Drawing is one of many ways to making an image; it is the process of making marks on a surface by applying pressure from or moving a tool on the surface. These marks may represent what the artist sees when drawing, a remembered or imagined scene or abstraction, or, in the case of automatic drawing, may have much to do with the automatic motion of the artist's hand across the paper (or other surface). (In the process of entoptic graphomania, in which dots are made at the sites of impurities or shifts in colour in a blank sheet of paper, and lines are then made between the dots, superficially speaking the subject of the drawing is the paper itself.) The main techniques used in drawing are: line drawing, hatching, crosshatching, random hatching, scribbling, stippling, and blending.

"The peacock skirt," by , 1892
"The peacock skirt," by Aubrey Beardsley, 1892

One thing that differentiates drawing from painting is that in drawing, an artist uses pure colors and cannot mix them before application. The appearance of mixed colors in some colored pencil drawings is not truly mixing but formed by blending or overlaying pure colors. (In painting, new colors are commonly created by mixing.) The colors of drawing media can mix on the surface because of direct chemical interaction. More usually, the mixing is optical rather than chemical: colors are overlaid (also known as glazing) on previous layers so that light reflected from below the surface comes through, or color strokes are close enough that the eye "mixes" them.

Some artists have started referring to pastel and colored-pencil compositions as "paintings". In nineteenth century usage, "drawing" also encompassed watercolor.


Drawing media

The medium is the means by which ink, pigment, or color are delivered onto the drawing surface. Common drawing tools are pencils, chalk, charcoal, crayons, pastels, and pen and ink. Many drawing materials are not water or oil based and are applied dry, without any preparation. Water-based drawing media (e.g., "watercolor pencils") exist, which can be drawn with like ordinary pencils, then moistened with a wet brush to get various effects. There are also oil-based pastels and wax-based crayons. Very rarely, artists have drawn with (usually decoded) invisible ink.

Some examples of drawing media include:

Drawing techniques

There are a variety of different techniques that experience has proven useful for rendering a higher quality drawing.


Paper comes in a variety of different sizes and qualities, ranging from newspaper grade for practice up to high quality and relatively expensive paper sometimes sold as individual sheets. Papers can vary in texture, hue, acidity, and strength when wet. Smooth paper is good for rendering fine detail, but a more "toothy" paper will hold the drawing material better. Thus a courser material is useful for producing deeper contrast.

For pen and ink work, typing paper is useful for practice drawings. For polished sketches, however, heavier paper is more suitable. Bristol board makes a hard surface that is especially good for ink. Watercolor paper is also an interesting surface for ink drawing due to its texture. Tracing vellum is useful for experimenting with different textures on top of your drawing, prior to committing them to the final page.

There are a variety of drawing implements that the artist can employ, and the type chosen will often depend on what result is intended. (See the list above.) Virtually any implement that will leave a mark can also be employed for drawing. However specially artist drawing media will usually produce better results, albeit at a higher cost.

Various tools can also be put to good use while drawing the picture. These include a pencil sharpener or sharp knife, sandpaper, kneaded eraser, blending stubs, and chamois. Other tools that sometimes prove useful are tracing paper, a circle compass, ruler, frisket film, fixative, and drafting tape. Certain ad hoc implements also come in handy on occasion, such as paintbrushes, felt, typing eraser, and so forth.

The subject of the drawing can be a picture, a still life, one or more live models, or a landscape or other scene. Drawing from a picture can be easier in some respects as the dimensions of the image can be carefully measured and then reproduced exactly on the paper. Rendering a scene can be more challenging, particular if it is only a temporary circumstance. But the artist is less restricted in the subject matter and can view the scene unfiltered by another person's viewpoint. Drawing an imaginary scene can be particularly difficult unless the artist draws upon existing forms as examples.

An easel is an upright stand for holding the drawing paper nearly perpendicular to your line of sight. When a drawing paper is flat upon a table, the rendered image can become slightly distorted due to the perspective of the paper relative to your sight. By holding the paper upright in the same view as your subject it becomes much easier to compare each to the other. It takes some practice, however, to draw with an easel as the arm is not being supported past the shoulder.

Applying media

Prior to working on an image, the artist will likely want to gain an understanding of how the various media will work. The different drawing implements can be tried on practice sheets to see what type of pattern they create, and how to apply the implement in order to produce varying tones.

Line drawing in  by
Line drawing in sanguine by Leonardo da Vinci

The stroke of the drawing implement can be used to control the appearance of the image. Ink drawings typically use hatching, which consists of groups of parallel lines. Cross-hatching uses hatching in two or more different directions to create a darker tone. Broken hatching, or lines with intermittent breaks, is used to form lighter tones, and by controlling the density of the breaks a graduation of tone can be achieved. Finally stippling, or random placement of dots on a page, can also be used to produce a texture or shade.

Sketch drawings use similar techniques, although with pencils and drawing sticks continuous variations in tone can be achieved. For best results the lines in a sketch are typically drawn to follow the contour curves of the surface, thus producing a depth effect. When drawing hair, the lines of the sketch follow the direction of the hair growth.

Typically a drawing will be filled in based on which hand the artist favors. A right-handed artist will want to draw from left to right in order to avoid smearing the image. Sometimes the artist will want to leave a section of the image blank while filling in the remainder of the picture. A frisket can be used for this purpose. The shape of the area to be preserved is cut out of the frisket, and the resulting shape is then applied to the drawing surface. This will protect the surface from receiving any stray marks before it is ready to be filled in.

Another method to preserve a section of the image is to apply a spray-on fixative to the surface. This will hold loose material more firmly to the sheet and prevent it from smearing. However the fixative spray typically uses chemicals that can negatively affect the respiratory system, so it should be employed in a well-ventilated area such as outdoors.


Shading is the technique of varying the tonal values on the paper to represent the shade of the material as well as the placement of the shadows. Careful attention to reflected light, shadows, and highlights can result in a very realistic rendition of the image.

Blending uses an implement to move the drawing material on the paper so as to hide the original drawing strokes. This can only be done when drawing with a material such as graphite or charcoal that is not permanently attached once applied. When shading and blending is needed, the artist can employ a combination of a tortillon blending stump, chamois or soft tissue, and a specialized putty-rubber eraser. The chamois cloth in particular is useful for creating smooth textures, and for removing material to lighten the tone.

There are a number of methods for producing texture in the picture. In addition to choosing a suitable paper, the type of drawing material and the drawing technique will result in different textures.

Texture can be made to appear more realistic when it is draw next to a contrasting texture. Thus a coarse texture placed next to a smoothly blended area will appear more notable. A similar effect can be achieved by drawing different tones in close proximity. A light edge next to a dark background will stand out to the eye, and almost appear to float above the surface.

In most drawing mediums, but especially in ink, realistic renditions of an object or structure avoid outlinining the form and features. Otherwise the image may resemble a paint-by-numbers figure from a coloring book. Instead the shape of the structure is portrayed almost entirely through tones and shading, including contrast with the background.


Measuring the dimensions of a subject while blocking in the drawing is an important step in producing a realistic rendition of the actual subject. A straight drawing implement held horizontally or vertically can be used to measure the angles of different sides. These angles can be reproduced on the drawing surface and then rechecked to make sure they are accurate. Another form of measurement is to compare the relative sizes of different parts of the subject with each other. A finger placed at a point along the drawing implement can be used to compare that dimension with other parts of the image.

A grid can be used to produce a more accurate portrayal of a photograph. The image is subdivided into equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines. A scaled version of these lines is drawn lightly on the paper, and the outlines of the significant features are copied onto the drawing. A similar approach when using an easel is to mount a small, heavy paper frame through which the artist can view the scene. The image on the paper is then scaled in reference to this frame.

When attempting to draw a complicated shape such as a human figure, it is helpful at first to represent the form with a set of primitive shapes. Almost any form can be represented by some combination of the cube, sphere, cylinder, and cone. Once these basic shapes have been assembled into a likeness, then the drawing can be refined into a more accurate and polished form. The lines of the primitive shapes are removed and replaced by the final likeness.

Anatomical drawing of the human muscles from the .
Anatomical drawing of the human muscles from the Encyclop�die.

A more refined art of figure drawing relies upon the artist possessing a deep understanding of anatomy and the human proportions. A trained artist is familiar with the skeleton structure, joint location, muscle placement, tendon movement, and how the different parts work together during movement. This allows the artist to render more natural poses that do not appear artificially stiff. The artist is also familiar with how the proportions vary depending on the age of the subject, particularly when drawing a portrait.


Linear perspective is a method of portraying objects on a flat surface so that the dimensions shrink with distance. The parallel, straight edges of any object, whether a building or a table, will follow lines that eventually converge at infinity. Typically this point of convergence will be along the horizon, as buildings are built level with the flat surface. When multiple structures are aligned with each other, such as buildings along a street, the horizontal tops and bottoms of the structures will all typically convert at a vanishing point.

When both the fronts and sides of a building are drawn, then the parallel lines forming a side converge at a second point along the horizon (which may be off the drawing paper.) This is a "two-point perspective". Convering the vertical lines to a point in the sky then produces a "three-point perspective".

Depth can also be portrayed by several techniques in addition to the perspective approach above. Objects of similar size should appear ever smaller the further they are from the viewer. Thus the back wheel of a cart will appear slightly smaller than the front wheel. Depth can also be protrayed by reducing the amount of contrast of more distant objects, and also by making the colors more pale. This will reproduce the effect of atmospheric haze, and cause the eye to focus primarily on objects drawn in the foreground.


The composition of the image is an important element in producing an interesting work of artistic merit. The artist plans the placement of elements in the art in order to communicate ideas and feelings with the viewer. The composition can determine the focus of the art, and result in a harmonious whole that is aesthetically appealing and stimulating.

The illumination of the subject is also a key element in creating an artistic piece, and the interplay of light and shadow is a valuable method in the artist's toolbox. The placement of the light sources can make a considerable difference in the type of message that is being presented. Multiple light sources can wash out any wrinkles in a person's face, for instance, and give a more youthful appearance. In contrast, a single light source, such as harsh daylight, can serve highlight any texture or interesting features.

When drawing an object or figure, the skilled artist pays attention to both the area within the silhouette and what lies outside. The exterior is termed the negative space, and can be as important in the representation as the figure. Objects placed in the background of the figure should appear properly placed wherever they can be viewed.

A study is a draft drawing that is made in preparation for a planned final image. Studies can be used to determine the appearance of specific parts of the completed image, or for experimenting with the best approach for accomplishing the end goal. However a well-crafted study can be a piece of art onto itself, and many hours of careful work can go into completing a study.


People have made drawings since prehistoric times. This art form first gained widespread popularity among European artists during the 1400's, when paper became generally available. Since that time, each century has produced artists who have created great drawings.

Masters of drawing in the 1400's and 1500's included Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht D�rer, Michelangelo, and Raphael. During the 1600's, Claude, Nicolas Poussin, Rembrandt, and Peter Paul Rubens created important drawings. In the 1700's, great drawings were produced by Jean-Honor� Fragonard, Francisco Goya, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, and Antoine Watteau. The masters if drawing druing the 1800's included Paul C�zanne, Jacques Louis David, Edgar Degas, Theodore Gericault, Jean Ingres, Odilon Redon, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Vincent Van Gogh. Great drawings in the 1900's have been created by Max Beckmann, Willem De Kooning, Jean Dubuffet, Arshile Gorky, Paul Klee, Oscar Kokoschka, Henri Matisse, Jules Pascin, Pablo Picasso, and Jackson Pollock.

Computer software

Drawing may also be done on a computer. Digital art is fast becoming one of the most popular means of illustration. See, for example, the computer illustrations of Peter Welleman.

Here are some common software programs used for computer illustration:

Notable drawing artists


See also


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (https://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Art)
    • Architecture (https://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Architecture)
    • Cultures (https://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Cultures)
    • Music (https://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Music)
    • Musical Instruments (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/List_of_musical_instruments)
  • Biographies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Biographies)
  • Clipart (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Clipart)
  • Geography (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Geography)
    • Countries of the World (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Countries)
    • Maps (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Maps)
    • Flags (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Flags)
    • Continents (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Continents)
  • History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History)
    • Ancient Civilizations (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Ancient_Civilizations)
    • Industrial Revolution (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Industrial_Revolution)
    • Middle Ages (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Middle_Ages)
    • Prehistory (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Prehistory)
    • Renaissance (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Renaissance)
    • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
    • United States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/United_States)
    • Wars (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Wars)
    • World History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History_of_the_world)
  • Human Body (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Human_Body)
  • Mathematics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Mathematics)
  • Reference (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Reference)
  • Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Science)
    • Animals (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Animals)
    • Aviation (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Aviation)
    • Dinosaurs (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Dinosaurs)
    • Earth (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Earth)
    • Inventions (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Inventions)
    • Physical Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Physical_Science)
    • Plants (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Plants)
    • Scientists (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Scientists)
  • Social Studies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Social_Studies)
    • Anthropology (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Anthropology)
    • Economics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Economics)
    • Government (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Government)
    • Religion (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Religion)
    • Holidays (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Holidays)
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Solar_System)
    • Planets (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Planets)
  • Sports (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Sports)
  • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
  • Weather (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Weather)
  • US States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/US_States)


  • Home Page (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php)
  • Contact Us (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Contactus)

  • Clip Art (http://classroomclipart.com)
Personal tools