Sketching vs. Drawing: What’s the Difference?

When comparing sketching vs. drawing, some key differences set the two of them apart. The simplest way to look at it is that sketching is looked at as looser, less refined work, and drawing is usually more detailed and has a more polished finished appearance. 

Of course, the two are closely related, and you could argue endlessly about whether something is a sketch or a drawing.

That's because all art is up for interpretation, the only person who can definitively tell you if something is a sketch or a drawing is the artist who created it. Just keep in mind, sketches are usually done quickly and are less refined than drawings, and you'll have a pretty solid understanding of how they differ.

What Is The Difference Between Freehand Sketching And Artistic Drawing?

At it's the most basic level, the difference between sketching vs. drawing comes down to the level of detail in what the artist creates.

Freehand sketching should be done for one of two reasons. The first reason you should do freehand sketching is to capture the essence of your subject quickly. 

With freehand sketching, you should be making quick, spontaneous marks that should give the viewer of the sketch an impression of how you view the subject.

Sketching can be done using any drawing medium, and when sketching for practice, you shouldn't be worried about making mistakes. Just draw over the mistake, or start over if this isn't possible.

The other reason that you should sketch is to create a layout and framework for a finished drawing. Some artists have an amazing ability to work without a sketch, but a sketch is a great way to establish proportions, perspective, and the overall layout of a drawing for the rest of us.

Having a solid sketch to work on top of is like having a solid foundation before you try putting up a house. 

The sketch is what everything else is built on. When sketching as a preliminary step for a drawing, you'll want to work lightly so that you can easily erase mistakes as you work.

An artistic drawing will differ from a sketch due to the amount of detail and refinement it has. Most artists prefer to work in a more controlled manner when drawing something that they plan to finish and sell or show.

Sketching vs Drawing What's the Difference
Sketching vs Drawing What's the Difference

Mistakes are erased, details are sharpened, shadows and highlights are added, and more time is spent working on the drawing than would be spent on a simpler sketch.

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What Is The Sketching In Drawing?

When you start a drawing, what's the first thing that you do? Well, first, you have to have some kind of inspiration. You have to see something, think of something, or have imagination and inspiration strike you.

But, after that, you have some decisions to make. You have to decide what type of medium you plan to work in.

Then, you have to start planning out your drawing. Sketching plays a huge role in this process because it allows you to make plans and try different things. Sketching is where you explore different ideas before moving on to a final drawing.

The last thing you want to do is spend a lot of time working on a drawing, then experiment on it and have it fail. That's why you work things out during the sketching stage.

The next phase is to begin sketching out your drawing. The sketching part of a drawing involves all of the planning that you do on your final drawing.

Now, this doesn't mean that you shouldn't do a bunch of sketches before you start working on your final drawing; it just means that before you start to add details and do any rendering, you need to sketch the layout out first.

What Are The Different Types Of Sketching?

When learning about drawing vs. sketching, you may be surprised to learn that there are many different sketching types. That's right, sketching can be divided up into many different categories. 

Why is this important for you to know? It's important because you should be doing different types of sketching for different purposes. If you plan on executing a certain type of drawing or illustration, then practicing sketching techniques that will prepare you for that attempt will be very beneficial to you. Sketching is primarily done to try new things and improve as an artist, so it makes sense that there are different types of sketching.

Elemental Sketch Drawing

Elemental sketching is probably the most creative, expressive type of sketching that you'll ever do. What's the one thing that's common to just about everything that you've ever sketched or drawn in the past? That one thing is that you probably chose a subject to work from, or you had an idea of what you wanted to sketch or draw before you put pencil to paper. 

Elemental sketching is different because you aren't starting out with an idea or subject. You shouldn't have any preconceived notions of what you want your sketch to look like once it's finished. You should just sit down and start putting marks down on your paper and let the process develop organically. You could end up drifting one way or another, then before you know it, what started out like a simple scribble evolved into a portrait or a landscape.

Most elemental sketches that you do won't amount to anything more than a simple doodle. But, sometimes, you'll try this approach and end up coming up with an intriguing idea or sketching something that you normally wouldn't find yourself doing. This is why elemental sketching can be beneficial; it helps you think in new ways and try new things. It gives you a creative outlet that you don't have when you work in a more structured manner. More than anything else, elemental sketching is a lot of fun, and it's a stress-free way to explore and try new things with your art.

Comprehensive Sketch Drawing

Comprehensive sketch drawing is about as far from elemental sketch drawing as you can get. A comprehensive sketch is most often done for commercial reasons to allow an illustrator to show a client what the final product will look like. A comprehensive sketch is a very structured sketch that is executed after several concepts were worked on. 

The comprehensive sketch should be the most promising concept that you came up with while brainstorming. You may want to work out a few different comprehensive sketches for your client to look at so they have options, but you don't want to create too many of these sketches because doing so can be very time-consuming.

What should a comprehensive sketch include? Anything that will show up in the final illustration. That means everything that will show up. If the client has you designing packaging for a product, you need to have indicators of barcodes and text. Basically, you want your client to look at the sketch and have a clear idea of your vision. This will make them more likely to approve the concept, which will let you get on to creating the final art/illustration.

Dummy Sketch Drawing

For many artists, the most difficult subject to sketch and draw is that we should all be the most familiar with, the human body. Not only is the human body very complex, but it's also so familiar to the average person that mistakes made when drawing it are readily apparent. 

You might be able to get away with small errors with some subjects, but even small errors will be extremely obvious to just about everyone when it comes to the human body.

When it comes to mastering the human form, nothing comes close to drawing from live models. Life drawing is an incredible tool that you should take advantage of whenever you can to become more proficient at drawing the human body. You don't even have to go to a life drawing class to get the practice you need. You can sketch friends and family. You can also bring a sketchbook with you when you'll be in public and make quick sketches of the people around you.

While you can go to life drawing classes and sketch random people and friends and family, finding willing models at all hours of the day can be very challenging. That's where an artist dummy can step in to fill in the void. 

There are two good reasons why you should invest in an artist dummy to practice sketching. First, you have access to it at any time, and that's a major plus. Second, it gives you complete control of your composition. You can set up your dummy in any pose, sketch from any angle, and set up your light source; however, you want it.

The other possible meaning for a dummy sketch is that it's a quick mock-up style sketch of what you anticipate your final design to be. This is something you can show to a client to get their approval before you invest more time into a more refined sketch or finished illustration. A dummy sketch should show the main features of what you are designing, and it should be fairly neat and have the layout of any packaging involved clearly noted.

Theoretical Sketch Drawing

Theoretical sketch drawing is a phase in the illustration process where you are coming up with concepts for your client. This should be done after initial contact has been made, and preferably before you sit down for a meeting with them. Having a handful of concepts to show your client at your initial meeting won't only impress them, it will also help you gauge what they are looking for.

With theoretical sketching, you should explore all the possibilities that pop into your head about the concept you're working on. The more theoretical sketches you can do, the more likely you will find something that your client likes. The worst-case scenario here is that you do many sketches, and your client doesn't like any of them. But, even then, this isn't a total loss. If your client tells you that they don't like any of the sketches you have done, that also gives you information. If that happens, assure them that these were just initial sketches and that you'll be more than happy to work on other concepts that they may find more appealing.

Structural Sketch Drawing

A structural sketch drawing most often refers to a drawing of a man-made structure, such as a building. Structural sketching might seem like the kind of thing that could be a little dull, but that's only if you don't find a way to make your sketch expressive. Now, if you're doing an architectural drawing that requires a lot of precision, then your drawing is going to be a lot more technical than most other types of drawing or illustration. 

But, if you're drawing buildings as part of a drawing or painting and not as something more technical, then feel free to have fun with it. Don't reach for a ruler right away. Instead, concentrate on getting the basic shapes in place in your sketch, then go back with a ruler or straight edge and start tightening things up after you have your initial layout in place.

Formal Sketch Drawing

A formal sketch is the final step in the illustration process before you get to the functional drawing. A formal sketch should have all of the final illustration elements in place so you can get it sent to your client for final approval. This is your final sale's pitch. The last thing you want to happen is to have your client look at it and then decide that it will not work for him. This would represent a huge amount of lost time for you, which is why you should make sure that you get approval during every step of the creative process.

Once you've ensured that your client is happy with the concept, there's only one reason that a formal sketch drawing should fail, that's if it isn't executed properly. A formal sketch drawing should be highly detailed. If you are confident working in color, then go ahead and add color to the sketch. Just make sure that the color is done professionally. You don't want to add color to your sketch if it's going to compromise your sketch's appearance. In this case, adding color would be a detriment, and it's better to just focus on doing a black and white sketch that looks clean and professional.

Functional Drawing

A functional drawing usually refers to a final design that is ready for the print of a product. A functional drawing should be highly polished, and it should showcase all of the functions of whatever the drawing depicts. Once you get to this point, there should be no more need for revisions. How can you ensure that you won't need any revisions once you reach this point? You do this by following proper procedures. 

First, you start the project rolling by meeting with your client and getting a detailed description of what they want. After this meeting, you should have a solid grasp of the concept you'll be working on. If you don't, then the meeting didn't go according to plan. Ask questions, ask for further clarification if needed, but whatever you do, don't leave that meeting without a solid plan in place.

Once you have a general plan of attack for the project, don't jump into a functional drawing. You have no idea what kind of concept your client will approve, so spending a lot of time creating a functional drawing for a concept that may not be approved doesn't make a lot of sense. Instead, spend a lot of time doing quick sketches of concepts and variations of concepts. With the benefit of e-mail or file sharing, you can easily send your concepts to your client for their approval. Once you get their approval, you can do a sketch with an intermediate amount of detail to get their okay for that as well.

What Is The Difference Between Freehand Sketching And Precise Drawing?

When comparing drawing vs. sketching, the comparison between freehand sketching and precise drawing is often something that needs to be clarified. Freehand sketching is something that you do for practice and to get ideas down on paper.

It can also be used as a sketching method before you work on a precise drawing. When you are doing a freehand sketch, you should be using your entire arm to make marks on the paper. The key to getting a great sketch is to make quick marks using your entire arm while capturing your composition's basic shape.

When working on a precise drawing, you will want to rest your forearm and wrist on the paper when you are drawing. This will provide you with stability, enabling you to work in more detail. When doing this, make sure that you use tissue paper or another type of scratch paper to prevent yourself from accidentally smudging your drawing.

A precise drawing should focus on details. It should have everything carefully rendered. Straight lines need to be straight, the perspective has to be correct, and all of the shading that you do should show a precise transition in values. If you are working in ink, you'll need to use hatching, cross-hatching, and stippling for different values of the shadows in your drawing. A precise drawing is time-consuming, which is why you should only proceed with this step once you have a final concept that has been approved.

Is Sketching A Good Hobby?

Is sketching a good hobby? What kind of question is that? Of course, sketching is a good hobby! Sketching has many benefits, and as an artist, all of those benefits should interest you. If you want to get better at something, what do you have to do? You have to practice. You can't expect to become an amazing artist if you aren't willing to put in the time and effort practicing. 

Sketching is a great way to practice different techniques while also sketching and drawing things that you might not normally incorporate into your art. Is sketching a good hobby? How could you ask that question with a straight face to any artist?

Sketching fuels your imagination, and if you learn to just let your pen or pencil start moving without thinking about it too much, you may be surprised at what your subconscious mind comes up with. When you work on a drawing that you intend to spend a lot of time on while you refine it, that can be a lot of pressure. Especially if that drawing is intended to be sold, given as a gift, or shown publicly. What if you make a mistake? What if something goes wrong toward the end of the process, and you end up ruining the drawing? What if you don't finish it on time? What if the final drawing doesn't meet your expectations? You see, that's a lot of stress and pressure, isn't it?

When you're sketching, you shouldn't feel any of these pressures. There's no need to finish something at a given time; you sketch at your leisure. You don't have to worry about messing up because it's just a sketch, after all. Sketching is something that you should relax and unwind, and it just happens to be beneficial to you as an artist. If you're looking for a good hobby, you should look for something that you enjoy, which is productive, good for you physically and/or mentally. Sketching checks all of those boxes.

What Is A Quick Sketch Called?

What is a quick sketch called? In most cases, it's called a sketch. Sometimes it can be referred to as a doodle, but doodles aren't usually done to be productive; they're done when you're bored. If you're talking about a quick sketch of a human figure, you could be talking about a croquis. A croquis is done as either a quick standalone sketch, or it can also be done as a preliminary to a drawing or as an underdrawing.

No matter what you call it, doing quick sketches every day should be high on your list of priorities if you're serious about improving as an artist. The one thing that you need to prioritize above everything else when it comes to your art is practicing. You need to sketch daily to improve; it's as simple as that. Doing quick sketches doesn't take much time. It helps you hone your skills, and it might just end up giving you an idea for a finished drawing or painting that you want to create.

What's The Difference Between Drawing And Illustration?

On the surface, drawing and illustration appear to be interchangeable terms, but when you delve a little deeper, you'll see that there are some key differences. Are they related? Absolutely. Are they identical? Not by a longshot. When you draw something, you are creating an artistic interpretation of it. You are looking at something, or imagining something, then using some type of medium to create a two-dimensional image of it. Why are you doing this? Because you feel inspired and want to, that's why. There's no underlying motive when creating art unless, of course, you plan to sell it later, but that's something that happens as a consequence of creating art. It's not something that happens to drive you to the creative act of drawing something.

Now, illustration is usually done for commercial purposes. Illustrations are usually used to depict something and add to written text. For example, in a children's fantasy story, there may be illustrations of the various creatures in the story. Illustrations are not done simply for the sake of doing them. When you create art, you do it because you feel a need to do it. When you create an illustration, it's often because somebody has asked you to draw something specific. It's a much more narrow type of visual expression because you have a specific goal in mind, and you have specific criteria that the image you are creating has to meet.

Now, don't mean that illustration is a form of visual expression that is lesser than drawing. Many illustrators are amazing artists who just happen to produce illustrations because it pays the bills. Creating illustrations takes talent, training, skill, and mastering of various artistic techniques. If that sounds a lot like what you need to draw something, that's because the skills are overlapping. To summarize, drawing is done to create art; an illustration is done when someone needs something specific depicted visually.

Create Art With My Favourite Drawing Resources

General Drawing Courses. I like Udemy if you want to develop your knowledge of drawing techniques. Udemy is an excellent choice due to its wide range of creative courses and excellent refund policy. They often have monthly discounts for new customers, which you can check here. Use my link.

Sketching and Collage. Take a look at this sketching resource I have created. Use this link.

Proko. Is one of my favorite teachers who surpasses in the teaching of Anatomy and Figure drawing. Prokos course breaks down the drawing of the human body into easy-to-follow components aiding the beginner to make rapid progress. For this, I really like Proko.

Art Easels. One of my favorite ways to draw is by using a drawing easel, which develops the skill of drawing on a vertical surface. The H frame easel is an excellent vertical way to add variety to the style and type of marks you create when using a drawing board.

To see all of my most up-to-date recommendations, check out this resource I made for you.


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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