Thumbnail and Marker Sketch Feedback Please

Hello Everyone,

I’ve kept sketching since my last post and am hoping I can get some more feedback on other sketches to further improve (mods if I should just add this onto my last post please let me know). I added in some thumbnail sketches I did so you could see my thought process and maybe see if there’s a way in my initial approach I could improve as well. I’m trying to teach myself while working full time so any and all constructive criticism would be welcome.


Helmets are fun to sketch on but deceptively tricky. We did a line of helmets for Biltwell last year. Getting the proportions right is essentially. From a macro standpoint though I think the two biggest things that would take your sketches to the next level are line quality and line weight.

Line quality: When I say line quality, what I’m looking for are long, continuous marks. It looks like you might use a lot of short markers that give the sketch a bit of a stop start quality. A lot of “ID” style sketches use longer markers that are more continuous. You can practice these by drawing lines on a page using different parts of your arm as a pivot. For example pivoting from your writs, your elbow, or your should will give you three very different lines. Control the length, the position on the paper, and the angle of the paper and you can draw just about anything.

Line weight: You are already using a very light line weight for your construction lines and a medium line weight for your design lines. That is good! Take that a step farther by introducing some heavier lines. A good rule of thumb on those heavy lines is anything that you could get your fingers under if the product was real should have a heavier line. So the outline of the product, especially the lower side, can get heavier lines, but also maybe the inner edge of a vent or the lower edge of the visor.

Does that give you something to work on?

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Just wanted to add a quick suggestion as both yo and KenoLeon are already giving you great pointers. I think even in your side view thumbnails drawing the section line of whats happening will hugely aid your sketching when you translate the form into a perspective view. It trains you to think of what is happening with the surfacing as well as a line to pin-point where surface change happens in perspective views too.

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Wow, thank you all so much for this great advise and break down of the processes! I’m going to keep practicing and post again later once I’ve improved some more.
Thank you Yo for the breakdown of line weight and suggestion for using different parts of the arm. Line quality tends to be a sticking point for me so I’m excited to approach this weakness from a new angle. I was under the impression that using the wrist was somewhat looked down on in industrial design sketching? That said I still see designers use their wrist on tight corners.
Thanks Keno Leon, glad to see another self taught person out there! I had never heard of pureRef but I’m getting it now. I’m gonna try and apply your approach and speed the next time I make thumbnails. Often I feel like I’m taking too much time on them.

this is digital but it gives you a sense of what I mean by those flowing lines:

Here is an analog tutorial that touches on it slightly:

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Alright I took some time to continue practicing and I believe I’ve made some improvements. I made larger thumbnail sketches this time, about 3x3" as opposed to the 1x1" and I feel like that helped with line quality. Though I will still say I’m not happy with the level it is at right now. I do think line weight and the iterative process have gotten better thanks to your guidance. I also made a section view sketch which did help me think about the mechanics and inner workings better. I’m gonna keep working on this with helmets and other products applying all of your advice. If there are further things anyone thinks should be improved I would greatly appreciate it.

It’s great you’re taking steps to improve, and improvement is definitely evident.

It’s not so much a sketching thing, but I think that if you are going to do the block colour backgrounds, I feel it’s better to use some cutout Canson paper (or similar), then cut around your sketch before gluing it all down. You get a more consistent block and don’t have to do that awkward marker positioning as you follow the curve of your product whilst also trying to keep a wet edge to avoid the streaking. You also get a chance to compose the product over the block to get it looking nice.

Adam Savage has some good reference videos on YT about NASA helmets and prop helmets from movies. It gives a good idea about how the different layers of helmets work and store within each other (visors specifically). Also, the human head takes up some space and has a few rules for sensory requirements (visor height, width, etc). These specs will drive the design. One thing that might help is a human head template with eye height, ears, jawline and brow that you can use as an underlay when getting the initial proportions down. DOT has some requirements of helmets that are mostly material and construction based but might give you some ideas on different construction methods. Keep it up!

I like that I’m seeing construction lines in your sketches. It is essential to make the perspective exact.
Long swooping lines give a sketch sharpness and dynamism (in ID we always draw from the shoulder, the problem with autodidactic artists is that they often don’t get the direct feedback on their use of motor skills from professional artists)
You also really need to be there inside the virtual 3D space with the object, to feel every surface transition, every edge, to be able to convey it to the viewer. You need to improve conveying what the shapes are exactly doing, and make the sketches less flat. Good progress from what I can see.