How To Draw Literally Anything (Using Two Basic Skills)


Back in 2013/2014, I used to post regular drawing guides on here (like this one ) which explained how to draw specific things. Although I abandoned this project due to the sheer exhaustion of producing too many daily updates, one other reason why I abandoned it was because I felt that hyper-specific drawing guides weren’t that useful to people learning how to make art.

Yes, there’s a place for guides that teach you how to draw hyper-specific things but a major part of learning to be an artist is learning how to draw anything. Especially when there isn’t a pre-made drawing guide to tell you how to do it.

Thankfully, this isn’t as difficult as it sounds – although it does require practice! But, if you’re wondering how artists work out how to draw things they’ve never drawn before (without using guides), then here are a couple of basic skills that can be incredibly useful.

1) 3D Shapes: Learning how to draw basic 3D shapes (cones, spheres, cubes etc..) is an essential skill if you want to learn how to draw anything.

Everything in this world can be broken down into a series of 3D shapes. So, knowing how to draw basic 3D shapes will allow you to draw the “skeleton” of literally anything you want to draw. Here’s an example to show you what I mean:



There are lots of diagrams online which will teach you how to draw basic 3D shapes. But, once you’ve read them, make a point of experimenting with them. Discreetly make random 3D shape doodles whenever you get the chance (eg: in meetings, lectures, lessons etc..). Try stretching the shapes, drawing them from different angles, try turning random 2D shapes into 3D shapes etc…

Keep playing with 3D shapes until you have an intuitive understanding of not only how to draw them, but also the “rules” that they follow (eg: whether they look right). Playing 3D computer games (especially ones with more basic/simplistic graphics) can also help to improve your understanding of how 3D shapes “work”.

Once you are confident about drawing any type of 3D shape, then all you have to do is to break down whatever you want to draw into a series of 3D shapes. Of course, you’ll also have to have some experience with….

2) Copying by sight: Copying pictures or photographs by sight (and not tracing them!) is an incredibly important thing to practice if you eventually want to be able to draw literally anything. This is a skill that can only be learnt through sheer repetitive practice (and, yes, your early attempts at it probably won’t look great. But, they’ll get better if you keep going).

The trick to copying by sight is to focus on drawing the outlines of everything as accurately as possible. Since a photo is a 2D representation of a 3D scene, the precise outlines of everything will look different to what you might expect them to. Just try to re-create them as accurately as possible, until you start to get an idea of the “rules” that this conversion from 3D to 2D follows.

To show you what I mean, here is an example of the outlines of two humpback whales in a copyright-free US Government photo from Wikimedia Commons. For the sake of time, I had to *cringe* trace parts of the whales but, as I’ll explain later, there are important reasons why you shouldn’t do this when you’re learning how to draw!



The reason why I was so adament about not tracing (when you are learning) is because copying things by sight forces you to think about what you are drawing. It slowly and subtly teaches you how to work out how to draw things on your own. It quite literally forces you to re-create the things you are looking at, in a way that quick, lazy tracing doesn’t. It teaches you how to convert 3D objects into 2D drawings.

Best of all, it also teaches you how to draw from life too. Once you’re used to seeing how 3D objects are represented in 2D photographs, you’ll be able to “look” at things in real life in the same kind of way. This is a bit difficult to describe, but you’ll know what I’m talking about when you experience it for the first time.

But, of course, you can’t just copy other people’s photos if you want to make original artwork (it’s fine for private practice, but it’s plagiarism if you try to pass it off as your own work!).

However, once you are mildly to moderately skilled at copying from sight, you can take a look at a few different reference photos of anything and, without even having to sketch them first (since you’ll already know how you would draw them from sight) – come up with your own unique drawing of whatever it is you want to draw.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Two Ultra-Quick Tips For Learning How To Draw Any 20th Century Fashions

2017 Artwork 20th Century fashions article sketch

Well, I’d planned to make another instructional article like this one about drawing 1990s fashions, but I couldn’t decide which decade to focus on. So, instead, I thought that I’d talk about how to learn how to draw fashions from any decade (of the 20th century).

1) The Basics: Take look at this simplified chart (which I made in MS Paint in about 10-15 minutes) that shows you the basic shapes of many common types of clothing. Most vintage clothing from the 20th century will usually be a variation on one or more of these things. There wasn’t enough room for hats, but these old drawing guides (here and here ) might come in handy if you want to draw hats too.

So, copy the pictures in the diagram from sight alone – paying attention to which lines are straight and which ones are curved – until you can do it without thinking about it:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE]. Here are the basic shapes of a lot of elements of 20th century clothing, but thinking about it, the sleeves on the shirts should probably be slightly longer.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE]. Here are the basic shapes of a lot of elements of 20th century clothing, but thinking about it, the sleeves on the shirts should probably be slightly longer.

Remember, most types of clothes that you want to draw will just be a variation of one or two of the things in the chart. Likewise, if you want to learn how to draw slightly more realistic clothes, then this old article might come in handy, as well as any other guides that you can probably find online with a quick search.

2) Look at lots of pictures: Firstly, open a search engine and do an image search for either a decade’s fashions as a whole, or a specific fashion (eg: “1990s fashions” or “1980s power suit”). The trick here isn’t to mindlessly copy one particular picture (depending on how detailed/specific the design is, it might even be considered plagiarism to do this) but to look at as many different pictures of a general type of fashion or clothing as possible until you have an understanding of how it “works”.

This is a bit tricky to explain, but it includes things like knowing which general clothing types were popular in a particular decade, what colour schemes were common in clothing from a particular decade, knowing which clothing combinations were popular, learning which other clothes go well with a particular item of clothing, knowing which types of patterned fabrics were popular etc…

Once you’ve done this, you should then be able to come up with original and/or generic designs based on the general facts that you’ve learnt from looking at lots of different pictures of the same type of fashion. Either that, or if a generic type of clothing was popular in a particular decade, then work out how to draw it by experimenting with altering the outlines in the chart above.

For example, here’s a reduced-size preview of a 1970s-style sci-fi painting that will be posted here in April. For the fashion design in this painting, I used a slightly timeless formal outfit, but with the 1970s look achieved through the use of a slightly gloomy and muted light brown, dark brown, black, grey and blue colour scheme:

This is a reduced-size preview of a painting that will appear here in mid-late April. As you can see, I’ve used a fairly gloomy and muted colour palette, which is contrasted with parts of the background.

So, yes, learning a lot about the general features of a particular type of clothing and/or historical fashion can help you to work out how to create new examples of it in your own art.


Sorry for the ludicrously short and basic article, but I hope it was useful 🙂

How To Draw Four 1990s Fashions

2015 Artwork How To Draw 1990s fashions article sketch

Well, although I’d planned to write a proper article (about fascinations and creativity) for today, it didn’t really work out that well and I eventually ended up abandoning it.

So, instead, I thought that I’d make a few drawing guides for today that are based on one of my current fascinations- I am, of course, talking about 1990s fashions.

Regular readers of this blog might notice that these guides bear a slight resemblance to my old “How To Draw” guides from mid 2013-early 2014. Although I have no plans to re-start this as a regular series, it was kind of interesting to return to it again, albeit briefly.

Anyway, here are how to draw a few 1990s fashions:

1) Dark Floral Patterns: Although I vaguely remember this being more of a formal fashion, it was also apparently quite a popular grunge fashion in the 1990s too. I am, of course, talking about clothing with dark floral patterns. Not only can this style be both formal and informal and both conservative and edgy, but it’s also simultaneously modern and timeless too.

However, drawing one of these patterns properly is an incredibly time-consuming and complicated process. So, here’s a shortcut I found that can help you draw these patterns a lot more quickly (albeit at the cost of making them look less detailed):



2) Sweatshirt Belts: Although I was still doing this as late as 2008 or 2009, the whole idea of wearing your sweatshirt or jacket as a belt seems to have been invented back in the 1990s. This also seems to be one of those “everyday” 1990s fashions that is incredibly forgettable until you read about it somewhere.

Anyway, it’s surprisingly easy to draw and I thought that I’d show you how to do it:



3) 1990s shades: Back in the 1990s, sunglasses were a lot chunkier and more plasticky – and, yet, they still seemed like they were a lot cooler than most modern types of sunglasses are.

1990s shades are one of the easiest types of sunglasses to draw and here’s how to do it:



4) Plaid: Back in the 1990s, plaid patterns (like floral patterns) were another thing that seemed to be fairly universal. On the one hand, they were part of the no-nonsense aesthetic of grunge fashion, but they were also a pretty major part of the much posher aesthetic of American “prep” fashion. Hell, even these days, plaid clothing is currently part of hipster fashion.

Unfortunately, these are surprisingly difficult to draw well (and I kind of messed up the final part of my drawing guide). But, here’s one way to draw them – albeit not a very good one:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] Yes, I messed up this drawing guide. But, in theory it should work - although it might be an idea to do the third step BEFORE the second one.

Yes, I messed up this drawing guide. But, in theory it should work – although it might be an idea to do the third step BEFORE the second one.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Are Step-By-Step Drawing Guides Really The Best Way To Learn?

2015 Artwork step by step guides article sketch

Although this is an article about learning how to draw, I’m going to have to start by talking about both Youtube videos and this site itself.

Yes, I know, I’m breaking my “don’t blog about blogging” rule for about the eighteenth time since I started this blog (and I’m probably going to break it again tomorrow too, since it will be the second anniversary of this site). But, trust me, there’s a good reason for this.

A few weeks ago, I was watching some random videos on Youtube – when I happened to find this video by Shoo Rayner , where he explained how to draw an American-style church.

Before I go any further, I should point out that I quite like Shoo Rayner’s art videos and that nothing in this article should be seen as a criticism of him or his work.

In fact, Shoo Rayner’s videos were what inspired me to start my own daily “How To Draw” series that ran from summer 2013 to spring 2014, where I produced a lot of drawing guides which looked like this:

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

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

Even though it’s been over a year since I’ve really added to this series, it still seems to be one of the more popular things on here – so there’s certainly an appetite for these kinds of step-by-step guides. But are they the best way to learn how to draw?

Personally, I’d argue that – although they can be useful – they probably aren’t the best way to learn. And I’ll explain why….

When I was watching Shoo Rayner’s drawing guide video, I suddenly thought “I could easily work out how to draw this for myself“. All I’d need would be a couple of photos of American churches from Google images and I could probably think of a way to draw a fairly convincing example of one. Like this:

 This is kind of a composite of several photos I saw when I typed "American church building" into Google images

This is kind of a composite of several photos I saw when I typed “American church building” into Google images

So, how did I do this? Well, I was basically able to look at the photos, break them down into their basic 3D shapes and re-arrange them into something new that still looked a bit like an American church.

If I’d never learnt the basics of drawing 3D shapes, through lots of doodling when I was younger, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do this.

Likewise, although it isn’t probably too noticeable in the drawing I made, I was also able to add realistic lighting and shadows to it (I messed this up fairly badly in one part of the drawing though – see if you can spot it). And I learnt how to do this from books, TV shows and doodling. It all boils down to the simple rule that things that are facing away from a light source should be darker than things that are facing towards it.

If I’d just followed a step-by-step guide, then I could have also produced something that looked like an American church. But, it would only look like one person’s idea of what an American church would look like. It would be an exact copy of someone else’s drawing style and imagination.

If you’re not interested in learning how to draw, then this might be good enough if you just want a drawing of an American church.

But, if you are interested in learning how to draw, then step-by-step guides aren’t quite good enough.

After all, if you want to produce your own work, then the very least that you will need to do is to be able to modify the things that you’ve produced using step-by-step guides. And, of course, in order to be able to modify something, you’ll need to understand the basic rules of drawing (eg: 3D shapes, shading, perspective etc…).

However, if you are an absolute beginner, then step-by-step guides can actually be a fairly useful thing.

They’re a bit like stabilisers (or training wheels) on a bike, since they allow you to go through the motions of drawing something from scratch and get used to drawing things that you thought that you couldn’t draw. Plus, you might also pick up the occasional useful drawing technique from a step-by-step guide too.

But, you shouldn’t use step-by-step guides as a substitute for learning the basic rules of drawing.

If this sounds confusing, just remember that the people who made the guides that you’re using all had to learn these rules before they could make drawing guides. Everything in the guide you’re using was produced using these rules. So, you might as well know which rules you’re following when you follow a step-by-step guide.

But, why do artists keep making these kinds of step-by-step guides?

Well, I can only speak from my own experience here, but it’s because it’s one of the easiest ways to teach drawing. It may not be the best way to learn drawing, but it’s very easy to show someone how to draw something using a step-by-step guide if you have a bit of drawing experience.

In fact, one of the main reasons that I dropped my “How To Draw” series was because I was running out of ideas for what to draw for each guide, rather than because the guides were difficult to make. They weren’t.


Anyway, I hope that this 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.

How To Draw Something You’ve Never Drawn Before

2013 Artwork How to draw sketch

Since a few things in my “How To Draw” series are things which I’ve never tried to draw before, I thought that it could be useful for people who are new to drawing to write an article about this whole process.

Whilst it’s a skill that I’ve probably always had to some degree or another, I’ve only even got vaguely good at working out how to draw things within the past three or four years.

And, yes, with enough practice and understanding, working out how to draw things can become an almost intuitive skill. In fact, with enough practice, drawing in general can become a fairly intuitive skill.

1) Copying: This is one of the easiest, and oldest, ways to learn how to draw new things. Just look at a photo of what you want to draw and try to copy what you see. If you’ve new to drawing, your copy probably won’t look anywhere near as good as the original.

Yes, you can trace things, but this requires a lot less skill and it’s generally a lot more satisfying to try to copy things the old-fashioned way by just looking at them and drawing what you see.

Plus, if you copy things by sight, then you’ll probably add your own artistic touches to them after a while too (this is something you can’t really do if you trace things).

Whilst this stuff is probably fairly obvious, I found a really interesting book a few weeks ago called “Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain” by Betty Edwards which explores some of the psychology behind learning to draw and also teaches you how to “see” things in an artistic way. I already intuitively knew quite a lot of this stuff before I found this book but, if you’re new to drawing, then it might be worth finding a copy of it in your nearest library or buying a copy of it.

If you’re still uncertain about how to copy things, the next three tips on this list are techniques which will help you.

2) Two dimensions: Notice how I only mentioned copying from photographs in the previous point on this list? This goes against the more classical idea that people should actually observe things in real life when they’re learning how to draw them (eg: life drawing etc…), but I personally think that it’s best to learn how to draw things from photographs and static images.

The reason for this is fairly simple – things in real life are three-dimensional, whereas everything printed on a photograph or a computer screen is a two-dimensional flat image. Yes, a photo might look 3D, but (in physical terms) it’s as two-dimensional as the flat surface of the paper it is printed on or the computer screen it is displayed on.

Now, if you’re drawing something, then your drawing will be two-dimensional. It’ll be a single layer of ink and/or graphite on a flat piece of paper. So, if you want to learn how to create the illusion of depth and three-dimensional objects, then it makes a lot more sense to copy another 2D image (eg: a photo) which has already done this.

After a while, you’ll have probably learnt enough to know how to draw things that you see around you, without needing to refer to two-dimensional photos or pictures. But, if you’re just starting out, then it’s worth sticking to copying photographs for a while.

3) Simplify: If you’re copying a photograph, then the sheer level of detail might seem pretty intimidating at first. Real life is extremely intricate and detailed (just look closely at anything around you and you’ll probably see what I mean) and trying to copy all of this detail can be overwhelming.

However, one of the most important skills which any artist has to learn is how to simplify things. This skill is almost intuitive when you’ve picked it up, but it can be kind of difficult to describe, so bear with me…

There are a number of ways to simplify things, but it can be useful to start by drawing an outline of the thing you’re copying and then focus on drawing the most important and recognisable parts of it.

When it comes to the more intricate details of something, it can be useful to either give a general impression of them (eg: squiggly lines to represent grass on a field rather than drawing each individual blade of grass) or to only show a couple of smaller details rather than trying to copy everything exactly and “perfectly”.

A good way of learning how to simplify things if you’re new to drawing is to look at a lot of drawings by other people. Be sure to focus on stylised drawings rather than “realistic” drawings. Anyway, once you’ve looked closely at quite a few other drawings and thought about how the artist simplified things, then you’ll probably start to get a sense of how to do this yourself.

4) Add 3D effects: Although you’ll hopefully work out some of these techniques yourself, there are a few basic techniques for making things look 3D (eg: shadows, perspective, 3D shapes etc…) which are very easy to learn. I wrote a more detailed article about this subject a while back, which can be found here.

5) Practice: As I’ve mentioned a couple of times before, working out how to draw things is a skill which takes practice to learn. It isn’t something that you’ll probably pick up instantly. But, don’t be discouraged. Once you’ve learnt the basics of it, it’ll quickly become an almost intuitive skill. But in order to get to this stage, you have to practice as regularly as possible.

But, if you really want to learn how to draw, then you’ll probably enjoy all of this practice and have a lot of fun with it. And, yes, practice should be fun.

If practicing your drawing feels dull or feels like a chore, then either try to draw something which you feel looks cooler/more interesting than whatever you were trying to draw or just take a break until you feel enthusiastic again.


Anyway, I hope that this article was useful 🙂