Introduction: How to Draw: for Makers

Picture of How to Draw: for Makers

This series of Instructables will introduce you to the basics of perspective drawing with making in mind.

Go through all of my drawing Instructables, put in lots of practice and you'll be able to construct drawings like the one shown above!

Why is drawing important for makers?

  • better communicate your ideas to others
  • think through a design visually
  • construct complex geometries with simple shapes
  • develop your visual/spacial thinking
  • help you visually break down how something is made

Part I will cover:

  • the basics of picking drawing tools
  • developing good drawing habits
  • simple warm-up line drawing exercises.

Here are my other drawing Instructables:

These skills may take some time to develop, don't be discouraged and try to practice with at least a page or two of sketches a day.

If you are interested in what you see in this series of Instructables and would like to know more about sketching checkout these great resources.

ID sketching

Drawing Ideas: A Hand-Drawn Approach for Better Design

Step 1: Picking Tools

Selecting the right drawing tools is important. The types of tools you use effect the outcome of your drawing. Different pens, markers, and pencils can be used to create different marks. Keeping a variety of mark making tools on hand while drawing can help you build hierarchy into your drawing. Hierarchy is important for emphasizing relevant information, creating dimension, and allowing structure lines to recede into the background.

There is no "right" set of tools and everyone prefers something a bit different. But there are some more popular tools that you might consider exploring.

Here's some of the pens and markers I've been using recently.

I've been drawing for a while so I'm comfortable with stiffer mediums like fine weight pens. If you're new to sketching I would suggest starting in a looser more forgiving medium like colored pencils, prisma sticks or markers.

You should not use (unless otherwise specified):

  • Ruler
  • Eraser (never erase or throw away old sketches!)

Here's a link to more drawing tools you might want to check out:

ID sketching

Step 2: Good Drawing Posture

Maintaining a good drawing posture is essential to creating an accurate sketch. Your lines will only be as straight as your back is.

If you're having trouble keeping this posture and remembering to hold your arm off the page try drawing standing up for the first few days.

Consider motions and muscles you use while drawing. Drawing is not confined to just the hand. Drawing uses your whole arm.

Drawing from your shoulder allows you to create more accurate lines because it has the largest range of motion. Always draw from your shoulder!

The wrist has the smallest range of motion and thus is more likely to create arc rather than straight lines. Drawing from the elbow has a slightly larger range of motion but is also likely to create arcs.

Some people find drawing towards yourself rather than away is also more likely to create straight lines.

Step 3: Drawing a Straight Line

Let's start by practicing some straight lines. (without rulers)

The first step to sketching is clearing your head, remove any distractions and relax. You need to think clearly in order to allow your sketch to flow.

It typically takes me a few minutes to get into my "sketching mode". Before I start a final sketch I take some time to warm up with drawing exercises on scrap paper. The more time since you last sketched the longer it will take to warm up. This is why it's a good idea to make sure you sketch everyday to keep you muscle memory sharp.

Remember: maintain a proper drawing posture and draw from your shoulder

Here's a few exercises I like to use for practicing lines.

Connect the dots.

Draw a few dots scattered across the page. Farther the dots the bigger the challenge.

Now connect the dots with straight lines. Focus on the dot your traveling to. Practice the motion a few times above the page until you think you've got the path down. Then put your pen down and create the line. Try not to draw past the dots, do your best to stop and start each line on the dot. Moving quickly will help your lines form getting wiggly. I haven't practiced for a few days and you can see how many times I've missed.

Don't be afraid to move your page around. I constantly rotate my sketchbook while drawing.

Practice this for a few pages the more the better.

Parallel lines.

Practice drawing lines parallel to each other. Try picking two points a few inches apart and drawing parallel lines between there.

Practice this as much as you can. Don't move to the next step until you feel you've mastered drawing straight lines.

These are just two different ways to practice straight lines. If you know of any other feel free to add them to the comments or make an Instructable!

Step 4: Drawing Flat Shapes

Now that you've mastered straight lines let's connect them into shapes.

Keep the shapes simple and focus on accuracy.

I drew a few pages of squares and played around with line weight.

Try doing these exercises and make up your own:

  • draw a perfect square
  • draw concentric squares
  • shade in a square
  • draw parallel squares
  • draw overlapping squares


ZedarT (author)2016-10-10

Thank you Riciavar for sharing this immensely useful foundation :)

Victoria Canada

CarrieH1 (author)2014-09-21

Lovely work; your explanations are clear and concise! I teach a very basic drawing class for theatre technicians, and in my own way, cover the same material you look at in your tutorials. Since repetition helps learning (and of course, anything on the web is 'more better', I would like to site your Instructables in my list of resources for my students, if that's ok with you.

Very nice work

rlciavar (author)CarrieH12014-09-23

Certainly ok with me!

Garra23 (author)2014-06-26

Later will you be going over drawing blueprints, like the exploded looking drawings and such?

Superhat (author)Garra232014-08-08

YES! Please do an exploded view and blueprints ible

rlciavar (author)Garra232014-06-26

So far I have planned to cover 2-point perspective for rectilinear and curvilinear shapes (which have been published). As well as simple cast shadows, rendering and manipulating shapes (cutting and joining). If there's an interest in exploded view drawings I can look into making an Instructable for that too!

{TheMaker} (author)rlciavar2014-08-01

I'm also in for the exploded view Istructable!

cleigh6 (author)rlciavar2014-07-31

exploded view even!! Lack of sleep for 36 hrs can do strange things to a fella!

cleigh6 (author)rlciavar2014-07-31

count me in for the explosive view tutorial too please, thank you.

jrmarquina (author)rlciavar2014-07-01

Count me in for an exploded view instructable.

SuperPollo (author)2014-08-08

I finished this one and I've notice the improvement on my lines. Will continue doing your instructables to make better and understandable sketches. Thank you for the tips and exercises! :D

rlciavar (author)SuperPollo2014-08-08

Glad to hear it helped, keep practicing and you'll get even better!

CashDesign (author)2014-06-29

Hi, great series!On what kind of paper are you drawing on? I see little dots so i was thinking that maybe it's something specific

rlciavar (author)CashDesign2014-06-30

I used a Leuchtturm sketchbook for these drawings. I like the way the paper accepts ink and markers. Another good loose paper to use is 11x17 cougar paper

Laral (author)rlciavar2014-07-31

I would think that you'd have included what type of unusual dotted paper you show as a required tool.

rlciavar (author)Laral2014-07-31

It's definitely not required, I've been drawing for years and only started using this paper recently. It's actually a good idea to not use guides of any sort (rulers, grids, dots etc) when you first start drawing as they will quickly become a crutch. I tend to ignore the dots and use the paper because of the way it accepts ink.

Laral (author)rlciavar2014-07-31

Wait a minute… Every one of your drawings in every part of this series shows dotted paper, like you use it exclusively, even though you have much more experience than your intended audience. It seems to me, if anyone needed the dots as guidelines, it would be less experienced people than you. So now you are recommending not to use it? Actually I think the dots are a real help to keep everything well-aligned and square. Kind of like the usual engineering grid paper but less obtrusive.

rlciavar (author)Laral2014-07-31

I used it because it was the paper I had on hand. I would advise beginners not to use guides (dot grids) until they develop the skills to draw without them. Otherwise when they don't have grid paper on hand they will have a hard time drawing straight lines. Though you can really do what you want this is just my suggestion and the direction I was given when I first started drawing. when I'm drawing I don't use the dots I would actually prefer they not be there but I like the way the fibers in this particular paper accept ink so that is why I put up with having the grid there.

Laral (author)rlciavar2014-07-31

OK, that's why. Now you mention it, it does look like the drawings are actually free-form drawings that don't really adhere to the dot pattern. Thanks.

CashDesign (author)rlciavar2014-06-30

ok!Thank you very much for the informations!(and the instructables)

armitagebron (author)2014-07-13

What I have to do, if after six days of practise my best result is like on photo?

Sometimes I actually trace from a photo or other reference material to get a better idea of what I want to do. In designing on paper, it can be hard to push past a drawing block in your mind and get the drawing you want. Try using other materials, folding paper, etc. to visualize your design. Then take a photo of that, and trace that photo for a closer representation of what you want. I've even used matchsticks and toothpicks for this.

rlciavar (author)armitagebron2014-07-14

Those lines look great!

Keep practicing and maybe try to draw bigger.

Check out my other drawing instructables too!

bdaglh (author)2014-07-01

Your tutorials seem very interesting and helpful! They're a good starting point for me to try my hand at drawing :) Thanks!

GrfxGawd (author)2014-06-30

Sidewalk chalk, on your driveway or a basketball or tennis court. BIG DRAWINGS. It forces you to use your entire arm, almost your entire upper body. And, large motor muscles. Think it's strange? Try it. Write a single word in letters at least half as large as you are. I'm willing to double the cost of the package of chalk it's neater and more legible than your handwriting is with pen or pencil. Unless you neatly write in copperplate... In which case, try a large simple geometric shape. The result should almost without exception be better. Another thing, I forget who said it, but they effectively said inside of every great artist is 10,000 bad drawings. So draw every chance you get to get all the bad drawings out as quickly as possible! Unfortunately for me, I either slipped a couple decimal places while counting, or I was gifted with "extra" bad drawings...

rlciavar (author)GrfxGawd2014-06-30

Great tip and keep practicing I'm sure there's 10,000 good drawings in you too!

GrfxGawd (author)rlciavar2014-06-30

Oh. I, sort of forgot to mention the entire point of the exercise I describe... Keep making those big sidewalk chalk drawings until you are getting consistent straight and smooth flowing lines. Then pull that feel and motion to your medium, most likely a sketch book or paper. You want to get rid of that motion from your fingers, your wrist, even a lot of the movement of your elbow. It's a muscle memory exercise. Sort of like practising a golf swing to counter slice, or dry firing to reduce flinch/anticipatory compensation. Just a specific way to help develop the habit of drawing with the arm, instead of your fingers and wrist as you describe.

danzo321 (author)2014-06-29

I would suggest you start with a dot, in page center then try putting the dot near the bottom.. draw rays from page edges to the dot. Why? Get used to drawing the lines of perspective, which you want to have internalized.


rlciavar (author)danzo3212014-06-30

Great tip!

danzo321 (author)2014-06-29

These are fine but I'd start with a softish pencil, maybe HB.

Daniel Domingos (author)2014-06-29

Great tips! It sure will help many people.


I work as a freelance illustrator and would like to invite everyone to visitr my website and get to know my work.

I believe it can also be very inspiring.


billbillt (author)2014-06-29

Another great text book that covers almost any drafting subject that you are likely to encounter is "Engineering Design Graphics" by James H. Earle.... Copies of this great book can be had for almost nothing from Amazon...

billbillt (author)2014-06-29

This is wonderful people getting back to the "boards" and away from CAD.... I learned my design trade years ago on the boards.... As time went by, AutoCad was developed, and every company just had to have it and throw away manual drafting... We all had to go back to school and learn CAD.... Good to see this.... Double plus good...

Hey Jude (author)2014-06-29

Great write-up. Always good to see tips from other designers/makers.
I just got the book you recommend, (saw it on Sketch-A-Day [Spencer Nugent of ID Sketching], on Facebook - also worth a look)... well as Rapid-Viz (which is great if you need a class-like structure to learning things.

Another great Book for creatives is at the early stage of the process - fast note taking is the Sketchnote Handbook.

One tip I was given was not to use a pencil eraser; just don't get hung-up on mistakes...another was to 'sketch in the moment' - in conversation and in meetings. The point being that there is a time for beautiful renderings and a time to communicate ideas and spark debate. Even in high pressure reviews, being able to illustrate a complex idea can make a huge difference. Both styles compliment each other.

Thanks for sharing.

ItsMurfy (author)2014-06-27

Good job thanks for the info

About This Instructable




Bio: Hey there! I'm recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University's Industrial Design program and a former Instructables intern. When I'm not working in ... More »
More by rlciavar:laser cuttingFlat pack Laser cut chairLaser cut stencil bandana
Add instructable to: