Are you a complete beginner at drawing? Would you like to learn how to draw and are looking for free, online drawing lessons for beginners? The following is a step by step guide for getting started today. Don’t wait…let’s get started!
So You Want to Learn To Draw?
Learning how to draw is definitely not an easy task. It takes tons of focus and a proper way of looking at the world. There is no substitute for hard work but as with all disciplines, better instruction can lead to better results.
Who doesn’t want to learn drawing in less time with better results?
Even with the greatest art tutorials ever invented you can expect your drawing education to take years to fully develop! Well we had better get started then!
Can Drawing Be learned?
“I don’t have any artistic talent”is the common complaint. I truly believe anybody can learn to draw. I couldn’t call myself a drawing instructor if I didn’t believe this, could I?
Aside from extreme physical handicaps, we all have pretty much the same physical capabilities when it comes to art making. We’re not talking about playing a professional sport here. We can all hold a pencil and move it properly with some proper guidance. You have all the same muscles and bones that Leonardo DaVinci had.
So why can’t I draw well? What’s the problem?
You see, most of the problems people have with learning to draw extend from their lack of understanding and experience with various subject matter.
To understand how to draw well one must understand the physical world first.
That’s where instruction can make all the difference. A good art teacher can help you make connections between the physical world and your drawn world on paper. You’ll soon find out why step by step drawing instruction only a starting point. More on that later.
Let’s take a moment and compare art to sports.
As with any sport you are always going to witness people who have some natural ability. This is true in art as well.
Too often people dismiss an artist’s drawing skills as talent.
When we are willing to look deeper at person’s artistic talent we start to notice some interesting patterns. We begin to notice that “talented” people had taken an interest in their subject of choice at an earlier age. They also took in an interest in many types of activities that in turn supported their main talent.
In the case of art you’ll find that many artists spent their free time, well, drawing! All of those hours add up over time. It’s not uncommon to discover that these fantastic drawers also spent their time doing other activities that further supported their art. Activities such as building sand castles, and working with Lego bricks. While these activities are not accomplished with pencil and paper they do develop a mind’s spacial intelligence.
Drawing after all is the art of conveying 3D images onto a 2D surface. This requires a significant amount of spatial intelligence to do.
Learning to Draw as an Adult
After reading the last section about children practicing long hours to get good at drawing you might be feeling hopeless. Don’t. I think it’s common knowledge that getting a head start in anything puts you at an advantage, but don’t despair.
You can learn to draw. You just have to start now. Not later! Imagine how skilled you’d be one year from now if you committed to practicing drawing 1 hour per day, everyday?. You’d be 365 hours better! Now imagine you practiced 2 hours per day for 2 straight years. You see? You just have to commit yourself to learning and stick to it. It’s amazing what a person can accomplish when you are willing to grow 1% per day!
Like this idea? Check out this book. This mindset has changed my life in every positive way imaginable!
Holding a Pencil for Drawing
You’re going to spend a lot of time with a pencil in your hand! We had better figure out some effective ways to hold our pencils.
Did you know that there are many ways to hold a pencil? As simple as it sounds you may want to hold a pencil differently depending on what you are drawing and at what stage of a drawing you are in. Check out the following video tutorial which teaches you 3 ways to hold a pencil:
Be Patient. Artists are stubbornly persistent people. They toil in their craft until they get it right. That doesn’t mean it will take you a decade before you draw something meaningful though. Keep practicing your drawings and really scrutinize over each work.
What makes your current drawing better than the last? How will you improve your next drawing?
When I look back at my old artwork it brings back many memories. I can remember thinking how proud I was of certain drawings and paintings I created when I was younger. At that time I naively thought: “I couldn’t possibly make this drawing any better!” Maybe that was true at that precise moment in time, but when I look at these drawings now I see all kinds of mistakes.
The lesson to be learned is this: Drawing is a lifelong pursuit. Stay curious, work hard at improving it and above all enjoy the process.
Learning to draw will change the way you look at the world.
Drawing Basics for the Complete Beginner
Hopefully you learned a little bit about how to hold a pencil in the video above. Now you need to learn how to control your pencil to make the marks you need. A huge amount of an artist’s time is consumed by discovering and drawing values. Values are the “tones” that make up our visual world. Values are what enables us to see and distinguish objects around us and in our drawings.
Read this previous post I created explaining value to learn more and come back here when you’re ready…
There are some fantastic exercises that can really help beginning artists get off on the right foot in understanding value. I recommend new artists start off with drawing value scales in pencil. Value scales are a great way to learn pencil technique in a simple way.
Here’s one type of value scale. Let’s call it an even value scale. You should practice it with a pencil and piece of drawing paper.
The value scale below is a graded value scale and will take some more practice to get it right. It’s worth practicing though as you will need to shade many things using graded values.
Value scales help beginner artists develop eye-hand coordination and the important task of adjusting values relative to one another. Value scales also allow young artists the chance to get to know their pencils and achieve some success at drawing.
It’s important to be successful in small doses or you will more than likely get frustrated and quit. In fact, read through this in-depth post on drawing value scales first. After that, create your own graded and even value scales.
Form is just the word most artists use to describe a three dimensional object. We could discuss the form of the human body or the form of an apple.
After you understand how to decipher and create values in your drawing you are ready for the next step: shading forms. The trick to drawing is understanding how to record our three-dimensional world onto a two-dimensional sheet of paper. This requires much practice (surprise, surprise I know!) and an understanding of how light works in the world around us.
It always makes sense to start out simple when learning anything. Once simple concepts are understood you can then apply that knowledge to more complicated constructs.
Drawing lessons should work in the same way. If you are looking for more drawing tutorials for beginners I highly recommend you learn to draw the four basic forms. Do this before attempting to draw anything complicated. Don’t jump right into a portrait or a landscape. I know it’s tempting to, but remember, you are looking to achieve small wins in your drawing education.
There are four basic forms you should get to know. Practice them and learn them well. An understanding of these forms will help you draw just about anything. No joke!
The 4 Basic Forms:
(click each for a step by step drawing tutorial on each)
When drawing these forms think about the science behind the art. Great artists are not just copycats, they are inquisitive people whom constantly seek out answers in the visual world around them.
An understanding of science helps an artist find answers; it makes drawing easier!
Hopefully you’re starting to see that learning to draw is possible! It’s not an innate talent ordained to a few select people.
With a firm understanding of value and form the next obstacle a beginner artist should seek to achieve is learning how to proportion his/her drawings. This comes in the form of measuring. An artist must be able to accurately measure their subject matter and transpose those measurements onto their drawing paper.
There’s many tools and philosophies on how to draw proportions correctly. When concerned with drawing realism it really boils down to two methods: Sight-Size Proportioning and Comparative Measurement Proportioning. I’ve spent most of my artistic life using the comparative measurement way of seeing and drawing. This is only because I never learned about sight-sizing until way further into my art career.
I strongly believe all beginner artists should learn sight size proportioning first as it is makes it easier to create accurate drawings.
I wish I knew about sight sizing when I was learning to draw. It would have been a game changer for sure. But until I get my hands on a 1981 Delorean rigged with a flux capacitor I’m afraid I cannot travel back in time and redo my childhood art education.
Here’s how I use the comparative measurement technique in my own artwork. I’ve more recently been experimenting with sight-sizing and again I wish I was taught it at a younger age. Oh well.
Learning to Draw What You See
Once you have a good understanding for drawing values, forms and proportions it is time to challenge your drawing skills by drawing some everyday objects. Confine your creations to graphite pencil as you do not want to get side-tracked by color yet. Also, pick objects that are slightly more complicated than the 4 basic forms described earlier but not so complicated you don’t know what to do.
Working from a simple still life containing 3-5 objects is perfect for the beginner.
How About Step by Step Drawing Instruction?
The internet has no shortage of step by step instructions for drawing. This tradition was started in books made popular by illustration artists.
If you’ve been following along so far and have read through some of the linked pages throughout this tutorial you’ve definitely encountered some step by step drawing instruction thus far. Keep in mind that this “step by step” styled instruction is merely a starting point.
As an artist you will have to learn how to become a visual problem solver. Great artists are great thinkers and not simply craftspeople following directions.
Take what you learn in these basic drawing tutorials and learn to apply them in more difficult scenarios. For instance, once you know how to shade a cylinder, you have you’ll have a better chance at shading a tree’s trunk or a finger, because both these objects are cylindrical in form.
Concluding Advice for the Aspiring Artist
With decades drawing experience there are definitely many things I wish I knew when I was a complete beginner. For one I wish one of my art teachers showed me the sight size method of calculating a drawing’s proportions. Other techniques such as squinting my eyes to discover value I was taught in art school and am ever-glad I was. Many things I even figured out on my own, the hard way of course.
After working with complete drawing novices for over a decade I have determined an artistic framework for what is necessary to become good at drawing. Here’s a quick overview of things to focus on when learning to draw:
Tips When Learning to Draw:
- Practice value scales and get really good at identifying values. You can squint your eyes to compare values. It works…trust me.
- Learn something about science and how light rays interact with forms. For instance: Rounded objects need to be shaded with value gradations due to the variable probability of light bouncing off the rounded object’s surface.
- Learn to sight size your compositions whenever possible. The sight size method makes it much easier to draw with accuracy.
- Invest in good tools. A professional grade pencil cost’s less than $2.00 and will last for several drawings. Don’t waste your time with low grade art supplies. More on buying art supplies.
- Seek out quality drawing instruction. When taking an art class or studying drawing from another person, make sure you’re understanding where the drawing instructor is coming from. What does their artwork look like? Do they have a good understanding of the concepts you are trying to learn. Proper instruction can ensure you learn things the right way rather than the hard way.
- Little Wins! Remember, learning to draw is a long steady grind. Be patient and enjoy little successes over time. Don’t be humbled by simple exercises such as learning to draw value scales and drawing basic forms. These are necessary foundations for understanding how to draw much more complicated objects.
- Stick with still lifes for a while. They don’t move (usually) and we can even control the light on them. This enables the beginning artist to focus on value, form, and proportions and less on timing and managing models. Yikes! Keep it simple.
- Go to art museums. This is not only inspiring but a good way to seek out technique. Drawing is a visual thing and you can learn a lot by looking at other drawings and paintings. It’s helpful to see how other artists solve the same problems you are encountering in your own artwork.
If you’ve come here seeking drawing lessons for beginners and made it this far I salute you. I’ll add to this page in the future. In the meantime please check out all the tutorials I’ve linked to in this post and ask questions where ever appropriate. (tutorial links below)
Thanks for reading!
Drawing Lessons Referenced in this Post:
- What is Value
- How to Draw Value Scales
- How to Shade a Cylinder
- How to Shade a Cone
- How to Shade a Sphere
- How to Shade a Cube
- Sight-Size Proportioning
- Comparative Measurement Proportioning
- Buying Art Supplies
Additional Drawing References: