How to start sketching?

As a non-industrial designer, but an interaction designer, who has a lot of ideas for tangible goods, I’d like to start sketching. However, I’m terrible. I can barely sketch an ellipse. I don’t know anything about basic shapes, perspective, etc.

I’ve looked at, but it doesn’t seem there’s a real rule on what to start with; many of them seem advanced for a complete beginner. Is there maybe some other tutorials that start out with shapes and talk about how to approach sketching?


If you visit the the Scott Robertson series of DVD’s has some great media on perspective sketching techniques. A lot of design is about a few tricks, and once you know those everything will follow.

In design school, the principle of sketching is very straight forward - start as simple as possible and develop each skill slowly. Start drawing lines. Nothing but lines across the long direction of a sheet of paper. Long, straight, and lots of them. You’ll find it’s actually quite hard when you first start and that getting a sheet of long, nearly parallel lines freehand is quite hard. Once you build up that muscle memory move onto planes, then cubes. Once you have cubes that are accurately drawn in perspective you can start putting ellipses into those cubes. There should be some good tutorials online that show and explain the theory behind the ellipse (major and minor axis) but it’s a skill to draw one, have it point in the right direction and look correct - just takes a lot of practice and being able to look at something you just drew and say “thats out of whack, let me fix it”.

Beyond that you can start scupting form into your boxes which is what the Scott Robertson technique is great for. I can’t say I used it very much after learning it, but it’s a great set of checks and balances when learning perspective and how to figure out what should line up with what.

More importantly just start doing it - if you can’t identify what is wrong with a drawing feel free to start a thread and post up here - people will gladly point out what’s wrong with a drawing. :wink: Don’t take it as harsh either…some people get very offended easily when they spent hours on something rather then trying to learn from their mistakes. That feedback pumped back in will make you better and better.

Along with that use your arm to draw, not you fingers or wrist. It will help you make things come out more smoothly. Don’t erase anything, just keep going, like if you where playing music. When you have that well underway make thinks “pop” by pushing the lights and darks, lineweight etc.

Thanks! I will check out that dvd tutorial. After thinking about sketching from my shoulder and not my wrist, I felt a lot less tired and like I had more control… so thanks for that tip.

Also, don’t be afraid to use underlays. I know when I was a student, along with a lot others, I perceived that as cheating. But in reality it really helps you to understand how to build complex forms much faster and helps you to get an “eye” for correct proportions and perspective. After some practice you can ditch the underlay and sketch from experience. But I would definitely recommend pages of lines, ellipses, and cubes to start out initially–those will help build line control and confidence within your sketches.