| updated on 01.02.2020

What is the purpose of sketching?

Why should you draw sketches? You might think that you’d rather spend your time making a real drawing than waste it on a sketch. But sketches have crucial advantages over drawings, because when we sketch we train our eye for form and proportion.

What is a sketch?

A sketch is a simplified, rough representation of a living being, a thing or a space. It captures an idea, a moment or a figure on paper.

In most cases a sketch is a draft or concept of an upcoming work of art. If one makes many similar sketches of a certain thing, it is a drawing study.

In rare cases, such as Leonardo da Vinci, the sketch itself is considered a work of art.

Sketch of an angel

How to learn to see correctly

When sketching, don’t think that you need to know the source well to make good sketches. Rather, we get to know the sources through sketching, because sketches are nothing more than small training sessions in which we improve our skills.

Even sketches as complex as those of a human face or body will become easier and easier to do by sketching regularly.

Face sketch
Sketch sitting woman

The difference between sketch and drawing

While drawing is all about details, textures and shading, a sketch is just a quick snapshot.

The goal is to capture shapes correctly and to estimate proportions correctly in the shortest possible time with the least amount of drawing effort.

In short: one must be able to transfer a concept of the original correctly onto paper.

Sketch of a woman in the house entrance

Sketches as basis for paintings or drawings

There is no better basis for a drawing or painting than a sketch. It doesn’t matter whether you make the sketch on a separate piece of paper and use it as a reference for the new work or draw or paint directly on the sketch.

Sketch as model for painting
Watercolour Smile

A sketch must be viewed like a plan where we have already fixed all the bugs. Thanks to our sketch, we know exactly how wide the distances are, where shadows will lie or what the proportions will look like.

It is always advisable to build up a sketch before you start drawing or painting, as this will save you time if errors occur later. With watercolour paintings, for example, it is even often desired that the sketch shines through the watercolour.

Sketch woman on stool
Watercolour woman on stool

Sketches as a source of inspiration

Every sketch should be kept. Individual sheets can be stored safely in a folder or cardboard box or you can use a sketchbook directly, which can be stored safely almost anywhere.

Keeping the sketches is so important because old sketches can be a very personal source of inspiration. I personally like to look at sketches from my school days in my oldest sketchbook and develop new ideas from them. Therefore, I strongly recommend that everyone keeps all sketches. The question What should I draw? is usually unnecessary after a look at your old artwork.

Which hardness of pencil is used for sketches?

Should you ever find yourself in the situation of making a sketch on wet paper, I recommend a pencil with a hardness grade of 6B or higher.

If you want to make a sketch on dry paper, I recommend HB for studies.

However, if you want to draw a finished drawing on your sketch, it is better to use 2H or harder, so that the lines of the sketch are not visible later.

Blog post about hardness of pencils

Skizze verschwindet unter Zeichnung

I have no time for sketches!

That sentence is easy to say, but is it true? If we’re honest with ourselves, maybe we just don’t take the time for it.

10 to 15 minutes can already be enough time for a sketch. It doesn’t matter if you sketch your coffee cup in the morning, the view from the window or something from your Instagram feed, because with every sketch we learn something new.

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