5 Things You Can Do Today to Improve Your Drawings

Today I’m sharing 5 ways to improve your drawings. Each of these will require practice, but the more you can incorporate these techniques into your drawings, the easier it becomes.

A lot of artists begin drawing when they are children, before they’ve ever heard the name Picasso or learned about color theory.

It’s such an accessible form of self expression, and used to communicate even before we can speak. You might wonder, what are some easy ways I can improve my drawing today?

As we grow and find new interests, a lot of people lose touch with drawing. A few of us end up taking drawing classes and are trained advanced techniques. But what about those who find their way back to drawing later in life and don’t know where to start?

There are a few really easy things you can do to instantly improve your drawing!

Before we jump in, let’s quickly look at different pencil types. There are a lot of brands, but the most important aspect is the softness of the graphite.
There is a universal designation for graphite softness ratings. It might vary slightly, but in general this is what they mean:
F – Fine
H – Hard
HB – Hard/Soft
B – Soft
B2-9 – the higher the number, the softer the graphite.

Lead designations

Five Ways to Improve Your Drawings Today

  1. Pressure
  2. Angle
  3. Blending tools
  4. Hatching vs tonal drawing
  5. Eraser

Pressure of the Pencil

The pressure of the pencil against the paper will change the darkness of the line.
Why does this matter? The darkness of the line can be used to quickly identify darker areas of a form without any other type of shading.
Without this, the drawing appears simple and flat.

Pencil drawing tutorial example

When making line drawings, varying the thickness of your lines to indicate shadows is the fastest way to achieve a diverse look.

Angle of the Pencil

In addition to the pressure/darkness of the link, the angle of the pencil can help you achieve varied thickness. A sharp pencil pointed directly at your paper will be an extremely thin mark. Turned slightly to the side, more of the graphite makes contact with the page and creates a thicker line. All without lifting the pencil!

Pencil line thickness example

The thickness of the line can vary greatly depending on how soft your lead is, and in my opinion will give you a more dynamic line.

Hint: Softer lead will wear down quickly, and even within one single stroke you may notice the line getting thicker by the end. Continue to rotate and tilt the pencil to practice controlling the thickness of your lines.

Blending Tools

Sometimes while drawing you’ll accidentally smear it with your hand. This is often unwanted, but you’ll quickly discover how easy it is to soften the look of your drawing! It’s a quick way to soften your shading. There are a variety of ways to blend the graphite. Here are a few of my favorite tools:

  • Cotton bud (Q-tip)
  • Cotton pad (cut until various shapes)
  • Stiff brush
  • Blending stick (found in the drawing department of most art stores)
Different types of blending tools for graphite

Quick Tip: Gently layer soft graphite on the paper then blend until it’s smooth. Add another layer, blend, and repeat until you get the desired darkness.

Shading: Tonal vs. Hatching

For shading, we have a variety of techniques. Tonal shading is the most realistic, as it mimics the gradation of light to dark that would appear on real objects. Hatching (or cross-hatching) utilizes repetitive lines to fill in large areas with graphite to quickly add darkness.

Cross hatching vs tonal shading

Even when used loosely, both techniques are capable of quickly adding depth to your drawing.

When tonal shading, I recommend using a softer graphite, and apply in layers (varying the direction of your layers).

Eraser as a Drawing Tool

Did you know you can draw with an eraser? It might sound odd, but think about it. The highlights, or negative space of your drawing are just as important as the dark areas. The same way you carefully select your pencil, you can choose from a variety of erasers to get a certain look.

The above example shows how the eraser can be used to soften the highlights of a tonal sketch. There are a variety of eraser types that make the job easier.

Here you can see my three favorite erasers (from left to right): large polymer eraser, eraser stick, kneaded eraser.

Different types of erasers as drawing tools

Final Thoughts

Drawing is one of the most accessible forms of artistic expression. It’s a skill that will help you become a better painter but is special in its own right. These tips might seem so obvious at first, but require practice and repetition! Don’t give up. Just take it slow and know that you are improving every time you pick up your pencil.

Do you have any quick tips that could help my readers? Leave your best advice in the comments to add to the conversation!

Need help improving your drawings?

I’ve got plenty of tutorials to get you started!

Try my classes for free.

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I'm an independent artist living in Scotland. Always chasing the light, and painting the beautiful highlands.

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