Introduction: Architectural Thumbnail

Being able to quickly convey what you see or think is an important skill for design students to practice. Quick sketches (often called thumbnails) are the most efficient way to communicate ideas about physical properties to clients, co-workers, or employers. However, this doesn't soley apply to architects and designers. Visual elements are an important part of any job and can be used to help people communicate despite language barriers or cultural differences.

This instructable will teach you how to make architectural sketches that are efficient in portraying proportion, depth, and simple shifts in form.

Step 1: Equipment

To complete this Instructable and continue to practice quick sketching you will need these four pices of equipment:

1) Paper (preferably from a small sketchbook)

2) Mechanical or Technical Pencil

3) Thin Black Artist Pen

4) Thick Black Artist Pen

Step 2: Create Basic Grid or Shapes

Using the thin black artist pen, draw out a few lines that demonstrate how the structure is divided up horizontally or vertically. For this step you can also create basic shapes such as rectangles, triangles, or circles that would define the structure's shape.

Step 3: Add More Simple Sub-Shapes

At this point you want to continue basic lines and shapes that will define large components of the structure such as windows, balconies, or doors. The main objective of this step is to show relationship and proportion between all of the major components.

These shapes and lines too, should be made with the thin black artist pen.

Step 4: Trace the Middle Range

Mentally divide the structure you're drawing into three sections: the foreground, the center/middle-ground, and the background. The foreground is what is closest to you, the viewer. The background is what is the furthest from you and the center is what falls inbetween the foreground and background.

For the example above, I observed that the structure essentially gets closer to the viewer as you move from the left to the right.

For this step you should take the thick black pen and trace over the outline of the center section.

Step 5: Trace Over the Foreground

For this step use the thick black pen again to trace over the foreground of the structure. Go over each line two or three times to make them significantly thicker than the lines made in step 4. Pay close attention to where the form opens and closes as mistakes with the thick pen can throw off the appearance of how the form moves about space.

Step 6: Touch-Up Important Details

The additional marks made in this step are usually made with the thin black pen but occasionally the thick pen is necessary.

During this step you should add just a few lines to make the large components a little more defined. This means showing that a door or window recedes or projects from a surface.

For the example above I also chose to draw a few lines suggesting where the steps leading up to the doors would be.

Step 7: Add Scale Figures

In architectural drawings you'll commonly see simple outlines of people throughout the space. These are referred to as scaled figures. It's important to draw in a few humans or animals to show how large the structure you're drawing is when compared to a human (typically 5'5" tall).

These figures should also be drawn with the thin black artist pen.

Step 8: Add Materiality

Using your mechanical or technical pencil, draw afew lines that generalize what materials are making up the structure such as glass, brick, stone, or wood.

Step 9: Step Back and Admire!

You've created your first architectural thumbnail!