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7 Time Saving Tips for Drawing & Sketching

Updated: Mar 27, 2020

Rightly or wrongly, hobby time is scarce for most of us. And certain forms of drawing can be very time consuming.

But sketching doesn’t have to be. You can fill your sketch book with great-looking drawings in as little as 15-20 minute sessions.

Here are a few tips as to how how to limit the time while getting effective work.

1 Use charcoal pencils Don’t become too reliant on graphite. charcoal pencils have a very similar feel to their graphite cousins except you can block in large areas much faster. they also force you to be less obsessive over small detail because you can’t keep them sharp long enough! oh and you basically work with one grade - as opposed to switching between harder and softer pencils with graphite.

2 Make use of isolated studies Draw an eye or a mouth study instead of a full portrait, or a tree and rock study instead of a full landscape. You get a sense of completion sooner. Plus, if you mess a small study up, it doesn’t matter - mess up part of a full portrait and you’re effectively throwing away hours of work.

3 When drawing portraits, consider zooming in the most time-consuming part of drawing a portrait is shading and rendering the hair. If you crop your reference so that only part of the hair shows, it saves a lot of time. Alternatively, choose subjects with some kind of headwear or even just do one side of the face.

4 Go for the unfinished look Some of the most eye-catching drawings you’ll see contrast an area of higher detail with very loose sketchy marks around. You make the highest detail around the focal point and as you move away from that point things get looser and sketchier. this works so well because it pulls the viewers’s eye to where you want it focused - and that is the most important element of strong composition. I use this technique a lot!

5 When rendering, block in large areas of shadow first For a long time, I used to carefully shade my drawings one square inch at a time - looking at all the detail within that area and rendering it to completion. But when I loosened things up, I found that blocking in large shadow shapes (ignoring any details within those shadow shapes) really sped things up. Yes, you may have to use your kneaded eraser to lighten back areas and add detail later on, but it’s a much quicker process. just don’t go too heavy when you block the shadow shape in initially.

6 Posterise your reference photos Posterise means you reduce the number of pixels in your reference. Sounds complicated and technical to but it’s simple! Here’s what an image looks before and after it has been posterised: this makes it much easier for you to see the various values. recreating this ‘blocky’ feel and then gently smoothing out the transitions is great way to speed up the shading process. Here’s a quick guide for how to use a free online tool to posterise any image:

Before and after posterising. notice how the image on the right has very definite edges to each of the values? while you will need to smooth these out for a photorealistic drawing, seeing them like this makes it much easier to create the overall form first.

7 Give yourself a time limit one of the best ways to loosen up your sketching is to give yourself a time limit... and stick to it. I created a course for Arttutor called Sketching Places Quickly, where the time limit was under 15 minutes for each sketch. You can see one of those lessons for free on Youtube here:

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