Drawing Mistakes to Avoid

Drawing is a foundational skill that almost every creative utilises in some way for their process. 

Even if an oil painting is our end goal as a highly-skilled fine artist, our concepts and ideas are laid out through those first, initial sketches. 

Drawing and sketching help us explore concepts, composition, tonal values: and from there we perfect those concepts to actual drawings or line-art. 

Understanding how to draw well isn’t something we can skimp on. It’s a vital foundation for the creative’s finished product.

It’s absolutely a learning curve to learn to draw well, but the beauty of art, illustration, and creativity is that it’s a learning process. 

Every artist everywhere is continually learning and growing; even the masters were continually learning and growing in their day. 

Seasoned artists who are proficient in their craft are proficient because they’ve pressed on through the ups and downs of this learning process.

We’re here to take an in-depth look at mistakes we might make as beginners and what we can do to avoid those mistakes to create better drawings. 

Not Implementing the Right Pencils or Paper: 

In one sense, yes, any tool at our disposal can be used to create art, and sometimes we absolutely have to use what is on hand. 

But, our drawings will benefit so much more if we think about the tools we are using.

For drawing and sketching this means using the right pencils and sketching paper. Just like any other artistic tool, every pencil doesn’t produce the same results. 

Even the mechanical pencils made for school and writing won’t give us matching results. The main difference is the hardness of the pencil’s core. Some leads are softer and some are harder. 

What do soft or hard cores mean for our drawings? The softness (or hardness) level of a pencil helps us gauge how dark (or soft) the graphite will lay down on the paper.  

This is so important to our process. When sketching out the first lines of a drawing, we don’t want to use the softest pencil (which also give us the darkest results). 

We want our lines to be light and easily erased. Harder pencils give us those light lines.

Afterwards, the softer pencils can be used to add extra tonal values.

Finding an entire, complete set of drawing pencils for drawing purposes is a huge benefit to our drawing process.

The same is true for sketching and drawing paper. There is a paper that is good for preliminary, everyday sketching. 

But we don’t want to finish a final drawing on sketching paper. A paper with a heavier weight is much better suited to finishing a final drawing.

Limiting Our Sketching Tools to Only Pencils: 

This is another mistake that might be a common misconception. When we’re drawing, we don’t have to use only pencils. 

Pens, inks, and dipping pens are a great medium for drawing and sketching as well. And there are a variety of pens out there intended for drawing. 

These pens have nibs of varying thicknesses to help us get the right results.

Some pens can cover a vast amount of paper quickly, and some have tiny nibs that make them suitable for the tiniest details.

Dipping pens and inks are other popular options for drawing and sketching, and most art stores carry supplies to help artists get started inking.

Laying Down Preliminary Lines that are Too Heavy:

When we first begin a drawing or a sketch, our first instinct is to put down the same heavy lines that we would when we’re finishing the line-art of a drawing. 

But most artists need and want to make changes to their drawing as they go. 

Sometimes the “vision” for what we are drawing becomes clearer as we draw, or sometimes it shifts and changes as we improve the concept on paper.

If our lines are too heavy immediately, this makes it difficult to erase things and change our minds.

The lines might not come up, or we might accidentally erase the paper so much that it’s damaged.

Using a heavy line too soon risks throwing out multiple sheets of paper and wasting valuable time.

Practice using light lines to layout the drawing when a drawing is still new.

As the shapes and concepts are perfected and developed, then begin adding weightier, darker lines to finalise the shapes. 

It’s a different process, but it saves so much frustration if we learn to use lighter lines. It’s easier to add weight and value at a later time.

Forgetting to Sketch out Thumbnails:

It’s hard to emphasis just how important it is to develop enough thumbnails for our work. 

Neglecting to sketch thumbnails is something we can technically get away with, but the quality of our work might suffer a little for it. 

Why are thumbnails so important? They’re just tiny 2x3” rough sketches. 

These little sketches (however insignificant they might seem) do so much for our final drawing.

It’s the perfect way to explore composition, angles, point of view, character and object placement, etc. 

And since it’s done in a rough, small format, it’s easier for us to explore these ideas before committing them to a larger, more permanent format. 

Sometimes, an idea we have might not even be clear in our minds; but exploring it through thumbnails helps us sort out the jumble of hazy ideas. 

There’s even the possibility that in sketching out thumbnails, thinking we like one point of view, we explore another and find we like another thumbnail sketch better.

Drawing is such an important part of developing our creative pieces, and the stronger our ability to draw (and to do it well), the better our pieces will turn out. 

Even if the drawings aren’t seen in the final results, it certainly adds to the quality of our work. 

These mistakes are easy to avoid, getting us on the right track to creating the best work possible!


Ellie Tran is a freelance illustrator and writer soon to be based in Anchorage, Alaska. She uses watercolours to illustrate her own stories; and when not illustrating or writing, she enjoys being out in nature.
Tagged with: art tips pencils Sketching
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