You are currently viewing Proportions: drawing with basic shapes.

Proportions: drawing with basic shapes.


We have several basic shapes you can create using lines. When you combine these shapes you can create the illusion of depth and space.

The most simple 3D shapes cube, sphere, cylinder, cone. With this shapes, you can build most objects you see in the world. The basic shapes are easy to draw when you know the steps. Look at the images below to draw the basic shapes step-by-step. Is that too difficult? Check out the first blog post about drawing basic shapes.

teken-een-cirkel-met-hulplijnenLauwPauw kubus-tekenen-hulplijnenkegel-tekenen-hulplijnenelips-tekenen-hulplijnen

vorm verhoudingen


Shapes are in relation to each other. One object may be larger than another. If you check how large the object is in relation to another object it can help to draw it in the right way. The vase is in proportion to the table very small. But if there is an ant on the table, the vase is in proportion again very large. If you pay attention to the size of the objects relative to each other, you can estimate the shape better.


positieve vorm

Positive shape

The positive space is the shape that is actually present or drawn. For example, the table which is shown here on the right is a positive space within the image plane. The image plane is the plane on which is drawn, photographed or painted. In this case, it is the square which the table is in.

Negative space

The negative space negatievevormis the space which is left inside the frame, outside of the positive mold. The negative space is pink in the figure on the right. The negative shape can help to draw the object in the proportions. And to see how the shapes within the framework relate to each other, how much rest space or negative space is about between objects? How close is it to the edge of the frame? By studying the composition you learn to see what is going on.



Contour lines indicate the outline of the shape. You do not always have to draw, but it can help to see the spaciousness of the form. These are then only the outer edges of the mold. You will have no interior lines. It is the boundary between the positive and negative form.


Drawing assignment

Put at least three objects together on the table in front with different proportions.

  • Don’t draw just yet!
  • First, look at the largest object and look at the amount of space you have left for the other objects. For this, you can use a frame. Or make a square with your fingers.
  • Then, look at the rest area / negative form. How much space do you have left?
  • Then look at the relationships, how big is the one object relative to another?
  • Examine your forms, can you see the basic shapes in the objects? Can you simplify the form to make it a bit easier?
  • Is there a contour line that connects the objects together?

If you’ve been studying these things, you can start drawing. First, make thin lines, and just start blocking it in roughly. Then start with simplified basic shapes and add details later. Do not lose yourself in details!

You won’t be the first person who puts a lot of time and effort in the perfect copying an item, only to find out later that it is too big or too small and the whole object does not fit on your paper anyway.

Good luck!

And remember: if it fails, try it again. An artist has no failures, only in-between stations.

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