Learn How to Draw Step-By-Step

Woman Sketching at Remote Lakeside

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Learning how to draw is easier than you think. All you need are a few basic supplies, your imagination, and some patience. These step-by-step instructions can help you get started drawing with simple lessons and tips on choosing the right art materials. 

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Drawing Supplies

If you're starting, all you need to draw are a pencil and paper. An excellent yellow No. 2 pencil and some blank printer paper will do just fine. Although you don't need to buy special art supplies, here are a few that are worth the investment if you want to continue to explore drawing.

  • Artist's Pencils: These range in hardness from around 9B (very soft) up to 9H (very hard), depending on the brand. The harder the graphite/clay core, the finer the line you can produce. Most beginners find that a selection of 2H, HB, 2B, 4B, and 6B is more than adequate to start with. 
  • Erasers: Kneadable erasers, which you can stretch and fold like putty, are great for producing a clean surface. White plastic erasers can be cut with a knife to make a fresh edge for erasing crisp lines. Buy one of each.
  • Pencil Sharpener: A plastic blade-type sharpener will do the job just fine.
  • Paper: An excellent art-supply store stocks everything from newsprint for sketching to the heavyweight rag drawing board for fine art. Newsprint is cheap, available in a variety of sizes, and a good choice for beginners. A 9-by-12-inch pad is compact, while an 18-by-24-inch pad will give you more room.

Remember to keep it simple. Master one medium at a time, adding new materials once you're confident with the ones you already have. 

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Beginner Exercises

Now that you've acquired some basic art supplies, it's time to start drawing. As with anything new, remember to be patient with yourself; learning a new skill takes time. These beginner exercises will help you develop an eye for line, form, and depth.

  • Outlines: Choose a subject with a basic shape, such as a piece of fruit. Outline the subject several times. Don't worry if your first few attempts don't look very realistic. The idea is to get comfortable looking at and reproducing forms.
  • Contours: After you're comfortable sketching basic shapes from sight, it's time to try sketching an object without looking at it. Instead, allow your eyes to follow the contour of your subject and trust that your pencil will follow. 
  • Shading: Choose a few of your best versions and add shading for depth. Note where the light and shadows fall, and use your pencil and eraser to replicate the shading.

Don't try and cram all of these exercises into one sitting. Allow yourself the time to explore each technique and don't be afraid to repeat the process. As you practice, you'll begin to develop a sense for how the pencil behaves as it moves across the paper, allowing you to refine your line and shading work.

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Your Sketchbook

No artist improves without practicing regularly, not even Leonardo da Vinci. By keeping a sketchbook handy, you'll always have a ready place to practice. It's also a safe place to make mistakes and explore. 

You can find a variety of sketchbooks at your local art store in a range of sizes, prices, and bindings. Here are a few factors to consider.

  • Size: Choose a book that's small enough to be carried easily but large enough that your hand will have room to draw.
  • Paper: Most sketchbooks have plain, unlined paper, but you can find books that have gridded or lined pages. The paper should have a fine tooth (meaning it's smooth to the touch) to allow for even lines as you draw.
  • Binding: You'll find hard- and soft-bound sketchbooks. Spiral- or tape-bound spines usually have more give than hard-bound ones, allowing you to lay the book flat and use more of the page.

Over time, your sketchbook will become a repository for your sketches and ideas for projects, and you'll see how your skill as an artist has evolved.