Class 1 - Week 1 - Drawing Basics

This week, I'll go over a few different drawing subjects, from which pencil and paper to use, to useful drawing tips I've learned, as well as a few good links and some handy books. Not knowing what your drawing skills are, I'll be starting with the basics and working my way up through the term.

Let's begin with choosing your pencil, paper and eraser. A lot of people think that having a high quality paper and a set of expensive pencils will make their drawings look much better. But to be honest,all you really need for pencils is an average HB pencil or .5-.7 mechanical pencil. They're inexpensive, erase well, and will give you some nice tone ranges for your sketches. But if you want something fancier for your drawings, the Prismacolor Premier Ebony Graphite Sketching Pencil is a great sketching pencil that quite a few professional artists recommend. Another great pencil to use is the Prismacolor Col-Erase Erasable Colored Pencil. The light blue color allows you to draw out your rough sketches and then clean it up with your regular sketching pencil without worrying about making a mess of black lines. The blue also has the added bonus of not showing through on scanners, which is why a lot of traditional artists use them.

Now for the paper, as with the pencils, all you need is regular 8.5"x11" printer paper. It's cheap, easy to find, fits well in a scanner, and doesn't smudge too easily. However, I've found that drawing with larger sketch pads and drawing books works much better. Having the extra space to move your arm makes sketching so much easier and helps your drawings look less cramped. The downside though is that you can't fit it into a scanner, so you're left with having to take a photo of it instead.

And for erasers, a good eraser goes a long way, and isn't something you leave out of your animating arsenal. You want something that won't leave smudges, isn't so brittle that it snaps on you, but not so soft that you can't control what you're erasing. After a fair bit of trial and error, I've found that my eraser of choice is a Sanford Design Kneaded Eraser. You can mold it into different shapes, which is helpful for erasing small lines, and it doesn't smudge much on regular paper.

However, if you draw digitally, then all this pencil/paper stuff isn't too important! lol

Now that we have our tools all ready to be used, we can move on some drawing tips! This first tip is one I learned from a very accomplished artist who I've forgotten the name of. He taught me the 3 golden rules of drawing, which helped me to quickly improve my drawing skills;

The first rule of drawing is: draw lightly.
The second rule of drawing is: Draw Lightly.
And the third rule of drawing is: Draw Lightly!

This may seem like a simple concept, but it's surprising just how lightly you can draw with your pencil and still get a good line. Drawing lightly has the advantage of being easy to control, offers you the ability to darken what you want to give some nice shading or contrast, and is also really easy to erase! Once I started watching how heavily I drew on my paper, I found that I became a much faster and better artist within a very short time. And don't forget to practice, practice, practice. Draw a lot of quick pose sketches, between 30 seconds to a minute for each one. That will help you to draw faster, as well as train your eye to quickly see how to draw a clear pose. Here are a couple of sites I use regularly that offer great gesture drawing poses with timers that will randomly switch out the drawings for you every 30, 60, or 90 seconds, depending on what you choose:
Pose Maniacs gesture drawing tool
Pixelovely gesture drawing tool
Just to give you an idea of how helpful quick gesture drawings are, if you were to take 15 minutes to draw out a bunch of 30 second sketches instead of spending the same time working on a detailed drawing, you'd have 30 finished poses and ideas instead of just one. And I can guarantee that they'll be more interesting as well!

And lastly, here are some links to a few books that I've found very useful in improving my drawing skills:

Simplified Drawing for Planning Animation - Wayne Gilbert
Dynamic Figure Drawing - Burne Hogarth
Drawing the Head and Figure - Jack Hamm

Don't forget to check out the recommended materials page on AM too. It has a lot of great deals on some of the books mentioned above.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post. I hope it's been helpful, and if you have any questions or suggestions, you're always more than welcome to leave a comment or send us a message on AM.


  1. Thanks for the good advice. Look forward to hearing more!

  2. I've found a cheaper site to buy Gilbert's book:

    I think it's direct from the author as well.

  3. Awesome, I'm looking forward to starting m drawing training.

  4. Awesome Cam, I'm looking forward to starting my drawing training.