Four Basic Tips For Making Monochrome / Black & White Art

2014 Artwork Monochrome art basic tips sketch

Although I’ve already written about why making art using just two colours (eg: black and white, without any grey) can be such a fun activity, I thought that I’d offer some more practical advice about the subject today.

This is mainly because, since I wrote my last article about this subject, I’ve had a bit more experience with making monochrome drawings – expect to see some examples on here from tomorrow evening onwards. In fact, here’s a preview of part of a picture you can expect to see on here in a couple of days’ time:

"City Rain (Preview)" By C. A. Brown  [The full picture will be posted here on the 18th and I've probably already posted it on DeviantART by now too]

“City Rain (Preview)” By C. A. Brown [The full picture will be posted here on the 18th and I’ve probably already posted it on DeviantART by now too]

I should also point out that this article will be focusing on making traditional art rather than digital art, although some of the tips here might stil be useful if you’re working digitally.

Anyway, because of my recent experiences with this type of art, I feel that I can at least offer a few basic tips that might come in handy. So, let’s get started:

1) Be prepared for a challenge: There’s something of a misconception that, because you’re not using anything other than black and white, monochrome art is an “easier” or “lazier” type of art to make. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

In my experience, monochrome art is often far more challenging and time-consuming to produce than colour or greyscale artwork. Why? Because not only do you have to include more fine detail (or at least the illusion of it), but you also have to pay much more careful attention to things like line width, contrast, hatching etc… (which I’ll explain more about later in this article) too.

Personally, I enjoy the added challenge that comes with making B&W art. But, I thought that I should warn you that it can be a much more difficult artform than you may have expected.

2) Black fill: Generally speaking, if you’re making B&W art, then there are probably going to be large areas of your picture that will need to be completely black (eg: shadows, night skies etc…).

Whilst you can fill these areas in with the pen that you’re using, I wouldn’t recommend doing this for two reasons – the first is that, if you’re using a good-quality non-refillable pen, then it will waste a lot of ink.

The second reason is that it’s very difficult and time-consuming to colour large black areas consistently if you’re just using a pen (since there will probably be gaps etc… unless you are extremely meticulous).

The way that I handle large areas of solid black is to make most of my B&W art on (fairly cheap) watercolour paper and then fill in the black areas using a black watercolour pencil and a wet paintbrush. Professional artists usually do this with India ink and a fine paintbrush, but since I’ve already got watercolour pencils – I use those instead.

Another very useful technique I use to avoid mistakes when using black paint is to draw a solid black 3-5mm border around any areas I plan to fill. Since even the finest paintbrush isn’t as precise or accurate as a pen, making a black border ensures that I don’t accidentally get black paint on any areas of the picture where it shouldn’t be.

3) Hatching and line width: Although you only have two colours to work with, your art doesn’t have to just consist of areas of solid colour. Although you can’t use grey in a B&W drawing, you can at least create the illusion of shaded areas by using a couple of simple techniques such as using lots of small dots, hatching and/or cross hatching.

In case you’ve never heard of “hatching” before, all it means is using lots of thin straight or curved lines going in one direction to create the illusion of shade. Like this:

A series of curved hatched lines - notice how almost all of them are pointing in the same direction.

A series of curved hatched lines – notice how almost all of them are pointing in the same direction.

If you need to make your shading darker, or to differentiate two shaded areas that are next to each other, then you can use a technique called “cross hatching”. All this means is that you use two or more sets of thin lines that are going in opposite directions to each other – like this:

The area on the right of this picture is cross hatched.

The area on the right of this picture is cross hatched.

Finally, another thing that you should use to your advantage is line width. If you need something in your picture to stand out or look closer to the foreground, then make sure that all of the important lines in it (or at least just the outline) are wider than the lines you use in the rest of your picture.

4) Contrast: One of the things that you need to pay constant attention to when you’re making a black & white drawing is contrast. In other words, each separate part of the picture should ideally be at least a slightly different shade or colour to the areas next to it.

This is because, if most of the picture is exactly the same shade or colour, then everything can “blend” into each other and look like a confusing mess. Making sure that each part of the picture is a slightly different shade to the parts next to it can help you to avoid this.

Likewise, you also need to look at your picture as a whole and make sure that there is a good balance of lighter and darker areas in it. This is because, even if you use subtly different shading for every part of your picture – if your entire picture looks too light or too dark, then it can still be confusing and visually unappealing when viewed at a distance.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful :)

How To Draw Interesting Hairstyles

2014 Artwork Hairstyle Drawing Article Sketch

Whilst this guide won’t teach you how to draw any specific hairstyle, it’ll give you a few basic pointers about drawing hairstyles in general. This article is aimed at people who are either completely or fairly new to drawing, so I apologise in advance if it sounds like I’m “stating the obvious” in some parts of this article.

The first thing to know is how to draw a basic head – it should be oval shaped and, if drawn in profile, the front should initally be slightly flat (although you should obviously add contours and details later).

Obviously, you should draw it in pencil. But, for clarity, I've drawn it in pen here.

Obviously, you should draw it in pencil. But, for clarity, I’ve drawn it in pen here.

Once you’ve sketched this in pencil, then you can add a hairstyle to it before adding all of the other details and going over it in pen.

So, now that we’ve covered the very basic principles of how to add a hairstyle to a picture, let’s look at how you can find lots of interesting hairstyles to add to your art – like these ones:

2014 Artwork Hairstyle Article image 2

Well, the first thing to do is to learn how to draw a few basic existing hairstyles. And, like learning how to draw anything, this will involve copying.

The first thing to remember is that, whilst drawings and photos of hairstyles can be copyrighted, the hairstyles themselves cannot (disclaimer – I am not a lawyer and nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice).

What this means is that you can use lots of reference photos of the same type of hairstyle to learn how to draw it, but (apart from when you’re practicing) you can’t just copy one photo. And, when you’re practicing, you should always copy photos rather than other drawings.

The main reason for this is that your copy is more likely to be unique and realistic if you practice by copying photos than it is if you bypass this transformative step and try to practice by copying drawings someone else has made.

Not only that, it’s more likely to count as “fair use” under the copyright laws of your country if you practice by copying a hairstyle from a photo rather than copying one from something in the same art medium as the one you’re using.

Anyway, how do you copy a hairstyle from a photo?

As I’ve said before in other articles, it’s always important to remember that a photograph (like a drawing) is actually a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional image. As such, the exact outline of a hairstyle will probably look slightly different to what you might expect it to if you’ve never copied a photo by sight before.

So, although you should always learn how to copy by sight alone (it’s one of the most important skills that any artist can learn) if you’re just starting out, then it’s ok to trace a few pictures of people’s hair [either traditionally or in a digital editing program] just to learn what I mean about the outlines of hairstyles in photos looking different to what you might expect them to.

Once you’ve got your outline, then all you have to do is to add a few thin lines flowing in the right direction in order to signify the individual strands of hair.

I can’t emphasise this enough, but you do NOT have to draw literally every strand of hair, just add a few thin lines and your audience’s imaginations will “fill in the gaps”.

Ok, but how do you create new hairstyles?

Anyway, once you’ve done a lot of copying and have a good knowledge of how to draw several basic hairstyles (a good test of this is whether you can draw these styles purely from memory without looking at anything), then try mixing them together in new and interesting ways.

Try adding parts of one hairstyle to another hairstyle, try changing the colours of parts of the hairstyle, try making parts of it longer or shorter, try making it look more or less neat etc… I’m sure you get the idea.

And, well, that’s about all there is to it really. This is how you draw new and interesting hairstyles.


Sorry that this article was so basic, but I hope that it was useful :)

How To Draw An Animal, Any Animal

2014 Artwork Animal Drawing Article Sketch

Although I’m fairly good at drawing people, I have nowhere near as much practice when it comes to drawing animals.

But, most of the time, this isn’t really too much of a problem because I know enough basic drawing skills and techniques to be able to work out how to draw (and paint) most animals fairly quickly. Like this chameleon:

Hi there.

Hi there.

And, well, I thought that I’d share some of these basic skills and techniques which most artists use when drawing animals they’ve never drawn before (or anything else unfamiliar) with you. There’s nothing particularly new or spectacular in this article, but I hope that it at least points you in the right direction.

1) Find references: First of all, go online and search for as many pictures as you can of the animal in question, taken from as many angles as possible.

If you can actually take a look at the animal in question in real life, then this can be better – although there are advantages to be able to look at a still image for a long time and study it carefully.

So, perhaps, if you get to see a real example of the animal in question – then maybe take a couple of photos.

Anyway, once you’ve got your reference photos, then we can move on to the next stage.

2) Study them: Take a careful look at your reference photos and study them closely.

Pay close attention to things like the precise shape of the animal’s head (eg: the exact outline of it rather than the shape you imagine it to be), the texture of their skin etc… Also, be sure to look at how different the animal looks when it is photographed from different angles too.

Remember, photos are actually two-dimensional images which trick the viewer into thinking that they’re looking at a three-dimensional scene. So, the exact shapes and outlines of things in photos might look slightly different to what you expect them to look like.

If you’ve been drawing for a while, you’ll probably already have a good instinct for this – but it can be kind of confusing if you’re new to drawing. So, study your photos carefully.

Once you’ve done this get your sketchbook. Although your final drawing or painting shouldn’t be a direct copy of any of your reference pictures, you’ll need to do some…..

3) Practice: Using a pen or a pencil, try exactly copying the most important parts of your reference photos to get some practice at drawing the animal (or the exact outline of it at least) from several different angles.

Ideally, you should copy your references the old-fashioned way by looking at them and then trying to draw them yourself. But, if you’re totally new to drawing – then you can cheat and trace the outlines original pictures (either by hand or digitally), but don’t make a habit of this. Copying by sight alone is one of the most useful and important skills that an artist can learn.

For example, before painting my chameleon picture, I looked at a couple of public domain photos on Wikipedia/ Wikimedia Commons (I got the idea to look there from a Shoo Rayner video, I can’t remember which one) and tried to copy the exact shape of the chameleon’s head:

From the second angle, the chameleon's head seems to be almost lemon-shaped.

From the second angle, the chameleon’s head seems to be almost lemon-shaped.

Practising is important, because it allows you to make mistakes and learn in your sketchbook rather than in your finished picture. Not only that, it helps you to feel more confident when it comes to drawing the animal in question.

4) Simplify: This is something which many artists do automatically and something which you should probably do (or learn to do) when you’re practising.

Generally speaking, you don’t have to copy literally every detail of your reference photos (eg: every feather on a bird’s wings etc…) when you’re practising. You just have to learn how to draw the most important parts of the animal (eg: it’s eye, the outline of it, it’s mouth, the shape of it’s wings and legs etc…).

The reason for this is that these are the parts of the animal that your audience will probably focus on when they look at your final picture, so these are the most important things to get right.

For the rest of the animal (eg: it’s fur, it’s feathers etc…), all you really need to do is to give the impression of detail (eg: lots of squiggly lines to denote feather or fur, lots of small curved lines to denote scales etc…) and your audience’s imaginations will fill in the gaps.

5) Bring it all together: Once you’ve learnt how to draw a simplified version of the animal from several different angles through copying and you can imagine what the animal looks like in three dimensions, then it’s time to use your own creativity and create your completely new and original final picture.

Try drawing or painting the animal in a different position or from a different angle to the ones in your reference photos, try drawing the animal with a different expression etc… the only limits are your own imagination and level of artistic knowledge.


Sorry that this guide was so basic, but I hope it was useful :)

Four Very Basic Techniques For Drawing Cartoon Hands

Sorry, I couldn't resist using a groan-inducingly terrible pun here.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist using a groan-inducingly terrible pun here.

Well, since I can’t seem to think of a good topic for today’s article, I thought that I’d share a technique for drawing realistically-proportioned cartoon hands that I either remembered or worked out a couple of weeks ago – as well as three other tips and tricks I’ve been using for a while.

Although I’ll only be showing you four techniques, these can be combined in all sorts of ways that will allow you to draw cartoon hands in virtually any position.

For some reason, hands are often one of the most difficult parts of a cartoon character to draw even vaguely realistically – so, I hope that this is useful :)

Although all of the examples in this article will be drawn in ink (because it’s easier to see on a computer screen), it’s obviously best to draw your hand in pencil first because you will have to erase all of the earlier stages of your hand once you’ve finished drawing it.

So, let’s get started.

1) An open hand that is facing away from the viewer:

Firstly, sketch two lines for the arm – these should curve inwards slightly and get very slightly narrower towards one end:

2014 Artwork Hand drawing example 1

Once you’ve done this, add a square to the end of your arm. It should be slightly taller than the arm, but not too much taller.

2014 Artwork Hand drawing example 2

When you’ve drawn your square, then add five lines to it. These will represent the fingers and the thumb – the line for the thumb should start near the back of the square and the lines for the four fingers should start about three quarters of the way across your square. You should end up with something that looks like this:

2014 Artwork Hand drawing example 3

Once you’ve done this, all you have to do is to draw outlines around each finger (whilst making sure that they are the correct length). Remember to start at the end of your “arm” nearest the thumb and end at the other end of it. Also, be sure to remember that literally every corner of your hand should be curved too. You should end up with something like this.

2014 Artwork Hand drawing example 4

After this, add fingernails and knuckles before tracing over your hand with a pen and erasing your pencil lines. You should end up with something like this.

2014 Artwork Hand drawing example 5

Well done! You’ve just drawn a basic cartoon hand :)

2) An open hand that is facing towards the viewer:

Just follow the first four steps of the previous guide (so that you’ve got an outline of a hand). But, when you’ve got your outline, don’t add knuckles or fingernails.

Instead, just add a small curved line underneath the thumb – like this:

2014 Artwork Hand drawing example 6

3) A closed hand facing away from the viewer:

This one is ridiculously easy. All you have to do is to shorten the fingers (but not the thumb) that are clenched. Like this:

Heavy metal!  \m/

Heavy metal! \m/

It’s that simple. In addition to this, if you want to show someone clenching their thumb, then just replace the thumb with a single curved line that looks like this:

2014 Artwork Hand drawing example 8

4) A closed hand facing towards the viewer:

With this, all you have to do is to replace any clenched fingers with long oval shapes. Like this:

2014 Artwork Hand drawing example 9

If the thumb is clenched, then it should point downwards. Like this:

2014 Artwork Hand drawing example 10


Sorry that this article was so short and so basic, but I hope it was useful :)

“How To Draw” Is Going To Be On Hiatus

2013 Artwork How To Draw Nothing

Well, although I managed to resurrect it twice in the past few months, I’m sorry to say that my daily “How To Draw” series will be going on either temporary or permanent hiatus for time and energy reasons.

Don’t worry, my daily art posts and articles won’t be affected by this and they will still run as normal (at 3:11pm and 7:45pm GMT). But, in order to keep these two core parts of my blog going at the moment, I’ve had to drop “How To Draw” (at least temporarily, but possibly permanently).

In addition to this, the fact that I’ve basically been repeating my old “How To Draw” guides (albeit as animations) for the past couple of weeks is also a sign that perhaps this series has run its course.

In fact, I’m surprised that “How To Draw” has lasted for as long as it has (given that it was originally just meant to be a quick replacement for one article last summer).

Still, I’d like to apologise to anyone who is a fan of this daily series, since I feel like I’m letting you (and myself) down. But, in order to keep the rest of this blog running, I’ve had to drop this series. I’m not sure if or when I’ll get back to three posts a day (and whether that third post will still be “How To Draw” or not), but I’d like to apologise about this.

(Animated) How To Draw A Shotgun Cartridge

(Note: This will probably be the last “How To Draw” guide for at least a while, since this series will be going on extended hiatus. The rest of my blog won’t be affected [and there will still be daily art posts and articles], but I’ll probably post a slightly more detailed explanation tomorrow. Sorry about this)

Well, I’m experimenting with producing animated “How To Draw” guides at the moment. And for this animation, I thought that I’d show you how to draw a shotgun cartridge (again).

I’m not quite sure what happened with the colours in this animation, but this was about the best I could get it to be.

This animation is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

This animation is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.