How to Learn to Draw Online for Beginners

Artist drawing on an easel.
Cecilie_Arcurs / Getty Images

The famous French artist Ingres once said, “Don’t think about painting until you’ve mastered the art of drawing.” If you want to be an artist of any kind, you’ll be best served if you start with those words in mind. Learning how to draw isn’t really difficult, especially with free online lessons.

Finding an Online Class

Once you have your art supplies chosen and you’ve committed to learning how to draw, you need to figure out where you’ll get your knowledge.

There are a bunch of free online drawing lesson outlets in the world. YouTube, blogs, and Instagram all have platforms for people to offer drawing pointers. It’s wise to check the comments on videos and blogs before treating the pro’s word as gospel. You need to like what you see before you learn how to mimic it.

There are great teachers out there, but because you’re hunting for a free instructor, you’re also going to come across some serious hacks. While you might find a professional artist you definitively want to learn your craft from, also know that there’s nothing wrong with having more than one teacher. The beauty of online drawing lessons is that you have an opportunity to learn your skills from multiple masters. Perspective never hurt anyone.

Gather Your Materials

The first thing you need to consider when embarking on your drawing journey is your art supplies. When you’re a beginner, you can get away with basic paper and pencils. As you advance, however, you’re going to need some nicer supplies in order to make better drawings. Don’t go wasting your high-quality paper on practice, though; save the good stuff for your finished pieces.

There are various thicknesses and hardness of pencils. “H” denotes hardness, “B” denotes softness, and the numbers indicate the thickness of the line. Pick something in the middle to start. Once you’re sure you like drawing, then you can invest in various types of pencils—you might even try charcoal or ink!

Choose materials you’re comfortable using and working with. Don’t break the bank at any point in your learning process; if you buy stuff that is too expensive, you’ll be scared to use it for practice.

Don’t Expect to Learn Overnight

Everyone learns at their own pace. The great part of learning in the privacy of your own home via the internet is that you don’t have the pressure of keeping up with classmates as you would in a standard learning environment.

Learning anything takes time, and art is no different. You need to persevere and keep trying to get better. Remember why you wanted to learn how to draw and keep working toward that goal.

Focus on Perspective

A key to taking your drawings from beginner to intermediate work boils down to your knowledge about perspective. Anyone with a little art background can draw a cube, but not everyone can draw a bunch of cubes lined up along a road that heads towards a vanishing point, add some roofs, and call them houses. Perspective is essential for creating believable artwork.

It helps in conceptualizing three-dimensional shapes on your two-dimensional paper by breaking the world down into its building blocks. Remember how all drawings are just a bunch of lines? Like the cube=house comparison, there are really only four shapes that make up the majority of objects.

The cube, the sphere, the cylinder, and the cone are all you need to draw three-dimensional forms, and they’re all made of simple lines. A person is just a sphere on top of a cube with cylindrical limbs and conic feet and hands. Once you figure that out, you can apply the basic rules of how these four forms interact with a vanishing point.

Listen to Feedback

One of the best ways to grow as an artist it to ask for other artists’ opinions on your work. Open yourself up to criticism, and take in what other people tell you. You can share your art in a bunch of ways, including social media Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, as well as other small art websites that ask for art submissions. The more you put your work out there, the more perspective you’ll have on what you are and aren't doing right.

Sharing your drawings is also good practice for building potential clients if professional art commissions are where you want to head with your craft.

Because online drawing lessons remove you from any situation where you have peers and a teacher to critique your work, you need to reach out and find a community that can offer you artistic feedback.

Great Art Takes Effort

Most artists have probably heard this at least once in their life: “You’re so talented! It just comes to you so easily! I could never draw like that.”

Well, did you study up on human anatomy, gain insight on movement, learn about light refraction, and master perspective with not one, not two, but three vanishing points?

While anyone who does something really well gives the impression that they walked out of the womb doing it that way, more likely than not, hours upon hours of effort went into honing their skill.

Some natural-born talent only puts you a little ahead; if you don’t put in the work to learn more, people who started out saying “I could never draw!” will pass you up in skill sets if they work harder than you. Pick a teacher, and get learning—the world of drawing awaits!