Sketching Feeback/Tips?

Hi! I’m a student learning how to sketch.
In this travel mug sketch, I tried to make the cmf a matte black metal. I usually stray away from sketching black colored designs, thinking it would block out details. I finally decided to dive into it by adding more highlights but feel like the mug looks more grey. Any tips on balancing the darkness and the detail?

Hi Ilan,

Here is my feedback.

  • When bringing out a detail like the spout, it is ok to focus less on the other details to make the most important one pop out more. It is very important to pay a lot of attention to perfection in that area - this one has a little too many construction lines around the spout.

  • The beauty of black is, well, its blackness. I agree this one is too grey. Black is all about the contrast between black and highlights. See for example the attached (extreme) example by Luigi Colani. A simple and communicative sketch, and definitely black! Better to ditch all those greys and work with black as the base color. Don’t be afraid to use it! Then one gray shade for the areas in direct light. And to practice gradients, it is useful to work with pastel chalk which you wipe across using a tissue, then with an eraser remove the bleed over the edges. The shape will also come out better if you add a backlight , casting a bit of light one the rearmost edge of the product will make its form better readable.

  • In your next sketch please show either the detail shot or a complete product to show its proportions - very important. Also see to construct a better perspective.

  • All in all it’s not a bad sketch and in real-life studio practice, a little bit of Photoshop can also work miracles.


Thanks! I’ll be sure to try out your advice.

I would agree–starting with a darker base color will make a big difference. It looks gray because in the sketch the majority of it is gray, which makes the black area look like it’s just a shadow on a gray part.

With black metal you would see more of the black color showing through on the body itself, not just in the shadow. You can use highlights right along edges and corners to bring out the shape. A matte finish may mean the highlights are not 100% white or that they’re more diffuse vs. a hard line, but you can still use them to create contrast without making it look reflective. Don’t be afraid to put a highlight right next to a dark section–contrast makes things pop. Your bigger highlights might be more of a subtle gradient on flat surfaces, but you can always put a thin white pencil line along an edge to punch up the shape.

This gizmo isn’t matte finish, but you can see how the black shows through alongside sharp white highlights. To make it look matte you can reduce the number of “color bands,” make the transitions between colors less hard, and/or use gray instead of white to highlight. Poke around an image search for black kitchen appliances and study how the highlights look.