Even the most experienced artists are always looking to build their technical skills. The “room for improvement” potential is one of the best things about sketching or drawing. But even if you’ve never tried to draw before, it’s something anyone can do with practice and dedication. 

Regardless of your experience, working on a short exercise a few times each week is one of the best ways to improve your drawing skills.

Daily Exercises to Improve Your Drawing Skills

As with any skill, the more you practice, the better you’ll become, and the faster you’ll see your technique improving. You wouldn’t see an athlete trying to compete in the Olympics without years of training behind them first, right?

Carving out time each day—even just 10 to 15 minutes—for exercises to improve your drawing skills is an opportunity to make mistakes, learn from them, and try again.

Trace Your Favorite Art

If you’re drawing for the first time, trying to run before you can walk is incredibly tempting. But don’t dive into a complicated drawing when you haven’t even got the basics down yet.

Tracing a picture of a mug on an iPad onto transfer or tracing paper.
Using a reference image and tracing it is one of the best ways to improve your pencil drawing skills. Still from Skillshare class Tracing Paper Tricks: Pencil Sketching Using an iPad for Beginners by Cleo Papanikolas.

Grab a copy of a picture you’d love to draw and a sheet of tracing paper, then carefully trace the image. This will narrow your focus and help you appreciate what a drawing actually is—a series of lines and shapes that collectively make up a complete image. 

Grasping this early on will give you a solid base to work from as you develop your own original drawings. You will also develop competence in the five basic drawing skills:

  • Recognizing edges
  • Understanding space in and around a subject
  • Working with shadow and light
  • The relationship of object lines
  • Creating perspective and correct proportions

Set a Timer and Draw Freehand

No matter your reasons for learning to draw, don’t forget to have fun with it! Freehand drawing opens up a world of creative potential, but setting a strict time limit stops you from worrying about how good your drawing is.

Find something in a magazine you could copy or try drawing an object you find in your home. Give yourself 15 minutes at most to draw it. Once the timer goes off, you can either finish for the day or start again on a new piece of paper. 

Keep a Doodling Sketchbook

A black pen doodle in a sketchbook of breakfast foods and coffee with written annotations.
Keeping a doodling sketchbook gives you an opportunity every day to improve your drawing skills. Still from Skillshare class Always Drawing: How to Start and Keep a Daily Sketchbook by Mike Lowery.

Even if you’re looking for ways to improve your digital drawing skills, practicing in a physical sketchbook is still a good idea. Experiment with different subject matter, such as people, objects or even lyrics to your favorite song. 

Geometric patterns are some of the most fun doodles to work on and look great once they’re finished. If you stick to one or two and repeat these again and again, you’ll quickly see rapid progress as you learn to draw.

Aside from the benefits that come with frequent practice, keeping a daily sketchbook you can draw in whenever the mood strikes can also feel therapeutic and be an excellent way to relax.

How to Improve Your Cartoon Drawing Skills

Even as a beginner artist, designing a cartoon character is good practice for improving your drawing skills. If you mess up, that’s ok! Given their distinctive style, any mistakes can either be corrected or simply add a unique charm to your character.

Draw by Shape, Not by Character Feature

Various shapes such triangles, squares and circles drawn with pencil on a piece of paper.
Recognizing and perfecting the shapes which make up a picture is critical for improving your drawing skills. Still from Skillshare class Learn to Draw: Daily Practices to Improve Your Drawing Skills by Gabrielle Brickey.

Most art classes will start by having you draw familiar shapes, such as squares and circles, for the first few weeks. It may feel unnecessarily easy, but you’ll quickly see that every drawing can be broken down into individual shapes which make up the whole, including cartoon characters.

Practice the shapes you’ll likely need for your cartoons as often as possible to develop consistency in your drawing. From this point, you can create a cartoon character step-by-step and interlink your individual shapes until you start to see a character form.

Focus on the Silhouette

Think about the world’s most recognizable cartoon characters. Scooby Doo, SpongeBob SquarePants, Homer Simpson…you could pick them out instantly from their outline alone. That’s why thinking about shapes with your characters, rather than the overall picture, is so important.

If you’re still struggling to draw a cartoon as a series of connected shapes, start with one—their outline. Trace the character first if you’re working on something that already exists, then try drawing it freehand. You can then fill in the inside of the cartoon and build them one step at a time.

Improving Your Digital Drawing Skills

Many of the same principles apply to learning how to draw on a device as with physical drawing, so focus on improving your basic skills and adapt these onto a digital canvas.

Enable Grids on Your Device

A camel drawing in progress on an iPad, using a grid overlay to guide the drawing.
Using a grid allows you to accurately proportion your drawing from a reference image. Still from Skillshare class Learn How to Draw! Fun & Easy Exercises for Nailing Proportion, Shading and More by Brooke Glaser.

While you could always hand-draw a grid to layer on a piece of paper, working on a tablet makes this much simpler. Enable the grid setting in your drawing app on both your reference image and your drawing space.

From here, you can easily copy the shapes in each grid square from your reference to your workspace. This helps proportion your images correctly as you work, as you can clearly see which parts of the reference image should be in each square.

Use Brushes to Enhance Perspective and Texture

One of the pitfalls many artists face with digital drawing is feeling that their drawings are too flat. Using brushes, though, allows you to add a more realistic element to your art and builds both texture and perspective into the finished piece.

If you’re using Procreate on an iPad, test out several brush types to layer different light and shade onto your drawing. Clipping mask tools narrow brush strokes to certain areas, allowing you more flexibility in where you add highlights or shading.

How to Improve Your Pencil Drawing Skills

Artists have used pencils to create drawings for hundreds of years, both as a starting point for paintings or even as a finished artform of its own. 

Try a Pencil Line Art Drawing

Learning to draw with pencil takes time, so start with something simple like a line art piece. This style helps you develop perspective and proportion skills, but also means you don’t need to focus as much on other areas such as shading or lighting. 

A reference picture of an orange drink with a lime slice in someone’s hand being drawn on paper with pencil.
Improve your pencil drawing skills with simple line art pieces. Still from Skillshare class Fundamentals of Line Art Drawing: A Complete Guide to Ink Pen Illustration by Artsygio.

Just like you would with drawing by shape, concentrating on how lines intersect to create a finished piece is a crucial part of developing your drawing technique.

Once you’re comfortable with your pencil drawing skills, you can progress to line art using a pen. Since your lines will be permanent, you may want to start by working in pencil first, then going back over with a pen. But working on an easy step-by-step drawing will give you the confidence to dive in straight away with a pen.

Draw with Your Non-dominant Hand

For most people, even holding a pencil in their non-dominant hand is tricky enough, let alone drawing with it. But giving yourself less control over your drawing helps you let go of any expectations around making your picture perfect straight away.

Even if you’ve been an artist for years, working with your non-dominant hand is one of the best exercises to improve your drawing skills and find areas in your technique that could use a little extra practice.

Keep the creativity flowing! Try these fun drawing prompts from five professional illustrators, and see what masterpieces you can make.

Enjoy the Journey to Becoming an Artist

Don’t go into drawing expecting gallery-level work straight away. Even Van Gogh and Picasso didn’t become household names overnight and spent decades perfecting their craft. 

Improving your drawing skills takes time and is a gradual process, but keep examples of your work as you practice to reflect on later. A year from now, you’ll be amazed at what you’ve achieved and feel so proud. Seeing just how far you’ve come already is the best motivation to keep going. 

Drawing Daily Monsters: Finding Inspiration in a Drop of Ink

An exciting class that will teach you how to create art from inkblots.

Written by:

Holly Landis