January 24, 2018

How to Practice Drawing: Phase 1 — Warm Up


Warming up is the first phase of your art practice.

This phase is simple but it’s extremely important. On the surface it’s about loosening yourself up, which is part of it, but in truth it’s also a drill in it’s own right – a drill that’s so important and fundamental that it will improve every other skill you work on.

This is why it’s the first thing you do every day.

Warming up with simple shapes improves your stroke control, which will in turn make your work more fluid and energetic and will make your workflow much more efficient.

It also drills construction. You’ll find that the better you get with construction, the more you will internalize it. Eventually it will permeate everything you draw – naturally giving your drawings a feeling of weight, form and dimension.

Lastly, it gets you in the right mind-set before you begin the Study Phase. You’ll be primed to think in terms of stroke control and construction as you continue your study.

Here’s what you’ll want to focus on in the warm up:

Straight Lines and Ellipses

Keeping your hand controlled but relaxed, draw straight lines. It can help to draw two points first and then quickly “ghost” between them, moving the pencil above the paper to practice the stroke. Slowly bring your pencil closer to the paper until you set down the stroke. Once you’ve done some point to point lines, try some freehand lines. Check your lines with a ruler.


Once you’ve done some straight lines, try some free-hand ellipses. You can start with a full circle and slowly squash it with every subsequent ellipse. You may want to use an ellipse template, or create some ellipses in illustrator and print them out to use as reference. Draw a line through the major and minor axis (the line that divides the ellipse on it’s longest side and shortest side, respectively). Your ellipses should be symmetrical on both sides.


Perspective Grids

Practice drawing perspective grids freehand. Start with a horizon line. Mark a vanishing point and draw lines radiating out from it.

Three dimensional Shapes

Build simple three dimensional shapes out of lines and ellipses. You can lay them on to the perspective grid or they can be free floating.


Complex curves

Draw several points and connect them with freehand curves. Weave curved lines through the ellipses you’ve drawn.

Cover Your Bases

You can do a little of each of these in your warm up, or spend time with just one, but you’ll want to make sure that you cover each of these areas regularly. 5 to 10 minutes a day, should be plenty of time to get the job done.

WARNING:  You will draw crap.  That’s okay. Just make note of where you can improve, but don’t stress out about it.

Once you’ve done the warm-up it’s time to move on to the Study Phase.

Like what you just read? 

If so, sign up below to receive free tutorials and updates including my Foundations of Dynamic Linework video tutorial.


  1. Svetlana says:

    hey, thanks a lot for this entry, i’ve actually been working for design industry for a year now, and my progress been…lacking. Well, no surprise, i haven’t been putting all this effort in, now i will make sure to fill the scetchbook each month, and have a good warm up every day before work. I think i’ve been running away from the fact that every artist need to put a lot of work in to improving, you cannot improve without practicing.

    • Brandon says:

      Yes! That’s the right attitude. Just remember, the focus you put in while you draw is more important than the hours you put in. Even if you only have time for 15 minutes, spend some time drawing some simple shapes (or anything else that challenges you.) A little bit of focused practice goes a long way.

      Keep me updated on your progress!

  2. Thank you very much for this blog !

    What do you mean with “Weave curved lines through the ellipses you’ve drawn.”

    Thank you !

    • I may have to make a little video to explain that, but basically it means drawing curves between the shapes you’ve drawn. Hope that helps.

  3. I found your 6 tips for better drawing ages ago and recently I’ve been more involved in drawing so I came back to your blog and I can appreciate all the tutorials you have. I kept putting off this one in particular because I thought it was boring but I’m so happy to see it doesn’t have to take too long ;A; anyway yea ty for all u do

  4. I absolutely love this website! It’s perfect for anything about art! This website has really helped me to improve my art skills. I love drawing, mostly sketching, and I’m always looking for ways to get better. I have seen a big change in my artwork ever since I started using this amazing website! Thank you so much!


  1. […] should be practiced every day as part of your daily warm-up, and should really be how you approach any drawing task throughout the […]

  2. […] practicing drawing ellipses in your daily warm-up will help, you need to know one thing about drawing ellipses in perspective to get things […]

  3. […] How to Warm Up Before Drawing […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: