Drawing Styles And Types Explained – With Examples

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Art is present in every culture at every point in humanity. That’s why we have so many different types and styles of drawing today. Understanding the differences between basic line drawing and things like pointillism or photorealism will illuminate a tantalizing path into the art world.

We’ll cover the most common drawing types, from the most basic styles to more advanced or artistic styles.

Line Drawing And Contour Drawing

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Line drawing is about drawing lines (curved or straight). Artists who use this technique draw only the outline of a character or figure. But it often takes on a more subdued and artistic touch than that.

Such is the case with contour drawing. Contour drawing slightly differs from line drawing in that it focuses solely on the natural contours and curves of an object, with artists often choosing to use a single, interwoven line rather than many.

It omits details but creates a beautiful facet of a person’s profile. Both of these drawing styles are especially common among artists.

Shape Drawing

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Shape drawing is essential for artists to learn how to properly render a 3D environment. Although this style might seem especially constricted, you’d be surprised by its amount of variation and creative intuition.

Shape drawing can be either 2D or 3D, with 3D being most commonly taught in art schools as artists begin drawing still lifes.

2D shape drawing is just as common, however, as the geometric sub facet of this style has surged in popularity (again with tattoos).

Geometric drawing is strikingly easy but able to represent incredibly intricate figures.

Keep in mind that the geometric “version” of shape drawing and the geometric drawing style itself are two different things, the latter of which is used for architecture and industrial design.

Value Drawing

Values in art refer to the dimension of color. This can be as simple as light and shading or more complex as color gradients. Every color has a value according to how light or dark it is.

Knowing how to depict these values helps make a piece appear more lifelike and three-dimensional.

Many artists practice values by drawing or painting still lifes under a variety of different lighting conditions. In some cases, experimenting with values can lead to interesting effects.

For instance, normally altering dark values to be lighter can give a “matte” effect to the piece, which is a common technique in cartooning for the softer feel it gives.

Blind Contour

Blind contour is when an artist sketches an object or figure without ever looking at the page.

The result is a surrealist rendition of the subject. Blind contour is a common warm-up exercise for artists because it gets the eye rapidly accustomed to the lines, perspective, and shapes found in the world around us.

While artists typically don’t go around displaying their blind contour pieces, it’s not entirely unknown to the art world. Pablo Picasso, for example, has a few cherished pieces resulting from the blind contour. 

And these pieces often contain an ethereal, modern quality to them, so it makes sense.

Modified Contour

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Modified contour is an extension of blind contour in that the artist tries to pay as little attention to the page as possible. Close attention is paid to the lines, edges, and details of the subject.

The artist may roughly sketch the outline of an object and add more details over time, occasionally allowing a glance at the paper. These occasional glances help coordinate the eye and the hand and teach the artist how to refine their work.

In addition to being used as a warm-up technique, modified contour serves as a great starting point for more involved pieces.

These pieces tend to be higher in quality than blind contour pieces simply because the artist is allowed to look at the page to some degree.

A common rule of thumb for modified contour is to look at the subject 90% of the time and only at the page 10% of the time.

Cross-Contour

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Regarding three-dimensional objects, some artists imagine an invisible grid or lines draping across them. This grid helps make sense of the object’s curvature and the nuances in its shape.

Cross-contouring is a drawing style that involves drawing these invisible lines across an object. It’s also helpful in determining where light and shadow go, as these often fall in an object’s crevices and inverted space.

Some artists incorporate values into the gridwork by drawing some lines closer together than others. When you stand back from a piece like this, it gives the illusion of being hyper-realistic, something many street artists have taken advantage of.

Gesture And Figure Drawing

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A gesture drawing is typically a quick sketch of a subject, usually a figure. The artist will draw a rough outline of the figure and their pose, taking care to pinpoint the anatomical direction.

Artists will typically do several gesture drawings in succession, with a live model or a manikin. Anime and manga artists will often draw a character in several poses and angles to clearly define the character’s appearance for later use.

Gesture drawings are instrumental in developing anatomy skills and efficiency in art.

Geometric Drawing

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The geometric drawing style is a technique used in art and design that emphasizes the use of geometric shapes and patterns in the composition of an artwork. This style often employs simple, precise shapes such as squares, circles, triangles, and lines to create a visually striking and cohesive image.

In the geometric drawing, artists may use shapes to create patterns, or they may use them to construct complex compositions. The use of symmetry, repetition, and precise angles is common in this style, and color may be used sparingly to enhance the visual impact of the shapes.

Life Drawing

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Similar to gesture drawing, life drawing is a practice devoted to capturing the beauty of the human form. It’s no wonder that even seemingly planned portraits like that of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa have captivated hearts worldwide.

Artists who work in the life drawing niche may use gesture drawing to begin detailing the form of the subject. Then, they will revise the outline and add the details.

Life drawing is not an art solely reserved for nude subjects, however. Anything can be a subject for life drawing, from beloved pets to fruits to scenes with multiple bodies in motion.

Still lifes are common subjects in life drawing. In still life, an artist takes a collection of objects that are otherwise ordinary to real life and draws them.

Perspective Drawing

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Perspective drawing is a technique used to create the illusion of depth and three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface, such as a piece of paper or canvas. It involves using rules and techniques to accurately represent how objects appear to the human eye when viewed from a particular angle.

The principles of perspective drawing involve creating the illusion of distance and space by manipulating the size, placement, and angle of objects in the composition. This can be achieved using techniques such as vanishing points, horizon lines, and foreshortening to create the appearance of depth and distance.

Perspective drawing involves depicting figures in gravity-defying poses that are usually difficult to capture. The finished result is a portrait where the figure appears as if it could come right off the page. 

Perspective drawing is trendy among comic and manga artists, who seem to enjoy drawing characters in poses that convey motion or action.

Pointillism

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Pointillism is another genre of art that’s been claimed by comic artists. Pointillism involves the strategic placement of colored dots to comprise an entire piece.

This is no modern technique, however. One of the most recognizable pieces in art history, A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat, is painted with this technique.

Photorealism/Hyperrealism Drawing

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Artist: Jeffrey Appiatu – Image source

Photorealism demands perfection in perspective, anatomy, shading, and many other elements. These pieces are also time-consuming, as perfecting each detail can be a meticulous task.

This is why many hyperrealist artists have fewer finished pieces. They spend much of the time gesture drawing and sketching outlines from figure models.

This allows them to gain inspiration and practice before moving on to a larger piece. Photorealism was a concept originally popularized in the Renaissance era and wained later in favor of more interpretive styles like cubism.

Anamorphic

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Anamorphic drawing is a technique used to create distorted images that appear normal when viewed from a specific angle or through a special device. It involves manipulating the proportions and perspective of an image to create a distorted or elongated shape that, when viewed from a specific angle or through a special device, appears normal.

Most of the time, anamorphic art is sculptural. Up close, the viewer might see a pile of cluttered objects. But standing some feet away reveals a stunning image created using each of the objects.

Salvador Dali was a fan of this technique with his famous Abraham Lincoln portrait, as well as hundreds of other famous artists. This technique is just as striking on paper, even in 2D.

In fact, some artists use the anamorphic drawing technique to make an ordinary doodle look like it’s springing off the page.

These drawings are majorly impressive. You can hardly tell it’s all 2D unless you examine the page from another angle.

This style is also a common technique among chalk artists. Chalk and street artists have very little space to make a grand impression, especially if they want their work to blend into the environment and appear in 3D.

They use distortion to their advantage by stretching out a scene across several feet so that when the viewer looks at it head-on, their perspective makes it appear as one cohesive image.

Architectural Drawing

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Architects must have stellar drawing skills. That includes the ability to render shapes and objects accurately.

The difference is that everything they draw must be in scale and must be drawn in accordance with building materials and their properties. Architectural drawing requires math and science just as much as it does artistic skills.

We’ve all seen movies where architects scribble away at a drawing board, usually with a protractor or some sort of ruler in hand. In reality, they most often work in digital applications such as CAD.

There are a few reasons for this.

For one, it’s more efficient, as the program is able to calculate on behalf of the artist. But software like CAD is also useful for understanding how objects will interact with each other and how they will measure against the test of reality.

That’s why engineers often use this software to help design products and why many engineers learn architectural drawing in school.

Doodling

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Doodling is a spontaneous drawing style that involves creating small, simple sketches or patterns without a specific purpose or plan. It is often done absentmindedly during meetings, classes, or other activities where the doodler may be bored or distracted.

Doodling drawings can take many forms, from simple shapes and lines to intricate patterns and designs. While they may seem random or meaningless, doodles can also reveal the doodler’s thoughts, emotions, and interests.

Doodling allows the mind to explore the depths of creativity, giving birth to whatever is on the artist’s mind.

Manga And Cartoon

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Manga and cartoon drawing styles are both popular forms of visual storytelling that use simplified, stylized characters and settings to convey stories or ideas. However, they have distinct characteristics that differentiate them from one another.

Manga drawing style originated in Japan and is characterized by its use of large, expressive eyes, spiky hair, and exaggerated facial expressions. Manga also often includes detailed background imagery and a wide range of themes and genres, from action and adventure to romance and science fiction.

Cartoon drawing style, on the other hand, is a broad term that encompasses a wide variety of styles and techniques used in animated media. It is often characterized by its use of simple, exaggerated shapes and bright colors to create memorable characters and settings.

Cartoons can be found in many forms, from animated television shows and movies to comics and graphic novels.

While both manga and cartoon drawing styles are popular and widely recognized, they have unique visual styles and storytelling approaches that set them apart from one another.

Expressionism And Neo-Expressionism

Expressionism and Neo-Expressionism are both art movements that emerged in the early 20th century and late 20th century, respectively, and are characterized by their use of intense, emotional, and often distorted imagery.

The expressionism drawing style is a movement that originated in Germany in the early 20th century. It emphasizes the artist’s subjective and emotional response to the world rather than objective representation. Expressionist drawings often feature bold colors, distorted forms, and exaggerated emotions, with a focus on the inner experience of the artist.

Neo-Expressionism, on the other hand, is a movement that emerged in the late 20th century, particularly in the United States and Germany. It draws inspiration from Expressionism but incorporates elements of contemporary culture and politics. Neo-Expressionist drawings often feature bold, gestural marks, bright colors, and raw, primitive energy.

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