Another Student who wants to get better

Hey, I’m currently studying at Purdue University and I’m really trying to improve my sketching. I’m going to post up parts of some of my projects and hope that I can get some help. The first picture is the final tool in my family tool line project. Its and electric leaf blower. I will post more parts of the project later tonight hopefully. I know it’s not the greatest but I’m really looking to improve. Thanks for the help.

Could you upload a higher resolution version? It hard to see the detail as is.

Sorry about that, I uploaded it again. Hopefully its not too big now, I’m still learning how to upload the pictures right. Thanks.


I know it’s not the greatest…

I know you’re asking for a critique and what not, but try not to ever apologize or make excuses for your work.
People will be critical enough by themselves. Don’t give them any ammunition.

Watch your ellipses. I would consider investing in a good set of ellipse guides, or even better, borrowing some
from a classmate or professor. Your marker work is not doing enough to help describe the form. There isn’t a
real range of values in your side view, the perspective shot is a little better. I would advise that you learn how
to render simple shapes first, like a cylinder, sphere, cube, and cone. Once you have that down, attempt to
make composites of these simple shapes in order to build more complex forms.

Another thing that may help is using cross-contour lines. They’ll help the viewer determine what is happening
with your forms. Vary your line weights(think thick to thin) and keep your light source in mind. The squiggly
line at the rear of you sketch looks like an afterthought. If it is meant to be a cord, beef that up some and do
more to suggest its relevance to the overall product. Consistency between views is important as well. Your
perspective sketch implies that the bottom of your product (the handle area) has a different side view profile than
the one you show. The cutout area is also not sketched consistently between views. I would ditch the marker for
a little bit, and focus on the basics. Rendering will be easier for you once you improve on those.

Lastly, take those shots of the leaf blower that you use for benchmarks and make a little visual library of features
and details. Try to suggest some of those same types details (part lines, fasteners, material textures, etc…) to your
sketches to add more realism and believability to your concepts. Nice start overall, keep working!

Thanks for the advice kwilson7. I worked on improving the line weights of the perspective sketch and left the marker off of it for right now. I didn’t have an ellipse template handy that was small enough so i had to try to fix the ellipses without it. I’m going to try to go buy a smaller one soon.

I have a question about the contour lines. How do i determine where is the best place to put them, I don’t want the form to get too busy by placing it somewhere that it should not go. Thanks again for the help.

I said I’d add some more of my project tonight and here is the side view of my power drill, I am working on the perspective and will hopefully have it up later. Please give me any tips that you can think of, I’m really trying to improve my sketching. Thanks.

I am on board with this comment.

I think one of the “easiest” ways to elevate your sketching is by studying products. What do they REALLY do? How deep are chamfers, where are screws, how do lines transition?

I’ve noticed you have quite a few VERY hard points where lines meet in your design. Small things like slightly rounding those corners over will add some depth and ALSO force you to pay attention to all details. Designs are in the details, and by studying them to better understand your sketches, your designs will also improve…along with your sketching!

Finally, and this is picky, I would recommend dressing your guy in a jacket, jeans and a stocking cap. What would he be wearing to blow leaves in November? But the effort to provide context is a GREAT start. I think context goes so far.

It is great to have you posting, and is encouraging you are already responding feedback. Terrific.


I’m trying to do everything I can with the great advice I’m getting. I’ve already started on redoing some of the leaf blower and the power drill while i’m trying to pay more attention to the little details. Here is my latest attempt at putting the power drill into perspective. I really need to buy an ellipse template to make this better. Thanks all for the advice David, I will definitely redo the figure and put him in some warmer clothes. I will post some more work tomorrow to try and get even more help. Thanks.

I find it very helpful to flip an image on-screen to get a fresh look at it. I am amazed how ‘off’ something can be and you just don’t notice it until you flip it. Also, if something is distorted in your underlying sketch, the ‘liquify’ tool in PhotoShop can be used to fix it many times. Use the biggest tool tip possible. Flip and Liquify!


The last drill sketch you posted is more successful than your first board. Nice improvement. You also do a good job of maintaining your form language over your product family.

I have a question about the contour lines. How do i determine where is the best place to put them, I don’t want the form to get too busy by placing it somewhere that it should not go. Thanks again for the help.

There is no real rule for when and how they should be placed. Put them where you think an important transition may not be clear enough, or where you want to emphasize a form or surface detail. Make sure that they have a lighter line weight than your outlines and key details. Remember when I said that you should keep a visual library of languages and elements? I’ve attached a few images to help clarify my earlier post:

I’m a fan of Bosch’s ID, so I’ll use this as a starting point. I basically took your form language and incorporated a few details from this tool in an attempt to come up with something new. This is a good strategy when you are having issues coming up with ideas. If you repeat this process several times with different form languages/details, you should eventually end up with something different and original. You don’t want to plagiarize or copy of course, but I’ve found this to be a successful strategy when starting a difficult project.

Once I finished thumbnailing, I did a 3-view orthographic sketch to help resolve the form of the blower in my head before I started a perspective view. If the product is especially difficult, then I may do a 5-view. You will likely alter certain details/features as you begin to sketch in perspective if the design isn’t working out as you had planned.

Once I started the perspective sketch, I changed around a few of the details as you can see. After you get to this point, a series of overlays can be done to further resolve the design and rough sketches as you see fit. I hope this gives you a better idea of what I mean by details like fasteners, radii, chamfers, material separations, cross-contour lines etc. Keep sketching!


Thanks kwilson, that makes a lot more sense and those sketches are awesome! Thanks for taking all the time to show me this I really appreciate it. I have another question too. What is the best way to build up the visual library of languages and elements? Should I just sketch real objects a lot more or is there a better way?

I am getting really crunched for time on this project and I’m not sure I will have the time to make the changes to the project before the end of the semester, but I am definitely going to rework them over the Christmas break to make them better. I haven’t been able to get anything up here due to requirements for my other classes, but as soon as I get some more free time I will put up some more of my boards to get some more critics. Then as soon as break starts, I am going to go through and work on adding more detail to my power tools.

Thanks for the help.

@ Yo: Thank you, kind sir.

@ Zac: I would start by gathering images of tools that have a form language or features that appeal to you. As you continue with the project, use those images for your reference. Finding them online is convenient and magazines/catalogues could be a good source as well. Copying them directly or doing a still-life probably won’t be the most efficient use of your time at this point. Instead, take what you see and use that as a reference for your own products as I outlined above. Go to Lowe’s or Home Depot and walk around the power tool areas. Maybe the shop at your school has a few nice ones. Pick them up, use them, familiarize yourself with the things that make a tool what it is. You can and should do this for almost any product category, btw. There isn’t really an easy or quick way to get better at this, just lots of time, effort, and repetition.

Also, there isn’t a single project in my portfolio that I quit working on when the semester or class ended. Revising work after your first attempt is a common and necessary thing to do. Some projects I had were reworked months after graduation and my first job applications. As a novice designer, sometimes the presentation and form-giving is not at the same level as the ideas. I definitely had my share of disasters. As your skill and presentation level grows, all of your projects should reflect that. If you do this, you will make a convincing case for yourself with a strong portfolio.