Tutorials + Techniques

A space for us to share things that we have learned along the way, explore when ever we can and practice everyday.

Sketching Calisthenics- Point to Point (straight line)

We are starting the first addition to Tuts+Tech+Edu section on Lineweights, the same way we try to start each sketching session…with sketching calisthenics.  Just like an athletes, sketchers need to warm up too! It is an exercise that many of us have been doing since we first began ID sketching, and we continue to do them today.  No matter how practiced you are at sketching, these techniques are a great way to loosen up, calibrate your hand to eye coordination and should be done as often as possible.

Below are 8.5×11 pages you can with which…in the immortal words of yoda…..  “train yourself to let go of your fears.”

When doing the Straight Line Exercise, the key is to nail it with one stroke…none of that chicken scratchin business or fuzzy lines, just one line, lay it down and move on. It won’t be perfect but remember that this exercise is about building confidence behind your lines. Try to do this exercise with a Sharpie as it forces you to do it in one stroke. Make sure to pace yourself and not just do quick lazy lines. Another tip…draw with the shoulder not with your wrist…

line calisthenics


Sketching Calisthenics- Ellipse

This warm up technique is used in many design sketching classes, ive heard horror stories of the class at ArtCenter (where you spend months on different degrees of ellipses)…great practice thou.  So just like above, the first page is the 8.5×11 for you to print out and practice on your end…the second page is the warm up I did this morning.  Enjoy!

ellipse calisthenicselipse-calisthenics_done

Sketching Calisthenics- Box

This warm up technique covers both straight line and ellipse calisthenics but also ads perspective and space awareness in drawing.  It is important to be able to draw primitives well in perspective especially boxes.  Boxes are the most fundamental objects a designer or artist will use to get an idea of proportions, measurements, spacing and perspective in a composition.  A box can represent many things becoming the building blocks of more complex object.

The first line that is drawn will be the first edge of the box that will be closest to the viewer.  This line can be any length, but for now try to keep it long enough so that the box will fit inside the drawing area.


The next lines will be drawn from the top and bottom of the first line to an imaginary vanishing point.  Up to now we are assuming most of you understand one point, two point and three point perspective and have been drawing for something to have trained yourself to estimate where the vanish points of lines will be.


Vertical lines are then drawn to a third vanishing point to create the sides of the box.  Again, we are estimating where the vanishing point are.


Back to the top of the box, the top surface is created by drawing two more lines to an estimated vanishing point.  A box has been created, although not a perfect box.  Do not worry if the box has issues especially with perspective.  The whole point is to warm yourself up and get into the groove of drawing well.  As you draw more boxes you will be able to gain more insight about how your are drawing your boxes and you will be correcting yourself.


And just for practice we will draw diagonal lines from each corner to the other corner of each surface to practice straight line drawing.


Now we can practice ellipses.  The idea is to make sure that the ellipse hits all four sides of the edges of each face so that those edges are tangent to the arcs of the ellipse.  Again, don’t worry if they are off.  Just keep practicing.


Once a box is finished do another.  Turn the paper and create another box and train yourself to estimate where the vanishing points will be.


Things will get a bit complicated and you can get lost in a sea of lines.  This will help train your eye to see what is happening in the composition.  Most designers and artist draw through there sketches and drawings to figure out how things will appear using construction lines.  Drawing a box in a sea of boxes will help enable the ability to draw through objects and find what works and what wont.


Now to add more clarity.  We can choose which boxes will be in the foreground and which boxes will be in the background.  Using a thicker line weight draw the edges of the boxes.  Eventually the boxes will appear and there will be some depth in the composition.


We have more Calisthenics tutorials coming – Perspective, Arch, Circle,  etc…

    • Cody
    • June 7th, 2009

    I’m a freshman ID major and finding this is a great, since free hand sketching is my weak point. I know the line exercise is going to be great, because coming from a drafting/ arch. background I am a slave to my ruler. Def going to find me some scrap paper and print these guys out.

    Thanks 😀

    • Joe
    • June 8th, 2009

    Wow! I have just gotten interested in ID in the last 6 months to year and one of my goals for this summer, which begins tomorrow, is to sketch daily. I have a feeling this newly discovered site, especially the tutorials, will help me out tremendously!

    Thank you very much!

  1. Cody and Joe,
    First of all we would all like to thank you for stumbling upon our little site. Like you have probably read on our “about us” page, we are here to simply help to motivate and inspire those who’s shoes we have walked in…simply, we have been there! So reaching out not only helps to motivate you, but us as well…students of life never stop learning. Look out for more to come in this, and many of our other pages. Thanks again, and remember… “MILEAGE” and “Lite till its Right”!

  2. Hey Guys,

    You should also check out our friends at IDSKETCHING.com they’ve got a good little site with video tutorials for learning too. Were gonna be doing some overhauls too so we could have video one day aswell!. Dom thats some great advice!

    • Amy
    • June 12th, 2009

    Hi Dominic! Its Amy from SJSU ID a while back! hahh! I wanted to check your invitation out and what a great thing you have started up. This website is such a great resource for up and coming ID students as well as for the professional world. I will try to make some of these sessions you have coming up…what a great idea! Take care!

  3. Hi Amy! Im so glad to hear from you, and happy that you checked out the invitation. Ya, we are going to start planning the events for the next coming months, something different each time. We really just want to get out there, share and help inspire. Hope you can make it to our next event…what you been up too lately?

      • Amy
      • June 18th, 2009

      Nothing much! I am still at the mobile company doing UI/UE work on the east bay. Its been pretty great! I will try to make some of your sketching events…I think I saw some of the pics that someone posted up on facebook. What a turn out! How have you been these days?

  4. Hmm, same problem here that I noted in another comment- the boxes are all distorted. When doing boxes in perspective, make sure the vanishing points are far apart enough on the horizon and plot it using them, you can’t guess the perspective of the box until you’ve have enough practice doing it that way. Same deal with ellipse construction.

    Successful Drawing – http://www.scribd.com/doc/2175907/Andrew-Loomis-Successful-Drawing
    Perspective made Easy – http://www.scribd.com/doc/5178935/Perspective-Made-Easy

    • Maryam
    • May 9th, 2010

    hi. i’ve gotten a BS in ID in a 3rd world country.but i’ve been taught little. i need help, i love this major. you can contact me via my e-mail, and i will tell u more. thanks beforehand.

      • joncorpuz
      • May 9th, 2010

      @Maryam…please email us at Lineweights@gmail.com to get in touch with us directly. We’d be more than happy to help you out and especially since Dom has been teaching @SJSU (we’ll be posting up more tutorials from the class)

    • onkar pradhan
    • August 10th, 2010

    simply amazing…i really like ur exercises for lines & ellipse…

    • mubashar
    • November 25th, 2010

    man frm now. i m one of the biggest fan of this website.thanx

    • I agree with tblenzy, boefre they deleted the comment. Schoolism is a major ripoff. Also Bobby Chiu doesn’t even know how to design, as you can tell from the formulaic drawing from the above video. He has the other artists he works with design, and all he does is paint them. Besides he could really care less about art, as you can tell from his talking, he’s just like a used car sales man. He just wants your money

    • Anonymous
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