How do I get better at sketching out ideas I have in my head?
November 3, 2016 7:57 AM   Subscribe

I have a hard time planning things so when I go about building something I mostly make it up as I go along. I would like to change this. How can I get better at taking an idea I have in my head and sketching it out on paper?

I would like to be able to sketch out my ideas before I start building them but I seem to be terrible at doing so. This is a sketch of a shelf I was building. It took every bit of effort I had to make my brain and hands work together to draw that. In my opinion it's terrible and it does nothing to solidify my idea before I start building.

Please note I'm not talking about making detailed technical drawings. If I want to do that I can break out Sketchup or a ruler. I'm talking about the phase before that, when I want to make a rough sketch of in idea, though with some sense of accuracy and scale.

This is about the level I'd like to be at. Nothing too exact, but enough to get the concept down solidly. This is another example of what I'm after.

Most "how do I draw" questions, the answer seems to be "look very carefully at what you're drawing" but in my case there's nothing to look at.

My goal would be to eventually have a sketchbook filled with various ideas rather than page after page of undecipherable scribbles.

Ideas? Suggestions? Resources? Books? Videos?
posted by bondcliff to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Brains are probably different, but when I'm building something, drawing it out isometrically like that isn't helpful. For me I draw it orthographically so I see how pieces meet each other and how dimensions add up.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:12 AM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

in my experience, both examples you linked to actually require all the work of a ruler, plus extra work to make it look a little bit rustic. you might be better aiming for something with a ruler.
posted by andrewcooke at 8:13 AM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

The thing about isometric drawing is there's a theory behind it, not just "Draw good" -- yes, it's technical drawing and a part of drafting technique, but if you want to learn a "how", isometric drawing at least has a defined method for doing so.

If I'm allowed to critique: the shelf you drew is actually pretty good, but the thing you left out is that your materials have thickness. Keeping that in mind while drawing would go a long ways for making your shelf drawing look like the table example.

And, well, practice, even if it's right before you draw your shelf drawing, sit down and draw some shelves you see around you, to build some temporary muscle memory.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:26 AM on November 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

Try drawing something you've already created. Draw it from a few different angles. Make the drawing so someone else could reproduce the piece.

Repeat a few times until you have the muscle memory for drawing these types of things. In other words : practice. Lots and lots of practice.

I do think your drawing is on the right track. A few more angles might be helpful, or an exploded view.
posted by hydra77 at 9:10 AM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Try starting with two dimensions. Draw a bunch of side-views. Looks like this might be related to drawing it orthographically? "Perspective" is another search term.

Can you try to look at it in your head?

Fail at it a bunch.
posted by aniola at 9:27 AM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I took drafting in high school, which covered isometric/perspective as linked to above - agree that you would find this useful and is likely what you want. Regardless of how detailed or technical you choose to make a particular drawing is up to you - the basic skill set is the same.

With your sketch's good, but why did you stop before (you felt) it was done? Go back and add a few more layers to it. Add thickness to the wood, touch up the lines, etc. Every time you do a sketch set a timer for (10, 15, 30) min and keep working on it.
posted by jrobin276 at 10:53 AM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I find it helpful to divide the task into two phases: phase 1 is rough and ends when the drawing makes sense to me; phase 2 is copying that drawing onto another sheet of paper, or usually the lower half of the same sheet, cleaning it up as I go.

And this is cool, using a string and anchor to guide your perspective lines:
An Easy Way to Draw Perspective
posted by at at 11:20 AM on November 3, 2016

The skill you're after is sometimes known as "constructive" drawing or construction drawing. It's based on learning to draw basic 3D primitives in perspective. You have to draw a ton of boxes, spheres, cones, and pyramids until you master the rough basics of perspective. Once you have acquired that knowledge, it becomes easier to mix and match and combine those shapes to make the form you're imagining.

Appropriately, there's an online course called "Draw a Box," which is a free variant of another (very expensive) class called "Dynamic Sketching." Draw a Box is nicely structured to guide you through the fundamentals of constructive drawing and perspective.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:21 PM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Leake and Borgerson's Engineering design graphics : sketching, modeling, and visualization is a good intro. It's a textbook, so far too expensive for normal folks.
posted by scruss at 1:40 PM on November 3, 2016

If your drawing skills are not great, then I'd make lots of notes indicating what's what, with arrows pointing to areas that need specifics, like the angle of one part, the screw or process required of another part. I don't do construction, but when I do creative ideas, I have to write in step by step instructions and speculate problems I might run into along the way and how I might solve the problems. I find that very helpful instead of getting stuck on an unexpected glitch and then getting frustrated. Especially because that may mean going back a few steps because a key step was out of sequence.

I don't know if this is helpful or applicable, as I find the drawing to be almost secondary.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 2:02 PM on November 3, 2016

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