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Guidelines: how to use them in your drawing


Guidelines are important, almost everyone uses them in varying degrees. In the beginning, you use them a lot and later when you have more practice, you can make it with fewer guidelines. In my classes, I call guidelines the cheat sheets of drawing. You use the guidelines but makes them disappear again by erasing or painting if your work is almost done. Nobody needs to know how you have built up the drawing once it is finished.


Practice 1

Draw a freehand circle. A piece of printer paper is fine. Think of it as a warming-up exercise. It is okay if it does not work perfectly on the first try.




Guidelines are like cheat sheets

Try it this way with guides:
Use a ruler and put a (very slight!) horizontal line of 6 cm (or 6 inches). Put a dash at 3 cm (or 3 inches)  and draw a vertical line with 3 cm (or 3 inches) above and below the horizontal.

Now you just have the outermost points of your lines to draw a small bulge.

Turn your paper to make it easier to draw the curve of your wrist. Erase your horizontal and vertical line.

And… Not just yet?

Compare your first circle, better, no?

Not satisfied? Try again! Nobody is counting!
Practice makes perfect.



In the previous task you’ve drawn a circle and I can continue there with my story about hatching. Hatching can be used to create a spatial form or indicate what kind of surface the object has.

Want to know more about surface and texture? Read my post about textures!

When I draw multiple lines on my circle, hatching. It seems a bit more 3D. Because I have accented the shape with only a few lines it .appears to be much more spacious.

There are more ways how to use guidelines, you can draw a cylinder, a cube, cone and other geometric shapes.

Like this practice and want to try more?

See the following animated graphics and try to draw other shapes, by using guides and then erasing them once you’ve built the shapes. The more practice you get, the fewer guidelines you will need.


The cylinder

Start in the same way as the circle. But make the vertical line shorter than the circle. Then you connect together the ends, ensure that you make a bulge. The ellipse has no corners. Then you draw of the outer edge a line on both sides. And repeat the process of the ellipse again. Then all you have to do is erase the guides.



The cone

This basic form is very similar to the cylinder. You don’t use two lines on the side of the ellipse, but you put a line straight up from the center. From there, you are connecting the top to the ends of the ellipse. And again erase the guidelines!



The cube

Draw a square with four equal sides. From there you draw three lines with the same angle. All the lines run parallel and are all the same length. Make sure these oblique lines are slightly shorter than the sides of your square. If you have drawn all the oblique lines you can draw the back of the cube. Let’s double-check: if you have drawn these lines in the right way, the sides of the rear square are as long as the sides of the first square.

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