Should I sketch before painting? When to sketch when creating art

January 16, 2023

Hello painter!

Have you ever wondered when to sketch before starting a painting?  Or what the purpose of sketching before painting on canvas is?
You are not alone, I get this question all the time. As we know, it can be intimidating when we first start creating. We wonder about all the ‘rules’ of art, the right way to do things, and which process we should follow. So let’s shed some light on this topic.

Sketching is a useful skill

Sketching is a VERY important skill to have.  Also important is knowing when to sketch.  Is it required to be a great painter? No. Should you sketch? Well, it depends, below are a few things to consider when deciding if you should pre-sketch your canvas.  Try to think if sketching will help you complete your artwork or if it will distract you.

When to sketch

If deciding when to sketch consider the following things:

First, What are you trying to paint?

Second, Is your subject very detailed with complicated proportions?

Third, does it have a complex composition or layout?

These would be two scenarios that you would want to pre-sketch your canvas, here’s why…
Pre-sketching in charcoal, pencil, or even thinned paint gives us the chance to flesh out our design, work on proportions, seek balance in our composition and identify any trouble spots before we start building our painting.  Sketching in this way can help you build confidence in your work of art before you add any paint!

Things to consider before sketching

I also want to share some negative things that can happen while you are sketching to be aware of.
Sometimes we can get over-involved in our sketch, remember this is just our guideline not its own work of art, but that line can get blurred if we get to deep into our sketch.
Sometimes it can get messy, charcoal and pencil can smudge if we work too long in our sketch phase.
If you don’t like sketching it can keep you from ever painting! This is something I struggle with personally, as I nearly hate sketching before painting. If I feel myself putting off my creativity to avoid sketching, I will just start painting or paint sketching.

The bottom line

The most important thing is to make sure you don’t let it become a roadblock.  If something is holding you back, even in some subtle way, it is not serving your creativity.  When to sketch is up to you and your comfort level.

In summary, it’s the artist’s choice, it’s YOUR choice!  Sketching beforehand does not make you a better or worse artist. It is not required for all paintings or art. If you feel like you want or need to sketch before painting, trust your gut. If you feel like you want to wildly start flinging paint, follow your heart.


More Reading:

Sketching can become a part of our regular creative process, if you want to learn how to focus on your own individual process and how it can help you become a more creative person read this post

Read the full post here

This is also a great article on some of the basics on sketching down to your pencil choice!

Read the full article here