Drawing Geometric Shapes

Drawing geometric shapes can seem challenging at first. All it takes is a little practice to get the hang of it. Read over this tutorial, and watch the video below to learn how to draw 3d shapes.

Measuring is one of the most important drawing techniques an artist can learn, and it really helps when drawing geometric shapes. Once you've grasped the concept of how to use measuring, your drawings will become more accurate and precise.

Drawing Supplies:
Minimum of 3 pencils ranging from light to dark.
For example: 4H, 2H and 4B pencil

pencil drawing

Notice the transparent shapes and how the lighter pencil was not erased in the final drawing.


  1. Start out with the lighter 4H pencil - draw lightly & loosely - this layer serves as a substructure or grid.

  2. Most shapes have corners that we can't see, but you can go ahead and draw those invisible lines if it helps you make better sense of your drawing.

  3. Once you've drawn all lines with a lighter pencil, move on to a slightly darker pencil such as a 2H pencil. Now is the time to define the details and darken the "actual" lines.

  4. End with the darker 4B pencil - this is the final step - draw slowly and carefully, define and refine the geometric shapes you've drawn.

pencil drawing

Imagine that there is a 2d pane of
glass in front of you, perpendicular
to your line of sight. As you measure,
keep your pencil flat against that
imaginary plane.

Stay in the same spot as you draw.
Any shift up, down, left or right will
change your measurements. For the
same reason, try to keep your arm
straight as you take measurements.

Use an easel to prop up your paper. The closer it matches the angle of your imaginary glass pane, the easier it will be to transfer measurements onto your page!

geometric shapes

pencil drawing

Finding ratios: Using the end of your pencil
and the tip of your thumb, measure the overall
height of your object(s) and compare it to the
overall width. Notice whether if forms a square?
a horizontal rectangle? a vertical rectangle?

pencil drawing

Finding angles: Keep your pencil perpendicular to your line of sight as
it turns. You can turn it 360 degrees to
match any angle! If your pencil juts out
into space it will become foreshortened,
giving you inaccurate measurements.
Tip: Imagine there is a clock face in
front of you and make a note of what hour your pencil is pointing to - this can help you keep that angle as you transfer it to your page.

How to draw those measurements on paper:

Ratios: Measurements are proportional and can be drawn larger or smaller depending on the size of your paper.

Angles: Here's the tricky part. The BIGGEST problem students run into is changing the angle the moment their pencil hits the page. Make sure that the angle you measured is the same as the angle you draw. If it helps, guide your arm with your free hand, and make sure you do not twist or bend your wrist as you draw that angle onto your page!

pencil drawing

sight line drawing Tips:
  • Close one eye while measuring the shape you're drawing.

  • As you measure keep your pencil perpendicular to your line of sight.

  • Use an easel to prop up you paper so that it is also perpendicular to your line of sight.

  • Don't change your viewpoint. Shifting even an couple of inches could change your measurements.

  • Keep your arm straight while you measure - bending your elbow will give you inconsistent results.

  • When finding an angle, pretend your pencil is pressed flat against an imaginary pane of glass. Tilting it forward foreshortens the pencil - giving you an incorrect measurement.

  • Measure the overall height and overall width of an object or group of objects - make note of which is longer and by how much - ex: does the width fit into the height twice, three times? etc.

  • When drawing an angle measurement onto paper, make sure you transfer the correct angle when drawing geometric shapes - don't twist or bend your wrist.

Drawing a tilted ellipse:

ellipse drawing

  1. Sight the angles (longest and shortest dimensions)

  2. Measure and compare height vs. width

  3. Remember to draw the ellipse within its overall dimensions

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