An Easy Drawing Lesson for Beginners

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Anyone Can Draw With a Few Tips

easy drawing lesson for beginners
Perfect for beginners - an easy drawing lesson. H. South, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Are you one of the many people who thinks they can't draw? Don't worry, everyone has to start at the beginning and if you can write your name, you can draw. In this easy drawing lesson, you'll create a relaxed sketch of a piece of fruit. It's a simple subject, but quite fun to draw.

Supplies Needed

For this lesson, you'll need some paper: office paper, cartridge paper, or a sketchbook. You can use an artist's HB and B pencil, but any pencil you have will do. You will also need an eraser and a pencil sharpener.

With those supplies, you'll also want to choose a subject for your drawing. A piece of fruit is a perfect subject for beginners because of its natural, irregular shape. The example is drawn from a pear, but an apple is a nice option as well.

A Few Tips Before We Begin

A strong, single light source gives you more dramatic highlights and shadows. Consider placing your fruit under a desk lamp and move the light around until you get the light you like.

Some artists like to blend (or smudge) tones. However, while you are learning to control tone, it is better to leave pencil marks. With practice, your shading will improve and become evener. 

Don't worry too much about mistakes. A few stray lines can add interest and life to a sketch.

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Drawing the Contour or Outline

A simple outline is a good starting place. H South, licensed to About.com, Inc.

If you aren't sure where to begin, hold the fruit against your page to see how it will fit. Place it on the table in front of you, but not too close. 

Using your pencil, start near the top of the fruit, and draw the outline. As your eyes move slowly along the outside of the shape, allow your to hand follow. Don't press too hard. Make the line as light as possible (the example has been darkened for viewing on a screen). 

Use whatever kind of line you are comfortable with, but try not to make them too short and choppy. As you can see, the example uses a combination of short and long lines, although it's often best to aim for a fairly long and flowing line. 

Don't worry about erasing mistakes at this stage. Simply redraw the line or ignore it and keep going. That's one of the advantages of drawing a natural object like fruit, nobody will know if it's accurate or not!

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Begin Shading

A first layer of graphite pencil shading. H South, licensed to About.com, Inc.

It's time to begin shading. Note where the light shines onto the fruit and gives it a highlight. You want to avoid this area and allow the white paper to be the highlight. You will instead shade the mid-tones and darkest shadow areas.

Alternatively, you can shade over an area and use an eraser to create the highlights.

There are a few ways that you can shade and you can use a combination of them in the sketch. As in the example, you can use the tip of the pencil so the pencil marks show for a technique called hatching. A more patient application allows you to get a smooth, fine tone with this method. Using the side of the pencil for shading will show more paper texture.

To create a loose, hatched look in the sketch, allow some of the shading to carry across the outline. An eraser can clean that up later. Sometimes, if you try to draw all the way up to an edge or outline, the marks will get heavier as you get closer. This little trick is one way to prevent that effect.

Don't worry about the surface detail like spots or patterns. The goal of this lesson is to create a fairly three-dimensional looking shaded form, showing light and shade. The focus is on "global tone"—the overall effect of light and shadow—rather than the color and detail on the surface.

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Cross-Contour Shading

Changing the orientation of the paper can help with cross-contour shading. H South, licensed to About.com, Inc.

When you're shading with a pencil, it's natural for your hand to make a curved line. You can prevent this by moving your whole arm. Another option is to consciously correct your hand as you draw and for it to form the correct the shape of the line. Admittedly, this can take a bit of practice.

You can also make the natural curve work for you and accentuate it to describe cross-contours as you shade a form. To do this, move your paper or your arm (or both) so the pencil is following the curves of the object.

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Shading Shadows and Lifting Highlights

The finished, shaded sketch. H South, licensed to About.com

When you see a dark area or shadow on the subject, don't be afraid to use a dark tone. Most beginners make the mistake of drawing too lightly and shadowed areas may be quite black.

If you have one, use a softer pencil—at least a B, or even a 2B or 4B—for the darker shadow areas. A kneadable eraser is useful for erasing or "lifting out" tone if you shaded an area that you want to be lighter. You can always shade back over the area if you change your mind.

Look over the entire drawing and compare it to your subject, Sometimes, a little "artistic license" might be used to emphasize shadows and improve the form.

This is an informal sketch, not a photo-realist drawing, so you don't have to draw all the spots or create a perfectly smooth surface. Pencil marks are allowed and they can actually make the drawing more interesting than if it was perfectly even. 

There's also something to be said about knowing when to stop. It can be hard at times, but there is a point where you just have to stop messing around with it. After all, there's always something else to draw.

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A Simple Contour Sketch

A simple line sketch. H. South, licensed to About.com, Inc.

While you have your fruit, let's take a look at a couple of other ways you can approach the sketch. This isn't very detailed, but simply gives you a few ideas to play around with in your sketchbook.

The Simple Contour Sketch

A sketch doesn't have to be shaded. A simple, clear contour drawing can look very effective. Try drawing with as smooth and continuous line as you can. Be confident and make your line firm and clear.

The contour sketch is a nice way to practice creating smooth lines. This is one of the trickiest parts of drawing for beginners because you may not have confidence in your ability. Use the contour as an exercise to combat that and choose other simple objects to draw and simply focus on line and form.

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Sketch With a Soft Pencil

A sketch using a soft 2B pencil on rough sketch paper. H South, licensed to About.com, Inc.

This version of the pear sketch was done using a soft 2B pencil in a Hahnemuhle sketchbook.

The paper has a smooth surface with a directional, vertical grain that is quite apparent in the sketch. Using the side of the pencil to shade the drawing accentuates the paper grain and gives a pleasing texture to the drawing.

The goal here was to create a quite consistent look and avoid using sharp lines. Sometimes, it's hard to recognize any outline at all. At other points, the edges are allowed to disappear altogether. You can see this in the highlight on the side of the subject.

For this style of sketch, shade only with the side of the pencil so that the whole surface has the same amount of paper texture. When erasing, be careful to "dab" or "dot" the kneadable eraser and avoid rubbing at the surface, which can smudge graphite into the paper. You want the speckles of white paper to show through evenly across the sketch.