing for some people as it runs in close with the point I mentioned earlier. But that’s not my point. Rather, I want you to break complex sketches down to simple routines. Then, dedicate 5 – 10 minutes to doing those individual tasks right. 

Don’t go off doing the same task for half an hour. It’ll look and feel just fine the first time but don’t do it. Rather do the tasks for 10 minutes and take a break. Once you feel like sketching again, start with another exercise. This will keep things fresh for you!

Learn to Control the Pencil/Pen You’re Sketching With

When sketching, you’ll need to pay attention to the dynamics of your tools (pencils, in this case). A sketch is a set of complex layers, shapes, lines, and shades. Pencils are “The” common tools to help people achieve that. “How?” you may ask. I have some tips for you.

If I paraphrase Sylwia Bomba, an illustrator I bumped into during my research, holding the pen closer to its nib grants us more control. You’ll move “Comparatively” slower and get to draw darker lines. On the other hand, going further from the nib gives us fainter lines.

You will have less control over your pencil (or pen) as a tradeoff. My advice would be to start further from the tip of our pencils. We artists tend to kick things off with imperfect lines. Holding your pens further from their tips will help you get that done.

When it comes to refining the lines further, come closer to the tip. But with sketch pens, you cannot erase any mistakes you’ve made. That’s why I prefer pencil doodles or sketches over those made with pens. Use pencils when you’re just starting out.

Now, this is what the rulebook says. In practice, there’re other variables as well. For example, you’ll need to position your hands correctly. Don’t worry, I’ll get to it momentarily.

Positioning and Using Your Hands – The Basics

People will find many guides offering them insights on how to sketch for beginners based on pencil-work. However, your hands (basically, how you move them) play a major part in the process as well. I admit, I lied a bit there. You’d need your entire arm, not just your wrists.

You’ll have to prepare yourselves in mind when it’s time to alter your hands. Picture the image and be comfortable. Keeping the basic rule in mind, experiment with different gripping techniques and see which one yields better results.

Keep your hands loose and start by drawing “Light” lines before giving them darker, complex shapes. Don’t be nervous, it shakes the paper and botches your sketch.

Before you ask me about techniques, I’ll tell you what experts use. The “Overhand” grip and the “Underhand” grip. The former of the two results in lighter shades. The latter will give you darker ones.

Again, how far your hands are from the tip determines the shape’s contrast. Now, I’m not saying that “This is how you SHOULD position your hands. It’s the only way.”

Keep practicing until you see improvements. Yes, this will consume entire sets of paper. After a few days, you’ll notice the change yourselves. Next, I’ll get into moving your hands.

Improve Your Dexterity!

It’s important for any beginner sketch artist to practice dexterity first before moving on to drawing detailed shapes. Of course, it’ll take some work getting used to the process. But who said learning new things from scratch is supposed to be easy?

Now, developing your muscle memory is crucial. You’d also want to develop your hand-eye coordination to good effect. This will relax your mind and steady your hands so that you can move onto complex drawings and detail-oriented stuff.

Exploring different drawing equipment comes later. Hence, let’s see what shapes you can start with to train your hands.

I’d Advise You to Draw Circles

Yes, let’s start off rather easy. Draw as many circles as you can. Start small, then go big. Try and draw with clockwise and counter-clockwise motions.

You’ll notice that drawing becomes more difficult as you draw more circles. Don’t stop. Keep drawing until there’s no more space left.

Yes, you’ll feel your hand(s) cramping. Here’s one tip for you: Shake your hands. This will stop the cramp. Believe it or not, this little trick works 100% of the time, every time.

The Next Thing to Do is Practice Hatching

Don’t get too confused! I get the fact that you guys aren’t chickens and can’t hatch eggs. Rather, “Hatching” is another name of practicing diagonal lines. These things go with the natural motion of our hands. Hence, drawing them is easier.

Here’s an interesting fact for you guys: Lefties generally draw diagonal lines on the opposite directions than people like me who prefer slanting it to the right.

My readers will do well to alternate hands and try drawing in both directions. Once you’re at ease with the process, try drawing lines in other directions as well (if you start with horizontal lines, do verticals now).

Pro Tip: Don’t go for deeper lines just yet. Keep your hands relaxed and form lighter ones at first. Once you’re comfortable, detail them further.

Remember not to turn or rotate the paper. Otherwise, there won’t be any point going with the exercise. The goal of this little routine is to make our hands feel comfy while drawing in all the directions if possible. It’ll take time but people can achieve this with enough practice.

I did mention hatching as part of this exercise. Yet, people can do all sorts of stuff. In fact, you’ll find different marking methods like scribbling, cross hatching, stippling, and finger blend. For finger blend… wrap a tissue paper over your fingers and rub it on to your sketch.

Once You’ve Done That… Move onto Different Shapes

Different Shapes
Image source:

Now that you’ve done the basics, let’s get into drawing different shapes. Picture simple objects around you. Beginners should start with objects that are easy to draw and suitable for their skill-set. Bear in mind that we’ve not gone into shades yet. Stay away from complexities as much as you can for now.

Most blogs tell people to break things into smaller shapes and eventually combining them into a picture. This is an effective sketching tip for newbies. When you do the tiny parts well, the bigger picture (err… sketch) will be perfect as well. Eventually.

Experiment with Different Lines

Don’t confuse this section with the vertical and horizontal lines I told you to draw earlier. Those were ways to improve your hand postures and dexterity. These are different.

These lines are parts of your main sketches. As I told my readers earlier, it’s best to start loose and form outlines with light hands. Lines are important. When done right, these things can elevate your drawings.

Let’s paraphrase again. This time, it’s Rovina Car. As she once said, not every line is the same. They vary in darkness and shades. Different lines combined, add dynamics to your doodles and sketches.

You’ll have to experiment with different pencil grades to see what works for you. Start from 3H pencils and eventually move up to 8B. Don’t forget to hold them in different angles until you find what hand posture works the best for you. This is what she said. Well, more or less.

Erase but Don’t Smudge Your Drawings

Beginners or newbies will make plenty of mistakes when drawing. This is a given! That’s why people should keep eraser with them at all times. Now, first-timers do the opposite. They end up smudging their drawings in hopes to correct the mistakes and draw of said smudges.

Smudging makes people’s drawings lose their brilliance and “Oomph Factor.” This is the last thing you want to happen to you down the line, believe me. If one really wants his/her sketches to shine, he/she should use a piece of paper underneath their drawing hand.

This will help prevent smudging and smooth out the edges according to Brun Croes. He advises lefties to start from the right and right-handed people from left to make sure smudges “Almost” never occur. The reason I said, “Almost” is the fact that beginners WILL err.

Define Edges Using Different Methods

As it happens, Van Rueden also told us how to sketch if you’re a beginner. In his set of tips, he emphasized defining the edges of your drawing. Being a wonderful sketch artist himself, Rueden uses as many as four techniques to make sure his “Edges” are just right.

The first and techniques in his book are “Thin” and “Hard” edges. He uses both to grant his sketches solid borders. He uses “Lost” edges when blending the background with the sketch.

You can do it by hand with a tissue (like I told you earlier). If not, use some of the best blending tools out there.

Undefined edges are just as they sound. We as spectators, need to define the edges ourselves. The beginning and end of the sketch will depend on how we see it.

Need Tips for Digital Sketches as Newbies? Use Layers!

Don’t worry, I’m not “All About” paper sketches here. Once in a while, I meet people who want to be digital illustrators and ask for a tip. Well, here it is!

Sketch and Doodle using layers in Photoshop or Illustrator. One should always do light sketches on the first layer. Then, take another one and detail the edges a bit. The third step should be to lower the opacity level of the first layer as we put the second one on top.

This will give people a detailed digital sketch. I know people who won’t be satisfied with just the two layers of details and a B&W sketch. If you want to refine the edges and give it a suitable color, go for the third layer on top. It’s really easy.

Learn to Visualize Objects OR People the Way You Want to Draw Them

The tips and tricks on Doodling and sketching I gave you will be for naught if you don’t know how to visualize your subject. Once you’re done with individual shapes and combining them. It’s time to look into the bigger picture.

My advice to you would be, “Use references.” Get your hands on some photographs of objects or people (with their consent, of course). Watch all the angles carefully and try to draw them accurately. Accuracy will be a rare thing at first but you’ll get the hang of things.

Another interesting tip is to look at people. Watch how they move and interact in their daily life. How they look while doing it? This will train you to form your own reference points. That’s even better if you’re going for a “Cartoonish” style of drawing later in your career.

This process is also beneficial for people who want to have their own collection of reference libraries with different sketches and points they want to go back to. When pulling something from your imagination using references, people can train their hand-eye coordination better.

Let’s End Our Little Discussion Here, Shall We?

I get that guides tagged with “How to Sketch for Beginners (or Newbies)” usually have a bunch of tips with every detail covered. Obviously, I didn’t take that route. There’s a reason for that as well. Depending on what type of sketches you do, the learning period is different.

Notice that I didn’t talk about symmetry or the 70/30 rule? Well, I believe those fall into the practice regime of people slightly more experienced than beginners. Once you graduate from “Noob” school, I’ll talk about those skills in detail as well.

In the meantime, practice, practice, and keep practicing! Feel free to buy my equipment for the sessions as well. These things are tried and tested. A million times. By me, of course!

Loard Eva

Hi there! I’m Eva, artist, designer, photographer and mom of three little gentlemen altogether. When I’m not playing with my kids, you’ll find me researching and writing for ChooseMarker.

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