My last post, Learn to Draw Like a Professional, gave you tips to keep in mind when drawing. In this post, I will give you a step-by-step look into how I draw and what technique I use.
I’ve started this technique months ago and I found that my drawings have improved, they look more realistic and–my biggest struggle of all-time–they look proportionate. I really enjoy using this technique so if any artists out there are looking for something new to try out or are struggling to draw an exact replica of your reference, keep reading for my step-by-step process.
I’m not sure if there’s a correct name for this technique so I’m just going to call it the Grid Technique. Basically, the Grid Technique is when you make a grid on your reference image and you draw the same grid on your paper. Then, you draw your image based on the corresponding square.
Here are examples of my three recent drawings where I used the Grid Technique, along with the image reference for comparison. The first drawing is my most recent drawing of Priyanka Chopra Jonas, the second drawing is Baby Yoda and the third drawing is my first attempt at using the Grid Technique, featuring Billie Eilish (I’ve also included the links to these references).
Before I show you my process, I’m going to briefly explain WHY I find gridding (is that even a word?) useful. You might even notice that my reasons fit into the 8 tips from my latest post.
If you’re like me where you finish sketching something and you notice that something is too big/small, something won’t fit on the page or something looks off (but you worked so hard and spent so much time sketching and making it look perfect that you tell yourself, “Screw it, I’m leaving it as it is!”), then this technique will solve all your problems.
The grid helps you make sure that every part of your drawing is proportionate to the rest of the drawing and the image that you are referencing. In my opinion, it feels like there is very little room to make a mistake.
And even if you do make a mistake, I’m sure it would go unnoticed. Or you just keep practicing. Or you call it an “artistic decision”.
The Grid Technique also helps me focus on my drawing and it keeps me patient. It’s kind of a mind trick if you think about it, because with all these small and individual squares, you feel like you have less ground to cover. The squares are small in comparison to your overall drawing so there is no reason not to take your time and you can focus on one square at a time. Then, once you finish sketching out your drawing, you can take a step back and see your drawing come together!
This technique is very helpful helps when it comes to time management. You can tell yourself, “Alright, I’ll do one row of squares today, one row tomorrow, one row next week” etc. By splitting up the work and giving yourself a reasonable amount of time to complete it, you not only relieve yourself from any stress or pressure but your drawing no longer feels so daunting.
And most importantly, this technique allows you to draw everything you see. Those squares are small enough that you can catch and replicate every detail. Every wrinkle, every dimple, every fold, every crease, every shadow, every gleam of light. It not only tells a story about your subject but it helps that subject come to life on your page.
The tools you’ll need are:
- Laptop or any electronic device with Microsoft Publisher
- A calculator (which can be found on your laptop or a cellphone)
- Colouring utensils (graphite pencils, pencil crayons, markers, paint etc.) (OPTIONAL)
1. Find an image and save it to your laptop or electronic device
In this case, an image is more useful than having the physical object in front of you, but if you do wish to use a physical object, I suggest you take a photo of it.
For this example, I will be using a photo of Mickey Mouse as my reference.
If this is your first time drawing or you don’t have a lot of confidence in your drawing abilities, I suggest you find a cartoon image, like Mickey over here. It’s best to start off with something simple so you can test the waters and then work your way to something a little more complex.
2. Open up Microsoft Publisher and insert the image to your page
3. Resize the image to fill up the whole page (or as much as possible)
4. Click on “Table” and press “Insert Table” for more options
A “Create Table” window should pop up.
Here, you will choose the number of rows and columns. This number may differ depending on the size of your drawing but whatever number you choose, it will be the number of rows AND columns. The reason for the same number is so that you will create a table of squares.
In this example, I have chosen to use the number 5. Press OK once you have chosen your number.
You have made yourself a table.
5. Resize the table so that it covers your image completely and the table looks like a grid of squares
6. Save your file.
Now that you have created your grid, we’re going to transfer this grid onto your page. But before you do so, you need to know the right measurements.
7. Measure how big your file image is
Drag your mouse over to the bottom right corner of your table. Not the bottom right corner of the page, unless the table reaches that far.
In the bottom left corner of your document, next to where it says “Page: 1 of 1”, you will see numbers in centimeters. These are your grid’s measurements. These numbers will tell you the size of your image if it were printed on a piece of paper.
Looking at the corner of my document, my image’s measurements are 21.60 cm by 21.60 cm. This means that my drawing will be 21.60 cm in length and 21.60 cm in width on paper.
8. Using the ruler and your given measurements, draw the perimeter of your drawing with a pencil
Now, if your document image is too big or too small for your page, or you want to change the size of your drawing, multiply or divide your measurements accordingly (I kept my measurements as is).
For instance, if you wish to double your drawing’s measurements, multiply your image’s dimensions (in my case, 21.60 cm) by 2. I will then draw a perimeter that’s 43.20 cm in length and in width.
If you wish to halve your drawing’s measurements, divide your image’s dimensions (in my case, 21.60 cm) by 2. I will then draw a perimeter that’s 10.80 cm in length and in width.
9. Using a calculator, divide your image’s dimensions with the number of squares in a row/column
This means that the dimensions of my tiny squares are 4.32 cm on each side.
10. With the ruler, measure out the squares and draw the lines with your pencil
I like to make little ticks on every side, then I meet these ticks with ruled lines to make sure I get exact measurements. Don’t put too much pressure when using your pencil because you will want to erase these lines later.
You have drawn your grid on your paper. Now it is time to draw your actual image.
11. Using the zoom scale on the righthand corner of the document, zoom in until you have an entire square on your screen
12. Draw what you see in the square onto the corresponding square on your paper
Since the first square on the top left corner is blank (let’s call that square A1), I will draw the second top square on the left (let’s call that square B1). Remember to draw every detail in that square onto your paper.
13. Repeat Step 12 until you have drawn every square from the screen onto your paper
Now your drawing is complete. Take a step back and look at your drawing. Look at the image on the screen. What do you think? Does your drawing look like the image on your screen?
The next step would be to colour in or fill in your drawing however you wish. Graphite pencils? Pencil crayons? Markers? Paint? Outline your drawing and leave as is?
Totally up to you.
If you’re looking to replicate your image’s colours, follow these bonus steps. If you wish to take your own route, don’t forget to erase any of those unnecessary grid pencil marks!
14. (Bonus Step) Like Step 11, zoom in on a square until the entire square fits on your screen and lightly erase the pencil marks in the corresponding square on your drawing
If the pencil marks are light enough, you can leave the pencil marks, but I prefer to erase them before I colour.
For A1, I used my regular eraser so that none of the pencil marks are seen. For B1, I used a kneadable eraser so that most–but not all!–of the pencil marks disappear, while still being able to see the marks to help guide me as I colour.
15. (Bonus Step) Colour in the corresponding square on your paper
Use every colour you see inside that square.
16. (Bonus Step) Repeat Step 15 until you erase and colour in every single square
AND YOU’RE DONE!
Let me know in the comments if this technique worked for you! Do you use the Grid Technique? Do you use it differently? Do you have a different technique?
If you try this technique, tag me on Instagram or Twitter @alymariefox so I can see your work!