Doodling can be a really fun way to improve your drawing skills. Here are some doodle exercises which if you can do regularly they’ll help improve hand steadiness, develop your hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness and muscle memory – all great things to work on when you want to improve your drawing skills!
Do these exercises in pen if you can – this isn’t about perfection and erasing mistakes. Don’t judge anything that isn’t ‘quite right’, just go with it and keep practising. I recommend doing this often and keeping them so you can compare new doodles to old ones and see how much you have improved. Try not to rush – you’ll see more benefit if you are slow and steady and focus on what you are doing.
Practice Makes Better
Ahhh that classic old saying “practice makes better”… (actually I think it was ‘practice makes perfect’ initially but this isn’t about perfection so lets ignore that). How often you do this is obviously completely up to you. You may prefer to weave them in to your everyday life or you may wish to dedicate a couple of hours in the evening once a week or whatever. How often and when you do this isn’t really that important, it’s more about practice, practice practice. If you practice your drawing skills, your drawing will improve. Simples.
Things I am using:
- A4 plain paper, nothing fancy – just cheap printer paper (or ‘copy’ paper as I’ve heard it called before). You can use larger or smaller, just whatever you have handy is fine
- A pen – today I have a Steadtler Triplus Fineliner, but it varies depending on what I have nearby
- A ruler – no matter how much I like to go with the flow, I like to measure my ‘doodle frames’
Start by drawing six ‘Doodle Frames’
Pages can be daunting things. The first things we need to do is split our page up into nicely defined spaces for our doodles to live in. I call them doodle frames. Here I have used my ruler and pen to draw six squares. You may prefer circles or triangles but keep it simple.
Tip: 8.5cm x 8.5cm squares fit nicely on to A4 paper with a bit of space in between each square
When I do this exercise I have four ‘regular’ doodles which I like to repeat every time so I look back over them and compare. The other two frames are for either freestyling or repeating one of the first four doodles.
The first four ideas are my regulars. The others are additional ones which I like to throw in every now and then in my last two frames.
Idea 1: Wonky Shapes inside Wonky Shapes
With your first space, using your pen, divide it up into multiple spaces using wavy lines. This will create lots of small and irregular sized wonky shapes (try not to go too small). Then inside of each of these wonky shapes draw the same shape again but smaller so it fits inside nicely. Repeat until you are out of space.
Tip: If you make your wonky shapes too small you may not be able to draw the shape inside of it so try to make sure most of them are big enough to draw the shape inside a few times.
Idea 2: Inside Out Droplets
Draw a load of droplet shapes inside your box, in all different sizes. Then, like the wonky shapes, draw a slightly smaller droplet inside that, then a slightly smaller droplet inside that one and so on. Then go the other way – draw the droplets on the outside of the droplets, breaking up your lines as they encounter other droplets so it looks kinda layered. It’s really satisfying to see how the simple shapes can build on each other to create depth. Try not to rush this and get your spaces between each line consistent.
Idea 3: Little Molehills
Depending on how steady your hand is feeling,use your ruler or freehand lines going horizontally across the frame. See how I have done this below – I have tried to make the top two spaces a similar height, and then the next two spaces a similar height. To add more complexity I have an arc at the bottom. On each of these lines draw little ‘molehills’ (I have no idea what else to call them). With this exercise focus on getting each one on each line the same width, and also getting the curvy angle the same coming back down as it was going up.
Idea 4: Join the Dots
Draw a grid out of nice big dots. Then on the top row, working from left to right, join each dot by placing your pen on the top side of the dot and draw a gently curving line so it joins the next dot at the bottom side of the dot. Repeat on all the rows. Then do the same going downwards.
Idea 5: Inside Out Circles
This is the same as the droplet exercise, but with circles. Drawing circles is always harder than I think it should be, it’s just not that easy to get neat round circles with a nice smooth join. This exercise is therefore great practice for drawing circles.
Idea 6: Droplets and Circles
This is the same as the droplet and circles exercise, but mixing the shapes makes it slightly more complex and difficult.
Idea 7: Fill the Space
This one is a lovely creative free form kind of exercise. The aim is to use simple shapes, like circles, droplets, and wavy lines to fill the whole frame. I usually start with a circle in the middle and then draw the droplets around that, kind of like a flower, then i just go from there. Consciously try to space your shapes evenly. I like curvy shapes but if this would also work with squares, rectangles, triangles etc. The more complicated the shape, the more complicated it will be to evenly fill the space.
Idea 8: Made to Measure
Draw a variety of shapes such as triangles, circles, droplets, squares, rectangles, and diamond shapes. In each one, draw a circle in the middle and petal shapes around it (basically a flower). Make your flower fit into each shape nicely. This exercise, bizarrely, is a good way to develop your ability to think outside the box. Remember – draw inside the box, think outside the box. Think about other things you can draw to fit random shapes – maybe characters, like cats? Or maybe stars?
Idea 9: Little Mountains
Repeat the ‘Little Molehills’ exercise but with ‘Little Mountains’ instead (basically zig-zags, or triangles). Try to get the angle on each little mountain the same on each line.
So have a go at these and I’d love to hear how you get on. I love it when people leave comments so if you have any questions, thoughts, general ponderings, extra doodle ideas, or just want to say ‘hello’ pop a comment in the comment box and that will be awesome.