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December 5, 2012
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What is the deal with drawing with guidelines?

:iconpix3m:
Pix3M Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012   Digital Artist
After I had that art class in high school, I realized that I had a bit of artistic ability that I could definitely work on. I was instead interested in drawing stylized anatomy (who wouldn't?) a.k.a. a 'manga' style but I had an interest in styles what leaned closer to realism like ones from the Vagabond series of manga. Of course, knowing next to nothing about art, I make a mistake of looking up drawing tutorials on drawing manga. I made no effort in replicating the typical manga style so I went my own direction with nothing I can easily compare my work with. The tutorials I find are the sorts geared toward for 'people who don't wanna invest time in learning but wants quick easy results' as a friend recently said. Considering that I kept hating my results but thought that I should 'just try harder', it kinda shows how useful some tutorials can be.

Though my art hobby never really went full speed until late April, I still went a direction of using guidelines to do all my anatomy. It wasn't until early summer when somebody comes along and knew more than I do. I learned the more proper way of learning how to draw, and that's actually using references to know very well about what you're drawing. Ironically, I was told this by a non-artist. I end up taking my time to train my eye further and I'm liking the direction I'm going now.

At this point as a pixel artist, my medium allows a workflow I use for smaller scale works doesn't involve any line art at the start - I slather my colors, starting with silhouettes and just refine and refine. There are others who definitely has this sort of workflow because their memory of anatomy (or faux anatomy in my case) is good enough to produce convincing proportions to more than enough people.

So... what's the deal with guidelines? Thinking back, its funny to swallow misleading advice and get meh results, and now I've just gotten started with pixelling from memory without guidelines and not dislike my own results. Guidelines seem pretty ineffective with teaching me anatomy it seems. So, I'm a bit curious about others. How dependant are others with guidelines? Are they as useless as my story suggests they are?
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Devious Comments

:iconvineris:
Vineris Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
If you never do anything particularly complicated then you're unlikely to need mnemonics. Just about anyone can memorize a grocery list, it's when you need to memorize Romeo and Juliet that you start thinking "HMMM I wonder if anything would help with this?" And guidelines are mnemonics that tell you where everything goes.
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:iconladykuki:
LadyKuki Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012  Student General Artist
I draw with guidelines because it helps me get the anatomy right.

At times, I do try and draw without using them, but when I do, it comes out looking really sloppy and inaccurate. I guess it's because all artists learn differently. Maybe you just have a knack for drawing without guidelines while some of us artist don't. Or maybe you understand shape structure more. Normally when you know how to draw things by breaking them down to simple shapes, drawing without a guideline comes in easier... if that makes any sense. ^^;
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:iconpix3m:
Pix3M Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012   Digital Artist
In my case, I get away without using any guidelines because the exact knowledge to know where to place my guidelines is the exact same knowledge to know where to place and shape my body parts to begin with.

Considering I work with a digital medium that gives the most absolute ease of modifying my work, guidelines aren't gonna be as useful as they are to others who work with a media that's a bit less forgiving with mistakes.
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:iconladykuki:
LadyKuki Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012  Student General Artist
Ah, that makes sense.

Digital art does seem to be a lot easier when it comes to creating pictures without guidelines anyway. I just use guidelines since I'm still a novice. :laughing:
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:iconkizziesama:
Kizziesama Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012
I always start with basic shapes and guidelines, rather than just going straight in. It just helps me with posing a character and getting the body measurements the way I like them :) It makes it easier to fix when you can see how you broke it down in the first place, should you mess up.

When I was younger, I used to not use guidelines, and when I made a mistake in the body, I wasn't sure what to fix because I didn't know where I went wrong in the first place. You just know it doesn't look right :XD: Making guides has made this happen less.
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:iconxadrea:
Xadrea Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
I think by drawing guidelines you mean like a canon of proportions? In that case, they are there to help you make sure that your anatomy is correct :D It helps you develop your technique and get better at drawing altogether ^ ^
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:iconlucas420:
lucas420 Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
i think they are helpful, but not always needed.
beginning and intermediate would require them, but if someone has drawn a certain pose or character enough im sure they don't need them anymore XD
i don't use guidelines when drawing sonic fan art, because i've drawn him for years [plus i mean??? sonic is kinda like no anatomy??? what is he?? lol] but when i draw humans, i usually just oval everything, and draw on top of the ovals XD
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:iconnarutokunobessed:
narutokunobessed Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2012  Student General Artist
It really depends on the guidlines and what your really talking about. You can say drawing the form like circles, spheres and squares are guidelines. Those are for the form. You can say that a line down the center of the body is a guideline. Thats to get the flow of the body, and how it sits or stands. Its understanding that bodies are not straight, but are curvy. Or just the lines in general. They help understand where the body lines up and how many heads across. If you take a figure drawing class, they will ask you to measure with your pencil how many heads across. Or especially if your animating, you want some guidlines to know how your lines are lining up with the previous frame. Other wise, your lines can get wobbly.

And its also to ensure for paintings that you don't suddenly run out of space, esspecially if your not a digital painter. Its not easy if you just suddenly paint on a canvas, and then you have to repaint everything. Its actually better to at least have a backup plan so that it looks done. The sketch and guidelines serve to complete 50% of the drawing.

So nope, they aren't all useless. The point of constructing the form, whether its with shapes, with a ton of guidelines, is to be a good draftsmen and understanding your craft. If your understanding your craft, then its ok. No one has to use guidelines, because that is just what they are. They guide you to make your piece better.
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:iconriaayo:
Riaayo Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
As a kid I started really "learning" to draw by mimicking manga/anime as well. To this day I am wrestling with getting away from Yu-gi-oh eyes; that crap is so ingrained into my brain, and it's painful to rip away from. I'm definitely feeling the problems behind learning off mimicking an anime style over looking at real things and then re-interpreting/envisioning them my own way.
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:icontetchist:
Tetchist Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
well, there are two possibilities, both of which may be true:

1) you were given some really crappy advice. it happens. it also doesn't mean that all advice is bad.

2) you're actually still really unskilled and have no idea what you're talking about. I looked at your gallery and I don't think this is the case, but all you have in there is pony stuff so I can't really make that call. perhaps you are a secret idiot. :meow:
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:iconpix3m:
Pix3M Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012   Digital Artist
I think it's just how I didn't know enough about human anatomy. Besides, I tried the 'disregard references use guidelines' thing with some of my earlier pony works and they were generally kind of off-model despite trying by best to not look like so. I can't really say what my earlier human faces looked like to other artist's eyes.... though there is this non-pony work of mine:



But, I made that after I had that life-saving advice of using references. If it looks odd to anyone, it's because I was mainly referencing another artist's face because the commissioner wanted something inspired by a past commission. There's even a link to the said work in the description there.

Pretty much, I'm going with the former. I was given bad advice. Chances are my older human stuff wasn't that horrible, but there were just really subtle things that made them look off but I paid too little attention to anatomy to put my finger on the reason why.

Gotta switch gears and touch on realism for a bit sometime. I kinda wanna see where I'm at with training my eyes.
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:icontetchist:
Tetchist Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
"Pretty much, I'm going with the former. I was given bad advice."

okay. get over it and move on. :meow:
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:iconsekeedil:
sekeedil Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Student General Artist
Hmm... for me guidelines help with the torso, but that's only when I'm having a bad day and just can't seem to focus o-o usually I just like, draw a circle and some lines and that's it xD

and, don't listen to those manga tutorial books. they suck. :I
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:iconshininginthedarkness:
shininginthedarkness Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012
I ESPECIALLY need guidelines when I'm doing pixel art, it's so easy to get lost without them.
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:iconcnids:
Cnids Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
How the hell do people draw without guidelines? My anatomy just goes to crap if I try and draw without having an understanding of the underlying forms. The animators who draw your ponies will do guidelines to understand how the figures function.
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:iconpix3m:
Pix3M Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012   Digital Artist
I have a feeling that they mostly copy-paste body parts given that they work with a digital medium though. There are enough animation errors in the show, and a humorous intentional case of magically removing somebody's mouth part that strongly suggests that they just recycle the same body parts without reinventing the wheel.
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:iconblazthecat13:
blazthecat13 Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Lately I've been drawing with only reference pics so I can learn some anatomy, I'm not that kinda person who changes up art styles very often
I don't really use guidelines since I'd rather use rough shapes I see in the reference pic, that's probably considered as a guideline but I'm not too concerned about labelling stuff right atm, anyway that seems to work better than using dividing an oval into pieces to draw a manga face with symmetrical lines, etc...
It's kind of hard to explain but I just look at a lot of pictures of the same thing and then choose one that doesn't seem to hard to draw, then I memorise it for like example the shape most bunny heads have is an oval and chibi cheeks and a horse's is two circles connected by a rectangle in the middle
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:iconmiraveldi:
Miraveldi Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012
I find myself using guidelines less and less lately, but they can be immensely helpful in suggesting the underlying skeletal structure of a human or other creature. Marking out basic shapes to represent the skull, ribs, pelvis, etc. make drawing believable anatomy and poses much easier.

The fault of those "How to Draw Manga" books is that they teach guidelines without the understanding behind them. To use guidelines correctly, you need to learn what you're actually making guidelines for.

However, relying too much on guidelines, as I recently learned, have the side effect of sometimes making poses seem too stiff. Since I enjoy having fluid motion in my works, having too many guidelines is something I avoid. Instead I just place things where they look natural. It makes me slightly more prone to drawing incorrect anatomy, but I'm willing to take the risk.

I guess whether an artist uses guidelines or not is completely up to them. There are benefits and drawbacks to both ways of drawing.
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:iconnormali:
Normali Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012
When drawing something that is made of lines, you don't have the same ability to make silhouettes and then refine them. That's one of the things guidelines can help with, the help recognizing basic shapes that you can sculpt. But I've also seen some drafts where the artist darkens some parts of a line-art from the outside to reach the desired shape.
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:iconfionacreates:
FionaCreates Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Professional General Artist
I often use guidelines to start a drawing and also to build up skeletal structure.

For example I'll often draw in the spine shoulders hips and rib cage, as well as sticks for arms and legs. This way if I look at it and go "the arm is too long" I only have to shorten a line it took me 2 seconds to draw, instead of something that took me a lot longer.

then you can build your muscle and real drawing shape over the top of the skeleton, boobs, chests, thighs etc without worrying about how long the limb is or if it is in the right place, because you just follow the skeleton.

Again with hands I often start with a square for the palm before adding fingers, this means everything goes in the right place and I don't end up with a silly little palm.

Experience has meant that over the years I need less and less guides but i still like a stick skeleton which keeps the human figure feeling 3D and not flat with anatomy flaws I could have fixed had I just drawn a skeleton first.
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:iconrutana:
Rutana Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Student Writer
The thing with references for me is often enough, that I try too hard to copy the reference directly.
So I found a nice way to use References in combination with "Guidelines".
I look at the reference and try to imagine the "guidline" beneath it. Marking the position of the shoulders, the flow of the back, the hips, elbow and knee, and so on. I mark this positions in a guidline (you know, the typical circles and stick-figure-lines) on my canvas (not tracing, but having the reference open next to my art program), and then build up the body above it. This way I still have my style, can easily apply the statue of the character I'm drawing and having the Anatomy right. Also, it helps with beeing genderless... need a male-reference and only find the pose as female reference? Doesn't matter, since the anatomic guidline of the bones stay the same.
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:iconfinal-mayham:
Final-Mayham Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
just depends on person really, i can draw without guide lines, though i often do draw with them, i find that having them takes that much more time though everything looks better in the end, lol till i ink it then i think i would have rather it in pencil lol
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:iconchaparro1:
Chaparro1 Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Student Digital Artist
I don't use guidelines, that's why my drawings are so off. :lol:
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:iconzetaresp:
ZetaRESP Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Guidelines are, usually, personal methods that worked with a person. You can use them or not, but at the end, the final part of being an artist is that, when you feel ready enough, you won't need those guidelines and you'll have your own way to go. Guidelines are just for starters. Once you got through that, move on and try something new.
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:iconmelindaington:
Melindaington Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012
I don't really think guidelines are bad, I use them generally to keep things in place so I can map out a pose first. I think if you rely to heavily on them it could be bad, but using them can be very helpful especially when drawing something new.
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:iconcalypso45:
calypso45 Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012
I'm self taught and have never used guidelines. To me they just get in the way :/ I learned (or am learning) my anatomy through trial and error. panning out away from my art and going "okay that just looks weird". I didn't even know about any of the lines and spine curvature, cylinders and whatever until recently :3 and now to me it just seems like cheating. I just draw what i see.
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:iconpix3m:
Pix3M Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012   Digital Artist
Considering what I've learned, I think trial and error sounds a bit silly. If we draw from references then we don't need to deal with trial and error at all. Less headaches when we don't need them.
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:iconcalypso45:
calypso45 Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012
it is a bit time consuming. but i didn't really even think about using references until latley XD my dad would always tell me i was copying someone else's art, so of course being young i was like D: but now i know it's okay i do it a lot more. but of course i don't need them as much anymore....
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:iconpix3m:
Pix3M Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012   Digital Artist
Yerp! Gotta be original and come up with your own damned anatomy :D
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:iconweremole:
weremole Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
I'm sorry that you ran into those "step by step" tutorials that doesn't actually teach you anything. Anyway, I'm not sure if by "guidelines" you mean construction drawing or not. Complicated things are complicated and if you figure them out before you put down the final marks the job gets a lot less worrisome and you leave less up to chance.

Keep getting familiar with flat shapes and you'll be ready to turn them when it comes to it and after that you can do all sorts of things. A FIM pony is made out of five cylinders and two balls so you should know them even if you aren't familiar with the idea yet.
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:iconxyzextreme13:
XYZExtreme13 Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012
I admit that when I draw stuff for my gallery, I cheat and look up tutorials to try and perfect my technique but most of the time, I just get a basic idea of what I want to draw in my mind and I just wing it with the actual drawing.
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:iconcheshaire:
Cheshaire Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012
The way I have always seen it is that it's much easier to change and construct accurate and solid poses using guidelines. It's much harder to change a pose once it's all drawn out. I find that there is no one true way to do guidelines as I have seen some crazy methods. Many artists end up ditching guidelines for somethings and other artists don't. It's just preference.

I've seen guidelines taught very wrong by some teachers and many tutorials. those same teachers and tutorials tend to over emphasize it's importance.
Personally I always use guidelines, but it's rarely to the extent seen in tutorials and it's usually only the things I feel I need to get a good idea of where I am going. The one thing I have always told people who never used/learned guidelines to draw is this: "how do you know that your drawings would be better or done quicker if you had learned how to use guidelines?" It's not really answerable for sure, but it gets them to think.

There is some merit to the longevity that guidelines have had in the art world. Surly their must be some truth to their use.
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:icontakemakei:
TakemaKei Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
guidelines are, as an analogy, the skeleton. once u get the skeleton, u can put stuff on it, and then add details. without guidelines, i risk having wrong anatomy.
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:iconmew-sumomo:
Mew-Sumomo Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Student General Artist
There are others who definitely has this sort of workflow because their memory of anatomy (or faux anatomy in my case) is good enough to produce convincing proportions to more than enough people.

I do this to an extent. I began drawing stylistically and I stuck with the anime/manga style for a number of years until I started figure drawing in about 10th grade. I still didn't use a lot of guidelines up until my foundation year of college, but since I started doing that (not only with plumlines and stuff but imagining the figure in different forms such as mass contour lines, cubes, cylinders, etc.) my anatomy and sense of proportion and perspective have improved hugely. Curvature of the human form and joints (especially with hands and feet) are better understood for me now. I still do draw figures outline-first without guidelines at all, but if I want to draw a dynamic pose that I am unsure of I will almost always use guidelines even if they are quick scribbled lines that just build up to the figure in the end.

Guidelines are useful when you use them whilst educating yourself about human proportions. There are plenty of anatomy books out there to study from. Because of this, I would avoid shortcut how-to-draw books, especially if they focus on cartooning. Learning to draw the human body realistically can only help your ability to stylize figures. Photographic reference is a big help as well so that you can get a visual sense of what the figure should look like. Using reference and guidelines simultaneously will also help a bunch.

How I normally do guidelines is, I generally start a typical figure with an s-shape for the spine. I will add more lines with joints represented by circles or other shapes for limbs and appendages. If I'm drawing a body that's sheared then I will draw it as one shape, usually as a three-dimensional rectangle. To add volume I like to use round, spherical shapes and contour lines. When I begin to outline, I will start my lines wherever there is the most tension, such as any bends in the form or overlaps.

Hope at least some of that helps. =P
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:iconpix3m:
Pix3M Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012   Digital Artist
Its definitely useful advice that I should have had so long ago. Even as a pony artist, I end up writing drawing guides that use RL references in an attempt to not be yet another shortcut tutorial that I scoff at nowadays.
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:iconauro-cyanide:
Auro-Cyanide Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Guidelines aren't meant to teach you anatomy. They are guides. You have to know anatomy to actually use them and they are meant to simplfy forms so you can draw them correctly before adding in detail. I use them all the time as bases for my sketches, often with references. That's how they work.
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:iconmystic-serat:
Mystic-Serat Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012   Artist
It depends on how you work. I use guidelines and basic shapes for the initial curvature of how I want the figure or character to be drawn then go from there.
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