Mark making techniques in drawing are a critical part of the beginner’s creative journey.

The analogy of an athlete on the starting line is a great definition of how to approach mark making as one of the first drawing activities you do.

Making that first mark on paper is perhaps the most challenging thing to do as an artist. Even when you are an accomplished one or learning how to get started with the medium that you are using. The ability to understand how you as an individual make that mark on paper is unique to you.

Learning to feel confident when you draw your first line whether you are a sketching beginner or more advanced, is a skill you can learn to do from the onset by mastering mark making techniques on paper. Added to this I advocate mark making for any new medium you use whether it be pencil (the entire graphite range through to colouring pencil) pen (ink or micron) or even biro. I also “mark make” when experimenting with different types of paint or medias like stencilling or print making.

Why is mark making important?

Teaches you to be in control.

Pay attention to how you hold your pencil. Apply different types of pressure to different marks you make. Press down hard with your pencil, for example and then lighter. Notice how you can achieve different effects through this application of different pressure. This will build your experience in shading and toning technique. How straight can you get your lines? What I personally love about mark making is that you don’t have to particularly concentrate on drawing anything in particular. It is (almost) a vacuous exercise designed to simply shape your skill.

Mark making helps you learn to draw.

You have a unique style. You will place that pencil and make your mark in a totally different way to others. Developing a set of mark making techniques will support you discover the methodology behind your creative style. What is the process by which you find it the easiest to draw a line? It’ll be different to mine! As you experiment pay attention to how you do it. Over time it will become easier and second nature to you.

Mark making is a building block for the drawing you want to put together. Lines, squiggles, shading, hatching…all components you will become familiar with when sketching.

It can be argued that mark making is a great way of zoning out, a type of doodling that allows your mind to wander whilst it gathers its creative thoughts.

You’ll be surprised how easy mark making is to do!

Here is an example of one I did earlier with a pencil in under 5 minutes.  You can watch it here!

A few mark making techniques for you to try

There are a few techniques I used in this sketch exercise which you can try;

  1. Drawing the straight line.  From left to right. Practise how straight you can get a line whether horizontal or vertical.  (Great for urban sketching and line drawing in general!)
  2. Break up your lines and draw elongated as well as short lines in quick succession of one another. This exercise is a pre requisite to breaking up line to draw shapes. Try varying the direction of travel for these lines too.
  3. C shapes. Practise drawing slightly curved shapes.
  4. Scribble! Just have fun scribbling across the page.  Loosen your wrist and draw a variety of loops and swirls as well as jaggedy edged lines.
  5. Create pattern with a combination of the line sketches across your page.

Mark making is, in my opinion, the foundation of good drawing practise.  It is also an opportunity to fall back on it when you find yourself wondering what to draw.  Always use it to practise lines, tones and shape, shadow and thickness of line.

Why not have a go?

Join me for more resources when keeping a sketchbook in my community which you can sign up to here!