In this post we discuss how you can get better at drawing and answer some frequently asked questions from beginner artists. These 18 simple tips will help and guide you to draw better. A lot of people think they can’t learn how to draw so let’s start with a super common question.
Is drawing learnable?
Many artists, no matter if beginner or advanced, want to improve their drawing skills. Unlike popular belief (especially from non-artists), drawing is not a talent but a skill you can learn and develop.
Yes, some people might be born with the ability to grasp the fundamentals of drawing more quickly than others, but that doesn’t mean that YOU can’t be a good drawer.
I think the only „talent“ artists have, is a passion for art and the desire to create. It brings us joy, that’s why we draw or paint and the more we do it the better we get.
There’s not one way to learn how to get better at drawing. Everybody learns different and the same applies to learning how to draw. Every art journey is different and what works for one artist might not work for the next.
I really hope the following tips and information are helpful to you, but if not there might be different ways to help you improve that I have not thought of.
I genuinely believe that everybody can learn how to draw!
Do I have to go to art school to become a good artist?
Absolutely not! You don’t have to go to art school to learn how to draw. It is definitely helpful to have a teacher and a class environment but you can totally study it on your own.
Nowadays there are so many resources on the internet, a lot of them are even free. You can learn from books or you could purchase an online class that interests you which probably will still be cheaper than art school.
So here are 18 tips on how you can get better at drawing and improve your drawing skills.
How do you get good at drawing?
1. Warm up
Like an athlete, artists should also warm up before they dive into their drawing session. It’s recommended to warm up your wrist, shoulders and eyes, with some quick loose sketches. Draw some scribbles, circles, lines, anything to keep your arm moving and your mind set to drawing mode.
Also don’t forget to stretch in between and after drawing to prevent wrist and shoulder injury!
2. Study the fundamentals
To get better at drawing it’s important to study the drawing fundamentals like human anatomy, perspective, proportions, color theory and tonal values. If you don’t have a teacher, you can learn these fundamentals through books, YouTube videos or blog posts.
Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter by James Gurney
Figure Drawing: Design and Invention by Micheal Hampton
Perspective Made Easy by Ernest R. Norling
Light, Shade and Shadow by E. L. Koller
3. Draw from life
Try to work from real life as much as possible! This tip is so important and it’s something I wish I started earlier in my art journey. By drawing from life you practice to draw what you actually see.
Always draw what you see, not what you think you see! If you’re drawing a flower don’t think of it as a flower. Observe the shapes it consists of, the curves and lines, the colors, where the light hits it and where the shadows emerge. Draw these shapes you see and a flower will arise on your paper.
You can exercise drawing from life by doing still lives, drawing family members, friends or yourself, sketching landscapes or architecture.
4. Draw from reference
If you are not able to draw from life use references. It doesn’t mean you’re not a real artist if you’re using references for help. In fact, most artists use some kind of reference. How else are you supposed to know what something looks like and get the proportions right (unless you have a photographic memory)?
A great drawing exercise is to draw upside down. For this you just need to rotate your reference 160 degree and then try to copy it. This forces you to draw what you see and not what you think you see.
5. Always take a step back
Have you ever drawn something, came back to it the next day and it looked off to you? That’s likely to happen when we don’t look at our work with fresh eyes.
When drawing it’s very easy to get lost in the process. We focus on the details and loose sight of the whole drawing. And once we take a step back we notice that the proportions are way off and we have to start again.
That’s why you should take a step back or look away and adjust your focus every other minute. This way you are more likely to notice if something is off before it’s too late.
6. Draw from memory (after studying)
Practice to draw from memory after you studied something from reference or life. By doing this you can develop your visual library. For example, draw a face a few times from reference and then try to draw it without the reference.
7. Don’t learn from only one source
This is a mistake that can easily be avoided. When you start learning to draw and you study the fundamentals, don’t rely on only one source. If you’re learning with books, don’t learn from only one book, read others about the same topic.
The reason is that one person simply can’t know it all and not all artists do things the same way. So you might be able to understand something better if you hear it for the 10th time but in a different way by a different person.
This does not only apply to books but to courses, videos and blogposts as well.
8. Get feedback
Show your work to others and get their opinion. I know, it might be really scary to show your art to others but trust me that it can be really helpful. Find a friend or a family member that is honest to you and will tell you when they think something looks wrong or off with your drawing or point out something you haven’t noticed before.
Be open and ask them to critique your proportions, perspective or something else you’re not sure about and not your whole concept. If they don’t like your concept there’s nothing you can do about it. You are not creating art to please others but to get your ideas out.
Some people might be too nice and will compliment every drawing of yours, but getting only (sometimes fake) compliments will not make you a better artist. Never take critique personally but as a way to improve! Of course you don’t have to take their suggestion into consideration if you simply don’t agree with them.
You can also post your art online and ask people for help there.
9. Don’t be precious of your artwork
Don’t like a piece you’ve drawn? That’s alright. Throw it in the back of a drawer. If you mess up, it’s okay! Just try again.
Don’t be too much of a perfectionist because perfectionism can actually keep you from starting at all. It’s always better to have drawn or painted something even if you end up hating it than to never have started. Being scared of starting or the next move is pointless. Be open to make “mistakes” and if you make one you can’t turn into a “happy little accident” then try again and learn from it.
what to draw to get better at drawing?
Some artists wonder what they should draw to get better at drawing and the answer can be different for everyone. If you want to be a portrait artist draw a lot of portraits and study human anatomy. If you want to be a landscape artist draw a lot of landscapes and study perspective. Here are some more general tips for what to draw to get better.
10. Figure studies and quick action drawings
To get better at drawing portraits and the human body it’s very helpful to do timed figure studies. If you can’t attend a live drawing class you can use tools like Line of Action or SketchDaily Reference. You can also sketch people in public places.
By doing these quick studies you will practice drawing more quickly and how the human body moves. The more you do this the easier drawing difficult poses will get.
11. Copy the masters/artists you admire
Copying artworks of the masters you admire is so helpful and important because you can learn their techniques, how they deal with composition and how they drew/painted something.
Find a high quality image on the internet (the MET Museum has an open access library for example) or in books. When you copy the masterpiece try to mimic the exact brushstrokes or pencil lines to really understand how the piece was created.
These copies are for practice and you should not sell them or mark them as your own! You shouldn’t post them online unless you have permission from the original artist and even then give proper credit.
12. Draw what interests you
If you want to improve your drawing skills and not loose motivation you should draw something that actually interests you. Studying the fundamentals can get boring pretty quickly and it might be a reason for you to give up.
Because of that you should not stop drawing what you want to draw. If you love drawing faces then draw faces. Maybe spend one day a week learning a new art theory and then draw what you love the other days of the week. Of course it will be helpful if you try to incorporate what you learned into your drawings.
How do i get better at drawing fast?
Nowadays everyone wants to get everything as fast as possible. But try to not focus on how fast you can achieve something. Developing your drawing skills is a gradual process and how fast you improve depends on many factors.
I know, it can get frustrating when you’re drawing and drawing and don’t see any results. But it might be that you’re just not able to see you progress yet. To get good at drawing can take years but here are some tips on how you can improve more quickly.
13. Practice regularly
The best answer to how to get better at drawing fast is one you’ve probably heard a million times before and it’s practice, practice, practice.
To see vast improvements you need to practice regularly. This can be different for everyone. Some manage to draw every day, others 2-3 times a week. Drawing only once every other month is definitely not going to give you any quick results.
You’ll be able to see improvements soon by drawing only 30 minutes to one hour a day. If you can manage more you’ll see progress even faster.
14. Carry a sketchbook everywhere
Always carry a small sketchbook and your favorite pen in your pocket or bag and get it out whenever you have a spare minute to draw. Draw anything and everything you see while you’re waiting for your bus or simply are on a walk in nature. Don’t treat your sketchbook like a portfolio of your best work but as a sketchbook. By that I mean: draw messy, sketch without worrying if it looks pretty, try out different things. Remember that you don’t have to show your sketchbook to anyone.
I promise you if you apply all these tips (or even just some of them) and draw everyday for 30 days you will see a big difference between day one and day 30.
How to not loose motivation and burn out?
Some extra tips on not only how to get better at drawing but how to not get burned out and loose motivation.
15. Try different media
Changing the medium you use can be an instant motivational boost. There’s something very exciting about trying a new medium and the new ways you can create art with it. You can’t discover your favorite medium until you try at least a few. And it’s okay to not stick to only one medium.
Thinking about starting to paint? Here are 7 reasons why you SHOULD start painting.
16. Take breaks
If you feel unmotivated or defeated it’s okay to take a break. If you simply don’t feel like drawing today don’t. Pursue another hobby, go outside, look at your favorite artist’s work and come back the next day or next week. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
17. Draw with friends
Go on a drawing date with a friend. Creating art is usually a solitary action we do in our studio or bedroom at home so it can be really fun and refreshing to draw with someone else. You can give each other drawing prompts, inspiration and critique your artwork.
18. Don’t compare yourself to others
Yes, other artists might be “better“ than you. They might be more skilled or have a style you admire and can’t seem to achieve. But they might have one, five, ten or 40 years more experience than you. Even if they are younger, that’s no reason to doubt yourself.
Just because others are great doesn’t mean your art is not. Just because you’re not drawing photo-realistic doesn’t mean your art is less worthy. Your artistic voice is unique and you shouldn’t compare it to others.
Does tracing help you get better at drawing?
Tracing over an image is something I would recommend only total beginners do to get a feeling for the pencil and the line weight. It’s also a quick way to get an accurate drawing for a painting onto your canvas if you don’t feel like spending a lot of time on doing the sketch.
Tracing is not very helpful for learning how to draw though. I get why you would want to trace: it’s an easy way to produce a proportional drawing if your drawing skills aren’t quite there yet.
It’s a shortcut but it won’t develop your skills. If you only trace, you won’t learn how to draw your subject from scratch. This you can only achieve by looking at and observing your subject and connecting the relations on paper. Also you can’t trace from real life, so you would be lost then if you only rely on tracing.
To be honest I feel like by tracing over a photograph a lot of character you’d get from the sketch lines gets lost and the drawing usually doesn’t look very interesting. So put the effort in and learn drawing by sketching from life or photo references and not by tracing.
Don’t give up!
You CAN do it! If you WANT to learn how to draw or get better at drawing you will be able to achieve it with practice. If you’re frustrated and feel like you don’t make progress at all look at your very first drawings and I’m sure you’ll see how far you’ve already come.
You can also always ask me for help or advice if you feel stuck. Just reach out via email or on social media.