Simple theories and excercises to improve your drawings


Rebecca has been on me to do some sort of tutorial here for some time now. I’m not sure what my qualifications are to teach anyone how to draw or what makes good art … :shrug:

However, I figured I could offer a few pointers that I picked up along the way to maybe inspire or help new artists struggling to make their images more interesting. One thing I may excel at is being overly critical of my own work and having an ability to provide valuable feedback when reviewing other’s work (I’m not trying to boast there … it’s what I’ve been told by others). :smiley:

So, this thread will include some beginner concepts that you may find useful when working on your images. I’m going to try and cover a lot of different ideas and provide some sort of excercise that you can try these concepts on. Feel free to add any information that you feel is relevant or post your excercise results within this thread for critique by myself or other members of this forum.

Please, keep all images within 800X600 dimensions.

I hope you get some helpful ideas out of these lessons and have some level of enjoyment out of my ramblings here. My first lesson will be appearing in this thread sometime today.

Thank you. :thumbsup:


Center of Page

Many new artists will use the center of the page to display their image. Although, it’s not wrong in all cases … it’s generally a good idea to avoid putting the subject matter dead center of your page. Dead center has the effect that the name implies … making your image “dead”.

Unless you are trying to convey a mood of order, balance or structure in your image it’s just best to stay out of the middle. Dead center will make most character illustrations seem lifeless, most illustrations appear flat and contributes to a lack of dynamics.

Take a look at the following images:

On the left, I’ve created a thumbnail image of a very simple form (the letter “A”) and illustrated a character that mimics it’s composition. Regardless of how interesting or unique your character is, he/she/it will appear dull and lifeless in this type of composition. It has the same artistic merit as a mug shot and everyone who has a Driver’s License is familiar with how unflattering this is. :smiley:

On the right, I’ve tilted, twisted and cropped the subject matter to occupy more of the left side of the frame. Instantly, the character seems more interesting to the viewer and the composition has more style (in spite of the unexpressive face I’ve drawn in example).

Your Exercise

Pick a letter of the alphabet to create a thumbnail composition that has complimentary amounts of positive and negative space. Avoid the dead center and twist, stretch or crop the letter to create an interesting composition.

Using the thumbnail that you’ve created, elaborate and draw something that mimics the composition. Post your final images here without the thumbnail and see if others can guess which letter you used in your composition.



Thanks a bunch for doing this ~ I think this is a fantastic exercise, and that a lot of folks here (including myself) will really benefit from following this thread. :wip: Hope to see peoples’ participation soon! :bounce:

Cheers, :slight_smile:



Hi kirt

its super nice of you to take the time to do this, we do appreciate it :thumbsup:.

Okay I guess I’ll take the first stab at this one.
Don’t know how succesfull I was, I still have sort of distributed the subject evenly on the page so i guess you could say I placed it in the center…:shrug: I’d really love some feedback on it, cause I don’t think quite understood the exercise.

[left]~David René. [/left]


Thanks for being the first submission Corvax. :thumbsup:

OK … I’m going to guess that you went with the letter “T”? Not a bad choice but you have to be carefull that you displace the center line so that it doesn’t run down the center of the page. I like what you have, but as you’ve suggested it’s still pretty much dead center.

When developing your thumbnail, try to create an equal amount of positive and negative space and really use up the page if you have to. I think the areas around the figure (negative space) are dominating this image and you could make this more interesting by increasing the size of the figure in the frame.

An easy crop will fix most of this without loosing any important information in your image.

OK … I tried cropping your image, but I had a hard time getting the figure away from the center. Below is your image, a representation of your image in thumbnail and what I’d suggest to use up the space on the page a little better.

Notice how I’ve moved the center to the right and moved the top up to fill the empty spaces. The large empty space at bottom left isn’t a concern because it balances off well with the positive space being used in the composition.

I hope this makes more sense. There are thousands of ways that you can do this, so feel free to experiment with other designs.


Hey everybody!

Realy nice tutorial Kirt:thumbsup: Unfortunately, I’m not having a tablet at the moment. So I did the exercise with a pencil and took a picture. Here is the result


hehe, please tell me you used a G on this one :wink:

Great idea btw Kirt, I’ll try and work on something!


100 Points!!! You’re right DanVL. I used for my character the letter G. :beer:


Thanks for the reply kirt, it was actually quite helpful :bowdown:.

Okay I’m gonna try one more time…


Nice work Corvax!!! Is it a P? In my opinion the composition of this work (especially in comparison to the first one) is great.


That’s awesome, Corvax / Dave! :beer: I love the humor to this ~ that’s great! :smiley:




What the heck was I thinking? :smiley:


Hey there all!
There are too many good threads atm so let’s just start with this one :beer:

Corvax That character is realy awesome, but don’t you think it’s still in a kind of dead center?

[edit]Rebaccak Isn’t it an idea to make a thread for all weird textures and stuff like: how to make rocks, glass, rough ocean, etc. And when they post the add a walk-through with it? Hope i’m clear with my explanation[/edit]

About my post:
When i wanted to give my 15min painting a little detail PS went a little crazy, so from there on i just saved it and here it is, hope it’s good enough for this thread.
I used character “O” and tried to put it in a dynamic view.


I haven’t drawn anything since april due to depression and conflicts in my life. recently I have started slowly drawing a bit the past few days and was encouraged by JMbokenstein to take part in this thread to not only to get me back to where I left off in my anatomy studies, but also to gain improvement. anyways here is mine :slight_smile:


bermuda_boy_jimbo - Easily recognizable as the letter “G” but I don’t think you’re quite hitting on the concept here. Your illustration is dead center. Here’s your illustration at top and a couple of suggestions underneath on how you could tackle this one. Maybe you can try another after seeing what I have done here?

Corvax - Very nicely done! Although it’s not important to have the figure in the shape of the letter (we’re not creating a new font with our illustrations :smiley: ) I like how you composited this image. Good job.

zng-Y - Not bad. Definately off centered and nicely balanced image. I do think that I would have approached the letter “O” shape differently and tried to have the figure sort of curved around the perimeter rather than treated as a large focal point. But your image does work “as is”. Here’s another suggestion …

Anurizm - Letter is “I”? If my guess is correct, then it’s a nice placement of a difficult choice. Certain letters have an innate structure that is unnavoidably dead centered. But you’ve done well in working around this problem. With this excercise I might be more inclined to try using a more complex letter (Z, S, B, Y, M, N, L, b, g, f, q, etc.) and avoid those that tend to point dead center (I, O, l, etc.). Or you could even try a number. With the exception of “1” and “0” all of the numbers are great to thumbnail.

Also, in no relation to this excercise but still a good point for your illustration … I probably wouldn’t have gone side view either. It tends to feel like an ortho drawing and introducing even a slight angle of the character will add much more depth to your drawings.

everyone - Try to push beyond just putting a character into your layout designs. You could also add foreground or background elements into the design which will still match your thumbnails. I’ll try to get an example of this idea done tonight also. :wip:


Wahoo! These are great, Kirt! :thumbsup: The concept of using letters and numbers is brilliant. Heh, I remember doing a gridded paper sketchpad FULL of these kinds of comps in art school / design classes…they’re really useful, though, unfortunately, most of mine were pretty lame :smiley: ~ so I’m learning a lot here! :bounce:

Cheers, :slight_smile:



I’m not going to take credit for the letter idea. This was actually an assignment in one of my early art classes while I was attending a Junior College. I thought it was a very unique and easy way to develop compositions and it just sort of stuck in the back of my head somewhere.

I wish I could remember the instructor’s name. He was pretty helpful in those years. :smiley:

Sorry, I didn’t get the last illustration done that I promised. I will try and do one for myself tomorrow and see what everyone thinks.


Thanks Kirt for this great exercise in composition. Looks like a good and important complemental on my anatomy efforts around this place!

Will join in later this weekend and am looking forward to your next piece/example!


This seems like a fun excercise! Alright here’s my attempt.

I’m still trying to learn everything from anatomy, wacom, digital painting so any sort of feedback would be fantastic! I don’t really know how long it took me but I’d say a few hours?


IronhideNT Not bad at all! Maybe try to shorten your drawingtime. Position is overall nice i think, but that’s Kirt’s buisness ;). And a great welcome of course :thumbsup:

Kirt Thank’s a lot for puting some time in helping us/me. Especialy the correction paintings are helping me out!

Rebeccak Did u read my last post? Hope to get an answer :rolleyes:

Here is my next try… (btw it’s a diver ;))