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Learn to Draw: Blocking In

Learn to draw by blocking in – the techniques demonstrated here are essential. They will also make drawing much easier.

Blocking in simply means to make a rough outline of the subject you are drawing. Whilst the basic shapes technique is good for isolated objects, animals or developing drawings from your imagination, blocking in will help you learn to draw in a way which doesn’t require constant erasing as the rough drawing you make initially is left on the paper and contributes to the finished drawing you make. This gives your work a fresh lively appearance – something which is easily lost when you have to erase lines you made earlier.

Learn to draw using the blocking in technique and you’ll find it one of the most useful drawing techniques you’ve learned, and it’s also very adaptable. Whether your style is loose and free, or precise and realistic you will find this drawing technique an extremely valuable member of your repertoire of skills.

You will need:

Sketchbook or drawing paper and drawing board

2B Pencil.

Step One

Begin by looking carefully at what you’re about to draw, checking angles and proportions.

Check angles by holding your pen or pencil vertically at arms length. Line up one end of your pencil with the angle you want to check, then keeping your pencil vertical swing the other end of your pencil until the whole pencil is in line with the angle you are checking.

As you learn to draw you’ll find that it is easier to see angles without checking them.

Learn to Draw: Blocking In

Transfer the angle to your paper by keeping your hand in the same position then laying it against your paper in the appropriate place. Once you are satisfied you know the right angle sketch in a rough line. You can always check this again later.

Step Two

You can use a similar technique to check distances and compare sizes:


Hold the pencil as before, but this time, keeping the end in line with whatever you want to measure – in the photo I am measuring the distance from the top of the boot to the toe, which is slightly upturned – slide your thumb or finger at the other end of the pencil until it is in line with the opposite end of whatever you are measuring.

To transfer the measurement simply make light dots on your paper the same distance apart as the distance between your thumb and the other end of the pencil.

Once you’re satisfied, rough in the outlines of your subject.

As you go keep checking the size of one thing in relation to another – for example how long is the boot in comparison to the width of the cupboard top.

Also check where one thing stops in relation to another. In this learn to draw: blocking in workshop example the back of the cupboard top can be just seen between the two boots. It’s important to draw this at the right level.

Step Three

Once you have a blocked in sketch, simply begin to draw an accurate outline, using your sketch as a guide like this:

Once you are satisfied with your line drawing you can shade it, or add colour – or just leave it as it is. Once you have mastered measuring and checking angles, blocking in is the most useful technique you’ll find. It will help you learn to draw much more quickly and easily, and you can also use it when sketching.