Every artist has their own unique drawing style. Some may prefer a more realistic approach while others may go for a more cartoonish style. There is no right or wrong way to draw, it all comes down to what the artist is trying to convey and what they are comfortable with.
An art style can take time to develop. This is because an artist’s signature style depends on the particular drawing medium they use, their set of techniques, subject matter and what they are inspired by.
In this blog post, we will be discussing popular drawing styles. We will provide a complete list of examples so that you can get an idea of the various styles that exist. We hope that this post will help those who are interested in learning more about drawing and for those who are developing a style of their own.
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Academic drawing styles
Academic drawing styles often relate to mastery of technical art skills and sharp observation of life and the physical properties of the material world. This art style relates to the way in which drawing was taught in 19th century French academies, which has inspired artists worldwide. Students would draw models and copies of plaster casts. Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres was a strong leader of this art movement, who used pen, ink and pencil to create studies before moving onto create oil paintings.
To this day, artists create academic style drawings and learn from academies and ateliers. One popular method, which creates really beautiful results is drawing on toned paper, using a white pencil for the highlights. This helps artists create a realistic value range and the highlights pop out from the surface!
Classical drawing styles
Classical drawing styles often aim for the depiction of the form and scenes in an idealised manner, whilst still maintaining a sense of proportion and accuracy. This can be seen in the works of many great masters such as Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt. Artists would carefully plan the composition then they would create focal points with the use of light and positioning.
Old masters used a variety of drawing tools, such as etching or silverpoint to create their artworks. This gave way to drawing techniques such as hatching and cross hatching being invented, as with an engraving tool, you cannot create a tonal range by applying varying pressure to the tool.
One of the most basic styles of drawing is line art. This is where the image is made up of nothing but lines, with no shading or colour. Artists use line art to create simple images or complex ones, depending on the artist’s skill level.
There are a number of different types of line art that require different techniques. For example, a contour drawing is a simple line drawing, where the artist outlines the contours of a subject, without rendering too many details.
Continuous line drawing is created by drawing the lines of an object without taking your pencil off the paper. This results in a continuous line drawing that can be quite difficult to achieve.
Line art is a perfect style of art to use with pen and ink. If you want to create more detailed line art, shade it using the hatching or cross hatching techniques. These techniques require only lines to create the appearance of light and shadow.
Sketching is a drawing style that is usually done quickly, using loose lines. It is often used as a preliminary step to create a more finished piece of art.
You can use any medium to sketch, but pencils are the most popular choice as they allow you to easily erase any mistakes. Sketching with a pen can also be fun, as it forces you to commit to your lines and makes your sketches more spontaneous.
When sketching, try not to think too much about the final product, just let your pencil flow across the paper and see what happens!
Another popular style is photorealism. As the name suggests, this style attempts to replicate a photograph as closely as possible. Photorealistic drawings are often highly detailed and can take a long time to complete. The end result is a work of art that looks like a realistic photo, but was actually hand-drawn. This drawing style can take years to master and drawings often take hundreds of hours to complete.
If you’re interested in this drawing style, get the right drawing tools to create soft edges and realistic gradients. For example, a graphite pencil in 8B will be able to achieve dark values and tortillions are excellent for blending and blurring edges. Tombow Mono Zero erasers are a fantastic tool for erasing tiny details and lifting highlights.
If you want to learn how to draw a realistic eye, check out our step by step guide. In it, we show you how to measure the eye to achieve the correct proportions, how to shade the iris, create a realistic value range and use the blending technique.
One drawing medium that is popular with photorealist artists is coloured pencil. This is because coloured pencils allow you to layer colours and create a wide range of tones and hues. To find out more about coloured pencil drawing, check out our guide!
Doodling is a type of sketching that is usually done without any planning or forethought. It is often used as a way to relax and let your mind wander.
Doodles can be anything from simple shapes to more complex images. You can use any medium you like for doodling, but pens and markers are often used as they are quick and easy to use.
Doodling can be a great way to unwind after a long day or to take a break from work. So, next time you’re feeling stressed, grab a pen and paper and start doodling!
Artists can doodle whatever pops into their minds, like patterns, mandalas, characters. It’s a great exercise in finding what you truly love drawing and to help you commit to a drawing practice.
Comic drawing styles
The comic book drawing style has its own set of rules and conventions that have been established over the years. This style is characterised by its use of exaggerated features, actions and expressions. Comic artists often create their drawings to depict a series of characters and storylines.
If you’re interested in trying your hand at drawing in the comic book style, start by studying the work of some of the great comic artists out there. Then, practice drawing your own characters, using exaggerated features to make them come to life. Comic art often includes colour schemes of bright block, complementary colours and thick lines to outline forms.
There are a number of different sub-styles within comic book art, such as superhero comics, which often have their own unique drawing style.
One popular drawing style is manga. This Japanese word simply means “comics”. Therefore, Manga describes the wide range of comics and graphic novels that come from Japan. Manga often has large eyes, small mouths, and unique hairstyles. The characters are often placed in fanciful settings and may have powers or abilities that are outside the realm of reality.
Cartooning is a drawing style well known for its use of simplified features and exaggerated expressions. This style is often used in comics and animation. Cartooning can be a great way to practice your drawing skills and to have fun with your art.
To get started with cartooning, try drawing some of your favourite characters from TV shows or movies. Then, once you’ve got the hang of it, try creating your own characters!
Cartoon art is a good segue into character design and animation. These are two applied arts that professional study, practice and make a living from. If you’re interested in character design and animation, check out our blog on digital art software and get the tools you need to get started.
This style is usually used to create imaginary worlds and creatures, often with elaborate details and unrealistic proportions
If you’re interested in creating fantasy art, start by coming up with your own ideas for imaginary worlds and creatures. Then, start sketching them out and adding details. You can also look for reference photos online or in books to help you with your drawings.
When creating fantasy art, the sky’s the limit! So, let your imagination run wild and have fun with it.
Anamorphic art is a type of drawing where the image is distorted in such a way that it can only be seen clearly from a specific viewpoint. This type of art often uses optical illusions to create the effect.
To get started with anamorphic art, start by finding a reference photo or image. Then, using a ruler or grid, start drawing the image onto a piece of paper. Once you have the basic outline of the image, start distorting it until it looks right from your chosen viewpoint.
When creating anamorphic art, it’s important to consider the viewer’s perspective. So, make sure to choose a viewpoint that will give the best effect. This could be, when viewed through a cylinder mirror, for example.
Gesture drawing is a type of drawing that focuses on the movement and gesture of the subject. This drawing style is often used in figure drawing and can also be a great way to capture the energy and emotion of the subject.
Here’s how to try gesture drawing: Use a pencil and start drawing the basic shapes of the figure. Create a line of action down the middle of the figure, attached to the head, as this influences the positioning of the body. Once you have the basic shapes down, start adding details and refining the drawing. If you want you can leave the details out and use gesture drawing as a drawing exercise, to help you capture the motion of the form for larger works.
When creating gestural drawings, it’s important to focus on the movement and gesture of the subject. So, make sure to capture the energy and emotion of the subject in your drawing.
Abstraction drawing styles
Abstraction is a type of drawing where the subject is simplified or distorted. This type of drawing often uses shapes, colours, and patterns to create an abstract image, that is often devoid of subject matter.
When creating abstraction drawings, pay attention to the composition, the balance of values, line shape and texture and the colour scheme (if you’re drawing with pastel or coloured pencil). These elements come together to make a successful art piece, regardless of whether the artwork has subject matter or not.
Stippling is another drawing style where dots are used instead of lines to create an image. Increase the proximity of dots to create the appearance of shadow. For the brightest highlight areas, leave the paper blank.
To create a stippled drawing, start by drawing your subject with pencil. Once you’re happy with the basic shape, start adding dots to fill in the drawing. The closer the dots are together, the darker the area will be.
Impressionism is an art style that uses light and colour to create an impression of the subject. This type of art is often used in landscapes and can be a great way to capture the feeling of the scene. This is a great style to use with pastel or coloured pencil, as marks often look expressive and painterly.
Impressionism was popular in the 20th century, where art began to stray from accurately representing the physical world and bagan veering towards expressing the inner experience of the artist themselves.
Impressionism is most commonly associated with painting, due to the effect that colour has on the piece as a whole. However, Monet, van Gogh and Edgar Degas all produced drawings using various mediums such as charcoal and ink. Their drawings are similar to their paintings, although devoid of colour, in that they capture nature with an evocative and sensory style. Whether they capture the feeling of movement in the grasses or trees, or the gestural appearance of the human form. For some ideas of how to create expressive gesture drawings, check out our charcoal drawing ideas guide.
Surrealism is a type of drawing that often features strange or dream-like images. This style can be used to express the subconscious mind, and often features distorted subjects or unusual settings.
Artists like Salvador Dalí and Rene Magritte famously painted in this style. This style relates to fantasy art, however fantasy art tends to have coherent themes, storylines, characters and animals that appear consistently across many different art pieces. Surreal art forms can have realistic proportions.
Pop art is a style of art that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s. This type of art is often characterised by its use of bright colours and bold patterns. Pop art can be used to create fun and vibrant images.
One of the best mediums for pop art drawing is marker pens, like Copic Markers. These pens offer fantastic blendability and are highly pigmented, so the results appear bright on the paper. To achieve the brightest colours and smoothest texture in a drawing, make sure to get smooth paper that marker won’t bleed through like Bristol Board.
Architectural drawings are drawings that are specifically designed to capture the appearance of a building or structure. These drawings can be used for planning, or just for fun!
Artists may be interested in drawing particular types of architecture, such as castles, or they may want to focus on a specific style, such as Art Deco. Draw details of a building, such as columns and ornaments, draw the building as a whole, or draw it as part of a cityscape scene.
Geometry tools such as rulers and protractors are incredibly useful for creating accurate architecture drawings. Use a hard pencil such as aH, or 2H that creates a light line that is easy to erase. When drawing buildings, it’s important to understand how to portray perspective accurately. Learn the principles of one point, two point and three point perspective, as this will give you more confidence in drawing a range of different buildings.
This style was invented by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in the early 1900s. It’s a type of art where the subject is broken down into geometric shapes and then reassembled in an abstract form. This can be done with any subject matter, from people to landscapes.
Subjects often appear fragmented and angular, however the essence of the subject is often still recognisable.
What defines Cubism art, is the simplified use of vantage points, shapes and planes. Artists would emphasise the two dimensionality of the surface. This opposed most art styles that came before this movement, which aimed to represent life and create the illusion of three dimensionality.
This is a little different to hyperrealism or photorealism, as details are often not over emphasised. Drawings can have realistic qualities, without having the level of detail that a lot of photorealistic artworks have.
In a realistic drawing, the artist is trying to capture what they see in front of them. They may use references, such as photographs or real life objects, but the aim is to create a realistically proportioned and detailed image.
If you’re interested in creating realism drawings, then you’ll need to have a good understanding of human anatomy, as well as how to create the illusion of three dimensional space on a two dimensional surface. A set of high-quality graphite pencils is essential, as this will give you a range of different tones to work with.
Art Nouveau drawing style
The Art Nouveau drawing style emerged in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Art Nouveau can be used to create elegant and flowing images. It’s another style that is most commonly associated with painting, but many artists who drew with this art style used drawing as a medium too.
Art Nouveau drawings are often ornate, with an organic quality. Artists outline subjects and use minimal colour transitions. As a result, artists make their drawings appear less realistic. Added to this, artists will draw curved lines and repeat patterns. Contemporary artist Maria Dimova creates wonderful Art Nouveau inspired drawings, watch the video to check out her work.
Expressionism and Neo Expressionism
Expressionism is a type of art that aims to express the artist’s emotions, rather than depict reality. Often, Expressionist drawings and paintings appear wild and chaotic.
In contrast, Neo Expressionism emerged in the 1970s and 1980s and while it still aimed to express the artist’s emotions, the artworks were more controlled. Another difference is that while Expressionism was a movement that emerged from Europe, Neo Expressionism was mainly found in North America and Germany. Neo Expressionism is defined by subjectivity and relates to the minimalist movement that came about in the 1970s. This type of drawing style features looser and rougher lines, with art mediums applied in an unruly manner.
Modern Art drawing styles
Modern art is a blanket term, that encompasses many different drawing styles. This art style rejects historical tradition and embraces new styles and experimentation. For example, M.C Escher’s was a modern artist. He created tessellations, and other optical illusions. Tessellations are images composed of geometric shapes that fit together like a puzzle. You may have seen these images in maths class or art class.
The Modern Art period lasted from the 1860s to the 1970s. This means that many different art styles and movements fall under the category of modern art. As a result, it can be hard to define what makes a drawing style ‘modern’. However, drawing styles associated with Modern Art include Minimalism and Abstract Expressionism.
We hope you have found this article useful, if you are inspired by any of the drawing styles in this list, let us know in the comments! If you want to learn more about drawing, we also have a free ebook that we’re giving away to readers that join our Facebook group. Download The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Drawing from the guides section of the group. Plus, you can use the group to post your art, post art tips and connect with other artists!