Drawing Vocabulary

Process  ​

“blocking-in”  establishing the main forms of a drawing; “blocking-in” provides the architecture on which the rest of the drawing is built


line ​ ​ a mark made by drawing an implement across a surface; lines are an abstract concept, as they do not exist in nature (what we show as lines are actually the meeting of edges); a variation of line weight (or thickness/thinness) can help to define a form more accurately, reflect its position in space, or convey the movement of light across the form


outline  ​  a line that traces the exterior/outside edge of an object; in representational drawing, outlines tend flatten the image (think of a comic strip)


continuous line drawing  ​ a drawing wherein the implement is not lifted from the page; the resulting drawing could be considered a single line; may include both interior and exterior planes, edges, and forms


blind contour  ​  a drawing executed by not looking at the page; instead the eyes follow the forms of the object and the hand translates the act of looking; as an exercise it serves to slow you down and focus on looking at the objects in front of you, as well as to develop hand/eye coordination


cross contour  a line drawing where the lines not only trace the edges of a form, but also move across the surface of the form like a topographical map..



composition  ​ the layout and arrangement of the elements in a drawing


bird’s eye view  a composition that utilizes a view looking down on an object(s)


worm’s (or ant’s) eye view  a composition that utilizes a view looking up at an object(s)


balance  the distribution of elements in a drawing; there are 3 main types:

- symmetrical: exact balance of elements along a central axis so that  each side of the drawing is identical.

- asymmetrical: an uneven distribution of elements that usually achieves balance through the use of contrast.

- approximate symmetry: an arrangement of elements that achieves balance with an even distribution of non-identical forms 


positive shape (or space)   the "figure" made of shapes that are associated with an object being represented


negative shape (or space)   the shapes surrounding a figure, which provide the context and "ground" for the image. 


volumetric drawing  ​ an approach to drawing where you draw “through” objects as if they were wireform; effective for understanding how an object exists with height, width, and depth.


organizational line  an approach to drawing wherein lines that define edges are continued off the page to show the relationship between objects.


sighting/measuring  using a pencil or pen to determine angles of edges and the relative proportion of objects to each other


gesture drawing  a style of drawing focused on speed and getting the forms of the drawing established quickly without worrying about erasing or making wrong marks; gesture drawing should fill the page and involve the entire arm.



value  the range of lights and darks in a drawing


value scale  a stepped gradation of tones from white to black ​


relative value  the inherent value of an object that will impact the overall value range; for example, a white object will most likely not have the full range of values, instead, because of its relative value, its value range will fall more towards the light end of the scale


modeling  the change of light across a surface; used to create spatial illusion


hatching/crosshatching  a way of building up value through the use of parallel lines (hatching) and intersecting lines (crosshatching), where the density of lines determines the value


pointillism/stippling  a way of building up value through the use of dots where the density of dots determines the value.


high contrast  a limited value range that incorporates bold changes between light and dark (think of a black and white comic book)


low contrast  a limited value range that operates in a small range of the value scale



perspective  giving the illusion of depth to a two dimensional surface; there are 2 main forms:

 - atmospheric perspective: the loss of detail and value range as objects recede towards into the distance

 - linear perspective: the appearance that parallel lines converge as they recede into the distance


foreshortening  the compressing of forms as they recede into the distance