30 August 2014

How to learn or improve drawing & sketching skills : beginners guide

NOTE: This post is not for UCEED aspirants. UCEED has no sketching in their syllabus as on date (2017). This post is applicable to CEED, NID or any other design exam where subjective (sketching, creative drawing etc) are part of the exam.

Well, many of you might be wondering 

"How to learn/improve sketching from scratch ?"
"What sketch level is required for CEED exam ?"

Sketching is the one most important tool in communicating your design ideas. It should be effective and should deliver the ideas at first instance. Now, it doesn't mean your work should be extraordinary or awesome. A simple and ordinary sketching level is most desirable and more than enough for CEED exam. I have been receiving many queries regarding the level of sketching as well as how the master level works in Facebook groups are distracting them. Students keep on asking me "Is that level required ?"

Take the case of the below pictures. 

(source : Janice foo)

(source : elanciolacu blog)

Well, these sketching works were of course damn cool but honestly speaking this much sketching skill is Absolutely not required for your CEED exam. It won't be helping you get more marks compared to the importance or weight-age of design ideas. If you already have that much skill, then it's ok, else if you are average in sketching or even if you are just a starter, then guys don't worry; this level is not at all required and the strategy/steps (that i'm going to discuss) in this tutorial would definitely help you improve within time ! This is a systematic approach to learn drawing skills and might suite for most design exams. At the end, I have also given a good tips on comic strips and story board kind of sketches.

At the end of this article I've also included a very good video tutorial about "The best sketch level for CEED exam as well as how to learn sketching" with all additional explanations. You may want to check that.

Little realization before looking into steps

CEED Part - B mostly concentrate on design part and as you can see design questions carries 50 marks. So, it's better if you concentrate more on this rather than working more on objective sketching. Sketching questions (objective sketching) in CEED exam is usually asked for not more than 15 or 20 marks. So, even if you spend considerable time and struggle in every respect to get total marks, then also you need to gain more marks to get good score and hence good seat. 

If you are average in sketching, then you may even neglect attempting the objective sketching part (or at least give minimum preference), and concentrate only on design part of the exam. Trust me, attempting 50 marks design question with average details (sketching details and shading) would definitely help you secure more marks, and so plan for attempting your design question in full fledged, instead of bothering much for the 15/20 marks sketch question. Last year, I tried my best level to work on the 15 marks sketch question but could only get 2-3 marks (I guess) even though the work was great ! and I made my design question very roughly concerning much for the idea and surprisingly I got unexpected marks. Same happened with many people. 

So, don't worry if you are not a master in drawing, and don't fear going through the others work in Facebook groups or in net. You are in safer side - you just need to plan intelligently and learn the basic steps or strategy that would easily help you crack CEED with just simple sketching and detailing works. Many good artists couldn't got into M.Des last year ! Your design idea is more important and whether you communicate that with simple (but practical way) or hi-fi level; your work gets evaluated.  

Therefore I'm giving the below strategy considering that you are much bothered about the design sketch rather than objective type - although, the tutorial also covers how to deal with (learn/improve) objective drawing parallel. If you already know good knowledge on sketching, then you may skip first six steps and read from seventh step.

Step - 1

Before learning how to draw objects, products etc, my idea is you learn some basics about perspective and perspective drawing. In practical, every picture, photography or art for that matter will assume some perception in one way or other. Now that I mentioned perspective, what do I mean by it ?, perspective view is the true or original view that appears to our eyes. Whenever we see something, we see the edges/lines converging/diverging towards some points called vanishing points. Okay, let's forget the theory, the below picture shows how the boxes are converging.

(source : draw sketch about)

So, whether you work on objective drawings or design drawings; sketching them in perspective way should be a concern every time. It helps to support reality in your pictures/sketches and you know reality/practical is what is expected from your designs/sketches. So, start practicing simple line drawings in perspective with no (zero) care for details/shades - by just copying from already drawn pictures like the one shown below. 

(source : craftsy blog)

You need not even draw objects in this exercise, just the lines are to be practiced. Do this by taking quite a good number of examples from Google images and practice for say  2 or 3 days. By the time you do some good number of simple exercises of copy-drawing, I'm sure you would understand automatically how lines converge and what it mean by vanishing points; and you will see yourself perceive images in perspective ! Also start observing everything (surroundings, objects, products) in perspective manner like the example I've given below.

Step - 2

Now, after going through the above basic step, start practicing doing the same type of sketching but this time with objects included - just copy-sketching, okay ? Objects mean things like say if you are sketching a room in perspective, then also include things like table, chairs, TV or other simple simple products. Remember, you still need not have to work on details/shading. You still have to wait for the right time ! The below picture shows an example. Although it shows some shades/details, just neglect that for now (in this exercise period). Do, this exercise for 3 to 4 days.

Step - 3

Now, assuming that you understood and got good idea on perspective sketching by following the first two steps, the next thing you need to do is to practice the perception sketching, but this time in reality. Say if you are sitting in a room, then just sit at one corner/end of the room and try to draw the view of the other end or anything that appears to your eye; for that matter. Observe the room and sketch in perspective point of view like that I visualized in the above picture.

This is a very good sketching exercise and it helps you in eliminating time wastage during exams for sketching a view or even products in different views. So, practice this exercise by sitting at various locations - various corners, room, hall, office, part etc, for not less than 4 days. And yes, I expect you to continue this step till the end of your practice, whenever you find time !

Step - 4

Congrats, you now know how to master perspective and imaginative sketching within a week or 10 days, I mean you are ready for the second stage of sketching. Well, if you have observed any question in CEED or any design exam, the above kind of sketching works appear very less, but they are such important that they will help you in further stages of sketching and hence it is advisable to not neglect them; unless you don't have time !

Now, you need to expose and know how to sketch different objects, things, products and so on, before you intend to attempt design questions. Say for example, if they ask multi-purpose walking stick design. Then you should be in a position to know the basic walking stick sketch or you should at least be in a position to imagine the same and draw, but without consuming much time !

So, what you need to do is 'Observe' and try to sketch different daily products, objects, home appliances etc like say walking stick, mops, laptops, desktop, bicycle, utensils, electrical appliances like mixers (and more to mention); just to make sure that you know how to draw the basic shape and view of those objects. Just take regular object images from Google search or any other images and then start sketching as it is (copying)

Do, this exercise for not less than 5 days taking different products and learning how to draw them in two dimensional (plain sketch); without the need for details/shading. Remember, the outline or sketch shape and proportions are more important than the details itself. So, master the art of size and proportion sketching of regular things by just copy-sketching in the beginning.

Step - 5

You may start practicing simple, two dimension line sketching of animals, humans at this point (after you learnt how to draw objects by copying as it is). The below picture shows the simple image of a human and animal. Just practice this kind of sketches in this step.

(source : dragonart)

(source : clipartbest blog)

Proportion is one important factor in human or animal sketches. The below pictures gives you an idea of what proportion to follow while drawing these pictures. I'm saying again, concern more on size and proportion instead of details !

Well, this is not mandatory but you need to approach this standards approximately to give the sketch a better size and reality look.

Step - 6

Now, take any live picture (photography or image) like the one shown below, and try to draw it  just in 2D (two dimension), applying your knowledge of perspective, line quality, size and shape factors as you have learnt in the earlier steps. 

(source : fladzinski blog)

Do, this kind of exercise by taking variety of objects/products or pictures. This step would help you in converting reality views into imaginative views, which is one required quality for designers. This will directly help with your sketching skills.

Step - 7

Now, move towards isometric or 3D sketching - by taking same pictures and drawing that in different views (again copy work). The below pictures shows an example - I made the picture in NASA's VSP software (Vehicle sketch pad), but you need to make them in pencil. 

Sketch them in different views and most importantly observe, analyze and understand 
  • Perceptive in it, 
  • How things are oriented/arranged
  • How size varies at different points/parts of the sketch
  • How edges/lines converge and meet
  • What different shape things assume - I mean say in an inclined wall, a circle will appear elliptical, right ? like this observe how shapes assume once it gets transformed or once you change your view point
Take such examples from Google images and start practicing them.

Step - 8

Now, sit back and start sketching (wherever you are) the views that appear to your eyes in different orientations. Like say I'm sitting in front of my PC. I will try to sit in different positions and sketch the views like that shown in the below pictures. 

This is just an example and I expect you the realize the under lying principle in doing so. The reason why because, I saw many of you are good at imagining things, but poor at sketching the same. This is so because you either don't know how to sketch that particular object or you were unable to imagine the orientation or positioning of the object. Up-to step-7, would help you with learning how to sketch different objects and this step will help you on how to sketch a known object in different angles, views etc. 

This is required particularly for your design part of the exam as well as for learning general sketching. Practice this kind of exercise by considering different scenarios, products or so for at least 4 days. You may extend the number of days; if you feel further need for improvements.

Step - 9

Now, imagine a desktop computer instead of laptop (that I showed for the above example) in the same place say above the same desk and try to sketch them in different views/direction like you did in the earlier step. This is where your actual imagination work starts. Earlier, you were learning how to sketch known things and now you will be learning how to sketch imaginative things - In other words, your creativity starts from here. Do this kind of exercise for quite a good number of situations at least for 4 days.

Step - 10

Once you have mastered the perspective and proportionate way of sketching, and you also came to know how to put your imaginative views in sketch form, you can now go for giving little details and shading works to your already drawn sketches. I've given some reference material at the end of this article, that might help you learn something about shading and textures.

As far as possible, keep the shades and details very less. As you can see from my dustbin design work (below picture) that I did in my CEED exam last year, although I gave very few details to the sketch, still it looks good and delivers my ideas, isn't it ? Well, I would recommend you to go for some more detailing works (than I gave in the picture) to make it look more reasonable. Keep it optimum.

Take the below walking stick example that I drew, I gave reasonable details but anyway; everything seems to be in proportion. Especially size in more important. 

The below sketch was drawn by a friend of mine. Now you see, the length of the stick is very small compared to the handle. So, the sketch is not good and totally impractical. Do concern for size factors ! 

Step - 11

Now, step further - frame a scenario; imagine you are sitting in your class room or office and you are viewing more similar desktop (that you sketched earlier for your home). Draw the imagined sketch roughly but minding line quality, size, shape, proportions and even with reasonable shading and detailing works. You will now understand to what extent you developed ! Do, practice such scenario.

Step - 12

Finally, do similar exercise taking into consideration some products, automobiles or any other things by combining all the above steps.

Important note

I would like to recommend sketching of portraits, cars etc as last preference that too only when you are confident up-to the above steps and you have mastered size, line quality and other factors. Portrait sketches are time consuming and eats most of your time with no productive use to you. And in fact it's some what difficult to master art of portraits, cars; within this time. You could instead bother for other design works. 

Comic strip and story board board guide

While you are doing the above 12 steps, I would also recommend you to bother something about comic strips/story-board (I'm not talking about story framing, creativity or design idea generation, this article has been focused solely to develop your drawing abilities and the other said parts have to be concerned by you simultaneously). You may check this blog's resource section to get more idea about them.

Comic strip type of questions doesn't require much details and even you need not care for size/proportion. But you should really bother about the characters that you frame. Stick to the same character (especially how they look, dressing, shape of them etc) till the end of the story. 

You should maintain the same tone every where. Characterization is the most important factor in SB framing. You may even bother very very less for the backdrops. In most (all) cases, very few details are sufficient. 

Take the example of the below pictures, they are some practical comic strips that appear in regular comic books. Observe them and see how simple the background are, and how funny and simple the characters were shown and maintained till the end of story. 

Even, some stories use stick figures (line figures) like the one shown below, although I son't recommend that; unless you have very very large number of strips/frames to be made.

(source : heriam blog)

Finally, I would like to give the strategies in simple point forms (step-by-step)

  1. Learn sketching perspective drawings by copying (first line drawing, later with other objects included)
  2. Learn sketching surroundings in perspective, observe everything in perspective
  3. Start working on simple 2D sketching of objects, products, views, human, automobiles, animals etc
  4. Go for 3D after you learn 2D sketching - sketch the same object in different views (by copying)
  5. Now, start sketching things that appears to your eyes (or in photographs) from different views, directions etc
  6. Imagine some new objects instead of the present object and sketch the view, practice this regularly
  7. Start learning and giving little; but reasonable shadings and details
  8. Now, completely imagine a new view, product or so and sketch with all the details included
  9. Practice portraits and automobile sketching - only if you have time and you are confident of sketching products through your imagination. 
  10. Simultaneously practice comic strips and story board framing with simple and plain characters.

Some more suggestions

  • Learn to draw what you see
  • Don't judge your drawing before it's complete
  • Don't take complicated and tough sketches right from the beginning

Some additional support for you :

My Video tutorial on "Best sketch level for CEED exam and step by step strategy to improve/learn sketching and drawing for CEED exam"

Like Stuff You Look blog on Facebook page to get connected with latest posts.


  1. Hi Bhanu/Anyone,

    I am a CEED aspirant, I am practicing my beginning stage of drawing straight lines, do I need to draw a line in a single stroke or is it fine to have 2 or 3 stroke in a A4 sheet? Please clarify.


    1. Better if you can practice with single strokes (unless it's a long and spline type line) but since you are practising, you may go for two or three strokes initially to understand how to draw the same with single stroke with practice.

  2. can please suggest me books for uceed ,please....

    1. As of now, there isn't any books available for UCEED, Plz practice based on the pattern and syllabus.. You can use this blog's UCEED page to learn more.

  3. Thanks for sharing post.For people who are learning to draw, teaching drawing or want to enhance creativity, joining a sketching classes in Nagpur is a perfect idea for them.For more details,contact XFactor Nagpur.


    1. CEED is for MDes (masters in design), basically a Post Graduate (masters) course and UCEED is for BDes (bachelors in Design), an Undergraduate course.

  5. Hello sir,I would thank you for the concept and content that you have provided on this site. Sir I am CEED aspirant 2017 and I had just started the preparation as I was a bit unknown to this programme of iitb. Kindly provide a support regarding how can I prepare for the exam in this short period.

    1. You've sufficient time to deal with. In the below post, I've given timetable considering Dec as the exam date, but since the exam date is on Jan, you can still follow it, with only thing is follow oct schedule in Nov and so on.
      Weekly timetable for CEED Exam preparation

  6. Hello sir, thank you for the contents you've provided here. These are helping me a lot to give final touches for the upcoming CEED exam. This will be my 1st attempt for CEED so will you please suggest me how much marks i have to score in Part A to guarantee a qualification spot for Part B.
    Thanks. :)

  7. Is there a question in ceed based on sketching ??

    1. looks like you haven't gone thru CEED syllabus yet. The first thing one need to do is understand what is design and what is the process of CEED. I suggest you to check previous paper or syllabus in brochure.

  8. Sir i like ur info here i am presently in drop year and want to give uceed so are the guidelines the same plz tell and is the time enough if i start from now

    1. Guidlines are same but you are in wrong page. I mean this post is for learning sketching while for UCEED exam, you don't need sketching. It has no subjective part, only objective part. If you're also giving NID, then fine to learn sketching too.

      So, my suggestion to you is to understand the UCEED exam process - what is needed and what is not needed, else you might end up studying unnecessary things. You can go thru any previous year prob, as well as solve one, so that you will know the syllabus. Also, I suggest you to check this page

      How to start and what to practice for UCEED exam


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