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[Drawing] Tools & Setup

category: Design | course: Drawing | difficulty:

Before we can start drawing, we need tools that allow us to do so. These days, there are two ways to draw: plain old pencil and paper (the traditional way), and using a computer and drawing tablet (the digital way). Whatever way you choose, the exact same principles apply, and only your tools will differ vastly. I would go so far as to say that digital painting has numerous advantages over the traditional method, and you should definitely try it – but only after you’ve completed this fundamental course! Without a basic understanding of perspective and shading, it doesn’t matter how good you are with computers, your drawings will probably lack realism or style.

The Tools of the Trade

For traditional drawing, I recommend these tools:

  • Paper, preferably a few stacked on top of each other.
  • Pencils, with different levels of thickness (and sharpened points, of course).
  • Erasers of different sizes. Use proper erasers that don’t smudge the paper after you’ve used them once.
  • Pen, either regular or felt (tip).
  • Tape, to make sure your paper doesn’t move as you draw.
  • Triangle, to be sure about your edges and straight lines.
  • Compass, to make precise circles.


Additionally, it helps to get a piece of see-through plastic that you can paint on with markers. This way, you can look at objects and directly copy them on the plastic, and later copy those to the actual drawing (paper).

The Talk of the Trade

I tried my best to keep fancy terminology out of this course, but there will always be some core concepts that need clear names to clarify them. I must say, however, that not all of these names are fixed. Most artists prefer their own version of a concept, and have given different names to the same principle. When that’s the case, I will mention it, but the real take away is: if you can find a better way to memorize or understand the technique, use it!

Course Setup

I initially wrote the course as a very theoretical one, but after I finished and read it a few times, it just seemed boring and not really helpful in a practical sense. So I rewrote the whole thing, with a new structure altogether. Next chapter will provide you with a quick overview of every concept you need to know, and after that we’ll slowly build towards achieving that goal.

Every chapter starts with the reason why you need to know that particular thing, and the theory behind it that you just need to memorize. Then comes the fun part: exercises and practical applications! I’ll explain lots of theory by showing you how to do it, and giving you a fun exercise to master it. Remember, only 20% of your skill comes from reading tutorials, the other 80% comes from practicing and training.

Ultimately, at the end of the course, you should be able to draw anything, be it from real life or imagination. How you fill in the details or make your drawing unique, is of course completely up to you – I’m only here to get you started.

Before we Start

Before we fly into the world of drawing, it’s useful to acquire a few new habits.

First of all, every time you finish a drawing, quickly write down the title, date, and your signature somewhere in the corner. This allows you to keep track of your progress as an artist. Additionally, if you feel like it, leave comments at the back about what was difficult, or what you like or don’t like about it in particular. You might think you’re wasting your time, but you’ll love yourself for doing it consistently later on.

Secondly, keep your tools clean and stored in a safe place that is easy to reach. Obviously, dirty tools hinder your drawing process, while tools that are hard to reach might make it difficult to motivate yourself to start a drawing.

Keep all your drawings stored together in some sort of map, so you can easily look through them to see how far you’ve come, or use them as reference when you’re in doubt about how to execute some idea.

The most important thing to remember is that learning to draw is actually about two things: to see the world in a different way, and to draw what’s on your mind. Both require lots of time and practice to evolve and strengthen. This might make it difficult for you to stay motivated, which is why I encourage looking at your progress from time to time, and doing lots of drawings without worrying about the outcome!

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