13 Types of Drawing Styles for Artistic Careers
Updated March 10, 2023
Drawing is the foundation for many creative practices. Most skilled illustrators engage in multiple kinds of drawing to express their plans and ideas.
In this article, we look at 13 types of drawing styles, careers that use drawing in their everyday work and tools and mediums used to create drawings in a variety of fields.
What kinds of careers involve drawing?
Drawing is the act of making marks on a surface to create forms, shapes or images. Most creative careers involve drawing in some form or function. However, careers in math, science and engineering may also include drawing. Some specific careers that use drawing to fulfill their responsibilities include:
Courtroom sketch artist
Types of drawing
Types of drawing styles include:
1. Caricature drawing
Caricature drawings are images that depict their subjects in oversimplified or overdramatized manners. Some hallmarks of caricatures may include enlarging or shrinking someone's facial features or personifying an object. Artists may use caricature in animation, advertising or graphic design.
2. Cartoon drawing
Cartoon drawings typically depict a more comedic or whimsical view of the world. Similar to caricatures, they may use overdramatized shapes and colors to show emotion or tone through images. Artists may use cartoons in illustrations, animation, advertising and graphic design. Some specific types of cartoons include:
Comics use cartoon-style drawing to present scenes and stories through action panels. Besides images, comics use textual devices like captions and speech bubbles to create more robust stories. They may vary in length—from a single panel to an entire book—and complexity. Some examples of comics include graphic novels and Manga, a type of comic book developed in Japan that includes anime-like characters.
Editorial cartoons use a comics-style of panel storytelling to make a joke or comment on a topic of cultural relevance, such as politics or pop culture. They are usually only one panel long, use captions and other textual devices for clarity and are slanted toward a specific opinion.
3. Figure drawing
Artists create figure drawings, also known as still-life drawings, by making observations of the physical world. Subjects are often human models, but can also include objects like fruit, vehicles or items in nature. Artists who work in figure drawing try to capture the world as they see it. Art instructors typically use figure drawing to teach fundamentals and help students learn perspective, proportions and shading.
Related: 11 Online Art Jobs To Pursue
4. Gesture drawing
Like figure drawing, gesture drawing uses real-life subjects as inspiration. However, gesture drawing focuses on movement and hopes to capture action, form and pose. Often, models or subjects change poses every one to five minutes to enact motion. The shorter the pose, the less an artist can capture, so gesture drawings may be less detailed than other types of illustrations.
5. Line drawing
Line drawing focuses on the use of straight lines and contours without shading. In most line drawings, the artist creates an entire image without picking their instrument up from the surface. Line drawing may teach the importance of angles and curves without putting an emphasis on detail.
6. Perspective drawing
Artists use perspective drawing, also known as 3D or anamorphic drawing, to create three-dimensional images in a two-dimensional space, such as on paper. Those who use this type of drawing pay attention to distance, space, light, volume, surface and scale to determine how each object relates to one another. Two types of perspective drawing include:
Aerial perspective: Focuses on shading, tone and color aspects of perspective
Linear perspective: Focuses on the organization of shapes within a space
Architects, engineers, interior designers and illustrators may work in perspective drawing.
Photorealism, also called hyperrealism, is the concept of drawing something that looks so lifelike it could be mistaken for a photograph. Artists often use this technique for human subjects but may also use animals, landscapes, cityscapes and other natural features for inspiration. Photorealism focuses on contours, shading and details to make subjects look as authentic as possible.
Pointillism is an artistic technique more often used in painting but can also apply to drawings. It uses a stippling method to create many tiny dots that, when viewed from afar, create a realistic image with light and shadows.
9. Scientific illustrations
Artists create scientific illustrations, sometimes known as diagrams, to communicate complex concepts in an easy-to-comprehend way. They show scientific subjects like animals, the human body and naturally occurring objects in the universe in great detail in both still and animated forms. Scientific illustrations may use arrows and labels to point out specific information and show how certain parts interact with one another to give the most amount of information possible.
10. Scratchboard drawing
Scratchboard drawing, also known as scraperboard drawing, uses a cardboard sheet coated with a thin layer of clay and India ink. Artists use a sharp tool, sometimes called a scratchboard nib, to carve through the ink and reveal the clay. The more lines they make, the brighter the picture becomes. Scratchboard drawings can be very detailed and may even resemble wood engravings sometimes.
11. Silhouette drawing
Silhouettes are images or designs that show the outline of an object in a single hue or tone. Artists usually create them in black and white, with one color as the background and the other filling the silhouette. They don't include details beyond the lines and curves present in the outline, and are popular for making profile portraits.
12. Sketch drawing
You can usually tell a sketch drawing by its less-refined lines and edges and unpolished look. Artists often create sketches with simple, quick marks and may ignore adding certain details that aren't important to the piece. They are typically used to show a working concept or capture something important in a short amount of time. Specific types of sketches include:
Automotive sketches are used to show designs for sedans, trucks, motorcycles and other motorized vehicles. They're often used to represent the overall complex shapes of the subject and include certain areas with more details to show design features or upgrades, like custom wheels. Automotive sketches can show both interiors and exteriors and usually feature color to illustrate paint schemes or design ideas.
Media outlets use courtroom sketches in the absence of photographs or film to illustrate stories for trials and legal proceedings. Courtroom sketch artists may focus most closely on people's faces, hair or arms to show the important subjects or actions of a court proceeding. Though it's a sketch, some aspects may include a lot of detail.
Fashion illustrations typically feature long, elongated figures meant to mimic the look of runway models. However, these figures rarely include facial features or fingers because the focus is on the designs. Fashion illustrations may have either a rough or polished look, depending on the artist. They use lines, contours and colors to create initial ideas for future wearable designs.
Interior sketches show how design ideas fit together and how they'll look in a 3D setting. Interior designers use perspective and technical drawing together to create accurately proportioned items, shading and shadows. Interior sketches may appear in black and white or in color to show how tones, fabrics or schemes work together within the room.
13. Technical drawing
Technical drawing is the creation of precise diagrams and plans that show how to build or construct something, or how it functions. Engineers, electricians, contractors and other related professionals use these drawings in areas such as:
Architectural drawings show the detailed features of buildings. They may include replications of buildings that already exist, modifications for redesigns or plans to create brand new structures. Architectural drawings are extremely detailed and show every aspect of construction to help visualize the ideas and concepts that go into a build. Using an architectural drawing may help planners and construction teams decide on the type of labor and supplies they need for a certain job.
Automotive technical drawings act as blueprints to show the mechanics of a motor vehicle. They often include all moving parts and show how each one interconnects with the next. Automotive drawings may show the vehicle as a whole or a specific part, like the engine.
Electrical drawings show the components of an electrical system of an item, such as the wiring, power sources and lighting. They may also include information about voltage and capacity. Electrical drawings use lines, colors and basic shapes to create a clear blueprint.
Engineering drawings define the requirements needed to produce an engineering product. Professionals use them like technical manuals to troubleshoot their tools and find flaws in mechanical designs to make them work better or more efficiently. Engineers use mathematical equations to ensure that the highly detailed plans show accurate depictions of each element.
Plumbing drawings show the systems that bring water into an area and remove waste. Elements may include water supply lines, vent pipes, valves, drains and fixtures. Plumbers use a variety of industry-created symbols to show the correct items. Like electrical drawings, plumbing drawings use many straight and curved lines. While they show much detail in their content, these types of drawings often lack elements like color and shading.
Structural drawings are like architectural drawings, but they focus on load-carrying members of a structure, like beams or walls, rather than details like surface finishes or mechanical systems. They look like blueprints or other plans rather than a traditional artistic drawing. Structural designers use math and science to calculate the most accurate proportions of included items to ensure proper stability and construction.
Related: 12 Types of Construction Drawings
Artists use a variety of tools to make drawings, including:
Chalk is a powdery drawing tool made from naturally occurring minerals. Often, manufacturers add other pigments to create colors besides red, white and black. Chalk is a suitable tool for blending and shading and works on many surfaces. It's easily transferable among surfaces.
Charcoal is a crumbly black material made of carbon. In art, it's often sold in sticks or pencils. It's an excellent tool for shading and blending because it's easily smudged.
Colored pencils are wood shells with wax or oil pigmented centers. They come in a variety of colors and hues. Unlike other materials, they're less like to smudge but still blend easily.
Wax crayons add color to drawings in a non-transferable way. Because of their construction, crayons are less likely to transfer surfaces, but are also more difficult to use for blending and shading.
Graphite is a metallic gray powder that comes in pencils and sticks. It's often used for line drawing, blending and shading. Like other tools, it may transfer among surfaces.
Ink, a liquid pigmentation, usually fills pens and markers for drawing. With additives, ink may come in a variety of colors and consistencies. Ink may help in line drawing and blending. It's transferable when wet.
Pastels are sticks of powdered pigment made from oil or water-based materials. They're excellent for blending but can transfer to other surfaces.
Mediums for drawing
Artists create drawings on a variety of surfaces. Some of the most common include:
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