How to Draw Using a Grid
By: Pamella Neely
One of the fundamentals of drawing is measuring between different parts of the image. Using a grid makes it a lot easier. Here's how to use a grid to make your drawings seem more realistic.
Grids are helpful when you want to render a live image or a photograph in as realistic a way as possible. You can use them to learn how to copy cartoons, for example, but they are traditionally used for more complex subjects. Obviously, if you are creating something you can not see, you can't use a grid -- they are meant as tools for copying real images.
It is simplest to use a grid to copy a photograph, or even another drawing. You can use them to copy something three-dimensional, but then your grid will need a frame around it to hold it steady, and you will need a way to keep your head and the frame in the same position as you copy the image. That can be quite a challenge, so for this article we'll just focus on using a grid to copy a two-dimensional image.
First you need to make a copy of the image, either by scanning it with a scanner and printing it out from your computer, or just by making a photocopy. When you have your duplicate image, get a ruler.
Now you have to decide how big you want the squares of your grid to be. Most people will want one inch or half an inch squares. Let's say you want half an inch squares. So take your ruler and hold it steady on one side of the photocopy. Make sure your ruler is not tilted at all, or your grid will be a little off (which actually won't matter a whole lot, but neatness does count).
Now make easily-seen marks along the edge of the photograph, every half inch. When you're done with the first side, continue around the remaining three sides of the image, making marks every half inch. You may want to use a red pen, or some kind of writing/drawing instrument that makes really clear marks. Also make sure that the marks are more like dots than dashes -- you will be drawing lines from these marks, so a little precision here will make for a nicer final result.
When you've got marks around all four sides, use your ruler to draw a line around the outside square that the grid makes. Then connect each mark you made to the one on the other side of the square, so the lines are parallel to the outside frame of the picture. Then flip the photocopy over on its side and draw lines in the other direction, creating a row of nice evenly-sized cubes with each new line you make.
Your photograph is now broken up into a grid. You can start drawing now if you want. Use a blank piece of paper and study the image within the grid to see the proportions of what you're drawing. Or you can take a blank piece of paper a bit larger than the photograph, and recreate just the grid on the new piece of paper. With a blank grid in front of you, you can copy the image within the grid square by square. With this level of detail, you can probably accurately copy even a really complex image.
Some people choose to make their grid on a piece of tracing paper, so they can just lift up the tracing paper if they want to see the image without the grid. Either way is okay.
About the Author:
Visit Pamella Neely's website for hundreds of free, step by step drawing lessons, like how to draw dragons and how to draw roses.
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Copying art has been a well established method of learning. Just like a cook learning his/her trade, so does an artist needs to find the receipe from old masters.
There may be artists that you greatly admire. You love their technique and their subject matter, but it is just not your style. However, you can always reproduce his art and give it a place in your home.
There was a fellow that often visited the atelier where I studied who was a good artist, but though he surpassed in ambition he lacked in imagination. He prefered to forge our teacher's art and sell it as an original. He even shipped the paintings abroad.
Tracing and copying can train you to see. Once you learn what to look for, you will be able to represent it realistically, or as your style dictates.
A beautiful young artist taught me how to use the grid method of reproducing drawings or photographs. She was a bit older than me, but decades later I learned that we both cherish that moment.
I work for an architectural firm, where tracing paper abounds, but I am also an artist and at home I keeps tracing paper in rolls, pads, and loose sheets.
Just as it was recommended for any beginner, I learned to paint copying other people's painting. Then one day it hit me, I could just as easily paint from my photographs.