Drawing is a visual art that makes use of any number of drawing instruments to mark a two-dimensional medium. Common instruments include graphite pencils, pen and ink, inked brushes, wax color pencils, crayons, charcoals, chalk, pastels, markers, stylus, or various metals like silverpoint. An artist who practices or works in drawing may be referred to as a draftsman or draughtsman.
A small amount of material is released onto the two dimensional medium which leaves a visible mark—the process is similar to that of painting. The most common support for drawing is paper, although other materials such as cardboard, plastic, leather, canvas and board, may be used. Temporary drawings may be made on a blackboard or whiteboard, or indeed almost anything. The medium has also become popular as a means of public expression via graffiti art, because of the easy availability of permanent markers.
The word 'drawing' is used as both a verb and a noun:
In simplistic terms, drawing is distinct from painting, perhaps more so in the Western view; East Asian art, which generally only uses brushes, has historically made less distinction between the two. Critics may praise a painter's ability to draw well, meaning that the shapes, especially of the human body, are well-articulated, or a drawing may be considered painterly.
Adding confusion, similar tools and media may be used in both tasks. Dry media normally associated with drawing, such as chalk, may be used in pastel painting. Drawing may be done with liquid media applied with brushes or pens. Similar supports likewise can serve both: painting generally involves the application of liquid paint onto prepared canvas or panels, but sometimes an underdrawing is drawn first on that same support. Drawing is generally concerned with the marking of lines and areas of tone onto paper, but watercolor painting uses a paper support. Traditional drawings were monochrome, or at least had little colour, while modern coloured-pencil drawings may approach or cross the boundary (if there is one) between drawing and painting.
The term drawing suggests a process and intent that is distinct from the traditional act of painting. While there are drawings that are finished artworks, drawing is often exploratory, with considerable emphasis on observation, problem solving and composition, often as a means of preparation for a painting. In contrast, traditional painting is often a means of execution or finishing an artwork. It is fair to note that modern painters often incorporate methods of drawing in their painting process, particarly in the early stages of a painting.
Drawings may be representational, depicting objects, living beings, or scenes which the artist views, remembers, or imagines. They may be realistic to the point of lifelike resemblance (e.g. traditional portraits), architectural drawing or looser approximations of reality (e.g. sketches), and highly stylized (e.g. cartoons, caricatures, manga), or abstract (e.g. automatic drawing, entoptic graphomania). Drawing may also be a form of heraldic art, with a range of formality from finished works of heraldic art to tricking.
The medium is the means by which ink, pigment, or color are delivered onto the drawing surface. Most drawing media are either dry (e.g. graphite, charcoal, pastels, Conté, silverpoint), or water-based (marker, pen and ink). Watercolor pencils can be used dry like ordinary pencil, then moistened with a wet brush to get various painterly effects. Very rarely, artists have drawn with (usually decoded) invisible ink.
For pen and ink work, typing paper is often used for practice drawings, but heavier paper holds up better. Bristol board makes a hard surface that is especially good for ink or fine detailed graphite drawing. Coldpressed watercolor paper is sometimes favored for ink drawing due to its texture. Tracing vellum is often used for experimenting on top of a pencil drawing, prior to committing a technique to the final page. True vellum produces very finely-detailed painting or drawing.
Various tools are routinely used in the process of drawing. These include a pencil sharpener, sandpaper, kneaded eraser, blending stumps, and chamois. Other tools that sometimes prove useful are tracing paper, a circle compass, ruler, frisket, fixative, and drafting tape. The use of an easel or slanted table reduces the distorting effects of perspective. Metalpointing can include silver, platinum, copper, bronze, and even gold. Some of these metals can change color over time through oxidization and produce interesting results.
One new tool for drawing is the computer's 'drawing option'. Contemporary artists have broadened the sphere of associations the term 'drawing' encompasses to a number of unconventional drawing media, including performance and multimedia work, employing the branches of trees as drawing instruments, and fashioning images with carbon deposit from smoke.
Prior to working on an image, the artist will likely want to gain an understanding of how the various media will work. The different drawing implements can be tried on practice sheets in order to determine value and texture, and how to apply the implement in order to produce various effects.
The stroke of the drawing implement can be used to control the appearance of the image. Ink drawings typically use hatching, which consists of groups of parallel lines. Cross-hatching uses hatching in two or more different directions to create a darker tone. Broken hatching, or lines with intermittent breaks, is used to form lighter tones, and by controlling the density of the breaks a graduation of tone can be achieved. Stippling, uses dots to produce tone, Texture or shade.
Sketch drawings use similar techniques, although with pencils and drawing sticks continuous variations in tone can be achieved. For best results the lines in a sketch are typically drawn to follow the contour curves of the surface, thus producing a depth effect. When drawing hair, the lines of the sketch follow the direction of the hair growth.
Typically a drawing will be filled in based on which hand the artist favors. A right-handed artist will want to draw from left to right in order to avoid smearing the image. Sometimes the artist will want to leave a section of the image blank while filling in the remainder of the picture. A frisket can be used for this purpose. The shape of the area to be preserved is cut out of the frisket, and the resulting shape is then applied to the drawing surface. This will protect the surface from receiving any stray marks before it is ready to be filled in.
Another method to preserve a section of the image is to apply a spray-on fixative to the surface. This will hold loose material more firmly to the sheet and prevent it from smearing. However the fixative spray typically uses chemicals that can negatively affect the respiratory system, so it should be employed in a well-ventilated area such as outdoors.
Shading is the technique of varying the tonal values on the paper to represent the shade of the material as well as the placement of the shadows. Careful attention to reflected light, shadows, and highlights can result in a very realistic rendition of the image.
Blending uses an implement to soften or spread the original drawing strokes. Blending is most easily done with a medium that does not immediately fix itself, such as graphite, chalk, or charcoal, although freshly applied ink can be smudged, wet or dry, for some effects. For shading and blending, the artist can use a blending stump, tissue, a kneaded eraser, a fingertip, or any combination of them. A piece of chamois is useful for creating smooth textures, and for removing material to lighten the tone. Continuous tone can be achieved with graphite on a smooth surface without blending, but the technique is laborious, involving small circular or oval strokes with a somewhat blunt point.
Shading techniques that also introduce texture to the drawing include hatching and stippling. There are a number of other methods for producing texture in the picture: in addition to choosing a suitable paper, the type of drawing material and the drawing technique will result in different textures. Texture can be made to appear more realistic when it is drawn next to a contrasting texture; a coarse texture will be more obvious when placed next to a smoothly blended area. A similar effect can be achieved by drawing different tones in close proximity; a light edge next to a dark background will stand out to the eye, and almost appear to float above the surface.
When attempting to draw a complicated shape such as a human figure, it is helpful at first to represent the form with a set of primitive shapes. Almost any form can be represented by some combination of the cube, sphere, cylinder, and cone. Once these basic shapes have been assembled into a likeness, then the drawing can be refined into a more accurate and polished form. The lines of the primitive shapes are removed and replaced by the final likeness.
A more refined art of figure drawing relies upon the artist possessing a deep understanding of anatomy and the human proportions. A trained artist is familiar with the skeleton structure, joint location, muscle placement, tendon movement, and how the different parts work together during movement. This allows the artist to render more natural poses that do not appear artificially stiff. The artist is also familiar with how the proportions vary depending on the age of the subject, particularly when drawing a portrait.
When both the fronts and sides of a building are drawn, then the parallel lines forming a side converge at a second point along the horizon (which may be off the drawing paper.) This is a "two-point perspective". Converging the vertical lines to a point in the sky then produces a "three-point perspective".
Depth can also be portrayed by several techniques in addition to the perspective approach above. Objects of similar size should appear ever smaller the further they are from the viewer. Thus the back wheel of a cart will appear slightly smaller than the front wheel. Depth can be portrayed through the use of texture. As the texture of an object gets further away it becomes more compressed and busy, taking on an entirely different character than if it was close. Depth can also be portrayed by reducing the amount of contrast of more distant objects, and also by making the colors more pale. This will reproduce the effect of atmospheric haze, and cause the eye to focus primarily on objects drawn in the foreground.
The composition of the image is an important element in producing an interesting work of artistic merit. The artist plans the placement of elements in the art in order to communicate ideas and feelings with the viewer. The composition can determine the focus of the art, and result in a harmonious whole that is aesthetically appealing and stimulating.
The illumination of the subject is also a key element in creating an artistic piece, and the interplay of light and shadow is a valuable method in the artist's toolbox. The placement of the light sources can make a considerable difference in the type of message that is being presented. Multiple light sources can wash out any wrinkles in a person's face, for instance, and give a more youthful appearance. In contrast, a single light source, such as harsh daylight, can serve to highlight any texture or interesting features.
When drawing an object or figure, the skilled artist pays attention to both the area within the silhouette and what lies outside. The exterior is termed the negative space, and can be as important in the representation as the figure. Objects placed in the background of the figure should appear properly placed wherever they can be viewed.
A study is a draft drawing that is made in preparation for a planned final image. Studies can be used to determine the appearances of specific parts of the completed image, or for experimenting with the best approach for accomplishing the end goal. However a well-crafted study can be a piece of art in its own right, and many hours of careful work can go into completing a study.
People have made rock and cave drawings since prehistoric times. By the 12th-13th centuries AD, monks preparing illuminated manuscripts on vellum or parchment in monasteries throughout Europe were using lead styllii to draw lines for their writings and for the outlines for their illuminations. Soon artists generally were using silver to make drawings and underdrawings. Initially they used and re-used wooden tablets with prepared ground for these drawings. When paper became generally available from the 14th century onwards, artists' drawings, both preparatory studies and finished works, became increasingly common. Since that time, each century has produced artists who have created great drawings.
Drawing may also be done as computer art. Computer illustration or digital art is the use of digital tools to produce images under the direct manipulation of the artist, usually through a pointing device such as a tablet or a mouse. It is distinguished from computer-generated art, which is produced by a computer using mathematical models created by the artist. It is also distinct from digital manipulation of photographs, in that it is an original construction "from scratch". (Photographic elements may be incorporated into such works, but they are not the primary basis or source for them.)