top of page

The 5 fundamental things you need to know when you start to draw

Darwing - ArtistAnd
Darwing - ArtistAnd

Drawing can be overwhelming, and if you have read any of our other blogs, you may have seen a taster here or there. Whenever we teach someone how to draw, and they want to become a better realistic artist, there are 5 things you need to know when you start to draw:

  • Line Direction

  • Negative Space

  • Shading

  • Perspective

  • Understanding Your Equipment

So let's take a look at what these mean.


This is so important. #Drawing a line in the right direction is the difference between ‘Wow that’s so realistic!’ and ‘There's knock-on something off with it but I can’t tell what it is!’ It could be as simple as changing the direction of one line. The consequence of an incorrect line can have a knock on effect on all of the rest, so try to remember how important and easily fixable this is.

There are several exercises that we can do to practise and improve this and our favourite one is the clock method. We like to think that we have made up this concept, but most likely we heard from someone else and now we cannot remember who told us so we have decided it is our original idea!

Now whenever I look at a line, I imagine what time it is telling on a 12-hour clock. As soon as I have decided what time the line is reading, I can then draw that exact angle on the paper. Let’s look at this for example.

Line Reading - Drawing
4 / 10
Line Reading - Drawing
1:30 / 7:30
Line Reading - Drawing
5:40 / 11:40

I have two choices - I can either look at the time at the top of the clock or at the bottom, depending on what mood I am feeling. The good news is, if I choose to read the time at 1:30, it is still going to be the same line as I have chosen to read the line at 7:30.

When I have a line to draw, I will centre the clock on the point in which the line starts to turn and I can then see which direction it is going in. You could imagine that the clocks are more of a protractor and they are pointing toward 90 Degrees or 325 degrees, but I feel like this is too complicated. It is much easier to divide a circle by 12 than is by 360.

Line Reading - Drawing
Line Reading - Drawing A Sofa


Sometimes we are overwhelmed by the object in hand and when we try to draw something, we overcomplicate things. Instead of looking at the object itself, we can switch our way of thinking about and look at the space around the object we are looking at.

Let’s see an example.

We like to use this classic image to start us off and you may have seen it before. The face vs vase scenario! Some of you may see 2 faces, and some of you may see a vase in the middle. Your eye is flipping between the two images and if they weren’t before, you are doing it now. This means you can practice the good foreshortening there are gritty positive and negative space.

Negative Space - Face/ Vase
Negative Space - Face/ Vase

Let’s see this image reversed.

Reversed Negative Space - Face/ Vase
Reversed Negative Space - Face/ Vase

Depending on your brain, you will see one more clearly than the other, and this just proves that your brain can switch easily between the two shapes, the negative and the positive. Not all images have the opportunity to have two recognisable objects in one, so our negative spaces might be abstract shapes but this is super useful when you are struggling with the object. Flip your brain to the negative space!


We see in light and dark so it is super important that we can translate this in our drawings. The shading helps to create the idea of form and depth and without it, everything will look pretty flat. We recommend that you practise your value scale which is a simple scale of white and black and all the little greys in between.

The trick here is to make sure that you are making those subtle differences between the previous box, and the one ahead. It looks like an easy task but trust me, it isn’t always the case. If you try squinting then it should help you to see if any of your boxes are looking the same or if you have managed to make them all different.

Value Scale - 1 to 10
Value Scale - 1 to 10

Practise Round 1 - Start from the dark end

Practise Round 2 - Start from the light end

Once you have managed to successfully shade in your value scale, now it is time to practise blending it together. Start with a new rectangle and see if you can smoothly shade from dark to light and again, and then from light to dark. This is really good practise for when you are trying to get soft edges on your drawing but you can see a difference in shading. We don't want the individual boxes this time so try and copy the row below.

Gradient Scale
Gradient Scale


This is an amazing lesson to know and it is something we can observe every day. Good news is, it is fairly simple to grasp. Perspective is the element where objects appear to be smaller in the distance and bigger in the foreground.Some clever sod figured out there is a nice simple rule to make your drawings appear to do the same.

1 Point perspective

1 vanishing point

All lines lead to the middle

1 point perspective in drawing.
1 Point Perspective

2 Point Perspective

2 vanishing points

Each object must go from one vanishing point and bounce into the section once a corner is made

2 Point perspective in drawing.
2 Point Perspective

3 Point Perspective

3 vanishing points

All edges must touch a vanishing point

3 Point perspective in drawing.
3 Point Perspective

Although these drawings are primarily focused on architecture and urban drawing, these principles still apply to any organic object you are drawing too. There is a term called forshortening which you should know about. Perhaps in a drawing when an object or figure appears to be receding into the distance or background.

Forshortening In Painting


Get to know your tools. There is no point in sabotaging yourself because perhaps your paper is too coarse, or your pencils are just a simple HB grade. Here's what you need to know about your pencils.

Get a range of them!

Pencil Properties - 9H - 9B
Pencil Properties

Our favourites are 2B, 8B and 2H

2B - Perfect for starting a drawing.

2B Pencil For Base Shading
2B Pencil

8B - This is the best pencil to reach those darker areas and get that strong contrast. Also, this pencil is more regularly available to buy than the 9B so maybe a 9B would be our favourites ;).

8B Pencil For Shadows
8B Pencil

2H - This is great for refining the drawing and making the drawing much smoother. It fills in those tiny gaps that prevent the artwork from being smooth and moody (very good technical term I know).

2H Pencil For Refining
2H Pencil

In terms of paper, there's a lot of different types out there and I don’t want to go into the boring nitty gritties with you so I’ll put it simply. If you are buying a sketchbook and are gritty watercolour pencil go for something similar to printing paper. It is smooth, durable and it's a brilliant finish for your artwork.

In case you see all those scary GSM numbers on the front, here's a little breakdown:

  1. 35-55 gsm – The lightest type of paper, ranging from translucent tracing paper to newsprint.

  2. 75-90 gsm – You’ll find this weight of paper in sketchpads or notebooks. It’s thick enough to draw on with a watercolour pencil, but heavy ink or marker may bleed through.

  3. 90-100 gsm – This is the weight of most types of household printer paper.

  4. 120-140 gsm – The weight of your average promotional poster. Think movie posters hanging on a teenager’s bedroom walls or product posters hanging in store windows.

  5. 210-300 gsm – This thicker type of paper is stiffer but still bendable. You’ll see it used for some magazine covers and higher-quality flyers. This is also the weight of most paper used for watercolors or painting.

  6. 350-450 gsm – The highest GSM paper is pretty much cardstock. This is the stiffest, sturdiest paper and is used for business cards and invitations.

So there we have it, our top 5 tips to start your drawing career. Practise these 5 elements and we promise you you will be 10 steps ahead of the game!

Feel free to message me with any questions and if you are interested in lessons privately or by yourself, my email is

85 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page