Free Hand Drawing

The freehand technique is actually a pretty interesting concept. There are no specific tools to guide you on straight lines, referencing, contours, form etc. This style of drawing focuses on hand and eye co-ordination alone. Everything is sketched using your imagination, perception and skills. This also means that using rulers, projectors, tracing tablets and any other guides are not involved in the process what so ever!

This drawing technique forms the foundation for advancing your abilities. I’ve realized over the years that if you can’t draw without the use of guiding tools or direct referencing, its unlikely that you will improve your creative skills. Freehand practice is the key to drawing fast, effectively and creating original designs or works of art.

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Freehand in the art industry

From what I’ve seen, in industries such as graphic design, this term usually applies to drawing the traditional way using the basics of pencil and paper. So with that said, the only technique you can use is your own ability to mimic lines and form to produce well-structured designs.

In the visual arts and creative design, the term can be taken even further. Most artists would argue that using references such as photographs, still-life or even sitting on the porch looking out at a rose bush to sketch, is considered “breaking the rules”. In digital drawings, artists go as far as sketching without the use of layers, erasers, brush pre-sets etc. However the rules differ from artist to artist.

With this style, everything you draw has to come from your imagination. Even though some of these rules are a bit extreme. If you can draw without assistance, you will stretch your limits even further as an aspiring artist.

What tools are used for freehand drawing

The only things you need are your traditional drawing tools: pencils and paper… probably an eraser too. Remember that you’re drawing from imagination and practicing your raw skills. So you won’t really use a reference either for this type of art.

Examples of freehand drawing

I’m totally exposing myself but here’s the deal, not every “advanced’ artist knows how to draw everything freehand. I’m no exception to that. I sketched a bridge and a dress in about 15 minutes each but it’s 2 subjects that I’m not quite familiar with. I’d say that I have my perception correct but as far as details go, it’s not great.

I’ve practiced drawing portraits over the years which is why the freehand technique is very different in this next image. Even though this eye took me the same amount of time to draw.

Keep reading on and you’ll understand the reasons why there is a difference.


Advantages of drawing freehand


The reality is that you can’t hope to become a great artist or exceptional designer if you don’t know how to sketch this particular way. There are, of course, other elements of art that are fundamental to improving your skills. However, freestyle-type of art opens up a whole new world of possibilities in creativity.

Think of it this way, the act of drawing from your imagination requires a significant amount of practice and you first need to familiarize yourself with the subject you want to draw.

So let’s say that you want learn how to draw dogs but you’ve never had much luck drawing freehand. You can still decide to draw it without referencing back to an image but will it look realistic? Probably not in your first try. But, if you took a couple of days to practice drawing a dog with the help of visual aids or guides and later try drawing from imagination again, it’s likely that you’ll see a big improvement.

Here’s why you see this improvement when practicing to draw freehand:

1. You start to pay attention to your mistakes and know exactly where you need more practice

When you compare your freehand sketch to a similar photograph for instance, you’ll see that perhaps your drawing of a dog looks strange because you drew the eyes in the wrong spot or its ears were too pointy. What ever mistakes you notice, will help you rectify it later in the next try until it looks more realistic.

If you’re always drawing from references or using guiding tools (even if its a grid), its difficult to tell what you need the most practice on. However, when drawing freehand, you will quickly stumble upon parts of your drawing that hold you back. You’ll know exactly what you struggle with if you keep erasing those certain areas and starting over.

I always used a reference throughout high school (yes, I was a copycat) and when I had to sit down in a practical without using a model, I struggled. I was sketching a girl and I couldn’t get her arms right at all. Needless to say, I should have practiced drawing arms free-hand because I had no freaking clue at that point.

2. You will start drawing faster

As you familiarize yourself with the subject, you will know exactly what the finished drawing should look like and how to get yourself there.

Take fashion designers for instance, knowing how to draw body parts in the right proportions from different angles is crucial. If you have to reference back to a picture of a person the whole time because you’re not confident enough to draw from imagination, won’t this be an obstacle in how fast you can produce designs? Definitely! But what if you took the time to practice sketching your basic poses freehand? The result would be taking that sketchpad, whipping out your pencils and you’ll know EXACTLY how to get your idea on paper.

I can guarantee you that once your muscle memory has an established technique for what you need to achieve, you can cut your completion time in half. Which means, you will draw faster!

3. You will start drawing better

While you go through the motions of finding and fixing faults, the obvious result will happen: you’ll get better at the finer details. This is why most realism artists draw so well. You’ll notice that they aren’t referencing back to images as much as others or use any guides to position their art. They’re so used to their basics and have an eye for placing detail.

Keep in mind that getting to this level doesn’t mean that you have to try drawing free-hand ALL the time. It just means that you need to implement it once in a while to test your skills and see how much you know without assistance.

4. You are more likely to develop a unique style

If you always copy, you’ll stay a copycat artist because finding your own style usually happens when you start drawing from imagination. You might use similar techniques to other artists, which is a good thing, but your creativity belongs to you alone.

Most of the greatest artists and designers that are known for their authentic work, don’t get that kind of recognition for copying from an existing image line by line. They are creators and visionaries of their original art.

Learn how to sketch free handed

I used a good reverse-engineered method in which you can also learn this style. At first, it actually has nothing to do with going free handed but you’ll understand the benefits once you put this into practice.

1. Pick a subject

This can be something like a female face, a certain animal, a tennis racket, a strawberry, anything specific where there isn’t too much complicated variation. If you try drawing everything and anything all at once, you’re not going to learn much from this technique.

2. Get an image of your chosen subject

Yes, I know this is the complete opposite of what we’re trying to achieve here but remember, the method is to reverse-engineer this style. The reason why you need an image at first is to get a feel for what you’ll be learning to draw. Then, most importantly, you will be looking back at this image after your sketch is done to understand exactly what you have missed and where your mistakes were.

This technique should help you pass the learning curve much sooner. The idea behind having a reference image is to draw your subject with similar details from the same angle. By using pictures, you won’t need to waste unnecessary time wondering how you’ll go about drawing your subject. Once you’re done, you’ll also have a direct reference to learn from the faults in your sketch.

So, when you found your photo, have a thorough look at it and let it give you an idea of the proportions and details.

Then, put it away!

3. Get a pencil, paper and eraser

Remember, the objective is still the same: to draw this sketch free handed. So no rulers, trace paper or battery-powered erasers, we’re going old-school here.

Hand Drawing Image

Sketch what you saw from memory. Your first try doesn’t have to be perfect What you’re looking for from this exercise is to understand the areas where you struggle and get a feel for what you’re really unsure about.

4. Compare your sketch to the real thing


Now the real test begins. Take note of the areas you struggled with during your first attempt and look at how they are portrayed in the actual image. This is the best way to see exactly what you need to focus on in order to improve.

5. Rinse and repeat

I never said this was going to be easy. As with any worthwhile skill, it will take practice and time. Keep repeating the first four steps for a while until it gets easier because, with enough repetition, it will.


If you need some more guidance, there’s a really great course by Nolan Clark which I like. You can check it out here.

Hint: Once you’re happy with your drawing, spice things up and find different angles of the same subject in photos.

When you’re confident in what you’ve learnt, start drawing the subject from imagination! That’s it, it’s an easy method that simply requires practice.

Freehand Drawing for Architecture is a non-credit 8-week workshop offered each autumn quarter by the University of Washington Department of Architecture; it is open to UW students and the public. The 2020 workshop will be offered as a synchronous online course meeting on Thursday evenings from 6:00 to 9:00pm, 8 October through 3 December, plus two optional Saturday afternoons in October and November from 1:00 to 4:00 pm.

Freehand Drawing for Architecture focuses on the drawing from observation of buildings and architectural space, and is intended for students at all levels to develop and/or refine skills and techniques for seeing and recording the built environment. Emphasis is placed on drawing composition, proportion, and perspective and we will also explore ways to depict natural light and color in buildings and landscapes.

Drawing media will primarily include graphite and ink, with the elective addition of color pencil and / or watercolor. Classes are structured around brief lectures and demonstrations, in-class drawing sessions, and individual or group critiques. Weekly drawing assignments serve to further skill development along with independent ‘on-site’ drawing objectives in and around Seattle and elsewhere.

Freehand Drawing for Architecture is an ideal course for students who are interested in preparing a portfolio of architecture-related work; architects seeking to renew or develop drawing skills for travel; designers and fine artists interested in expanding methods of representation.

This workshop is intended for students 18 years or older. High school seniors may attend with permission of the workshop instructor. (High school seniors should provide a recommendation from a guidance counselor or current teacher, and contact Judith Swain for details.)

Workshop Cost: $675

The Workshop Fee is $650.00 for all students, plus a non-refundable Application Fee of $25.00.

Free Hand Drawing In Word

To inquire about a place in this workshop please contact Judith Swain at [email protected] Registration will be available in early September. Space is limited and early registration is recommended.

Free Hand Drawing App

A detailed list of materials & supplies will be emailed to registered participants before the course begins.