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Basic Sketching For Aerospace Engineering

Aerospace Engineering

Martijn van de Wiel Maarten Stolk

BASIC SKETCHING for Aerospace Engineering

a reference book by Maarten Stolk & Martijn van de Wiel

copyright Š 2014 Maarten Stolk Martijn van de Wiel Revised edition 1.2 Proof reading Nikki Carman

BASIC SKETCHING This booklet accompanies the course component ‘Basic Sketching’ (part of AE1111-II Engineering Drawing) during the first year of the bachelor program of the faculty of Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft. The purpose of this booklet is to provide course participants with a theoretical background alongside their practical training. Additionally, it aims to serve as a reference book for staff and students of the faculty, when insight into the basic principles of sketching is required. This book is divided into four parts. The first discusses sketching within the creative context. The second offers a set of motor skills practices. The third explains the basic principles of three-dimensional sketching and the fourth part deals with how sketching can be used persuasively to tell a story.

Alongside this booklet, the Basic Sketching course makes use of a workbook which contains exercises and examples to train and improve individual sketching skills. It is our hope that this course and accompanying literature will inspire and motivate the course participants to begin sketching on a regular basis.

The Basic Sketching Staff.

We believe that sketching stimulates the imagination, the primary source of meaningful progression. As a form of visual thinking, sketching sparks creativity making it an invaluable skill in breaking new grounds. Maarten Stolk Martijn van de Wiel



TO INFINITY AND BEYOND Design sketching 19 Exploratory sketching 23 Communicative sketching 25 Summary 26 PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE ! Motor skills 31 Fluent lines 33 Straight lines 35 Circles and ellipses 37 Summary 38

KEEP IT SIMPLE Perspective drawing 43 Point of view 45 One-point perspective 47 Two-point perspective 49 Three-point perspective 51 Perspective in action 53 Details in perspective 55 Cheating is ok 59 Summary 60 WHAT’S YOUR STORY ? A perfect chaos 65 Story telling 67 Creating focus 69 Summary 70

* Note that instead of ‘drawing’, which commonly refers to the act of representing a physical artefact on paper, the word ‘sketching’ is often being used in this reader. Sketching, in the context of this course refers to the activity of testing out ideas on paper and the visual development of thought.

INTRODUCTION learning to sketch

As technology advances so its complexity increases. Computer Aided Design (CAD) was introduced in the early 1960’s to deal with this growing complexity. Since then, our dependency on the computer as a tool to aid these technological advances has grown exponentially but simultaneously so has the danger of becoming trapped within its computational boundaries.

Sound familiar? The truth is it’s not about art it’s about design development! You are perfectly capable of making a drawing but simply lack the proper training to produce a visual and comprehensive representation of your thoughts. This course will help you to build your sketching skills confidence and teach you to make sketching* a strong asset in your daily practice.

In order to break free from these boundaries we need imagination and this is precisely where computers fall short. Sketching can provide a powerful alternative but to use it effectively in support of imagination you will need to learn it first.

Traditionally, the act of drawing has been categorised as either an artistic or a technical skill and we still find this division reflected in education today. Most design schools follow the artistic route whereas most engineering schools prefer the technical approach (drafting).

“I can’t draw!” is probably the most common response when being asked to visualize ones thoughts. Many feel uncomfortable showing their private scribbles to others, fearing their artistic ability will be laughed at.

The former ‘artistic approach’ tends to focus on teaching skills appropriate for creative development and are often primarily geared at form development and the visual expression of a products look and feel.


The latter approach teaches skills which focus more on the documentation of assemblies and construction using for example cross-sections and orthographic projections. As a result, these skills are based predominantly on mathematical rules and principles which quickly lose traction within the creative context.

This is not a drawing class! In this course the drawing itself is not simply the end result but a fundamental part of the creative process and should therefore be considered as a series of investigative and reflective actions for design development. It would be pointless to judge these kinds of drawings by their artistic value as they are not intended to be works of art. Similarly, they should not be seen as technical drawings because they are not directly intended for production. Instead we should look at these drawings as having a completely new set of values which are based on the purpose of the drawing within the context of the design process.

Aerospace engineering obviously involves a great deal of mathematical, analytical and rational thought. Nevertheless, to meet the most daring challenges and to truly break new ground you will also need to make use of a good deal of creative and lateral thinking. As an aerospace engineer, we believe sketching should be an integral part of your repertoire of skills, successfully combining both rational and creative thought. However, this notion requires a completely different approach towards educating the drawing skills of the student.

When sketches are intended to investigate and test ideas we should look at their exploratory values and when sketches are intended to reflect upon we should look at their communicative values.


These two values form the foundation of this course and for practical application are translated into two distinct sketching mindsets; you will quickly learn when to use one or the other and which tools and techniques to apply.

Keep it simple. Whilst sketching, you will need to free your mind from anything that hinders your thinking and stalls the creative process. This is why we have purposely stripped the theory of linear perspective to its bare bones and carefully selected a set of simple yet practical rules to get you going. You’ll be up and running in no time!

Practice, practice, practice! During the course you will definitely feel failure and frustration, but don’t give up! Learning to sketch requires practice and dedication, just like learning to ride a bike or to play an instrument – there will be an element of trial and error!

What’s your story? Communication is key to getting your ideas across. You may have a brilliant solution but if you can’t explain it in a comprehensible way chances are high it will never see the light of day. During this course you will discover a set of quick and effective sketching techniques that will help you make your ideas stand out as part of a complete and compelling story.

At first, sketching will be a conscious activity requiring your full attention but by making up your flying hours, sketching will gradually become a more natural and fluent activity. The more you practice, the easier it will become to develop your ideas through sketching.





Figure A: a simplified model of the creative ‘drive chain’.


DESIGN SKETCHING stay focussed!

Sketching is a powerful and indispensable tool during this creative process that enables you to visualize your thoughts and carry a visual conversation. However the act of sketching itself consumes processing power in your brain – power that is very much needed for the creative process. When your brain is constantly switching between creative thought and drawing out ideas, the experience can be rather frustrating. More often than not this will result in either stalled creativity, illegible drawings or hardly any drawings at all.

Image: multitasking within the creative process can be a frustrating experience.

Designing can be a magical experience and seeing your thoughts come to life might seem like pure alchemy yet it is not all abracadabra! The driving force behind this magic is the creative process; a continuous loop of exploration and reflection; two distinct cycles of creativity propelling the design process forward. * Exploration: developing a meaningful design solution by investigating, tweaking and refining ideas.

So how do you sketch without interrupting the flow of creativity? And how do you produce communicative sketches whilst in the middle of a creative outburst?

Reflection: drawing conclusions by reviewing, discussing and validating possible design solutions.

* See figure A: a simplified model of the creative ‘drive chain’.


Image: sketching in the right mindset helps to focus on the task in hand.

First and foremost, through practice! With continuous training of both motor skills and theoretical understanding, sketching will gradually become second nature freeing up thinking space and energy for the creative process. Secondly, by focussing your drawing efforts on a single cycle in the creative process – either exploration or reflection. In order to do this effectively we now introduce two sketching mindsets: exploratory sketching for fluent exploration and communicative sketching for optimal reflection. Each of these sketching mindsets has its own set of guiding principles and sketching techniques and by using either mindset individually, you will optimize the creative processing power of your brain.


EXPLORATORY SKETCHING the flow of creativity

to get your visual exploration down on paper. Thus, sticking with one pen or pencil, making relatively small sketches, avoiding perspectives where possible and not adding colour or shading to your sketches until you have completed your investigation are simple principles to follow whilst operating in the exploratory sketching mindset. These principles also prevent you from drawing conclusions too soon and because all sketches are being drawn in a similar style it becomes easier to compare one option against another.

Image: example of exploratory sketches.

When you are sketching in order to explore, investigate and test ideas, efficiency is crucial. You will need to be able to put your ideas onto paper quickly whilst keeping up with the pace of your own thoughts – in other words, you need to stay in the creative flow. If your sketching takes too long this creative flow will stall and you will risk ending up with an underdeveloped design proposal or simply too few design options. This calls for a more efficient approach towards sketching.

The same principles also work well in creative sessions with multiple participants such as a brainstorming session. You will be surprised at how powerful a simple sketch can be in supporting your verbal communication.

In the exploratory sketching mindset, simplicity of style will keep you focused on the creative process itself. video The best method of increasing speed and efficiency is to reduce the accuracy of the sketch to its absolute minimum. Accept the fact that your sketches will not be perfect. In fact the resulting pages will probably look a complete mess but that’s fine! All that counts is your ability

Eventually with enough practice, exploratory sketching will become second nature and you will, in time, reach a stage where your imagination and sketching gradually become a singular activity.



By using the communicative sketching mindset you focus on the communicative values only.

Image: example of exploratory sketches with an upgrade of the communicative values.

In contrast to the principles of simplicity of style used in the exploratory sketching mindset, you can now make full use of all the sketching tools you have available and focus completely on the story you wish to communicate.

Before the age of computer assisted design, the designer would, upon completion of the creative work, begin producing a set of hand-drawn perspective renderings with which to sell his/ her ideas to the client. Today sketching and creative development often run in parallel with CAD development and making computer generated renderings of your design conclusions is now relatively easy and often a lot faster than making them by hand.

By adding the right amount of contrast, some graphical elements, colour accents and explanatory text you can greatly enhance the communicative value of your most relevant sketches and push the irrelevant ones into the background. You literally draw the conclusions from your exploration.

But although it is tempting to cast your exploratory sketches aside once the creative work has been completed, there is actually often no need to produce new presentation sketches or computer generated renderings for the purpose of reflection. With only a little effort, you can simply upgrade your original sketches and use them directly to communicate your results.

One advantage of presenting your conclusions within the exploratory sketches is that it is now easier to explain to your audience, by demonstrating your chain of thought, how you arrived there.


SUMMARY To help sustain your focus and efficiency we have introduced and discussed alternating between the exploratory sketching mindset and the communicative sketching mindset. The principles of exploratory sketching are:

single medium simple sketches single style minimal perspective no color/shading

The principles of communicative sketching are: graphics contrast color text Things to remember: Use these two mindsets one at a time. Do not mix their principles and techniques!

MOTOR SKILLS practice makes perfect

Sketching is not the same as writing which requires that we hold our pen relatively close to the nib so that we can make very precise movements with our fingertips. These ‘fine’ motor skills are great for adding detail during the final stages of your sketch, but are not very useful when setting up the ‘bigger picture’.

Image: reposition your grip backwards and relax the muscles in your fingers.

The quality of your sketches will depend greatly on your motor skills: the complex muscle and nerve actions that produce movement. These motor skills can be trained to enhance that quality.

You also therefore need to train your ‘gross’ motor skills: the use of large muscle groups. To enable this you need to reposition your grip further back along the pen shaft and to relax the muscles in your fingers. This position will prevent you from making small movements but will help you to draw longer and smoother lines.

If you liked drawing as a child, the chances are your motor skills have already developed to a certain degree. If you have not drawn frequently since childhood however, your skills will probably need a good workout to get you back on track.

Try to keep an eye on your grip whilst sketching. In the beginning your fingers will tend to move back to the default writing position but persevere. The trick is to practice the higher grip over and over until it becomes your new default position.

Once trained, you will be able to apply these motor skills without even thinking about them. video

Holding your pen The first step in training your motor skills is to practice the way you hold your pen.


FLUENT LINES the flow of the pen

and is therefore more applicable in the communicative sketching mindset than during the fast paced exploration mindset. Furthermore it limits the training of your motor skills because you only practice drawing lines in one direction.

Image: hold your pen perpendicular to the direction of the line you are drawing.

Producing a fluent line is probably one of the most difficult yet also one of the most essential aspects of sketching. It requires steadiness in continuous motion. Here are some simple techniques to make it easier.

Curves To create a fluent curved line you need to maintain a fairly constant angle of your pen. This means you have to steadily point your pen perpendicular to the average direction of the line.

Stability To stabilize your pen hold it perpendicular to the direction of the line you are drawing. This will greatly reduce any fluctuations to the line you are drawing.

Try to minimize the movement of your wrist and especially to your fingers. The more muscles and joints you use the more complex the motion becomes. This makes it harder to control the fluency of the line.

To draw a horizontal line for example, you have to point your pen straight forward and for a vertical line you have rotate it so that it points sideways.

For bigger curves you can sometimes use your elbow. If you rotate your arm around your elbow you create a curve with a radius the size of your lower arm.

Alternatively you can also rotate the page in front of you but this takes more time (and space)


STRAIGHT LINES staying on track

Draw through It also helps to start drawing the line before the actual starting point and draw through the endpoint as well. This not only results in straighter lines, it also gives your sketches a more spontaneous and loose character.

Image: draw from the shoulder.

The difficulty with drawing straight lines is being able to move your pen continuously and over the entire length of the line. Use your shoulder Because our joints operate in a similar fashion to a compass any rotation will create a curve instead of a straight line. The shorter the limb you move the shorter the radius you will create. The trick is therefore, to minimize the rotation of the foremost joints. Drawing from the shoulder gives you the most stable motion. For shorter lines it will probably feel a little awkward not to use your wrist, but with some practice, the results should be more accurate. Observe your own hand when you draw a line and see if you are moving your fingers or rotating your wrist. If you are, focus on this movement and make a real effort to correct it.


CIRCLES AND ELLIPSES round and round it goes

and fingers and try to draw from the shoulder. It helps to first practice this movement a couple of times in the air above your piece of paper before drawing.

Image: continue the sketch-line round and round until the ellipse feels right.

Circles and ellipses are generally considered the most difficult things to draw yet they are all around us and form an integral part of the many products and constructions we see. Ignoring them in our sketching life is simply not feasible.

Ellipses To get an even result, hold your pen perpendicular to the longest axis of the ellipse you are drawing. Then starting in the middle of the ellipse, at the point where it is least curved, continue the line a couple of times on top of itself, adjusting the resulting shape until satisfied. video

Circles It is an illusion to think that you need to be able to draw a perfect circle by hand. For that we have compasses and computers. Instead, we can approximate the perfect circle by continuing the sketch-line several times on top of itself. By seeing where you go ‘wrong’ you can slowly adjust the movement of your hand, steering it closer in the direction of the desired circle. video

Practice: draw ellipses from different viewing angles. This will help you to draw cylindrical objects from different perspectives.

Just as with curves you need to maintain a fairly constant angle of your pen to produce a fluent circle. Minimize the movement of your wrist


SUMMARY To improve your sketching skills, practice the following principles: Motor skills Hold your pen further from the tip and relax your muscles. Fluent lines Point your pen perpendicular to the direction of the line you want to draw. Minimize any rotation of your fingers, wrist or elbow. Straight lines Draw from the shoulder. Draw through the end points. Circles and ellipses Continue the sketch-line and adjust the movement. Practice extensively to make it second nature!

PERSPECTIVE DRAWING basic principles

reference planes and guide lines to carefully construct the drawing.

image: an example of a three-point perspective drawing of a leading edge section showing the basic principles of linear perspective.

To make a perspective drawing a two or threepoint perspective is usually applied. You will become proficient in drawing objects in perspective but it will take time to develop a good feel for all the principles that apply.

Perspective is a way to show three dimensions in a two-dimensional image. The level of complexity in a perspective drawing increases with the level of realism and detail that is being portrayed. In perspective, all parallel edges of an object extend to a vanishing point somewhere in the distance. CAD-software usually uses three or even four vanishing points to calculate the appearance of the geometry as it is seen from a specific angle. Next to the viewing angle the software also takes the optics of the lens and the distance to the object into account to produce the actual image.

Convergence All parallel edges of an object converge to a vanishing point on a (horizon) line behind the object. Foreshortening The effect of objects appearing shorter as they really are, viewed along your line of sight. Viewing angle Edges of objects below the eye level (the horizon line) converge upward and edges above the eye level converge downward. The viewing angle determines which side of the object is visible.

To produce an image like that by hand would require a phenomenal understanding of all the mathematical principles that apply. And even if you did, you would still need to draw lots of


POINT OF VIEW choosing the right angle

Top Choose an angle between -30 and -90 degrees from the horizon and use a three-point perspective to achieve the best results.

Image: example of different viewing angles drawn in a one-point perspective.

In any perspective drawing your viewing angle determines what you see in the image. To make sure your drawing shows the most interesting part of the object, you will need to choose the right angle first.

Side Choose an angle between 30 and -30 degrees from the horizon and use a two-point perspective. Alternatively, start with a plane side view and draw the sections at an angle creating a one-point perspective.

At the eye level (horizon line) you will be looking at the side of the object. When you place the object below the eye level you will see more of the top surface and placed above the eye level you will be able to see the bottom of the object.

Bottom Choose an angle between 30 and 90 degrees from the horizon and use a three-point perspective.

It is therefore important to first think about what you want to show your audience, and then to choose a viewpoint that accommodates the design discussion. Do you want to talk about the top, the side or the bottom of the object?

When you can’t fit all of your ideas into one perspective you will simply have to produce more drawings using a different point of view.


ONE-POINT PERSPECTIVE simple and effective

them three-dimensionally. Seeing multiple sides of an object usually makes it easier to reflect on possible design changes.

image: an example of a one-point perspective drawing of a leading edge section. Note that in reality the vanishing point will often fall outside the picture plane.

To provide these images you could produce new sketches and meticulously construct the perspectives with the use of two or three vanishing points (see following chapters). But what is the added value of presenting these objects in such a realistic perspective?

The simplest form of perspective drawing is the one-point perspective. For practical purposes this perspective can be applied when the objects’ three-dimensionality is more important than its realistic appearance. A major part of Aerospace Engineering involves the design and construction of profiles. In this process, sketching section views can give increased understanding of the design by allowing for a thorough exploration of it. Even combinations of more complex profiles can easily be drawn and compared in sketches with only two-dimensions.

In this case, a one-point perspective provides a more efficient way to produce a three-dimensional image. It also allows you to use your original section views directly. Without much effort you can ‘extrude’ a two-dimensional profile in the third dimension by connecting all corners of the profile to a single vanishing point. The rear end of the profile can then be drawn in plane-view showing the actual shape undistorted by perspective. video

However, when you need to present your ideas and solutions to others it often helps to show


TWO-POINT PERSPECTIVE make it credible

the least amount of foreshortening and the top surface the most because it is positioned more along our line of sight. This is useful for example when designing a wing box and your design efforts are focused on the profiles and sections of the product.

image: an example of a two-point perspective drawing of a leading edge section. Note that in reality the vanishing points will be further apart and will fall outside the picture plane.

When you need a more realistic representation of your idea a two-point perspective is a good choice. This perspective is based on some fairly simple techniques that will quickly turn your side views into credible three-dimensional objects. As the name implies this perspective is constructed with the use of two vanishing points. All horizontal edges of an object will converge to these vanishing points on a horizon line behind the object. This results in an array of angles for all horizontal edges that define the object in your sketch. The beauty and convenience of a two-point perspective lies in the fact that all vertical elements will remain perfectly vertical.

Note that although it is tempting to place the two vanishing points just inside the picture frame on each side of the page this will usually result in distortion of the portrayed geometry. For a more natural appearance the two vanishing points should be placed relatively far apart to correspond with the way the lenses of our eyes perceive the world around us. This means that at least one of the points, but more often both points will not be visible on your page (see chapter: Perspective in Action). If the object consists of more complex geometry than just horizontal and vertical planes you could first construct a rectangular container or section views in perspective to provide some guidance in constructing the actual geometry.

A two-point perspective is suitable for representation of objects with a normal viewing angle. This means the left or right side of the object has


THREE-POINT PERSPECTIVE a different point of view

usually less foreshortened than the sides making it more visible across your line of sight. The same principles apply for drawing objects with a very low viewing angle for showing the bottom part. The only difference is, the object will now be located above the horizon line and all vertical lines will converge to a vanishing point above the object.

image: an example of a three-point perspective drawing of a leading edge section. Note that in reality the vanishing points will be further apart and will fall outside the picture plane.

A three-point perspective is suitable for the representation of objects with a high viewing angle like a birds-eye view. This can be useful in situations where you need to communicate something about the top part of an object. Using a two-point perspective in this case would cause a large amount of distortion and will often produce unnatural results.

Note that just as in a two-point perspective the vanishing points should be placed relatively far apart for a more natural representation. In most cases all three points will fall outside the picture plane. In this case as well you could first sketch a rectangular container or section views in perspective to construct more complex geometry.

The three-point perspective is constructed with an additional vanishing point positioned directly beneath the object. Below the horizon line all vertical edges of the object will converge to a vanishing point located on a vertical line beneath the object itself. The top surface of the object is


PERSPECTIVE IN ACTION making an educated guess

chapters and instantly produce credible perspective drawings. It requires a solid understanding of the basic principles of perspective in order to apply them loosely. In other words: you first need to study and practice things like convergence, foreshortening and points of view.

Image: examples of a loose perspective, a parallel projection and a common mistake.

While engaged in the exploration of your design you don’t want to spend time constructing perspectives. Even constructing a one-point perspective takes time and stalls the creative flow. So what to do then when you are in a rush but still need to produce a three-dimensional image?

A common mistake When ‘faking’ perspective, never place the imaginary vanishing point in front of the object! This makes the edges diverge instead of converge and results in a completely distorted image.

Fake it! That’s right; you simply make it look like a perspective by using the same principles. However, instead of defining a vanishing point and constructing your lines from there, you now make an educated guess – you imagine the position of the vanishing points and aim your lines in their general direction. Using a loosely applied perspective whilst in the exploratory sketching mindset is a very efficient and effective technique but it does not mean you can simply skip the previous

Parallel projection When a realistic appearance is not that important, you can alternatively draw a three-dimensional image without the use of any (imaginary) vanishing points. Instead of converging the lines into the distance you simply draw all edges parallel to one another. This technique is called parallel- or oblique projection.



Image: examples of various circular holes

In a two or three-point perspective the stance of the ellipse is defined by extending the minor axis to a vanishing point. The viewing angle of the circle (its slant from the observer) defines the degree of the ellipse.

Structural integrity and weight reduction are key factors in Aerospace Engineering. Elements commonly applied include various types of structural joints and weight reducing cuts in all shapes and sizes. Again, sketching provides you with a powerful tool to explore this domain. In practice this means you need to know how to draw circles and various other shapes on all sides of three-dimensional objects (such as a profile). Circles In perspective a circle is perceived as an ellipse. An ellipse is described by a (longer) major axis and a (shorter) minor axis that both divide the ellipse into equal halves. The major and minor axes are always perpendicular to each other at the centre of the ellipse.


DETAILS IN PERSPECTIVE joints and cut-outs

Image: examples of various cut-outs and intersecting profiles.

Cut-outs A cut-out can be constructed by projecting a particular shape onto the surface of an object. The viewing angle of this surface defines the amount of foreshortening of the projected shape. To create the cut-out the resulting projection can be ‘extruded’ through the surface following the perspective of the object. Intersections The intersection of two profiles can be constructed by projecting a section of one profile onto the surface of the other. Once again, the foreshortening of the projection is defined by the viewing angle of the surface. The second profile can then be drawn by ‘extruding’ the resulting projection from the surface following the same perspective as the original profile.



of tracing paper and a copy machine enable you to keep sketching when the going gets tough.

Image: copy sketches from tracing paper onto bond paper to use them as a starting point for an exploration.

In your CAD-model choose a number of useful views or perspectives and make prints. Trace the relevant elements of the geometry on tracing paper, make sure they look like sketches, and make several copies on regular bond paper. Now you can start sketching directly on top of the geometry and focus on the problem you are trying to solve. video

Although drawing is a valuable skill, it is not always necessary to produce everything by hand. For example when you are working on something geometrically complex, drawing as the starting point of an exploration can be quite time consuming. Fortunately there are several ‘helping hands’ available to kick-start your creative process.

Instead of computer models you can also use photographs of existing geometric elements. While tracing a photo it is even more important to leave out irrelevant information. Just as with CAD-models, trace only the elements relevant to your exploration, creating a clean canvas for creative thought.

3D computer models of existing geometry provide excellent starting points for exploration. The difficulty with most CAD-software however is that their tools have been designed to define (and test) conclusions rather than to quickly explore new possibilities.

Another helpful method is to use tracing paper on top of a plan or section view to quickly explore various options with a heavy felt tip pen.

There is a very simple solution to combine the computing of complex geometry with the exploratory power of sketching: a printer, a roll


SUMMARY To produce sketches with a three-dimensional appearance use the following principles: Perspective drawing Convergence toward vanishing points. Apply a foreshortening effect. Choose a viewing angle that communicates well. Point of view Choose a smaller angle to show the front side. Choose a larger angle to show top or bottom. Vanishing points Use a one-point perspective when efficiency is needed. Use a two-point perspective when showing front sides. Use a three-point perspective when showing top or bottom. Perspective in action Use a loosely applied perspective whilst exploring. Always place the vanishing point behind the object! Use parallel projection when all else fails.

Details Study the principles of circles, cut-outs and intersections in perspective in order to add details to your drawings. Helping hands A printer, a roll of tracing paper and a copy machine enable you to keep sketching when the going gets tough.

A PERFECT CHAOS so what now?

very well to others. But don’t start making new sketches just yet! There is a good chance you will be able to upgrade your original sketches and convert them into a convincing story with just a few simple and effective techniques.

Image: an example of a set of exploratory sketches as the result of a creative session.

You have by now, after observing the principles of exploratory sketching, using one pen only, with minimal perspective work and no colour, ended up with a decent pile of drawings and hopefully a few promising ideas. The next step is usually to show these ideas to someone else to get their feedback or to convince them of their potential. The sketches that you have at this point are most likely quite rough, quite chaotic and do not communicate the ideas


STORY TELLING bullets, arrows and text

first need to add some basic communicative elements. Bullets, arrows and text greatly enhance the communicative value of your sketches. They help others understand your message and at the same time serve as a guideline for yourself during a presentation. video

Image: an example of story telling elements added to exploratory sketches.

As writers well know, a good story needs structure and a path by which to captivate and guide the audience through to the end. The same principles apply to visual storytelling as well.

Bullets Use anchor points to organise information. Numbers or letters create a sequence.

Such a path needs careful planning. It is good practice to think about the direction of your story in advance. What is my message? Or better still, what is the message I want my audience to receive? In knowing this up front, you have the ‘roadmap’ for your communication.

Arrows Use bold arrows to indicate movement. Use bright colours for the arrows. Narrow arrows serve as pointers for text.

You could build your story from scratch but it is often more efficient to use the material you already have available. Exploratory sketches provide a wealth of building material to communicate your ideas. To get the message across you

Text Use short sentences or key words. Write horizontal (use guide lines). Use capitals for legibility.


CREATING FOCUS order out of chaos

Contrast By increasing the contrast of a sketch you can really pull an idea into the foreground. You can do this by adding weight to the lines – especially the outline where you can use a more heavy stroke.

Image: an example of elements that create focus added to exploratory sketches.

Creating order out of the exploratory chaos is the final step towards building a compelling story and getting your message across.

Shading Enhance the three-dimension quality of your sketch by adding different values of grey to the depicted objects. Choose a light source and apply the tones with a broad tip marker.

When your pages are filled with sketches and scribbles you need to find a way to make your message(s) stand out; an intervention which ties your most valuable ideas together into a coherent story. Here are some basic elements which will help create focus and bring your ideas into the spotlight. video

Layout Finish the pages with some additional elements to refine the layout. Use frames to connect sketches that seem to float in space. Always include a title to let your audience know what you are talking about and don’t forget to add your name and a date!

Staging Viewing your page as a stage you would logically position the most relevant ideas in the foreground and push the irrelevant ones into the background. With a broad tip marker you can do the same by adding a background to lift an idea to the foreground and simultaneously strike out anything that interferes with your message.

Remember: what you leave out of a story is just as important as what you put in. Always keep in mind the message you want to get across to your audience.


SUMMARY See if you can use your exploratory sketches before you start making new ones. Story telling What is your message? Plan your story. Use bullets, arrows, and text. Create focus Stage your ideas. Add contrast. Shade three-dimensional objects. Add final layout elements.

This is not a drawing class!

Basic Sketching