How to Draw Without Looking at the Paper

Drawing is the foundation for numerous creative practices, from artists, architects, animators to designers. Using a pencil or pen and a piece of paper, drawing offers nearly endless opportunities for you to express yourself. And by employing different drawing techniques, it is fantastic to see just how many varied ways there are to sketch.

Learning and knowing the drawing fundamentals might be a simple thing to do, but it demands lots of practice and training to master like all art. There are many standard techniques that you will need to learn about when you start your drawing journey. And one of these essential drawing techniques is blind contour drawing.

As a general rule, begin looking at the subject you intend to draw. Select a spot along the outer contour of your subject. Customarily begin at a top to make it more relaxed for yourself. Next, slowly move your eyes along the edge of your form as you drawing on the paper.

So, What is Blind Contour Drawing?

Introduction to Blind Contour Drawings
Introduction to Blind Contour Drawings

Before we describe what blind contour drawing is, let us first understand what contour drawing entails. A contour is simply the line that defines an edge or form. Contour drawing is usually the first drawing technique that beginners learn and involves following visible edges of a particular shape. Simply put, contour drawing is just an outline drawing that doesn’t involve shading.

During contour drawing, an artist intently looks at the object’s edges but barely looks at the paper as he draws the lines. The primary objective of contour drawing is to draw lines that are true, authentic, and a reflection of what you are actually drawing and to train your hand to naturally copy your eye’s movement.

Blind contour drawing is now when contour drawing is conducted without looking at the paper! During blind contour drawing, you are literally drawing the edges or contours of a particular object without looking at the drawing paper. As you draw, you only fix your eyes on the outline of the model or object, then track the object’s edges with your eyes as you simultaneously draw the contour very slowly and without lifting the pen or pencil or looking at the paper. With this drawing technique, artists spend 100% of their time looking at the object they are sketching or drawing and zero of their time looking at the drawing paper. Simply put, you complete working on your entire picture without looking at it, from start to finish.

So, Why is Blind Contour Drawing Important?

Two basic rules dictate blind contour drawing. The first one is that once you put your pen or pencil on the paper, you will not lift it until you are done. Secondly, once you start the drawing process, you don’t look at your drawing paper. Blind contour drawing will significantly boost your observation skills because it forces you to only look at the object you are drawing. For more information read my post: How do you draw a Blind Contour Drawing.

Remember, the most essential secret to effective drawing is that drawing is more than 50% observation! By improving your observation skills, you are actually giving yourself a great chance of becoming a great artist. It is also important to note that blind contour drawing enhances eye-hand coordination, which is an essential aspect of drawing. And for artists who approach this unique technique with lots of patience, it can have a calming and soothing effect. Blind contour drawing can be like meditation, presenting you an opportunity to slow down and enjoy the moment.

Blind Contour Drawing Exercises:

For you to get the most from your blind contour drawing exercise, there are some crucial steps you need to strictly follow, including:

* Gather your materials and decide on what you’ll draw: If it is the first time you encounter blind contour drawing, you must choose one model or object to draw simply because it will be relatively more straightforward. After choosing your preferred object, place it in a strategic location where you can clearly view it as you draw. You’ll only need a paper sketchpad and pencil, charcoal, or pen for drawing materials. After this, you are now ready to go!

* Fix your eyes on the object you are drawing: With most drawing techniques, you always spend much of your time staring at the drawing paper. However, with blind contour drawing, you only look at the object itself, not your sketchpad or paper! The idea is to train your hand to replicate what your eyes see.

* Draw long and continuous lines: Most beginner artists who are new to blind contour drawing usually start by drawing numerous short lines, perhaps because they are not used to not looking at the paper. Also, they might be afraid of making mistakes by drawing a continuous line that doesn’t replicate the object’s edges. But with blind contour drawing, you just have to draw longer lines that are continuous.

* Draw slowly but steady: You are highly encouraged to draw slowly and, if possible, close one of your eyes as you draw. Make sure you gather as many details as possible about the object and capture everything on your paper. There is no standard time to spend on blind contour drawing because it all depends on the object you are drawing and your level of experience. However, about 15 minutes per drawing is acceptable.

Subjects to Create Blind Contour Drawing:

With contour drawing, you can possibly draw just about anything you can think of, including plants, household objects, or even your own face! Below are effective and practical tips for the best topics to choose for contour drawing.

* Draw an object you are familiar with: Choose something you know pretty well, such as your pet, laptop, or even a pair of sneakers. And because you have spent most of your time looking at this particular object, you will have less trouble drawing it. Remember, contour drawing only focuses on an object’s edges, so don’t include what you don’t need.

* Make a contour drawing of your leg! If you are not quite sure of where to start, don’t fret. Just grab your paper and paper and do a contour sketching of your leg. You can reference some previous work on leg contour drawings to ensure you are actually drawing the right thing. Even as you draw, don’t look at the paper.

* Draw an object upside-down: If you feel you have now mastered the art of contour drawing, challenge yourself a bit by sketching an object upside-down. Just flip the object and pay close attention to its form as you observe and draw.

* Copy an existing work of another artist: If you don’t have a concrete idea of what to contour drawing, grab some old art book and draw some inspiration from the author’s existing contour work.

Whether you are an established or beginner artists, contour blind drawing can significantly impact your creative side. It not only improves your observation skills and hand-eye coordination, but it is also the foundation of professional drawing. What’s more, despite its many potential benefits, it only requires the use of simple, readily available materials.


Ian Walsh is the creator and author of and an Art teacher based in Merseyside in the United Kingdom. He holds a BA in Fine Art and a PGCE in teaching Art and Design. He has been teaching Art for over 24 Years in different parts of the UK. When not teaching Ian spending his time developing this website and creating content for the improvedrawing channel.

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How to Draw Without Looking at the Paper