How to draw a palm tree: Awesome easy-to-use drawing tutorial 2022

How to draw a palm tree_featured image

Welcome to my how to draw a palm tree tutorial!

Hi!

Welcome to another article in my how-to-draw series. This article is all about palm trees and how to draw them! If you want to add more beach and “fun in the sun” feel to the ocean and sand of your art, draw palm trees! A simple palm tree, coconuts, and some tropical fruit can create moods for your drawing that say “vacation and Mai Tais” or “building sandcastles with the kids.”

As you go through this article, you may notice that I’ve changed my format a little bit this time by leaving out the lighting (shadow and light) part. I’ll clarify that choice toward the end here, but, first, let’s focus on learning how to draw a palm tree!

Once you learn to draw a palm tree with all its parts and detail–from the silhouette to the curved lines of the tree trunk, and the round crown to a palm tree’s leaves–you can render your finished drawing however you choose: realistic, cartoon, anime. You’ll be covered by what you learn how to draw here!

First, we explore and study all the shapes and forms that make a palm tree look like a palm tree. Then, we’ll start constructing the basic shapes and forms, move into practicing with palm tree silhouettes, dig into some step-by-step palm tree drawing tutorials, and draw a palm tree in perspective.

I’ll cover the basic shapes, forms, & silhouettes of palm trees and all their parts, including the palm tree trunk and palm tree leaf. Our first step is the same as always: references!

Let’s learn about palm trees!

Palms, including palm trees, are from the family Arecaceae. They are a family of flowering plants with several growth forms, all commonly known as palms.

Most palm species, characterized by large evergreen leaves called fronds, are found in tropical and subtropical environments.

As one of the best known and most cultivated plant families, palms show extensive diversity in physical characteristics that allow them to inhabit nearly every kind of habitat. Being so well cultivated means palms, from their wood to their fruits, have several uses in human society, including palm wood, carnauba wax, palm syrup, dates, oils, jelly, and coconut products.

Exploration and study: Discovering a palm tree’s basic shape

Study sketches help us build our design process. In this step, we must take the time to understand the “thing” we’re drawing. Without this step–or without spending enough time with this step–drawings and designs will likely fall flat.

Since we’re not interested in polishing turds, let’s learn about the shapes and forms that make a palm tree!

Shape breakouts and natural variations

Palm trees have fairly basic overall shapes. To begin an amazing palm tree drawing, choose a few simple shapes and forms.

I started outlining the basic shape breakdowns first because it communicates our goal in this step more clearly. However, it’s important to note that exploration doesn’t start with the shape breakdown sketch you see above; it starts with a messy and thorough exploration of your subject with all its parts and variations.

Here are my exploration study sketches:

First, I explored all the parts of the palm tree: palm leaves, the palm tree trunk, the different directions of the fronds, and individual leaf construction information for several types of palm leaves.

The challenge and complexity arise when it’s time to draw all the details and textures–a lot of small and irregular shape details– that give palm trees that recognizable feel and character.

My hope and encouragement for you are that you don’t forget or skip the exploration drawings stage before jumping straight into the palm tree step by step tutorials coming up.

Trust me, your step-by-step practice will level up much further the more you study palm trees through sketching exploration.

How to draw a palm tree: form construction

Completing our palm tree exploration sketches gave us a decent grasp of the parts of the palm tree. We have a solid idea of the lines, outline, silhouette, and edges that we need to create our own palm tree drawing.

Our study into how to draw a palm tree allowed us to wrap our minds around where we need to be drawing curved lines vs. horizontal lines or a straight line and showed us which basic shapes and forms we have to work with.

As we continue to learn how to draw a palm tree, let’s jump into practicing the tree’s form construction.

The bulk of form construction on a palm tree lies in drawing the trunk while drawing a palm leaf–called a frond–calls for drawing slightly curved planes without much volume apart from the palm frond base.

Most of the trunk is a simple long cylinder, but the portion at the top that resembles a fat cylindrical drum (and sits between the leaves and the trunk) has much more volume and thickness from the forms of dozens and dozens of pruned/shaved fronds.

If you could use more help with drawing forms, please check out my Form in Art and Art Fundamentals for Beginners articles.

A word about research…

Looking up palm tree drawings or palm trees on Google images gives the impression that most palm trees are just long and skinny with a few floppy fronds and a sprinkling of coconuts. This impression is mostly true of young palm trees or palm trees that have been more heavily pruned through shaving.

To learn how to draw a palm tree, I took a look at how trees get that shaved, skinnier look:

Here’s what I see around my neighborhood:

The point I’m trying to make here is: Always do your research and then find the best references you can because a basic search will only get you what everyone else has drawn, and that’s never the whole story of all that’s available for your designs.

Palm tree silhouette

I mentioned at beginning of this tutorial that I’d changed my format a bit for this article, and here’s why:

When you start exploring palm tree drawing (or any tree…or hair…or fur…really any highly textured thing, you get the idea 😅🙃🤯), it quickly becomes clear that drawing the leaves of a palm tree one at a time is a huge pain in the butt!

The studies alone that I drew showed me the last thing I wanted to do was draw the fronds one at a time. So, when the shapes are small or many and squished or layered, what tip can we use to save us pulling out our hair? Introducing, Silhouettes!

How to draw a palm tree with silhouette, step-by-step tutorial

There isn’t one right way to draw silhouettes. What I’m showing below is only one way to approach it. Please approach this in the most intuitive way for your drawing process.

Here are a few I drew by hand during my exploration stage.

Drawing with silhouettes helps us visualize our overall subject and its gesture without allowing us to get bogged down in details.

Since most of what we see of trees is their general silhouette and light effects on their shapes and forms (small shapes make textures!), using silhouettes to draw palm trees gets us further along without all the hair-pulling 😉.

Once we’ve experimented with a few silhouettes (they should totally be messy, not precious at this stage!) and chosen what we like, we can flesh out the internal shape and form information by drawing over our palm tree silhouette.

Palm tree silhouette draw over, step by step

To do this digitally as I have:

  1. Create a new layer over your silhouette and fill it completely with white, and then lower its opacity until you can clearly see your palm tree drawing silhouette enough to draw and trace over it.
  2. Create another new layer on top of your white trace layer and begin sketching the internal shape information over the top of your silhouette, including texture information.
  3. Use as many layers as you’d like to experiment with as many interior shape designs as you can. Simply hide the layers of your other design iterations to help you focus on the current layer’s work.

If you started traditionally on paper, you can also complete this step by photographing/scanning your drawing for your base palm tree drawing layer and then follow the steps above.

To do this traditionally:

  1. Get some tracing paper and overlay it onto your drawing.
  2. Begin sketching the internal shape information over your drawing onto the tracing paper. I recommend using pencils for this so you can easily make changes as you sketch. It’s also fun and useful to have multiple pieces of tracing paper for trying different interior shape designs.

A light box, if you have one available, is also a useful tool for this step when you’re working traditionally. Here are a couple of options from Blick & Amazon.

I found this to be one of the most interesting and enjoyable steps for how to draw a palm tree, and I encourage you to work loosely and have a blast with it.

Easy steps palm tree drawing

Now, we come to the how to draw a palm tree step by step parts of this tutorial. This is the easiest version of this tutorial. I plan to create a more advanced and involved version in the future.

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Step 1

Since the planes and lines of a palm tree can get overwhelming quickly, I break the drawing process down into lots of digestible steps.

First, choose the simple shapes you want for your leaves and trunk and create a simple silhouette as shown here.

If you want to add some fruits, like coconuts, now is a good time to add their shapes as well.

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Step 2

Next, we begin to construct the forms from our thumbnail.

Here I drew the middle “drum-like” part that sits between the fronds and the trunk.

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Step 3

Draw the long trunk attached to the “drum-like” part.

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Step 4

Draw the overall container or “envelope” shape you want for the palm tree leaves. This step helps you begin blocking in the gesture and direction of your leaves.

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Step 5

Overlay the palm leaf gesture lines onto your envelope shape. This gesture line step helps you place the tree’s leaves in the position and direction you want them.

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Step 6

On top of the gesture lines from the last step, draw your leaf shapes.

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Step 7

Begin adding texture details to your leaves by using lines to “cut” into the edges/contours of each leaf.

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Step 8

Next, I added simplified oval shapes to represent the shaved/pruned fronds on the “drum-like” part of the tree.

More texture adds to the palm tree feel of the drawing.

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Step 9

Almost done!

Before cleanup, add some texture to the trunk.

The highly textured feel of a palm tree trunk comes from lots of frond leaves that were pruned/shaved as the tree grew.

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Final Step

Once you clean up your lines and edges, erasing where there is some overlap of shapes and lines you don’t need, you’ll be all done!

Palm tree drawing in Perspective

Knowing how to draw a palm tree in perspective is useful for placing your trees in any scene you want. Below is a quick visual demo for drawing palm trees in two-point perspective.

Color and light and palm trees

I know there’s a lot more to cover to help you understand how to add color and light to a palm tree, but that’s a whole other discussion trust me. I will write another article to cover the color and light area on its own so it’s not confusing 😉.

In the meantime, if you’d like to add some light to your tree, please try out my Fundamentals of Light article. It will help you get started with the basics of light and shadow in art.

More details and coloring of palm trees

Without getting into the weeds too much, I thought it would be useful to do a quick visual once over of the textural details palm trees possess.

Here you’ll get an idea of the other textures and some very useful references for your drawing! For quick color experiments, I recommend using colored pencils or pastels.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I do not own these images! I found them on Google Images under the “Creative and Commons” usage rights filter.

Palm tree trunk dissection reference

Palm tree trunk texture reference

Palm fruit reference

Fond wishes and a warm farewell until next time!

I hope you found this to be one of those easy drawing tutorials, and I hope the art and explanations here have helped you digest the more difficult aspects of how to draw palm trees.

Thank you for spending part of your day with me learning how to draw a palm tree! I appreciate you stopping by, and I’d love to hear your feedback. If you have any questions or ideas for improving this article, please leave them for me in the comments below.

Stay safe, and Happy Drawing!


How to draw a basketball: Fantastically fun step-by-step tutorials, 2022

How to draw a basketball

Welcome to my how to draw a basketball tutorial!

Two teams meet with one ball in the middle, and today our focus is on basketball. In this basketball how to draw tutorial, we’ll focus on the ball itself. Its current design is quickly and easily recognizable, with its view of four lines that join at each end of the ball.

First, I’ll go over a little bit of the ball’s evolution because a bit of history is always helpful to our process. Then I’ll show you how to draw a basketball by breaking down its design to demonstrate that those lines we see are three shapes.

I’ll cover how to construct a sphere, the form of a basketball, and then take you one easy step at a time through drawing the shape, form, and curved lines to create your basketball drawing.

Let’s learn about basketballs!

Basketball was invented in 1891 and began with a soccer-like ball, which wasn’t dribbled. Basketball didn’t receive its ball design until 1894, getting a brown four leather-paneled ball with stitching similar to a football. The dribbling technique was introduced into the game in 1897, and by 1937 basketball was popular enough to have its own league, which began as the NBL–The National Basketball League.

With its growing popularity as a sport, basketball needed a redesigned ball because fans had difficulty following a brown ball on a brown court. So, around 1950, the ball was redesigned to be the orange color we’re all familiar with today. Then, in 1971, the NBA redesigned the basketball again, evolving it from four leather panels to eight leather panels which improved players’ ability to grip and dribble the ball.

I’ve included a helpful video I found below. If you’d like to see how the basketball design has changed over the years, and if you’d like to learn more about basketball’s history, click here.

In this drawing tutorial, we’ll focus on how to draw a basketball with its current design.

Exploration and study: Basketball drawing sketching

Whenever I draw something new, I start with study sketches to help me understand my subject’s shapes, forms, lines, and other features. Since this is how to draw a basketball, I did a few sketches to learn what makes a basketball look like it does, and as always, we start with a few references to help us get familiar with basketballs.

Typical basketball features: Curved line and horizontal line

Each curved line on a basketball is part of three shapes. First, it appears to have a vertical and horizontal line bisecting its middle, but they’re vertical and horizontal circular bands around the ball.

How to draw a basketball: form construction

A basketball is a hollow sphere made of eight leather panels. To learn how to draw a basketball, first, we must understand how to draw circles and spheres.

Help with drawing a circle or a sphere can be found here: how to draw a circle and a sphere article.

Here are a couple of videos for a quick recap:

How to draw a circle
How to draw a sphere

Now that we understand the basketball’s sphere form let’s briefly look at its insides with form dissection.

How to draw a basketball: Form dissection

I mentioned earlier that basketballs are hollow. So if you need to draw a deflated or cut open basketball, it helps to practice dissecting a sphere.

Here are some step-by-step images for sphere dissection. In addition, I have more on how to draw a sphere, and here is an example I created for a hollowed-out sphere half.

How to draw a basketball step by step instructions

Now that we’ve covered the essential part of how to draw a basketball, its form, we can move on to the other most recognizable feature: the lines, pattern, and texture.

As mentioned earlier, what appears to be a curved line or a set of lines is three shapes: one verticle circle, one horizontal circle, and one that resembles insect wings or a band-aid.

Drawing a realistic basketball

A simple circle is clear enough to draw, and we covered that in a previous step. Keep in mind that the circles needed for the pattern must go all the way around the ball, create thickness, add depth, and take on much darker shades. The other shape that wraps around the ball and resembles a wing takes more effort and concentration.

I’ve created a video to demonstrate how I draw each from two simple views to clarify this shape.

Basketball drawing step-by-step

Next, I’ve created a set of step-by-step images for how to draw a basketball. It helps to remember that the curved lines that create the shapes and patterns have depth. They are not level with the rest of the ball’s surface but instead make a slight depression. It’s important to indicate this for a realistic basketball drawing.

Drawing a cartoon basketball

Cartoon basketball drawings need to emphasize lines and shapes more because they are the opposite in their execution to a realistic drawing in that they don’t focus on three-dimensional form. Of course, some form will still be indicated because of the way the line will curve around the body of the ball, but overall it will still have the “flat” cartoon look.

For cartoon basketball drawings, it’s also helpful to include an outlining contour and emphasize the orange color and cel-shading method of applying light and shadow. Here are some examples of cartoon basketballs on Google Images and a few step-by-step images for how to draw a basketball in a cartoony way.

The significant difference between how to draw basketball realistically vs. as a cartoon mostly comes down to depth, texture, and handling of light and shadow. The cartoon style starts with a circle, is fun, quick, and purposefully simplifies realism. It lends itself very well to exaggeration and stylization and can be appealing to all ages.

The texture and colors of basketballs

I’m not gonna lie; drawing the texture on basketballs with pencil and paper, even if it’s just a sketch, is a tedious pain in the butt. However, digitally, it’s easy-peasy. If you prefer to learn how to draw a basketball in a hyper-realistic way, you’ll need some texture reference. I’ve included some below and a trace (more imprinting) image to offer a clearer idea of the small shapes that create the ball’s texture.

How to light a basketball

I made a basic lighting example for how to draw a basketball for light and shadow reference with a pencil (graphite) and paper. The ball is drawn the same as in the earlier steps, I just added basic lighting.

Lighting a cartoon basketball with Cel shading

The steps for lighting a cartoon basketball are simple as there’s no need to blend with cel-shading. Using a curved line or two helps create a guide for placing the flat tones that create the cel-shaded look.

Basketball drawing in perspective – start with a sphere!

To learn how to draw a basketball in perspective is the same as drawing a sphere in perspective. As long as you make sure you have a cube rather than a rectangular box in perspective, you’ll get a nice round sphere to start creating your basketball from. After that it’s just a matter of practice, practice, repeat!

Thanks for joining me to learn how to draw a basketball!

Thank you so much for stopping by my how to draw a basketball article! I hope you found this helpful and fun. I’m always happy to hear from my visitors and readers, so if you have any comments, questions, or feedback for me please leave them in the comments section below.

Take care, stay safe, and happy drawing!


Top 5 Art Fundamentals for Beginners

Top 5 Art Fundamentals for Beginners

Welcome fellow artists! Thank you for sharing part of your day with me to talk about art fundamentals 😊.

Since you’re here it means you are looking for answers regarding the fundamentals of art and other art concepts like painting, color, composition, anatomy, value, and many others I’m sure. When we start our art journey, we have tons of questions about art and its elements. I’m happy to share everything I have learned as an artist because I remember the struggle of becoming.

There are almost always pre-established paths, curriculum, video courses, books, and other avenues for getting whatever knowledge we seek. These avenues lay out what the essential or fundamental parts are for any discipline and stress the importance of learning those fundamentals to achieve success—and for good reason, as our work and understanding tend to fall flat without them. Everything there is to learn has fundamentals intended to serve as our foundation.

A foundation is our primary source of essential knowledge and skills, and once completely established it supports us as we grow from it and built on it. Have you ever heard the phrase “We stand on the shoulders of giants”? The artists that came before us, from masters to hobbyists, have already laid the groundwork for us. We don’t need to reinvent anything, all we must do is learn the basics, each art concept, and do the work to make our art.

Yes, it is a process. Yes, it does take years. That’s okay! It’s worth it, and so is your art dream.

What are the Fundamentals of Art?

Search for “art fundamentals” or “what are the fundamentals of art?” online and you quickly get a cornucopia of mish-mashed information about art and design.

There is a difference between a fundamental, a principle, and an element. A fundamental is something you start with and then build on. A principal is similar to a fundamental, but it can also be a set or list of things that make up one encompassing fundamental. I think about it this way: if there are multiple principles, then whatever heading they’re all listed under is the actual fundamental.

Take the Principles of Design, for example. There are at least seven of those, but Design is the fundamental. Make sense? An element is literally a component, one part, of a whole. All fundamentals have elements, but no single element is a fundamental on its own.

Why Learn the Fundamentals of Art?

Because you want to draw and paint awesome stuff without tearing out your hair, that’s why.

Making quality art requires us to understand all the fundamentals of art as well as their elements, including painting, color theory, composition, color mixing, anatomy, perspective, design, etc. Understanding each of the fundamentals, each concept, in depth is a process and an investment in ourselves as artists. You have goals as an artist that you dream of meeting, and your journey is about equipping yourself to get where you want to be and rocking it when you arrive. So let’s gear up by going over this list.

My Top 5 Art Fundamentals for Beginners

To be completely honest and transparent, this list represents the top 5 art fundamentals according to me. Others may disagree, but I have been working at this long enough—and I have classically trained enough—to present this list with confidence. The order I list them in is based off years of study, practice, and wall smacking.

  1. Forms
    • Line
    • Shapes
    • Structure (Construction)
    • Proportion (Illusion of Mass and Dimension)
  2. The Fundamentals of Light (Tones/Values, includes basic Color Theory & Mixing)
  3. Drawing from Life
  4. Gesture Drawing & Anatomy
  5. Perspective

My key reasoning for the order of this art fundamentals list is quite simple: Historically and to this day, most times when I hit a wall it’s in one or more of these five areas that I find the solutions I need. Had I built a stronger background in these earlier on, I would’ve hit fewer snags. The strength of our foundation plays an important role in how we navigate our way through any challenge, and no matter how experienced we become, problem solving and corrections will always be part of our creation process.

It’s good to get different perspectives on things, so here’s the awesome Bobby Chiu on what the fundamentals of art are:

With all that in mind, let’s start digging into these top five fundamentals and help you on your way.

1. Form

When we talk about Form in art, we’re referring to an object’s overall shape, volume, and contours which include line, depth, and mass. Seeing and constructing Forms are the first and most vital skills we must develop as artists.  Practicing the analysis, understanding, and building of Forms creates a strong foundation for developing and growing all other fundamental art skills. Line, shape, structure, and proportion are essential building blocks for anything you draw or paint.

The process of practicing each of these skills builds our visual library and the muscle memory needed to allow us to create whatever artwork we want. As artists we are in the business of communicating feelings, thoughts, impressions, messages, and stories, so let’s look at how developing our skill with Forms helps us.

Benefits of developing skill with Forms

1. We Learn to See

Practicing seeing and creating Forms helps us become familiar with the physical make-up of all the things that surround us and how all their parts come together to shape part of our experience.

2. We Learn to Analyze, Explore, and Take Risks

We begin to see connections, relationships, repetition, and similarities between and across forms and objects. This readies us to look more closely at each subject and better understand the fundamentals beyond the basics.

When you feel ready for more on Forms, I take a deeper dive into the topic in my Understanding Form post.

2.   The Fundamentals of Light: A Few Words on a Massive Topic

The study and practice of The Fundamentals of Light allows us to create Tones/Values in our work. Where Forms add the illusion of volume and dimension, light and shadow give objects a sense of mass, help further clarify surface texture and plane changes, explain the objects’ local tone and color, indicate mood, and show objects’ context within the picture plane.

Studying Light teaches us how it interacts with everything in the real world and helps us reproduce an illusion of its effects in two-dimensions. This practice helps us illustrate the properties, mood, and the character of the objects and people we draw and paint. With these two art fundamentals in our toolbox, we can create the illusion of any type of material, choose any level of detail, and guide the story to wherever it needs to be.

The process of practicing with light and shadow in art begins to bring us into other areas, such as color theory, color mixing, color key, light key, and painting. During this learning process, I recommend you to try to keep color simple. While color theory is relatively simple, a deft use of color takes years of practice and there are several elements involved when dealing with it. I also recommend using digital painting tools in addition to traditional painting to help with the study of color.

Digital tools are much more forgiving and are great for practicing and experimenting with value and color. My favorite thing about playing with color and value in a digital painting app, like ProCreate or Photoshop, is that they allow you to learn all the elements of color without having to mix color.

Mixing is its own thing–not a big thing, but still. Painting traditionally involves understanding the characteristics of each product (whether those are painting colors or mediums) and paint colors can vary wildly within a single color range and from brand to brand. Since traditional color mixing is so involved, it is best practiced separately from these five fundamentals.

Practicing each of these art fundamentals requires us to also practice Drawing from Life, which is the next area of fundamental practice I recommend for beginning artists.

3.   Drawing from Life: Growing Your Skills & Visual Library

Every time we make art from life, we are doing something very important for our art and for ourselves as artists. We are taking into ourselves the life around us and engaging with it. Sketching and Drawing from Life are how we have a dialogue with the object we are re-creating. The relationship we have with the world through this process develops and maintains our visual libraries.

To begin, I suggest starting small and simple.

Think of the different types of shapes and find objects from your daily life, and from nature, that include many of those shapes. Then, draw them a lot. Start with the basic shapes you see—i.e., circles, squares, triangles, etc.—to practice seeing the elements that come together to construct the forms, such as cylinders, spheres, cubes, boxes, pyramids, cones. Leave out details like the surface designs, textures, and colors for now, focusing only on the forms, local tone, and basic light and shadows.

Draw the objects from different viewpoints, at different times of day, in different positions, under different lighting conditions, on their own, and grouped with other objects. Some printer paper or a simple sketchbook and pencil are really all you need to get started.

Once you feel comfortable with the simple forms, take yourself to the next level of form complexity and alternate between organic and inorganic forms to help to keep things varied, fun, and to keep expanding your visual library. As you become comfortable with more and more complex forms, you will find yourself ready to begin tackling the most challenging ones: Humans and animals.

4.   Gesture Drawing & Anatomy: Massively Challenging, Awesomely Rewarding

For an artist, gesture drawing is essential for infusing a sense of motion, energy, and life into our artwork. As artists, we want to share art that feels alive, and gesture drawing and anatomy help achieve that. Gesture helps us add to the observation skills we build when creating from life by teaching us to see, accentuate, and exaggerate the motion in the poses of our subjects.

Every subject has gesture and motion; they are not exclusive only to humans and animals. Even when an object is static, like the trunk of a tree, it still has a gesture—it just doesn’t convey motion because it is not moving. Gesture is an area of study unto itself because creating the illusion of dynamic motion has its own set of terminology and guiding principles.

However, as with the other art fundamentals, gesture drawing builds on the other skills that were listed before it. Just as we construct our objects from lines and shapes, so too do we build our gestures. In a traditional gesture class (usually called Figure Drawing), we learn to identify the line of action for each pose and then build the forms around it. This also involves much practice in seeing, and accurately placing, the angles, proportions and distances between shapes and forms.

It is another form of drawing from life, with the specific life form being a human model.

Figure Drawing for Gesture Practice

At first, working with the figure feels quite daunting and challenging (and hilarious cuz there’s a naked stranger in front of you). I put it this far down on my list because it is a much more demanding skill. Even so, when you feel ready, I strongly encourage you begin adding gesture/figure drawing to your practice routine. It’s as fun as it is challenging, and it will help your hand and eye mature.

When I first started waaaay, back in 2001—OMG I’m totally aging myself—I was like all the rest of my first-time figure drawing artist classmates: giggly and terrible at drawing naked humans. I had no idea what I was doing, and that was fine. At first it’s quite humbling, but with a good instructor (Thank you, Professor Tacang!) I improved. If I can do it, so can you—with all the art fundamentals.

Remember, this is your journey so make it work for you and your art. I am here to act as a helpful guide and faithfully pass on what I learn.

The last skill in this first round of art fundamentals is one that helps pull everything together and adds an extra kick of believability to our creations.

5.   Perspective: Exciting and Technical…mostly.

The first four art fundamentals are all about building the solid drawing foundation we need to support us as we work to communicate through our art. Perspective is another powerful tool for our visual storytelling, and it is a bit different from the others. Whereas the other areas of fundamental study are focused on constructing, lighting and enlivening objects, Perspective focuses on the space the objects occupy.

It deals with how the orientation of each object changes depending on its position within that space, and where our point of view is set (POV). Perspective allows us to understand the spaces our objects and stories occupy, and to examine each from different points of view.

Access to any point of view in the story is the gift we gain by developing our skills with Perspective, and the impact of a story can change dramatically depending on the viewpoint from which it is told.

As with the other fundamentals of art, Perspective is an area of study unto itself and has its own set of terminology, rules, and ways of practicing. It is certainly one of the more technical areas of study in art.

Creating objects in perspective is a more guided way of working that calls for a lot of lines and points: horizon line, vanishing points, and construction lines. I think it can be exciting when it helps an idea come to life—but it can also feel dry and ass numbingly dull (or painfully frustrating) depending on where you are with it. Perspective is important to learn, important to understand, and, unfortunately, is also a skill many artists avoid early on. I know I did.

It made my head hurt, so I said “no, thank you”…to the detriment of my artwork. Eventually, I sucked it up and learned better (plus it really, really helps with composition!).

So…What About the Other Art Fundamentals? 

Believe me, there is no rush and the five we’ve just gone over will do the vital work of helping you build the foundation all your work rests on. The other art fundamentals: Color & Light, Principles of Design, Composition, and Line & Brushwork…they’re not going anywhere, and I’ll be here to help you make sense of them.

Thank you for hanging in there with me! I hope you have found this article helpful. If you have any questions, feedback, or if I have confused you at all, please let me know in the comments so I can help.

Confident Understanding of Form in Art 2022 (Clear & Easy)

form in art

Greetings!

Thank you for visiting me at CecelyV.com! 😊

I appreciate the opportunity to share what I know with you and contribute to your art journey! Since you’re here it means you want to understand more about form in art, so let’s dig in.

Line, shape, silhouette, and form are just a few elements of The Fundamentals of Art. A firm understanding of how to use and express form in art is essential. The use of form in art is primarily a tool of representational art.

For visual storytelling, our forms need to be on point so the story is felt and understood. Nearly all our sensory experiences connect us to forms and light, and heavily inform our understanding of people and the world around us. Visually expressing form in art helps us connect our stories with our audience.

What is Form in Art?

Simply stated, form is anything whose physical nature includes length, width and depth. The clothes we wear, the food we eat, vehicles, our tech, tools, nature, and more all have a physical form.

Not all of our sensory experiences are visual things, like scent and sound. We don’t “see” the way a pizza smells or the way a bell sounds, but we can draw the source of these sounds and use form in art to connect with our audience’s experiences.

Lines, shapes, and silhouettes help us build and “sculpt” form in art and visually connect us to our audience.

Drawing Comparisons: How I Like to Explain the Elements of Art vs. YouTube or Other Websites You See

In the searches I have done throughout the years, I have encountered a lot of frustration with surface-level information. A general, top-down overview may be enough to get started, but as we dive deeper into our craft, we need more.

Sometimes we need the nuances of our discipline to help us grow past the walls and challenges we encounter. Some of these reveal themselves to us in the doing, which is awesome. Other times, we could use a little more help. Finding awesome-looking YouTube videos that explain nothing, while showing off nice painting skills with pleasant background music, has not been something I’ve ever found terribly helpful.

It’s most helpful to have a window into the process. Understanding aids our practice and helps us build our own processes—which is one of the most challenging aspects of being an artist.

My goal is to share what I have learned with a good balance of the academic and scientific, the practical, the nuanced, and the fun. I want to share the knowledge you can actually use.

Shape and Form in Art

 To understand form in art, it’s important to grasp its building blocks: lines, shape, and silhouette.

Silhouettes are combined solid, monotone shapes (most often in black) whose edges match the outline (outside contour) of the form(s) they represent.

Shapes are simplified, flat versions of form that are created using lines. Shapes are created when lines connect to enclose space. Often the space contained within the line(s) is referred to as “positive” space, while the space outside the shape itself is called “negative” space. “Negative” space can also create shapes and interesting contours.

Lines define the edges. Contour and cross contour lines are useful for giving additional information about the surface volume and plane changes of an object, which guides us when adding light and shadow. Variations of line type and line quality can be used to describe texture and weight.

For our purposes, a line is generally defined as a discernible, one-dimensional path created by a point moving in space. Lines vary in length, width, direction, and texture (smooth, rough, broken, dotted, etc.). They can be solid and visible or implied and invisible. If you can “see” or discern a connection/progression between points or objects, then a line is present.

The Five Main Types of Lines in Art

There are five main types of lines in art:

  • Horizontal Lines
  • Vertical Lines
  • Diagonal Lines
  • Curved Lines
  • Zigzag Lines

A line’s directionality affects the “feel,” impact, and energy of a composition, as well as the language of the shapes you use. Lines are a powerful tool for guiding our viewer’s eye through the story of our image and infusing a sense of movement within our work. I spoke of the versatility of lines earlier, and there are tons of different ways to draw lines and combine line types. It is a fun doodle adventure to see how many combinations you can come up with. Here are a few of my own continuous line doodles:

In these examples, I use a continuous two-dimensional line to see how far I can push the organic and geometric possibilities of a line. I used black on a toned background and focused on creating as many variations of line direction and weight as I could think of at the moment.

As you can see, the variety of the directionality and weight of the lines makes the “feeling” of the lines change: Some feel heavier or darker than others, and some feel more dynamic and energetic. Line quality affects mood and form in art.

Line Type in Art Direction and Weight Shift Shape Examples

Drawing with constant direction changes, as in the zigzagging and wavy lines you can see here, makes these patterns and open shapes feel more energetic and chaotic, or like they are “buzzing.”

By combining the five main types of lines in continuous line drawing, you will see how far you can use lines to explore two-dimensional geometric and organic shapes and patterns in your work. Practice like this also gives you a sense of the kind of shape language and line quality you like, which will inform how you create forms and objects in your drawings.

For another viewpoint on Line in art, here is a video from KQED Art School:

Exploring Shapes: An Important Element of Art

Let’s talk more about shapes. By my count, there are at least 21 distinct basic shapes and dozens of shape combinations classified as mathematical 2D shapes. I didn’t think there were that many until I started researching it, but, helpfully, they each fall into two categories: Polygonal or Curved.

I compiled my own list into the table below and added a sketch of each for visual reference. Having a robust shape library helps us define form in art.

Polygonal ShapesCurved ShapesOther
TriangleCircleMagatama
SquareSemi-circleAsteroid
RectangleOvalSpiral
RhombusHeartFigure eight (lemniscates)
ParallelogramCrescent 
Trapezoid  
Kite  
Pentagon (5 sides)  
Hexagon (6 sides)  
Heptagon (7 sides)  
Octagon (8 sides)  
Star polygons  
2D shapes

Most, if not all, of the shapes above are likely familiar to you. Lines help us make these shapes, and adding depth to each helps us create forms in art. When not being used to construct form in art, shapes are often used for patterns, details, and/or to add or imply texture.

In this next video, KQED Art School does a good job of further illustrating what shape in art is:

I have some visual examples coming up later in this post that should help clarify everything I’ve been discussing, so now let’s dig into a bit of the nuance of form in art.

The Five Basic Forms in Art

There are 5 Basic Forms: The Cube, Sphere, Cylinder, Cone & Pyramid.

 Shapes become forms when depth is added.

  • A circle can become a sphere or a cylinder.
  • A square can become a cube or a pyramid.
  • A triangle can become a cone or a prism.
  • A rectangle can become a cube or a cylinder.

Which form each shape becomes depends on your intent, and its proportions will depend on which perspective you use and where the form sits concerning the horizon line.

Here are a few examples I created in one- and two-point perspective:

Shapes and Forms in Perspective 01

   In two-point perspective, all the forms you create begin with cubes/boxes. In one-point perspective, you can begin with any shape you like.

Shapes and Forms in Perspective 02
Shapes and Forms in Perspective 03-Cylinders

Here’s one more video from KQED Art School that has more great examples of what form in art can look like:

The Five Basic Forms in Nature

The five basic forms are geometric and mathematical, and geometric forms are frequently described as “man-made.” Regarding objects we typically draw as artists, this is probably accurate. However, I don’t want to leave it because it limits our thinking as makers and creators. Geometric forms are found in nature in a variety of areas. So far, I have found that all but one of the five basic forms, the pyramid, frequently occur in nature.

I have only found one example of the pyramid in mineral/gem/crystal formations, and even then, it’s rare. Shapes, silhouettes, and forms are all naturally occurring things observed every day in our world.

Let’s take a look at some examples of the five basic forms as they occur in nature.

Basic Forms in Nature-Grapes
Grapes are naturally occurring spheres.
Basic Forms in Nature-Grapes
Many plants have cone shapes as part of their “fruit” structures.
Basic Forms in Nature-Cubes
Minerals, rocks, and crystals will have cubes, prisms and pyramids as part of their natural structures.
Basic Forms in Nature-Prism & Pyramid
A natural geode can have several prism and pyramid-ish forms.
Basic Forms in Nature-Cylinder
Tree trunks and branches are common examples of cylinders in nature.

Organic Forms and Geometric Forms

Forms in nature are organic and tend to be curvy, free-flowing, and have much more variation in their forms, patterns, and textures. They are also less easily measurable than geometric forms. My own preference is for organic forms. I find organic forms to be the most unique, dynamic, and extremely fun and challenging to draw. Geometric forms can be just as fun and interesting, though I think their mathematically defined natures lend them more to stabilizing and structural uses than dynamism.

Form in art: Breakdowns

First, we need something to draw! I have tried to go about this in an orderly way–going from quite simple to complex forms from one example to the next. I have tried to use easy to find everyday objects for each. For this type of demonstration, I’ve included the unedited reference, then the silhouette, a breakdown of the basic flat shapes, and finally, a form drawing with contour lines.

Form Breakdown-Leaf
A simple leave with its silhouette, basic shapes and contour versions. Most of the leaf’s volume is in its stem. This one of the easiest examples of form in art.
Form Breakdown-Teacup and Saucer
A teacup is a slightly more complex form than a leaf. By breaking out the silhouette, basic shapes, and form shapes, we begin to understand the volume of each part of the cup and saucer. Adding complexity helps us practice form in art.
Form Breakdown-Boots
Breaking out the visual elements works from any angle. Understanding the placement and function of each part of a form helps us to more easily draw the object from any angle.
Form Breakdown-Train
Breaking down forms into simple shapes for the start of your drawing helps you get a better handle on how to draw form in art. Trains have a lot of parts, and each is a form. For the sake of time, I haven’t broken down every single form visible in the reference, but there should be enough be clear.
Form Breakdown-Human Head
It doesn’t get much more complex than the human head. Even so, breaking out the basic shapes first helps give you a foundation to build on. As a complex organic form, the human head has forms on top of forms, and plenty of cross contouring, so it’s a good subject for practicing form in art.

Subjects Without Form: Those Tricky Elements and their Form Changes

Things like water, air, smoke, and fire are not your standard forms. Due to their varied and shifting natures, all the elements are a little more challenging to depict. Being without solid, static forms, they change depending on circumstances and external influences and conditions.

Water, for example, conforms to whatever container it’s in—whether that’s an inorganic glass or a natural container like the Earth (like a lake or a pond). It’s also somewhat self-containing in that it sticks to itself—which is how we get water drops and puddles.

Smoke and gases have volume, but their most defining features are scent and motion. The forms smoke and gases take also depend on what their origins are. Smoke from an explosion or a fireplace has a completely different look compared with smoke from a cigarette or a candle.

Fire also has no static form. The shapes and forms of fire depend very much on whatever is being burned. A wildfire has a much larger, more energetic form than a campfire or a fire from a lighter. All of these are types of fires, but drawing each form in art would require varied handling.

Finally, we have Air. We cannot draw or paint air—it is an invisible messenger. We can only draw its effects and some of what it carries. Air affects how we draw all the other elements and objects present in a scene. For example, we can draw the dust, leaves, and other debris that can be carried on the wind.

How we draw the things carried in the air determines the quality and mood of the atmosphere we are depicting. A scene with a gentle spring breeze has quite a different impact than a howling storm.

Water Splash and Droplets
Water
Without Set Form-Smoke
Smoke
Without Set Form-Fire
Fire
Without Set Form-Air
Air/Wind
Without Set Form-Earth
Earth/Dust

Adding Depth to Create Form in art: A Brief Word on Light & Perspective

Since I just mentioned it, now is a good time to go over some basics of The Fundamentals of Light.

When it comes to the physical world, the only reason our eyes see anything at all is because of light. Until we add the elements of space and light to shapes, they appear flat on our page.

Light and shadow help objects feel “grounded” in the picture plane, so they don’t appear to be “floating in space.”

Adding Depth with Light & Shadow

Lines and shapes serve as early starting points to begin drawing and orienting form in art. In the following step-by-step examples, I show the process of going from a “flat” circle to the illusion of a three-dimensional sphere using light and shadow.

Light and shadow demo
Final lit sphere

This is a completed basic light demo with a sphere. Sometimes it helps to begin at the end, so you know where you want to end up. Next, I’ll break out the steps I used to arrive here.

Basic Light and Shadow Demo 01-plain circle

Step One:

Create a solid circle shape.

I used a toned background because it helps me see the contrasts of light and shadow much more easily than a white background.

Basic Light and Shadow Demo 02-add light source and light guide

Step Two:

Decide on your light’s source, direction, and angle.

There are several properties involved with light, but I recommend keeping it simple for this exercise.

I’ve chosen a light source similar to the sun but with a more white hue and much less intense.

Basic Light and Shadow Demo 03-add center light

Step Three:

Add light to the shape’s surface.

This begins to give the first indication of depth by putting one side in light and the other in the darker mid-tone of the shape’s local tone.

Basic Light and Shadow Demo 04-add form shadow-terminus-core shadow

Step Four:

Begin adding the half tone and form shadows.

Form shadows include the terminus/terminator and core shadow. The characteristics of form shadows depend on the number of light sources and their properties.

Basic Light and Shadow Demo 05-add cast shadow-occlusion shadow

Step Five:

Add the cast and occlusion shadows.

The cast shadow is the shadow created by the object blocking the light, and the occlusion shadow is the darkest area of shadow where no light can reach.

Basic Light and Shadow Demo 06-add highlight-reflected light

Step Six:

Add the highlight and reflected light to your object.

The highlight is a small area on the object that receives the most direct light from the light source, and the reflected light is an area that is receiving a small amount of illumination from the reflection of the light source when it bounces off the ground plane and/or other objects that may be present in your scene.

Basic Light and Shadow Demo 07-Sequential

Laid out next to each other, it is easier to see the progression from a flat 2D shape to a 3D sphere with light and depth.

Adding Depth with Space

Another way to begin adding depth to your shapes is to use space and perspective. Drawing into space can add depth to a shape without using “proper” perspective. How you choose to add a sense of depth to your drawings really depends on your goals. For representational art, accurate perspective is a must for your finished product—but not when you’re just sketching to get ideas out.

When you are sketching for fun, or just trying to flesh out your understanding of an object’s forms, perspective is not necessary. These are simple, quick, and sketchy examples.

For these form in art exercises, I focused on turning each shape into a form by extending them out in space, adding planes and contour lines, and adding some simple values.

Shape to Form Using Space-lock and key shape
I started with a random lock and key sort of shape and then extended it down into space. Next, I added some contour lines.
Shape to Form Using Space-lock and key shape-with values
In the last step, I added basic values.
Shape to Form Using Space-Oraganic Land shape-space-planes
Here I went for a random shape with a more organic feel. First, I drew down from its outer contour lines to begin adding depth. Then, I defined the space within the shape by adding some planes. This breaks up the larger space into smaller pieces.
Shape to Form Using Space-Oraganic Land-contour lines-value block in
After defining the planes I added some contour lines and a basic block-in of values.
Shape to Form Using Space-Oraganic Land-contour lines-value range-cast shadows
Lastly, I firmed up the values by including the full range of tones and then added cast shadows.
Ceramic tile shape inspiration
This shape in a ceramic bathroom tile was my inspiration for the next shape. I see a woman’s figure in it, so I tried to recreate that for this next example.
Shape to Form Using Space-Female form-shape-space-planes
Once again I started with a flat shape, then I began adding depth by extending the shape’s contours out into space. Next, I added some simple indications of planes.
Shape to Form Using Space-Female form-shapes-forms-contour lines
The human figure is one of the most complex forms–containing many smaller forms that make up the body–so it was necessary to add additional shapes to create the smaller forms within the body. Each new form adds to the sense of depth. After cleaning up, I added some contour lines to help indicate volume for each form area.

A quick note here: While I kept this simple, dealing with the human figure requires a little familiarity with human anatomy. I included it here to demonstrate that the level of complexity does not really matter because the process remains consistent.

Shape to Form Using Space-Female form-value block-in-value range-cast shadows
After the contour lines were added, I blocked in the values, firmed up the value range, and included the cast shadows.

Adding Depth with Perspective

To turn shapes into forms using perspective, I started with a horizon line, one vanishing point (for 1-Point Perspective), and a few basic shapes. The next steps are essentially the same as in the earlier examples, except that when I extend the corners or contours of the shapes back in space, I am extending them toward the vanishing point.

Shape to Form Using Perspective-Basic Shapes in One Point Perspective
Once the forms are defined, I added some basic lighting.

The process does change a little for 2-Point Perspective in that you do not start with shapes but with simple lines. To achieve depth in perspective, you extend lines from each vertice to each of the two vanishing points.

Shape to Form Using Perspective-Forms in Two-point perspective-Line to Form-Two-Point Perspective
Basic form in art with perspective

Show Yourself Some Love! You Made it!

Okay, so do me a favor, would you? Kiss your hand and touch your forehead. It will feel silly but try it anyway. That is how you kiss your brain! Congratulations, you made it through all that information! It was a lot! I learned the “kiss your brain” thing from my kiddo’s teacher. Isn’t it cute?

In all seriousness, when you hang in there and gain new knowledge, it is super important to acknowledge your effort, work, and growth. It helps boost your morale and confidence. You are awesome, and I am glad you hung in there with me 😊

Treat yourself for being awesome!

I hope you found this clear as well as thorough and helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions—or need help if I have confused you—in the comments section below.

Take care and Happy drawing!