Three Open-Source Drawing Styles For Beginners

2014 Artwork Open Source Drawing Styles Sketch

Even though this is an article about art and art styles, I’m going to start by talking about some vaguely geeky computer-related stuff. This is mainly because it was how I ended up coming up with the idea for this article and because it also offers a good metaphor for what I’m talking about.

Well, a few weeks ago, I was vaguely curious about Linux and eventually I ended up making a bootable Puppy Linux CD (albeit using one of the old versions of this system, since it was easiest to find the ISO image for it) in order to try it out.

And, yeah, it seems to work fairly well as an operating system – although most of the programs I own are only really compatible with Windows and the old version of Puppy Linux I downloaded also didn’t seem to be WiFi compatible either. Still, it was really cool – it was quick, it was efficient and – well- it allowed someone as technologically inept as me to feel like a real computer nerd for about twenty minutes or so.

Anyway, one of the cool things about Linux is that, unlike Windows or OSX, it’s an open-source operating system that anyone can use, download and modify. And, well, this made me think of what I said a couple of months ago when I likened an artist’s personal style to the underlying code used to run computer games.

It made me wonder if there are any “open source” drawing styles out there that new artists (who haven’t found their own personal style yet) can use either as their own style or as a stepping stone to finding their own style.

Although I’m still very much attached to my own personal style (with the obvious exception of anything I teach you how to draw in one of my old “How To Draw” guides), I’ve come up with a couple of ideas about other art styles that are “open-source”, which might come in handy.

1) Manga/Anime Art: One of the first things I will say about this drawing style is that it’s fairly consistent (I mean, it was originally designed for comics), relatively simple (again, this is an advantage if you’re making comics) and probably not that difficult to learn the basics of either.

Because it’s such a common and widely-used style, there are literally hundreds of free “how to draw manga” guides out there on Youtube, DeviantART and various websites. So, you can learn the basics of how to draw in this style completely for free. Plus, since it will also teach you the basics of drawing – you can also eventually modify it into something that’s uniquely yours once you’ve had a bit of practice.

Not only that, since it’s so widely-used, no-one can really claim “ownership” of the style either. So, in practice, the basic manga drawing style is pretty much open-source.

2) Stick figures: Literally anyone can draw these with no artistic training whatsoever and there has been at least one successful webcomic that uses simple stick figure art. So, if you want to make a comic quickly and have little to no artistic knowledge, then using some kind of variation on basic stick figures might be an idea.

The only problem with this style is that, unlike manga art, it can’t really be used as a very good basis for learning new things and it’s also quite difficult to modify it into something that is uniquely “yours”.

But, like with manga art, no-one really “owns” this style. So, you can use it without worrying that anyone will think that you’re ripping off their style.

3) Public domain art: You need to check the laws in your own country, but – for example – in most of Europe, the copyright on a piece of art expires seventy years after the death of the artist.

What this means is that everything in their art – including their own style – can be used by anyone in any way without any kind of permission or royalties.

Yes, this will probably involve learning how to copy by sight but if you find any interesting old public domain illustrations or etchings, then you can borrow the artist’s style without any worries. However, most old illustrations generally used a rather “realistic” drawing style which probably isn’t really suitable for beginners.

Even so, some old public domain illustration styles (like the ones used in traditional Japanese woodblock prints) are relatively simple and might only be moderately challenging for a beginner to learn. Plus, they can be easily customised and altered in all sorts of interesting ways once you’ve had a bit of experience with them.


Although I can only think of three examples of open-source drawing styles at the moment, I hope that this article was useful 🙂

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