Technical Sketching and Drawing.




About: Retired technology teacher - 2 kids, I have an Hons deg in Design and Technology - 28 years as Computer systems engineer Trained as Electronics engineer in the Royal Air Force

If your making something that is less than simple it will almost always pay you to do some kind of drawing the try to get things straight in your head before you commit to cutting expensive materials up.

This never replaces modelling things, or making mock ups in cheap simple materials but these come after the design work has been done on paper.

After all Paper and pencil are  cheap.

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Step 1: Sketching

Almost everyone can draw despite what they think or say, but most people don't, I believe because they feel that the end result isn't photo realistic (although it can be), - in maker world this level of realism isn't necessary only enough skill to be able to work out how things fit and what might work.

In general for most people sketching flat is easier and will do.

A side view, a top view and a front view will show you all round your design

If you can manage it, then a 3D view, (called isometric view,) will give most none engineering people a better idea of your object

Step 2: Sketch Book

I have maintained a sketch book for my ideas most of my making life. I quickly found I had more ideas than time to make them and if not captured then ideas were quickly forgotten, although I can often recall I had the idea just not the detail.

These sketches often look muddled but do mean things to me and jog the memory.

I also use the book to explore how things may happen and work.

Step 3: Getting Proportions Right.

Drawing takes time to develop, you start off poor and get better (trust me). A small child will scribble, lacking the ability to control the pencil, over time they learn to write and control their movements much more accurately. They also develop a "eye" for what looks right.

Sadly there is a belief that artist can draw things first go and it looks perfect, they can, but usually they are drawing things they have practised and explored to get it right so practice is an important element.

The drawing here is by Spanish artist Juan Francisco Casas he used a biro exclusively to draw these photo realistic drawings. PRACTICE!

Step 4: Helping You Get It Right.

A white sheet of paper seems very big when your drawing and there is lots of space to wonder over. To keep proportions more in control a system called "crating" can be used this is particularly valuable when drawing in isometric (3D).

For each part a box is drawn at an appropriate size and the part is drawn in that box.

The drawing here was made on a CAD system but only because I already had it available.

You can and should do this in pencil.  The dotted lines show the crate and the red solid, the object.

Note that the crate is a guide to get things going the right way and not a restriction so I have moved slightly outside the crate with the red lines. No problem.

Step 5: Formal Layout

To get the idea of an object from a side, front and top view you need some frame of reference. Tto supply this there are some rules you can follow that will in general be understood by any engineer trained to read format engineering drawings.

1. There are 2 standards in the world The USA and most of Europe. (of course).

First angle projection is the ISO standard and is primarily used in Europe. The 3D object is projected into 2D "paper" space as if you were looking at an X-ray of the object: the top view is under the front view, the right view is at the left of the front view.

Third angle projection is primarily used in the United States and Canada, where it is the default projection system according to British Standard BS 8888 and ASME standard ASME Y14.3M, the left view is placed on the left and the top view on the top.

Se example picture below.

This wiki article puts much more flesh on the bones of formal drawing rules

Step 6: Other Drawing Formats.

There are a number of drawing formats, Isometric, Oblique, Single point perspective, 2 point perspective, 3 point perspective. All of which have their place, but are not essential skills (at first)

Rules: (thanks to Wikipedia for these)

The isometric projection show the object from angles in which the scales along each axis of the object are equal. Isometric projection corresponds to rotation of the object by ± 45° about the vertical axis, followed by rotation of approximately ± 35.264° [= arcsin(tan(30°))] about the horizontal axis starting from an orthographic projection view. "Isometric" comes from the Greek for "same measure". One of the things that makes isometric drawings so attractive is the ease with which 60 degree angles can be constructed with only a compass and straightedge.


An oblique projection is a simple type of graphical projection used for producing pictorial, two-dimensional images of three-dimensional objects:

It projects an image by intersecting parallel rays (projectors)
from the three-dimensional source object with the drawing surface (projection plan).

In both oblique projection and orthographic projection, parallel lines of the source object produce parallel lines in the projected image.

single point perspective

is basically simple but practically gets complicated with bigger drawings so I direct you to the Wiki article


When we look into the distance we perceive the horizon as being at our eye level, so lower when sitting than when standing. We see lines that are really parallel (railway lines for example) as converging to meet at a point on that horizon called the vanishing point, (a trick of the eye/brain) but we can use this to make drawings look more realistic.

Draw a horizontal line on the paper where you want the horizon to be.and mark a point on it for reference.

In single point perspective all lines that are not horizontal or vertical go back to that vanishing point.

2 point perspective

This has 2 vanishing points on the horizon and the rule is:

All lines that are not vertical go to one or other of the vanishing points depending on which side of the object they are on.

3 point perspective:

Isn't used a lot apart from architectural drawing and has 3 vanishing points 


All lines return to a vanishing point

Step 7: Some Examples to Inspire - Perhaps.

In general because I work in front of my PC and I have CAD facilities I use that although it is faster and easier to use a pencil if trying to capture or work out primary thoughts (i do that too)

Here are some examples from my projects to do file.

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    30 Discussions


    Question 5 months ago

    I have a problem, please can I be referred to a web where I can learn how to sketch..
    Because my course is related to technical drawing
    I want to learn technical sketching and technical drawing

    1 answer

    Answer 5 months ago

    There are a lot of youtube videos on technical drawing
    Of course much these days is done in CAD. And that depends on the package your using.
    NOTHING replaces practice. Understanding perspective and isometric drawings until you can do them freehand is a good skill to learn.
    If You have specific questions please ask, otherwise spend a lot of time drawing things around you. I maintain ideas sketch books I have perhaps 20 or 30 over the years where I work out ideas, sketch plans and inspiration. It's a habit worth culturing.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I use a number of easily available free CAD systems - Alibre for example.

    Mainly for simple things such as illustrated here I use a old version of a simple CAD system produced for schools in the UK (an authorised copy I hasten to say)


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Students and teachers (at least in the U.S.) can get AutoCAD and Inventor for free from AutoDesk. They only have a three year license, but I won't complain since they're free. You may want to check it out.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Also, while it is only a three year license, you can get it renewed, if you are still a teacher, student, or meet one of the other requirements (i think veterans get it too, and other people)


    2 years ago

    hi I am a student and I wanted a help, we got a project in technical drawing and our teacher said that we can do the project online. So the project is like; design a sleep-out in 3D view, floor plan, elevation, detailed drawing, exploded view, foundation plan and more stuff like that. Do you know that where or from which website can I get these information from.

    thank you.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    I am not totally sure what you want. Google searches may lead you somewhere. If you need free CAD software Google Sketch up is a good free start. There are several 2D CAD systems available as well HOWEVER you could have drawn the project a dozen times over by the time you learn how to use the CAD system.


    3 years ago

    Draftsight CAD system is free for download.. To me, it is better than AutoCad as you can open older drawings in it... It looks almost identical to AutoCad...

    sunil patidar

    4 years ago

    sir i try to make stirling engine as you say i complete it but didnt working what was my mistake

    1 reply
    rickharrissunil patidar

    Reply 4 years ago

    I can't see what you have done, I don't know what skills you have so It is impossible for me to say why your engine doesn't work:
    Not air tight enough
    Too much friction
    Not hot enough
    Hot and cold ends need to be significantly different temperatures.
    Beyond that you will have to try to isolate the problem your self. Sorry

    Bill WW

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice work, Rick.

    I always struggle with which method to use: cad, pencil, MS Paint. For designing modifications to an existing object, I like taking photos of the existing structure (for instance) , then sketching in the additions.

    1 reply
    rickharrisBill WW

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    There is no right - Personally I tend to use a pencil. If it's complicated like you I use photographs.

    I have CAD which I used to teach kids to use so I am very familiar with it and tend to do things for public demand or for final scale drawings on that.

    i am trying to get a grip of Autodesk 123D


    7 years ago on Introduction

    This is a very good basic explanation of technical drawing. Being a drafter believe me I've seen what happens when someone doesn't think something all the way through and being someone who likes to build and create I've seen what happens when I skip this step and make many unnecessary trips to the store when if I had just spent a little time sketching or better for more complicated builds modeling on my computer I could have avoided wasted time, money, and effort. I think this is a step that is often overlooked by many people. It can also help get your creativity flowing allowing you to develop your idea before you build.

    1 reply

    8 years ago on Introduction

    One of my rules is if I can't draw it I probably can't make it either! No matter what I'm doing I invariably scribble something down to keep measurements etc. straight while I'm going along. So step 1 of projects I do entails grabbing a piece of paper and a pencil.

    Maybe it is the drawing habit that separates the doers from the dreamers? As soon as I got something down on paper I got it out of my head and in doing so it is more real already.

    I have difficulty drawing on computers though. I admire those that can.

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    For most of us it is more that likely true that if you can't s "see it" well enough to make a quick sketch of the important detail then your not ready and won't be able to make it.

    A LOT of money is wasted on making and remaking because it didn't work the first time.

    IMHO For some reason tinker toys Lego and others produced a mind set where just messing and putting together until you have -something - has become the way people think things get made.

    Meccano required a much more disciplined approach to construction.

    I don't decry modelling - Indeed often do so to make clear what I need to draw. But the Pencil is cheap!!!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I've been stalled on a project because of an inability to accurately render it, but my mental image of it I feel is strong. I'm going to have to just go for it on this one and let the chips fall where they may.

    I'm justifying my decision by calling the first prototype a full sized working model. Now how is that for creativity? I know, genius!