How to learn to draw: Stage 1

We all painted once in childhood. Then it was easy, regardless of what we were drawing with – colored pencils, a stick or a finger on the misted glass. But even then you might have noticed that some children painted better than you. Not that you know what “better” means – all you understand is the joy of praise. When you heard someone praise, and your work was completely ignored, you felt worse and worse. In the end, you threw the drawing. Why should we continue if nobody cares?

Now, no matter for what reason, you want to take up drawing again, but it scares you. Those children who never gave up painting have now become professionals, and their work looks almost magical. How can you overcome this gap? Do you ever catch up with them?

The answer is that no one knows. But not their you should try to catch up. After all this your the dream is to draw what do you want, in the style in which you want, without constant criticism for blunders. This “future you” should be your ideal, because whether you will become as good as he or she depends only on you, and not on the abilities / opinions of others.

As soon as you make your future yourself your example, you will constantly grow. Your goal is to be better than yesterday. Doesn’t this sound more real than being a good artist like anyone else in a jiffy? If you agree with me, join me in this great task. I won’t show you how to draw – you wouldn’t even want to! Instead, I’ll show you how study paint. I will guide you through the four big stages, which you will gradually master.

This is the first level. If you thought about how to start drawing after a long break, here is your answer. I will present a set of exercises for beginners – some of them will seem obvious to you, but this will only mean that your level is somewhat higher than you thought. Ready?

Tune in

When you decide to learn something, the right attitude matters much more than all the books in the world. I have already given you one small piece of advice – compare yourself with your future and not with others. There are more tips ahead, so read this part carefully before you begin the exercises.

There is no ideal

When you set a goal, it can look very real and achievable. “This is me today, and this is me when I reach the goal”, this is what you represent. There is a definite path between these two points, and it seems to you that you can quite walk this path. However, you miss one important detail – your needs change with you.

Today, the ability to draw a stick man can be surprising, but only because you do not know how to do it yet. As soon as you reach your goal, it loses its strength and you are looking for something else, something stronger. You may not want what you already have. That is why you can complain about the inability to draw a little man out of sticks, as if this is some kind of valuable ability, and someone who can draw him complains about the inability to draw a real person.

There is no such moment when you become good enough. So we are created, so just accept it. You will never think about your abilities like this: “I’m a great artist, and I don’t need to learn anything else, now I’m doing it just for fun.” This will not happen! There will always be something that you cannot do, something that would make you perfect … and as soon as you reach it, something will open up a whole new world of things that you will have to learn before your eyes.

When you think you know 99% of anything, the remaining 1% will show you how wrong you are

If there is a way to be perfect, then it’s just stop trying. You must understand that no matter how good you are in drawing, it will not make you better, more meaningful than at the moment. It is true and on the other hand – no matter how bad you are in drawing, it does not make you less meaningful. This leads us to the next stage:

Do it for yourself

If you want to paint beautifully, just to feel the joy of praise, get ready for a lot of suffering. Do you remember this sense of pride in your work until someone criticized you? Why is your satisfaction so easily dispelled only by the fact that a random stranger expressed his opinion?

If your satisfaction depends on the opinions of others, you will never be completely satisfied. Moreover, you will allow people who do not even care to control your mood! Even if it makes you a good artist, in the end you will be in constant tension because you are not good enough. And what would you choose – to be an excellent artist in constant tension, or to be a bad but satisfied artist?

I looked at the topic of criticism in my other article, so if this is a burning topic for you, be sure to read it. Remember: you do not want to become a great artist. You just want to enjoy your work, and sometimes you think that for this you need to be at the professional level. This is not true! Stop comparing yourself to them, and think about whether you can become better than you were yesterday – that’s all you need to feel satisfied.

You yourself set your goals, so do not make them unattainable. Your goal should be “good enough“You. Do it for fun, with ease, and do not be too hard on yourself, because you are not as good as someone who has been training for years. You do it for yourself and only for yourself. Learn to enjoy small successes, regardless of what others think about it. In the end, what do they understand?

There is only one goal.

You may have many reasons to start learning to draw, but you have only one goal. it study, how to draw! “Learn” is the key word here, because once and for all, learning how to draw is actually impossible. This is a constant, endless process. Therefore, if your goal is to “be able to draw anything realistic at 100%,” you will be disappointed, because this goal depends on what you want to see, not what you can draw. And what you want to see changes with the development of your abilities, along with your vision of 100% realism.

The feeling that there is an end point somewhere is just an illusion.

It is important to understand that this journey never ends. As long as it seems to you that there is a goal to be achieved in order to be satisfied with your drawings, you will never be satisfied! Learn to appreciate everyone, even a small indicator of progress, and just enjoy the journey. Learning is the only thing that you will do all the time, and it is the only goal that will no longer move.

If you really need more specific goals – please set them. However, do not make any of them cause your happiness and confidence – it is meaningless. And even following these small goals do not forget that all this is only for the sake of the process, and it is not so important when you reach them.

Basic skills

The simpler the drawing looks to you, the more likely your ability is weaker. It may sound funny, but for this there is a rule, and it is called the Dunning-Kruger effect. In short the less you know about anything, the more you think you know. This is because knowledge of what you are not you know – also knowledge!

You can say “I know that drawing is not easy – if it were simple, I would know how!” But you almost cry when your drawing does not work the way you would like. If you really you knew how difficult it is to draw something right, you would not be so upset so much – it would be obvious to you that this difficult!

When you look at a skilled artist who paints his masterpiece and cannot understand how he does it, you want to blame talent for everything. This is a clear sign that you are a beginner. If you were a higher level, even quite a bit, if you only have tried learn how to draw – you would understand what’s up Not only in abilities.

When you are completely new to drawing, you think that to draw – that’s all it takes

Stage 1: Draw what you want

This applies to the main definition of drawing: leave traces on something. This applies to training hands to draw almost automatically, with any material you want to use. Beginners usually see this as one single drawing skill, but in fact it’s just the basics. Keyword: physical exercise.

Stage 2: Draw what you want

This concerns the use of the tool intentionally, avoiding guessing. If after drawing something beautiful you are afraid that you will not be able to repeat it, it is possible that you need to work on this stage. This also applies to you if you cannot copy well from the source until you have drawn it. Keyword: accuracy.

Stage 3: Draw what you want

This part is less concerned with drawing, and more so with memory. I described the main idea in another article, but there are also other exercises that will facilitate the process for you. While the previous level concerned drawing according to the imagination, this one concerns the arrangement of things in places. Keyword: visual database.

Stage 4: Draw what you want

This is the hardest, most blurred part. How can you draw something exactly the way you want it, regardless of what others might expect? How can you draw something unrealistic, but still worthy of praise? Notice that it comes after how you master realism! Keyword: style.

How to study

Of course, today we are working on the first stage, and this is the reason for such a long introduction. You need to understand that this is not a lesson in the truest sense of the word – these are exercises that will help you move to the next level, but how to use them is your business.

I assume that you will use a simple pencil and a piece of paper for this lesson. Beginners are often interested in whether they should start with a pencil, or with a graphic tablet, but in the second case this will complicate the task. Chances are that you are already familiar with the pencil – there is no need to add a new tool, which you will have to learn from scratch.

However, if you are experienced enough in traditional drawing and want to begin your adventure with electronic drawing, these exercises will help you get used to the special movements of the stylus. If you want to draw with your other hand (for example, because of injury, or just for fun), they will also be useful!

Now there is only you and a good pencil. Start with the one you are writing to, and then, if it’s not clear / handy enough, choose the one that works best. All exercises are your playing field, do not push yourself, test your abilities, and do not compare them with any abilities you imagined.


  • Exercise in short time intervals (from 5 to 15 minutes), but regularly – at least once a day.
  • Do not cause inconvenience to your hand – she may be tired, and even more – in this case, find a more convenient version of the movements.
  • Let your arm always will be relaxed – Do not press the pencil / pen with all your might. Your job is to leave traces, no more.
  • Do not use any special paper. or notebook. You can draw on the back of the sheets where something is printed and that you were going to throw away, or on the cheapest printer paper.
  • Turn on good music, or even an audiobook – no need to fully focus on what you are doing. Our goal here is to make movements automatic for your hand.
  • Never forget why you do it. Do not take this as a duty – You can stop at any time if you no longer want!

Enough talk, let’s get to work!

1. Draw Doodle

Let’s start freely – just draw something. Believe it or not, you are already you can to draw, you just want to get more control over it. Allow yourself to have fun and just draw, as if you are sitting in a boring lecture and you have nothing to do. Do not draw anything concrete, and do not judge yourself strictly!

This exercise:

  • warms up your hand;
  • relaxes your hand;
  • reminds you what drawing is;
  • allows you to free your thoughts.

This is an exercise to warm up, so do not push yourself!

All the examples in the illustration above are drawn with my left hand (I’m right handed). The hand you write is probably more skillful, because you use it (at least sometimes) to write. However, the not-trained hand of an experienced artist clearly shows us the mechanical part of the drawing process.

2. Control the direction

Draw a bunch of dots, or a starry sky. Then play Snake! Try to move smoothly, and do not make sharp turns. If you want to complicate the task, use more points, and first connect them diagonally.

This exercise:

  • teach you to change direction smoothly;
  • allows you to gain control over the direction of the line – this is the first step in achieving accuracy;
  • adapts your hand to several positions;
  • Allows you to check if the pencil / pen is comfortable in all positions.

This is a fun exercise that you should take as a game.

3. Draw any lines

Drawing straight lines for an untrained hand can be tricky, so it’s very important to train them to draw. Do not strive for perfect integrity – draw lines quickly, easily, using different directions. Some of them will be more convenient for you to draw than others, and this is normal. For this reason, I paint my creatures face to the left!

This exercise:

  • trains a stable pencil / pen in hand;
  • is an extension of the previous exercise;
  • allows you to find the “rhythm” of your hand – the most convenient direction for your lines.

Do not worry if the lines are uneven – this is normal to begin with.

When you find that perfect direction, use it in the future. Turn the sheet if necessary, but still continue to work in this favorite rhythm – this will be your first step towards ease of drawing.

4. Draw ovals

I didn’t specifically say “circles” because circles are just as scary as straight lines. Draw ovals, and even not perfect. Draw them big and small, quickly and slowly, and do not worry about their ideality. The goal here is to continue the turn and complete the line where we started.

This exercise:

  • practicing hand rotation in the large and small ranges;
  • teaches you how to handle a pencil / pen while rotating;
  • This is the next step in gaining control of direction.

Forget about perfect circles for a while – they are rarely needed in drawing.

5. Practice shading.

Shading is a technique that is used for shading, but it is also based on a very important hand movement. Draw a series of fast, short lines in one direction, and then crosswise with another series of lines. You can also try the “com hair” technique, or any other shading technique. If this is difficult for you, start a little slower, but never focus on one line!

This exercise:

  • allows you to recreate the movement you just used;
  • trains your hand for quick, but conscious movement;
  • trains the movement “quickly and clearly”;
  • makes you look for ways to repeat that won’t bore you;
  • teaches you to think in the key “space” instead of “line”;

This technique will always be a bit tedious, but try to find a way that doesn’t require more effort than necessary.

6. Fill closed spaces

Let’s connect two exercises. Draw ovals, and then quickly fill them with shading. Here your goal is not to cross the contour, which can be very difficult if you work fast enough. Do not try to fill in the gaps – instead try to make them not appear.

This exercise:

  • expands the line drawing exercise – trains the stable position of the pencil / pen in your hand;
  • increases your confidence in control;
  • includes several different exercises;
  • trains your accuracy at the beginning and at the end of the line.

It is harder than you think!

7. Master the levels of pressure

For a perfectionist who only masters drawing, letting go of a situation is very difficult. They seemed to imprint that each line should be perfect from the first, without corrections. This exercise is the first step in breaking this “rule”. Draw lines and scribbles using different levels of pressure. Change them, and see if you can do it gradually. You can even make a gradient of lines!

This exercise:

  • gives you freedom!
  • teaches you a very important vertical movement, and how to combine it with more familiar horizontal movement;
  • teaches you to “feel” a pencil / pen;
  • most important of all.

Soft pencils (B) have more pressure levels than solid ones (H) – check them and choose the ones that suit you.

8. Repeat Lines

Let’s continue the previous exercise. Now you will learn a very important trick, a trick that not all beginners know about.

Draw a short line with low pressure. Then draw over it again and again. As a final touch, you can push harder. Do the same with different lines, quickly, and don’t worry if you don’t succeed at first. This is a difficult exercise, but it works wonders!

This exercise:

  • trains your accuracy;
  • gives you full control over the line;
  • gives you a higher level of accuracy;
  • gives you the assurance that you can draw – the lines start to come out like you want, and not just “work out”.

Do not perform this exercise too slowly, otherwise it will have no effect.

9. Draw soft shapes.

All these exercises should prepare you for this last exercise. Circles or long lines are almost impossible to draw at a time, without any additional adjustments. The truth is that artists rarely paint something with long lines — short lines are much easier to control.

Learn this – and you are free – draw various shapes, constantly lifting and moving the pencil / pen. Do it quickly, and do not strain your hand too much.

This exercise:

  • will allow you to get rid of the most restrictive habit of the beginner
  • really allow you to plan yourself how to direct your line, instead of letting your hand decide
  • prepare you for the next level

With this technique you can draw anything – see for yourself how it can change.

Like this!

Use these exercises to train your mechanical skills every day. The progress they give you is completely dependent on your diligence and discipline. Do them until they become a child’s game, before moving on to the next stage. The order here is very important – without a good base, it will be more difficult for you to learn something new in the future.

It can all be boring, but remember why you do it – you teach your hand the movements that are the basis for the most complex drawings. This is akin to buying ingredients for a new, amazing recipe. You can invest more money and get the tastiest dish that you want, or try to save and get a sad result. Nothing valuable comes easy!

Remember: repeating here is the key. What you train is called muscle memory, and, like the “ordinary” memory, it requires constant, regular practice in order for something to remain in it for a long time. Therefore, continue to train and wait for the lesson about the next stage – intention and accuracy.

You can print this image to memorize all the exercises.

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