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So, you wanna learn to draw? That’s admirable. You want to be the next Alberto Vargas, Boris Valejo, or Fred Perry? I don’t know if I can help you with that kind of a lofty ambition. But, if you just want to get started, I can help you with that. Shall we dance?

What will you need? Well, there are many supplies that can go into a great drawing. Large corporations make quite a lucrative trade in nothing but art supplies. Wonderful tools with wonderful features, many of which come at wonderful profit to the companies that make them. But one need not put themselves into the poor house right away.

If you spend much time perusing Deviant Art’s finest, you will learn that there are several high quality, top of the line brands that many people swear by (and for good reason) no matter what you medium of choice is. However, if you are reading this tutorial, you are probably just starting out. Now, no one will make you pass a proficiency test before you buy the best products available. But, speaking from personal experience, know this:

You can not buy skill.

If you have the skills to pay the bills, then by all means, drop your hard earned dollar on the finest tools you can get. Then, stop reading this tutorial. And stop patronizing me. For the rest of us, let’s just stick with what gets the job done.


As you may have noticed, this ain’t no scantron test. As hard working and faithful as the old no. 2 has been over the years, it isn’t the only pony in the barn. Pencils come in a wide variety of hardnesses and softnesses, as well as wooden or mechanical. they also come in a variety of colors that are meant not to show up when you scan your work, or erase more easily. It’s a big world!

But keep it simple.

I took a (very) little college drawing. For class we were required to have a whole set of graphite drawing pencils. Most of the class went out and purchased them immediately. And these were some seriously talented people. But I couldn’t afford a set, so I had to do my best with an old no. 2, and a pair of samples that the teacher handed out on the first day of class. And I held my own with only those three pencils.

Even though I had to quit school, and though my typical drawing style doesn’t leave much graphite showing, I strongly suggest that beginners start with at least three different pencils. A no. 2 (HB), a harder lead (a 3H for example), and a softer one (perhaps a 4B).

Mechanical or wooden pencil?

Dancer’s choice, my friend! Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Mechanical pencils will almost always give you the sharpest line that you can draw. They need no pencil sharpener, simply advance the lead. And they are refillable. However, they never have enough erasers. They are can be a bit more expensive. And sometimes the lead can malfunction.

I tend toward the old no. 2 wooden school pencil for several reasons. They are cheap and readily available. They are less likely to malfunction. I’m familiar with them, so they’re comfortable in my hand. And since I outline my pictures in ink, I don’t always need a very fine pencil line.

But, when you get down to it, I strongly suggest you try to use both. See for yourself which is better for you, but also have the other on hand for jobs that it is better suited to.


Head on down to your local office supply superstore and check out their pen selection. Standing down there at the end of the isle makes it all seem a little overwhelming, doesn’t it? But that’s like having a research paper due and standing at the door of the library. The sooner you realize that all of this information isn’t important to you right now, the sooner you can get something productive done.

While you’re at the office supply store, buy yourself some stick pens, and a nice, fancy and/or schmancy writing pen. Then, NEVER use them for drawing.

Pens are like employees. Stick pens are like teenagers with summer jobs. Use them when you have a job that needs to be done quickly, and quality is not of the essence. Stick pens are great for quick notes, homework, endorsing checks, table hockey, things like that. The fancy/schmancy writing pens are more like your management. Pretty, but almost useless. Use them for occasions with some personal meaning to them: writing love letters, filling out orientation paperwork at a new job, signing your marriage certificate, or signing the guest registry on your first tropical vacation. (Conversely, if you live in the tropics, where do you go on vacation? People from Hawaii don’t spend their honeymoon in Minnesota. Do they?)

There are drawing pens out there that will give you a line you can split atoms with. But if you have the kind of skill that requires that kind of precision, then you are just reading this to humor me. Stop that. If you are actually reading this to learn how to get started, I’d suggest starting with something smaller to build skill and confidence.

A good set of pens would be glorious, but I still buy the pens I draw with in the office and school supplies. I recommend starting with a 0.5 mm or 0.7 mm pen. As I said before, you can’t buy skill. But, at the same time, you get what you pay for. The brand that has stuck by me over the years has been the Uni-ball brand. They’re a good size to grip, and give a nice, consistent line. Lately, however, I have been using Sharpie’s writing pens for a finer line. But either way, look to spend six to twelve bucks for a set to start with.

While we’re talking about pens, consider color. Most often you’re going to want to use black. But I sometimes like to play with the rainbow a little when I ink. I’ll sometimes use reds or pinks for skin, or outline a blue shirt with a blue pen. Depending on what you’re going for, inking in color can add that extra little oomph. Or not. Experiment, and see how it works for you.


Hypothetically, you could draw on a paper bag. But there are other projects that that is much better suited to. On the other hand, what’s the point of buying high quality drawing paper if you know you’re just going to be using it to try and sink the three point buzzer beater in your waste basket? What is the happy medium? And for the love of God; who put the “Bop” in the “Bop shoo bop shoo bop”? But I digress. The answer to that (the paper, not the “bop shoo bop“) depends on what you are doing.

For sketch practice, nothing is too cheap. Drawing something for someone special? Something heavier will give you better results. But as for now, if you see a stack of one sided “take ones“, YOINK!

I’d steer Away from the lined school paper, though. You don’t really want to depend on the lines too much in your drawing. If you absolutely must pay for your paper like some kind of “Law abiding citizen”, then copy paper and sketch pads work well too. But they won’t tell you what the lunch specials are.

Markers and Coloring Pencils:

I have seen sets of either that range above a hundred U.S. smackers (what is that in Euros? Ten bucks?). What am I? Made of freakin’ money, like some kind of strange money golem? (If you haven’t noticed I’m not a money golem, I’m a cheap bastard.) They will give you some quality, but only it you can make them. We will side step them for now. But keep them in mind.

Currently, for markers I use Sharpies whenever I can. Bic Mark-Its are pretty good, but Sharpies come in a variety of tips and don’t dry out as quickly. Sharpies are also more easily purchased individually when you do run out of ink. I just wish they would name or number their colors so I could identify them more easily.

As for coloring pencils, when I need a set I try to buy Crayola or the cheaper Craze-Art. I usually go for the fifty pack of Crayolas or the seventy-two pack of Craze-Arts. This gives you good quality pencils and a vast selection of colors. Almost more than you will need. But like markers, you will need to replace some colors more often than others.
Remember I said we were gonna side step the high end coloring pencils for a time? Well now we’re gonna be stepping into them.

I always need another peach or light peach coloring pencil (they are a pretty good skin tone). Purple is another hue I can never seem to get enough of. But Craze-Art and Crayola don’t sell individual coloring pencils (I know, I asked). However, Prismacolor sure does! When you need just a couple colors you’ve run out of, it’s cheaper to buy two or three of the higher end pencils than a whole set of cheapies, and have a bunch of extras you’re not using lying around and getting in the way.

The Auxiliaries:

There are certain other tools that I wouldn’t leave home without. Just as indispensable as pencils and paper.

A compass: You know, that funny thing they use to draw circles. Always good for
the stray circumference. But also good for keeping proportions.

A metal non-slip ruler: I don’t do straight lines often, but they have been know to
happen. Also good for marking borders. (Rest in piece, lost nirvana of

Storage bags: Plastic zipper bags work, but nylon dollar store pencil cases work
better. Get enough to separate your different drawing implements. This will
reduce damage to your tools, and also have you spending less time searching for
what you need.

A backpack: Or other portable storage system. It should be big enough for you
favorite paper size without folding, as well as your other tools. Also, as water
resistant as you can conveniently achieve.

A good pencil sharpener: It need not be electric. You can get a good hand job
(pause for immaturity) for a buck (more immaturity). But if you’re breaking more
lead than you’re using, then you should reconsider your choice.

Examination gloves: These will help keep your ink and pencils from transferring to
your skin. Also they will help to prevent you from accidentally staining your

A digital camera: Can be pricey, but is indispensable for capturing inspiring
moments, pose references, and expressions.

Gnu Image Manipulation Program: Obviously, if you don’t have a computer, you
can’t download GIMP. But if you do have a computer, you really have no excuse.
The GIMP is a great picture editor for the money (i.e. no money at all). And it’s
pretty easy to use. So you really have nothing to lose. (Go to www.gimp.org to
download) (Did I mention it’s free?) (Does this count as an endorsement? Can I
get paid for this?)

A lvl sixteen curse-breaker sword: Ya never know.

Ok, so now you have you kit and/or caboodle. If you bought it all at once, you may be out a grip of cash. But if you followed my advice, it could’ve been a lot worse. All things considered in this economy, you’re lucky to still have your soul. But, again, I digress. (It’s my second favorite pass time!)

Are you ready to draw? I am assuming you have somewhere to work. Mood music is good for more than just making out. Something to drink? Groovy! A light snack? Chips, popcorn, candy, fresh fruit, baby carrots = OK. Hot ramen, ravioli alfredo, barbeque spare ribs, potato salad = you have chosen poorly. Delicious. But poorly. Now if you will excuse me, I’m suddenly very hungry.

So, now you are ready to draw!


What are you going to draw, again?

You drew a blank didn’t you? Don’t worry; it happens to me all the time. Do not despair, this only means you need some inspiration. When you’re trying to write that six page report the night before it’s due, you’d probably sacrifice a small animal or medium sized chicken dinner to get it. Fortunately, your current need is not so desperate. By the way, how much money do you have left? Hmm, wow. That little? Well, it’ll have to do!

First off, what do you want to draw like? If your answer was anything like, “I wanna draw like you, Jake.”, then would you kindly remove your lips from my bum?

Figure out what style of drawing you would like to achieve. Are you going for a classic pin-up look? Anime` or manga? Comics? Disney? Fantasy? Sci-fi? Tattoos? Whatever you choose, it’s not set in stone. You can always change you mind and pursue different larks. But you are going to want to gather some reference materials.

There is a lot of smarty pants talk I could probably make about what to use for reference. But I’m not so good at pulling things from my behind. So, let me just tell you what’s on my shelf.

I’ve got some art books. Classical painting from history’s hot shots, and a book of Boris Valejo and Julie Bell. But I’m big into the World War II pin-ups. So I’ve got a book of Alberto Vargas, some Gil Elvgren, and a book of aircraft nose art. I’ve got some comic books; Spiderman, Gold Digger, BPRD. Since I do draw weapons from time to time, I have some toy swords and guns, as well as a book about guns. And I have an artist’s posing mannequin. Also I’ve got a bunch of magazines. Mostly tattooing magazines, but I also have some pornography.

Hey, you remember that immaturity we had to deal with earlier? Yeah. It’s back. And I think it brought friends.

When I said “pornography” you either A) wrote me off as an incurable pervert, B) ran and told your parents, or C) began giggling maniacally. But can we please act like adults for a moment? (What the heck did I just say!?! Quick! Make with a corny joke!) I draw people, usually girl-type people. And porno mags are full of people, usually girl-type people. It’s that simple. It gives good reference for anatomy, as well as range of motion. And let’s face facts; porn is a hell of a lot cheaper than hiring a nude model. (But if you can get volunteers, GO FOR IT!)

You don’t have to use porn. As a matter of fact, if you are under the age of majority, you shouldn’t be using porn. You don’t have to use anything I’ve listed as reference. You can use anything: Coloring books, posters, stickers, newspaper ads, trading cards, whatever you find. I used to have a notebook I would tape clippings into so I could keep them as reference. But no matter what else you use, there is one reference that is more important than any other: Your own work.

Whenever possible, save everything you draw. When you draw something you like, you will be able to see it to try it again. And if you draw something you don’t like, you will be able to see what you need to work on.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 18th, 2011 01:09 am (UTC)
you know you have a free nude model at your beck and call (providing we are in the same place, or can at least set up a video call)
Nov. 21st, 2011 01:34 am (UTC)
This was humorous and fairly well written. I didn't catch any glaring mistakes and it seemed informative. I don't know how well the advice stacks up since words are my chosen artistic medium, but it flows well and holds that wonderful balance between useful and interesting. and in a minor tangent, LiveJournal? really Jake, really?
Hope this input helps and if not? Eh.
-cousin Dean
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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