Nail gun - Critique

Here are a couple of sketches from my most recent project. I had to redesign an existing tool and picked a nail gun. How can I improve my style and overall abilities (I already sketch a lot to begin with)? What should I sketch? I have so much trouble sitting down and saying “Ok, let me draw this”. The in-class critique was super weak so have at it. Thanks in advance.


Prismacolor marker and staedtler pens on copy paper

The pneumatic nail gun was my senior thesis project (10+ years ago). The best way to start this project is: Find and fix is’s flaws before you design a new version. It’s more of a function than aesthetics.


It seems like you are still searching for a direction with the project, so I’ll just comment on the sketches:

  1. I would advise you to use an underlay. Get photos of a nail gun in a variety of perspectives and trace them.
    Use these as your guide. Don’t worry about markers or color right now. Focus on perspective, proportion, and line weight.

  2. When you do start up with markers, I suggest that you use them to help describe the form. Right now it seems like
    you are treating your sketches as a coloring book. Remember that value is there to help tell the story. It should lend a sense
    of three dimensionality to the sketch, which is somewhat lacking here. Markers are about drawing light, not color.

  3. Your ellipses are off. Find a good set of templates to help you out for the tighter stuff, but ONLY use them after you
    have become adept at drawing the right ellipse degree freehand. I see very little indication of any radii (edges) on your products.
    No manufactured product will EVER have edges that sharp.

  4. My instructor always told me that “Contrast is King.” The focal point of any image is the one of highest contrast and right now
    I’m focusing on your shadows more than the products. That shouldn’t happen. Also, work on your lettering in the call-outs.

  5. Keep posting your stuff here. There are some very skilled people in this forum who know what they are doing and
    are happy to help out.

  6. Keep going and good luck!

Thanks for the response!

I’m glad to hear that you are using underlays. Double lines are used to depict radii/fillets. The further apart the lines are, the larger the fillet or edge radius. The main issue, IMO, with your shadows isn’t the use of darker values. Its the fact that they are rendered rather randomly with squiggly lines. I should have been more clear with that - sorry. The combination of that and the darker values are distracting.

Pick a single light source to begin with. Your shadow placement seems random at best. Think about the light source and the “rays” that emanate from it which illuminate your product. There will be little or no value where light strikes perpendicular to a surface. Where light strikes tangent to a surface, there will be a core area of darker values. I would find some sketches that you think are well executed by other designers. See what works for them and use it to help develop your own style.

I think the biggest problem here is that this ^ shows. It seems to me, you are just randomly sketching things without first understanding the product’s function, parts, assembly, use, etc.

I’d suggest first to do more research (I assume you’ve already done some). What are the main functional bits of the nail gun? How do those components relate to each other in space? What are the usable bits of the nail gun and how do those relate to the user?

In terms of sketching, I’d suggest first to put down the markers. They are not helping, and in fact as others have noted hurting the communication, but even more so it seems the process.

Second, I’d suggest starting with orthographic views. Side views using an underlay would likely be the best way to start to develop those relationship between parts. An old prof of mine used to say “fix in space the parts that need to be there, then connect the dots” (I’m paraphrasing, but hopefully you get the meaning).

Make your designs purposeful and have an overall theme and style. At the moment, everything feels totally random, like melty plastic parts or like a kid’s assembly of tinkertoy parts (circles, tubes, etc.). I don’t see any overall product language in the designs or any relationship of one part to another.

Once you get the above down, you can start really designing, but not until then. At that point, you can try different “styles” on as an exercise that might get you started (but not necessarily to the final solution). Try one very blobby as if Karim did it. Try one very rectilinear as if Braun did it. Try one very masculine, try one feminine, try one PoMo, try one futuristic, etc…

A great example of a similar project that involves functional parts, different components and configurations is this-

Also some great sketching and illustrates the focus on design, not wacky marker work.

Hope this helps. Would love to see some updates to view how things progress. Power tools can be very difficult as they incorporate all kinds of visual and functional semantics and features, but if done well can be a great portfolio piece.


I greatly appreciate your thorough post. As you, and others, have suggested I need to get back the basics. Ive always neglected to push through the basics but starting with the orthographic view seems to be a good starting point before developing form. The research I have done reflects the knowledge and understanding I lack of each product I continue to tackle.

I was drawing earbuds/headphones after watching a video on IDsketching in order to improve my understanding of form/contour lines. I’m not very confident when putting anything down: