How to Create Architectural Sketches on Paper

Posted by on Jun 10, 2017 in Architecture | Comments Off on How to Create Architectural Sketches on Paper

In architecture, ideas often have to be communicated visually, and the quickest way share an idea is through sketching. Yet many new architecture students lack the innate ability to sketch properly. They depend on mentors to clarify the fundamentals of sketching which is time-consuming if such mentors are found at all. It’s easy to get discouraged when you create sketches that are out of proportion and odd. Don’t panic, but keep trying, and understand that it takes a bit of time to get the hang of it.

The following tips will help newbie architects overcome challenges in architectural sketching:

Assemble all the Materials

Before an architect sits down to sketch his designs, he should make sure all the necessary tools are in place in order to minimize movement. Assembling the necessary tools will also create a more relaxed atmosphere when the actual sketching starts. These are some of the items that will be needed to create an architectural sketch on paper: tracing paper, architectural scale, tape measure, pens, pencil, sketch pad, eraser and rolling paper.

Don’t Move Your Pencil by Flexing Your Elbow or Wrist

According to professional architects, the most important thing once you start drawing is that you don’t move your pencil or pen by flexing your elbow or wrist. Lock your elbow and wrist in a comfortable position and only move your entire arm if you want a different angle. As you get more skilled, you can start by moving your wrist then ultimately your elbow. To draw straight lines, try limiting your movement to the entire arm.

Take Control

Positioning your hand closer to the end of the pencil gives you more precision and control over your drawing. On the flip side, positioning your hand away from the tip of the pencil makes you less in control, creating lighter markings.

Architects put pen to paper with the aim of producing work that will be used in constructing multi-million dollar projects. Consequently, every twist and curve has to be well thought of, calculated and accurate considering what will be on the ground. There is little room for error in architectural sketching.

Use of Line Weight

As an architect, it’s important to use line weight to help convey depth to your sketch. More gifted architects take care of depth by using shading techniques and hatches so eventually that’s something you can take on. For starters, you can use two pens to get some profile lines into your sketches.

Profile lines are used to show all the visible edges of an object. The thickness or weight of these lines is varied. An Architect uses various pen weights to highlight what is and what is not important in the sketch.

Diversify Your Lines

To make your sketch interesting and lively, try using different lines by shifting from thin to thick lines and from dark to light shades. This can be tough for newbie architects, but it gets easier by practicing using different pencil grades and holding the pencil at different angles. What differentiates the pens in question is the kind of lines that they draw. Some draw thin lines, others blurry, and some are for shading. Therefore, an architect has to use the right kind of pencil.

The pencils used are characterized according to the kind of lines that are drawn. The hardest pencils available are called H pencils. They are named depending on how hard they are, e.g., 8H, 6H, 4H, and 2H. The higher the prefix numbers in the name, the harder the pencil. These hard pencils draw in a straight line, and their sketches appear to be thin. Conversely, pencils that are the softest are known as B pencils. Pencils such as 8B, 6B tend to be very soft and draw blurry lines. In both cases, the prefix 8 denotes either the hardest or softest pencil.

Remember to use different line weight to help convey depth to your sketch. If you want to produce unique and dynamic sketches, go for irregular lines. They can turn dull, smooth and flat sketches into interesting ones.

Avoid Being too Symmetrical

Drawing balanced artwork is crucial, but perfecting a detailed symmetrical sketch might look tedious. A good way to prevent this is to add some subtle changes, but keep the general line symmetrical to give your drawing an interesting look. Keeping some elements asymmetrical helps avoid repetition.

Add Some Texture

Texture is the apparent feel or look of the surface of an art object. When using water colors, you can add a gritty touch to your drawings. So avoid adding water over the entire sketch to gain a lively look.

Stay Clear of Smudging

Don’t let smudges mess up your design. Always put an extra sheet of paper under your hand to avoid smudges. Additionally, begin shading from right to left if you are left-handed and from left to right if you are right-handed. Conversely, if you want to add some intentional smudges for a smoother shade, you can use a piece of tissue paper.


To ensure your characters look amazing, sketch their silhouettes by tracing around your character using a tracing paper then fill in with a solid color. Drawing silhouettes is a wonderful technique to confirm if your characters are distinct enough to be noticed only from their shadows.

Mirror with Tracing Paper

Mirroring a drawing with tracing paper affords you the opportunity to view your sketch in a different angle to highlight any alterations that must be made.


Architects should sketch. You may not think you’re good at sketching, but it helps you work through your thoughts. Furthermore, sketching is considered to be a skill and not a gift; therefore, anyone who practices the skill can perfect it. Practice how to hold your hand, how to draw and shade, how to outline, and how to use the roll paper.

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