10 Most Popular Drawing Mistakes • learn how to draw the right way!

10 Most Popular Drawing Mistakes

10 Most Popular Drawing Mistakes • learn how to draw the right way!

From personal issues to technical problems, here are ten of the most common drawing mistakes art students make when learning how to draw.

1Bad Perspective

No amount of shading can fix the incorrect structure of a drawing. Make sure objects are getting smaller as they move away from the viewer. This includes individual parts of each object as well. Brush up on your linear perspective drawing skills.



Every time we touch a drawing tool to paper it desires to make a line. The real world does not contain any outlines. An attempt to realistically render our world through the use of outlining will merely flatten out your drawings into a flat, cartoonish, representation. Try to see the world in terms of values rather than outlines. Outlines are useful for marking territory in the initial stages of a drawing but have less business making themself visible in a completed drawing.


3Inconsistent Illumination

We see because of light. Don’t forget to hint at a light source in your drawing. This means that one side of an object will generally be lighter or darker than another side. For example, perhaps the top of all of your objects should be depicted as the lightest.


4Gradient Happy

For some reason when young students first learn to make a value gradation (a blend of values from darker to lighter) they want to use it everywhere. Graded values (gradients) have their place on rounded forms such as cones, cylinders, and spheres but not typically on flat-sided objects such as cubes. Look hard at the forms you are trying to draw and never make assumptions.


5Sloppy Shading

Successful artists are patient people when it comes to creating high quality art. As possibly the most common drawing mistake out there… resist the temptation to speed up your shading process and race to finish. Draw your last few strokes with as much care and patient attentiveness as your first drawn strokes. Often the difference between a stunning work of art that makes people stop and stare and a so-so piece of art is the amount of time spent. Artwork takes time. A lot of time! Just accept that fact and devote a ton of time to your drawings. See each one through to the end and don’t compromise. Eliminate all distractions while you draw and give your artwork the time and attention required to create a masterpiece.


6Inscribing Lines “ghosting”

If you have erased many dark pencil lines from your drawing you might want to consider the drawing a first draft. Plan on transferring your first draft drawing over to new sheet of paper; one in which you will not erase and can continue shading the drawing until completed. You can accomplish this via transfer paper or a light box. If you were to continue shading on the original sheet of paper you would more than likely end up with many white lines. These ugly white lines are depressions in the paper. Although erasing removes the graphite/pencil mark, the depressions are still part of the paper and will show up as ghostly lines when you shade the drawing later on.


7Disregard For Eye Level

When you create a drawing you are creating a view into a perceived world. This is true for all representational works of art whether it be a portrait, landscape, or still life. There are certain principles that guide our vision and many of them have to do with our eye level. When drawing any object that is not leaning over for example, it is inappropriate to show the top of that object if the top is located above your eye level. The reverse is also true. Drawing objects below your eye level indicates that you and the viewers of your drawing should be seeing the top of that object.

This drawing mistake often goes unnoticed by beginner artists, so look for it! Make sure you pay attention to where eye level is and keep it consistent throughout your drawing. If not, you’ll create a disjointed image that does not quite sit right with viewers of your drawing.



Circles are an attractive shape for sure but rarely have any place in a drawing that strives to represent the world around us. You’re probably wondering how this can be? Although many objects contain circles it’s usually inappropriate to draw circular objects as a perfect circle in your drawing. Viewed from any other angle other than straight on, a circular shape should be drawn as a ellipse. This will account for the proper perspective necessary to create effective illusions of form and space within your artwork. Check out this article on how to see and draw circles and ellipses in your artwork.


9Bad Materials

This is a drawing mistake you might not even be aware of. Any pro golfer would whoop my butt in a game of golf with a single club. I don’t practice golf much.   I play a couple of games a year tops. But, that doesn’t mean that a good set of clubs doesn’t help the golfer! The same is true for artists. If you are trying to learn how to draw and you are using terrible drawing supplies you are putting yourself at a bit of a disadvantage.   Quality drawing tools will give you’re a broader range of mark-making ability and be more forgiving. Cheap colored pencils don’t have enough pigment density and cheap paper gets brittle with age.

If you are going to spending time learning how to draw please treat yourself to the best supplies that you can afford. Good art supplies may seem expensive but you’ll get countless hours of use from them. Should you create some drawings you are proud of you’ll also be comforted by the fact that good art supplies stand up against aging as well whereas most cheap art supplies do not.


10Fixed Mentality / Natural Ability

So many students taking art classes look at someone who seems to have more skill then themselves and decide that they are not talented. They have then locked their own mental state into a level that determines that they will never be any good at drawing. This form of self-defeatism is a tragedy and unfortunately very common in the field of visual arts.

The truth is: drawing CAN be learned and if you’re aware of common drawing mistakes you’ll learn to draw even faster! Studies show that people tend to be good at something because they took an interest in something at a young age and was allowed to thrive in an environment that nurtured the interest. It takes practice and learning. If you are willing to learn and willing to practice you can learn anything… even drawing!


Concluding Thoughts on Drawing Mistakes

Learning how to draw? I commend your effort! Like learning to play a musical instrument, it’s a long frustrating process but yields many rewords later on. Some of these rewords seemingly have little to do with the subject matter at all actually. Learning to draw teaches life-long persistence and a higher level of appreciation for the arts.


Hang in there and if you need any help please ask questions here or anywhere on this website that seems appropriate!







  1. I’ve make everyone of those 10 mistakes until I took a figure drawing class and the instructor referenced Andy Loomis’, “Fun with a Pencil” . Then, through watching videos on youtube, I learned that the key to learning and gaining proficiency was to practice, practice, practice and then I found your site now, I’m moving forward here. Thank you.

    1. John Morfis says:

      Yes, drawing takes a ton of practice for sure. Dorothy thanks for taking to the time to check out my site and for leaving a comment!

  2. Thx for the help. Now I know what to do and not do. Also I agree with #10 because Im now in 10 grade and I go to LaGuardia HS for art and at first there was alot of kids that were way better than me and I thought I might as well stop drawing but I still continued and eventually got better. But anyways thx for the tips.

    1. John Morfis says:

      Zay, I’m glad you posted this comment. That growth that you experienced is more valuable than gold. Now that you’ve persisted at something and seen the rewards just imagine how wonderful your life can be if you apply that to all aspects! Drawing is just one of many things you can get good at. Little wins are important. Always take things one step at a time and ask yourself, “How do I get better next time?”. Keep at it Zay!

  3. So is normal that lines makes you drawing cartoony and flat, and I though it was because I could not draw realism even if I know anatomy enough to see mistakes and draw acceptable poses (I can shade and do digital paintings, and results are more realistic).
    I’m aware that in real life lines don’t exist, but to paint you need to draw first.

  4. Alan Booth-Buck says:

    I just came from a colored pencil class. I get the eyes nose perfect and the color I use are great the instructor says. Yet the drawing are what he calls flat. I keep trying but. I just don’t understand what flat means and how to fix that. He says I am a natural with my color selection. I could use some help. I respect the instructor a lot He is great at all forms of art, and teaching but I seem to have a block when looking at the subjects. Racoon and Wolves etc.

    1. John Morfis says:

      Choose subjects with a strong light source and make sure to use enough values (light / dark).

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