An outline drawing of a fashion girl done with pen

Should I Outline my Drawings? (Explained)

You’re an artist, and you’ve been asked to create a piece for a local art show. You have a few ideas of what you want to do, but you’re unsure if you should outline your drawings.

We will explore the factors to be considered for outlining, the benefits you can derive from outlining your drawing, and five tips for improving your outlining skills to create better compositions with them.

Should I Outline My Drawings?

Whether you should outline your drawings is a personal preference. Some artists prefer to use outlines to create clean and precise drawings, while others find that outlining gets in the way of their creative process. The most important thing is experimenting and seeing what works best for you.

Some artists like to outline their drawings because it gives them control and precision. The outline helps them stay within their picture’s boundaries and creates a cleaner finished product.

Other artists dislike outlines because they find them restrictive and believe they limit their drawings’ flexibility.

Both of them are right in their ways. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether or not you want to use an outline in your drawings. So, it would help if you determined what will work best for you and your drawing style.

Factors to be Considered for Outline Your Drawings

There are a few factors that you should consider before you start outlining your drawings.

Art Form and Art Style

When outlining a drawing, it is essential to consider both the form of the object and the style in which it is rendered. For instance, if you want a hyper-realistic drawing of an apple, you will need to use an outline to help you create the perfect circles and contours of the fruit. However, if you are going for a more stylized or abstract drawing of an apple, you may not need to use an outline.

Accuracy of Proportion

Proportions give a picture a sense of realism and help the viewer understand the relationship between the object’s different parts. It would help if you were accurate when depicting the proportions of an object. If an object is out of proportion or if a part of the object is out of proportion, the entire drawing will look odd.

Complexity of The Subject Matter

It would help to consider the subject matter and complexity when deciding whether to outline your drawings. If you are drawing a complex subject, such as a landscape or cityscape, an outline can help you to keep track of all the different elements in your drawing. A simpler subject, still life, may not need an outline. Adding an outline to a simple sketch can sometimes make it look cluttered.

Size of the Drawing

An outline for larger drawings can help keep it consistent and ensure all elements are proportionate. Moreover, erasing mistakes on a large-scale drawing is difficult, so an outline can help avoid costly errors. For smaller ones, it may not be necessary. It is essential to ensure that basic shapes and proportions are correct before adding details.

Aspects of Objects

If the object has many intricate details, an outline will help keep these details in place and avoid mistakes. Suppose you are drawing a face; it is necessary to have a strong outline around the features to make them stand out.

However, an outline may not be necessary if the object is relatively simple. In this case, primary lines and shapes create the desired effect.

Artist’s Level of Experience

Based on an artist’s experience level, an outline may or may not be necessary when drawing. For beginners, it is often helpful to use an outline to help keep their drawings within the bounds of basic shapes and proportions. More experienced artists may be able to work without an outline, relying more on their knowledge of proportions and shapes to keep their drawings accurate.

The Benefits of Outlining your Drawings

An outline is a flexible tool used for digital drawing, classical painting, and any visual artwork for an artist. While some beginner artists see outlining as a tedious and unnecessary task, accomplished artists know that it is one of the critical steps to creating a beautiful and accurate ink outline.

When done correctly, an outline drawing can provide the base for a stunning piece of art. Here are some of the benefits of outlining your drawing:

1. It helps you plan: When you outline your drawing, you can think about the composition and overall look of the finished piece before filling in the details. It saves you time and frustration later on.

2. It forces you to be concise. Outlining your drawing means deciding which elements are essential and which can be left out. It helps you create a cleaner, more organized drawing.

3. It helps you see mistakes early on. If you make a mistake while outlining your drawing, it’s much easier to fix than if you made the same mistake after completing it. This is because an outline is typically less detailed than a finished drawing, so it’s easier to see and correct errors.

Outlining your drawing may take the extra time upfront, but the benefits are worth it! Give it a try next time you sit down to create a masterpiece.

Tips for improving your outlining skills

Outlining is a fundamental and first step in the drawing process, and it’s one that every artist, from beginner to accomplished, needs to master. A well-executed outline can make all the difference in a piece of art, providing a foundation for accurate drawing and proportion while also serving as a guide for adding color and detail. Here are five tips for improving your outlining skills:

1. Use the right tools. Art tools like pencils, ink pens, brush pens, or thin markers are ideal for creating precise, uninterrupted lines. However, thicker pens or pencils are used for bolder outlines.

2. Start with basic shapes. When starting, focus on simple shapes like circles, squares, and triangles. Once you’re comfortable with the basics, you can start tackling more complex forms.

3. Pay attention to proportion. Ensure that the lines you draw are proportionate to the rest of the image. This will ensure that your finished artwork looks polished and professional.

4. Use light and dark lines wisely. Strong strokes of black ink can create bold outlines, while lighter lines add visibility and depth to layers within the painting.

5. Practice, practice, practice! As with everything else, practice makes perfect when it comes to outlining. The more you do it, the better your outlining skills will become.


Should you outline your drawings or not is your personal preference. Some artists find that outlining their drawings helps them stay on track and maintain accuracy, while others prefer the freedom of sketching without any preliminary lines.

The choice is up to you and how you work best. If you are new to drawing, starting with basic outline drawings may be helpful to get the hang of the shapes and proportions before moving on to more complex pieces.

With practice, you will develop your style and be able to decide whether outlining your drawings is necessary or not.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Should I use a pencil or pen for my outline?

    It depends on the artist’s comfort. Some artists prefer pencils because they’re easy to erase if you make a mistake. Others prefer pens because they produce cleaner lines.

  2. Are there artists who don’t outline their drawings?

    Some artists feel that outlines constrain their creativity. Others prefer to work spontaneously without any preliminary planning.

  3. How do I know if I should outline my drawing?

    It’s up to you. If you find that outlining your drawings helps you stay on track and achieve the desired results, then continue doing so. If you feel it’s constraining your creativity, don’t hesitate to ditch the outlines and go with your gut instinct.

  4. What are the risks of not outlining your drawings?

    If you don’t outline your drawings, you risk making mistakes that can be difficult to fix. You also may have difficulty achieving accuracy and proportion in your artwork. Finally, you may be left to scrap the whole drawing and start from scratch if you’re unhappy with the results.

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