Creating a sketching habit is one of the best ways to improve not just your drawing but also your observational skills. In addition, it will also help you to grow your voice as an artist as you as you find out what kind of subject matter you enjoy working with. However, if you are not in the routine of putting pencil to paper it can be hard to ever get started!
Below you will find practical tips for how to start sketching regularly. Along with easy sketching ideas to help make a daily habit a reality in your life. Once you create a habit out of drawing regularly – it will come naturally to you in every day life! Scroll to the bottom of this article to find useful everyday drawing materials that are small and light.
How to start sketching: 7 great ideas
Keep a small sketch book with you at all times
One of the best things you can do to start sketching consistently, is to keep a sketch book with you at all times. Get yourself a light and small sketch book that you can put in your purse or bag. You can pull it out every time you find yourself waiting – whether in the waiting room at a doctors office or for a friend to arrive at a coffee shop.
Doing this lets you make use of ’empty’ moments throughout your day and make some spontaneous, easy sketches. If you have a very busy schedule, this would be the way for you to be able to get some drawing time in your day. For example, drawing clouds are one of my favorite subjects during a down moment. All you need is your sketch book and the sky!
If you scroll to the bottom of the article you will find the sketchbooks I recommend! There are some special smaller sized sketchbooks that make it easier to carry around with you.
Graphite pencils are great for sketching
My favorite sketching materials are woodless graphite pencils and erasers (which I constantly use while drawing). I find these to be great for doing brief (and also more in depth) sketches. They are excellent for making tonal drawings as well as simple line drawings.
As well, graphite pencils are not messy like paints can be, which makes them easy to use wherever you go. They are small and lightweight – making them easy for you to transport. Using them continuously as you start building a sketching habit will give you a certain consistency to support the new sketching habit.
Do not worry about people watching you as you sketch
It can be easy to be shy about taking your sketch book out in public places. When you are the only one drawing in a crowd of people one naturally feels like they stand out. It can be uncomfortable to have people look over your shoulder especially if sketching is a more private and solitary activity for you.
In reality however, most people will not take much notice that you are drawing. Continue to draw in public and over time you will become more and more comfortable doing so. You will then be able to take full advantage of ’empty’ times that present themselves to you – whether in public or when you are by yourself.
Get yourself a good sturdy pencil case
I have mourned the loss of too many graphite pencils. They can break in half easily if they are placed in a bag by themselves as they bump up against other things. You need to get a good pencil case that is sturdy enough to keep anything from bumping the against them.
I personally use a metal case that I found for a reasonable price. There are many other good ones like this leather pencil case as pictured above. It is also great to be able to have all your sketching materials together in one place.
Travel with your sketchbook
Take your sketchbook with you when you go out on trips! It is a wonderful way to experience new environments by interpreting them in your sketchbook. Not to mention, great souvenirs to take back home with you.
As well, drawing in new places and environments can be invigorating and add to the work you already do at home.
Look at the sketches of other Artists
Get great sketching ideas by looking at the sketches of other artists! Observation of other artists can be inspiring and help you on your way to building a sketching habit. Seeing beautiful drawing would make anyone want to draw more!
Looking at the sketch books of others, not only can give you ample ideas of what to sketch. It can also help you to see how you can improve what you’re doing, or try something new. If you want to improve your drawing, then look at great drawings!
Expose yourself to the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, Ingres and Edgar Degas. You can find many of their drawings online by doing simple searching. If you want to take it a step further, I would recommend for you to do some copies of drawings you like. This will help you to improve your drawing skills by absorbing the drawing skills of the masters.
Draw your friends
If you are social and spend a lot of time hanging out with your friends (or even if you are not that social!) then drawing your friends is a great opportunity. By drawing your friends you can get so many great sketching ideas. Plus, it is a great way for you to learn to draw people and work in a spontaneous manner. As you cannot expect your friends to stand still for you all the time. Because of this, you can create more gestural drawings and learn how to capture someone very quickly.
Take a look at the image directly above from Edgar Degas’ sketch book. He captured multiple, different quick poses on one page despite peoples quick movements. This exercise will help you to think and act quickly.
However, if you can try to also draw people who are holding a pose. This will help you also develop accuracy as you draw. Here is a portrait sketch tutorial to help you see the process.
Sketching materials I recommend
I love the small sketchbooks made by Hahnemühle. The paper is wonderful. But most importantly, this small sized sketchbook (4 x 6 in) is hardbound. So, when you put it into your bag or purse you do not have to worry about the pages getting bent! It is a little pricier – but for a good reason.
Another good sketchbook option is this one by Fabriano. It is very lightweight and easy to carry around. I personally have used these notebooks numerous times. The covers are also wonderful – I love the fabric like texture they have.
However, the downside to this one is that it is softbound – so you have to make sure that when carrying it around the pages will not get bent. Unless of course you do not mind bent sketchbook pages!
Woodless Graphite Pencil(s)
Woodless graphite pencils are my go to sketching pencils and have really helped me to build a sketching habit. I absolutely love these as they allow me to easily work at creating lines as well as shading marks. They come in different levels of blackness (B) and hardness (H). Personally I have different levels of B for this woodless pencil – 2B, 6B, and 9B.
An eraser is just as important as the pencils you use while sketching. Erasers help to create light areas in a drawing – not just erase away errors. Though, erasers are also incredibly useful for correcting oneself!
This one by Faber Castell works especially well as it erases everything in a very clean way without leaving a trail of smudges behind. Additionally, it is nice and small and fits well in a pencil case.
It is important to protect your pencils as they can break easily if you aren’t careful and if you are constantly replacing your pencils it can get pricey! Having a pencil case is a perfect solution for keeping pencils safe while you carry them in a bag. Also, pencil cases are amazing for being able to bring your sketching supplies with you wherever you go!
This particular pencil case pictured above has numerous slots to put your pencils in as well as a hard case to keep your pencils from breaking.
Metal Pencil Case
This metal pencil case by Caran D’Ache is the one I personally use. Because of its metal exterior it keeps pencils safe from any harm! In addition, I am able to store my eraser, pencil sharpener and pencils inside the case making it easy and simple to carry my supplies with me wherever I go.
Now over to you
With your sketching supplies at your side it is time to get started sketching! building a sketching habit is all about just doing it. If you forget to do it for a few days (or weeks!), don’t waste energy feeling bad about it, just get out your pencils and draw again.
It is most important to enjoy the process of sketching. When you enjoy something it will naturally become a habit as you will see out opportunities to draw. So, make it fun and just keep on sketching.
Here are several sketching ideas and tutorials to get you started: