What Are the Basics of Sketching?

When thinking about creating basic sketches as a beginner, it is an excellent idea to learn about drawing and sketching's basic principles. Basic sketching will enable you to focus on what is needed to produce successful impressive-looking sketches. 

The basics of sketching? The most basic principle of sketching are drawing primary lines and shapes. Many professional artists focus on drawing lines and sketching shapes with lines to create successful sketches.

This post will outline sketching basics and create better-looking, more successful sketches by following a few basic principles.

Sketching Basics
Sketching Basics

Basic Sketching Equipment

Sketches can be created with the most basic drawing equipment and materials. So if you are looking to begin sketching as a hobby, I suggest the following equipment items get you started.

  • Portable spiral bound sketchbook A5
  • A large store of cold press copy paper
  • Selection of Graphite Sketching pencils artist grade
  • Brush pen
  • Eraser
  • Edding Fine Line Pen

Warm-Up Sketching

The benefits of creating warm-up sketching are numerous. In particular, many artists believe the practice of specific techniques enables them to draw with confidence. 

Sketching Tutorial the Basics
Sketching Tutorial the Basics

Learn to Draw and Sketch?

Proficient sketching can only really be achieved with practice. So it is. Therefore it is beneficial for beginners to practice basic techniques repeatedly. The designer Reid Schlegel describes the benefits of continually moving the wrists, elbows, and arms when creating warm-up sketches in this excellent video.

Sketchbook Sketching Tips

Get a sketchbook and practice your skills on daily basic skills in your free time. I suggest following the tips and approaches described in this post. Portable sketchbooks are a great way to practice and develop basic freehand drawing techniques both at home and on location.



Warm-up sketching is a great way to strengthen hand-eye coordination and create better drawings.

Using an A4 sketchbook or some copy paper begin warm-up sketching, focusing on drawing lines across the page is an excellent approach to start with. Working from the top of the page down, draw dots on each side of the page. This technique is perfect for preparing the drawing of fluent lines across the age. 

You are practicing with a variety of sizes of the pen. Drawing freehand from one point to the next across the page. Work your way down the page as you focus on drawing with clear, fluent marks. Repeating this drawing technique will enable you to develop more control over your pencil.

The same warm-up drawing techniques are applicable when drawing basic shapes. For example, it is natural to move from drawing simple circles and squares.

The drawing of primary continuous lines is an excellent way to develop muscle memory and warm up towards the sketching of basic shapes and forms.

Lines are the Basics of Sketching

One of the significant elements that can affect your drawing and sketching's quality and standards is the quality of the line you draw with.

Learn to draw by regulating the amount of pressure you place on the pencil when will affect the eventual line you produce, as will the grip you use to hold the pencil.

To improve the line you sketch with, it is advisable to learn and practice drawing lines across the page as an essential warm-up exercise. As a drawing exercise, this will enable you to practice drawing lines more confidently and fluidly. 

Speed is essential, so attempt your drawing by joining two dots with a fluent line across a blank page. 

Work your way down the page and focus on varying the amount of pressure on the pencil. This will vary the thickness of the line you can create.

This is an excellent way to become familiar with the different types of marks you can create when drawing.


Confidence Affects How You Sketch

Confidence is crucial if you are looking to progress with the basics of sketching. Consider carefully how your mood and confidence will impact the drawings you are looking to create.

Eventually, your confidence will improve, as this is an excellent way for you to practice and develop your skills.

Your confidence to sketch will immediately improve if you are willing to follow the basic routine outlined in this post.

  • Warm-up exercise
  • Vary quality of line you draw with 
  • Speed draw to improve confidence. 
  • Move the page around. 
  • Try drawing more complex forms. 

Move your Page Around

Drawing and sketching in a restricted space will affect the quality of drawing you can create. In particular, limiting the wrist, elbow, and arm movement will result in particularly stiff-looking drawings.

One crucial basic drawing technique to overcome this issue is to move your sketch or drawing around when sketching. This will enable you to approach the sketching of the subject comfortably.

You may also want to vary the size of the sketch paper you are drawing upon. Small intermediate sketchbooks are excellent for creating a quick drawing on the move. However, larger sheets of paper are more suited to expressive gestural sketching.

What are the Basic Fundamentals of Drawing?

Creating a Sketchbook

Drawing the Edges of your Subject

Start to draw the edges of your subject by faintly draw loose marks to define the edge of the subject you are attempting to draw.

Learn to Draw Light and Shadow with your Pencil

The second fundamental skill of drawing and sketching is learning to draw light and shadow. This will enable to create of a drawing that looks three-dimensional.

An excellent way to start is to sketch the basic shapes of the cube, sphere, and cone. Use a pencil to sketch the basic form and shapes roughly in pencil.

Next, focus on the light source relative to the form. This can be achieved by adding shading and value to your sketch. In the process of refining your drawing, you should split the planes of the form you are shading into three zones of value.

Understanding the tonal range you can add to your drawing will enable you to learn to draw sketches that appear three-dimensional. Low contrast drawings will include most light areas of value. Whereas high contrast drawing will include the opposite.

As beginners, it is essential to understand where to apply shadows to your artwork. To add dark areas to a section of your drawing, it will be necessary to consider a light source relative to the subject you are drawing.

Various Elements of Shading:
  • Full Light Shadows
  • Half Light Shadows
  • Cast Shadows
  • Reflected LIght
  • Shadows Edge

Opposite to the light source you have identified, you will need to apply the darkest areas of tone and value with your pencil or pen. Shadows can be drawn using various rendering techniques, including hatching, crosshatching, stippling, and smooth, graduated shading.

What Are the 4 Types of Shading:
  1. Hatching
  2. Crosshatching
  3. Stippling
  4. Smooth Shading

To strengthen abilities in shading it best, start with manageable forms and learn how to apply shadows using the different shading methods.

It is Important to Compose Your Sketch in Different Ways

Learn to draw and understand the fundamentals of composition will enable me to create more harmonious drawings and sketches. It will also enable you to become a more influential artist.

Various methods you can apply to compose your sketches are as follows:

A central composition or a radical composition with a central focus or element. You can read more details about the principles of composition in my blog post. Click here.

To apply the rule of thirds. Split your rectangular page horizontally into thirds across and down the page. The idea is to create a framework or a balanced composition by placing and organizing the elements of your drawing where the horizontal and vertical lines intersect on the page.

Focal Points Contrast

Another effective way to organize an image is the give the sketch a focal point. This could be as simple as a figure standing in the background. Or a detail in your composition, such as a tree or a mountain.

Focal elements should be located in selected areas in your sketch. For instance, in the core of a radial composition or applying the rule of thirds.

Gestalt Drawing

Learning about gestalt principles when drawing will enable you to understand the various elements' relationships in your drawing.

The simplest way to understand gestalt theory in your drawing is that humans will try to understand an object in its simplest form.

Another essential part of gestalt theory is that humans naturally follow marks and shapes. Plus, we will also fill in the details.

Gestalt theory enables the viewer to understand and interpret the ideas that artists are attempting to communicate.

Speed Basic Drawing and Sketching

To get started and learn to create a speed sketch.

To practice speed sketching on the go, the artist should carry a small portable sketchbook to create sketches quickly on location.

Creating a sketch on location is advisable as it results in far more dynamic and exciting drawings. However, beginners can if they prefer to sketch from reference images or photographs. The artist Teoh Yi Chie describes the techniques he uses to create quick sketches of people in this exciting video.

He begins with the basic outline shape of the head, hair, and jawline to begin portraits.

He compares the various parts of the figure, such as the arms, shoulders, and elbow, to quickly draw basic marks to indicate the various parts of the figure.

Once the central subject has been drawn, he progresses on drawing the details of the background.

Moving figures can also be an exciting subject for beginners to attempt when sketching on location. To sketch rapidly, begin with the top of the head and quickly plot and layout the proportions of the torso and limbs. Fine line pens are excellent for speed drawing and introducing a variety of marks that can be created.

What is Freehand Drawing?

Try freehand sketching as this is an excellent way to time those initial practice developing necessary sketching skills. When you are this particular type of sketch, the aim is to draw a loosely defined sketch and progress on evolving it into a more precise depiction.

Learn Still Life Sketching & Drawing?

To learn to draw and sketch as a beginner, you will need access to a subject you draw immediately and daily. Still life pencil sketching is ideal as it enabling beginners to draw from direct observation.

Cross Hatching Drawing Techniques

Basic cross sketching is an excellent technique beginner can use to render shadows in their sketching and drawing. Basic tips for crosshatching include:

Cross hatching is basically mark-making on paper, and crosshatching is a basic way to add value to a drawing.

If you want to apply value in the form of shadows to a sketch, then crosshatching is an effective way to achieve this. 

The pen and ink artist Alphonso Dunn describes how he uses crosshatching techniques in this excellent video: Click here to watch the clip on youtube.

To achieve distinct levels of value in your sketch with lines, learn to layer strokes in different directions is the basic way to hatch. Lines and strokes can be varied by drawing them in different directions, and this will create different effects in your drawing.

Beginners can combine and vary vertical, horizontal marks in several directions. This is an excellent way for beginners to draw and practice. Learn to create different values of shadows by layering hatching at various levels of hatching, from single hatching to three levels of mark.

Pen and ink are very well suited to the creation of sketching, which incorporates hatching. Once the basic techniques are mastered, a beginner should progress on drawing basic three-dimensional forms using pen ad ink.

Hatching techniques can then be used to develop a sketch and drawing by following the form and planes of the forms you want to draw.

Artists can also spend time-varying the pen nib's thickness to vary the strength and quality of line they can produce.

Related Posts:

Drawing Tips and Techniques

If you are looking to develop your basic skills, it is essential to use the skills suggested getting better over time.

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 improvedrawing.com 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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