Learn how do a grid drawing by hand!

As an art teacher who studied Graphic Design back in the 90's, we were taught all our skills by hand. Computers were just a subject at university back then and for that I am grateful. On researching the topic of learning how to do a grid drawing, I was disappointed to see that doing a grid drawing by hand is now a lost art. Mrs Red is here to bring back the hand drawn grid! 

So why grid up a drawing? 

To begin with, you can take a small image and create a large drawing, something which is hard to do without the guides of a basic grid. Secondly, and most importantly, the main aim behind drawing anything, by image or by life, is that you HAVE to draw what you see, not what you think you see. A grid on top of your image helps you break a drawing down into squares rather than a complete image. It is by far the easiest way to get the proportions of the drawing correct. 

Art supplies you need 

to start a grid drawing.

Cartridge paper (A4 or A3 preferred)

HB pencil is preferred 

Ruler (clear preferred)


Flat surface to draw on

Image that can be drawn on

* PLEASE NOTE: If you are just drawing in graphite or coloured pencils only, cartridge paper is perfect. I am turning this drawing into a mixed media artwork so I have drawn it up on a mixed media paper.

Mark up your grid!

Once you have chosen which image you are drawing and you have a nice flat surface to work on, its time to start drawing! To be perfectly honest, I still draw by grid now although the grid is usually just broken into 4 rectangles with no ruler but it has taken many years to get to that point! The example image I am using in this lesson is a photo I took not that long ago of my puppy dog, Patrick, a 10 month old beagle. He has his own Instagram page called @patchythebeagle and is very much the character! Very naughty too!

If you can print your chosen image out to A4 size that will really help. And the clearer the image, the better. In this photo, there is no highlights on the end of Patricks nose and really is a black blob however, I just need to call him over and look at his nose to then correct it. I have also created a 4cm grid on the image before I printed it out. I know this is a 'hand drawn' exercise but if you can create a grid on your image and then print out then it does same a lot of time. The great thing about grid drawing is that you don't have to draw your grid on the cartridge paper as the same size grid on the chosen image. The only area of this image is Patricks eyes and nose, so a 4cm square was ample. If you have a lot of detail in your image, then you need to create a tighter grid, maybe 2cm squares.

TIP: Make sure you do not press down on your pencil at all when marking out your grid. You want it to be as light as possible so you can easily erase it when you don't need it anymore. You also want to draw very lightly, as this is the beginning of your drawing or painting, so again, you will almost rub your lines out before applying colour.

Then on your cartridge paper, you need to draw your new grid. I chose 6cm squares which enlarges the image by half and happens to fit perfectly onto an A3 sheet of cartridge paper. Start at the top of the page and mark off your squares across the page. For example, if you are doing exactly the same size as mine, you will mark off 6, 12, 18, 24 and 30cm. Then, and this is really important, move the ruler down to the bottom of the page. Don't turn the ruler around as this will make an inaccurate grid. Again, mark off your squares. If your paper is longer than your ruler (quite often the case with a 30cm ruler and an A3 piece of paper) you may have to slide your ruler half way up the page again and mark your squares off. Then turn your ruler so it is facing vertical and sit it right on the tip of the page on your left hand side. Again, mark off your squares and then slide your ruler over to the right hand side of the paper and repeat. 

Finally, (and it is not marked on the photo below) put a number or letter along the top and down side of each square. You can scroll down to some further photo's to see what I mean. This is so you can match up easily which square you are working on. Repeat the same numbers on your image.

Begin your grid drawing!

Now its time to start drawing up your image! I love this stage as the only way you can get it wrong is if you are not concentrating OR drawing what you think you see, not what you actually see! There is no rules as to which square you start on a grid drawing and the more random the better as it forces you to draw the shapes and lines in that actual square. Also, remember to slow down and take your time at this, get it right, lines going exactly where they are meant to go and don't forget to draw lightly. 

You will notice (images below) in the built up areas like the eyes and my glasses (it was a very quick photo shoot, let me tell you!), I have broken the square into another grid. It is a good idea to do this when you only have a couple of built up areas. I would have been mad to draw the grid in 3cm squares as so much of the drawing is just shapes and lines.

Do you like the photo of my cat getting in on the action? She is very timid and it is rare for her to show this affection and I want her to sit with me, just not on my artwork. But that is cats for you! Anyway, back to the drawing - continue doing all the squares until your drawing is complete! 

Now, what's next Patrick?

Make sure you watch the video below of this grid drawing coming together. And you will have to stay tuned as to what I do with this drawing. I'm thinking mixed media, maybe watercolour and coloured pencil? And what about doodling, I love to doodle so have to somehow include that too. Maybe some drips of paint? Or some splatters of ink? Hmmmmm....possibilities are endless really!

Please have a go of doing a grid drawing and show me how you go. You can get me on Facebook or Instagram or email me at create@mrsreds.com.au OR reply to this blog post.

Please also enjoy watching Mrs Red drawing this grid drawing up by clicking on the video below.