Sketching on canvas before you paint a composition is a great way to keep yourself on track while you are still learning the ropes or to help you in painting up something complex. Today I’ll tell you how to sketch on canvas before acrylic painting so that you can take advantage.
Sketching on your canvas can be done with pencil or charcoal, with pencil being the preferred option so that you can keep the lines very light and not have to worry about them being spotted. Charcoal can work as well and you can cover it with a thick enough application of acrylic, so if you want lines that are easier to see then that’s an option too.
In today’s article, I’ll tell you about how it’s done, why you might want to do it (and alternatives), and finally we’ll discuss the best ways to go about it.
Get ready to sketch yourself some guidelines, because we’re getting started now!
Can you sketch on canvas before painting?
Yes, you most certainly can and it’s a great way to learn and to keep yourself on track. There are some caveats, of course, mostly in that those thin, guiding lines can sometimes lead you to use mostly thin strokes, and while that’s great for sketching, you don’t want to limit yourself in that way when you are painting with your acrylics.
So, if you try it, be sure to vary the size of your brushstrokes from time to time. After all, you are painting, NOT sketching.
The only other pitfall is that sometimes it can feel like ‘paint by numbers’, but you can avoid that by sketching only the very basics on the canvas while storing away the finer details in your mind so that you can add them later in a less-constrained manner.
Should you sketch before painting?
As far as ‘should you sketch on the canvas first’ my opinion is that you should. Painting is hard and it’s definitely not something that you get overnight. Too easily, aspiring painters get frustrated when they find out that being able to draw doesn’t mean that you automatically know how to paint. They’ll start painting and get a little lost in and then notice that certain perspectives seem a little out of whack… it happens to everyone at some point when they are learning.
The problem is that some people get mad and don’t try painting again for awhile and this is where sketching can come in. It gives you a little helping hand when you are getting started and this can help you to stay motivated when you are painting.
Think of it as training wheels for your bike for now. Later, when you are painting more complex compositions, you might even still sketch them out first. I still do from time to time, although my preferred method which I’ll share with you is simply sketching out your composition and putting it on an easel next to the one that you will be painting.
This alternative is a little harder than having the lines right on your canvas, but for those of you who feel that sketching and painting feels too much like ‘tracing’ then it’s a fine technique to compromise a little with so that you can get the benefits without feeling like you are ‘cheating’.
How do I sketch out my design before painting?
Sketching things out is pretty easy, much like you were just sketching on canvas and not intending to paint at all. I recommend a 4H pencil, or you can use charcoal, and you’ll want to get a brand-new eraser just in case you need to remove something to draw it again.
The new eraser helps preclude any surprise smudging from previous work so that you don’t get frustrated trying this out.
I recommend just drawing as little as possible of your composition to avoid that ‘paint by numbers’ feel, but enough so that you will know where everything else goes. After you’ve gotten your basic outline in place, then go ahead and mix your paints and give it a go.
The rough outline should help to keep you in line and I think that you are going to appreciate the results!
Some final words on sketching up your canvas
Today I’ve covered how to sketch on canvas before acrylic painting and as you can see, it’s really not difficult at all. Simply take a 4h pencil or some charcoal and sketch out the basic outline of what you have in mind. Don’t go too detailed, or you risk a ‘paint by numbers’ scenario and avoid the temptation of painting thin, pencil-like lines. Painting is different from drawing, so don’t fall into that trap.
As an alternative, you can draw what you like and simply pop it up on an easel next to your paint canvas and this can also keep you in line, but keep in mind that this is not as easy if you are a beginner.
Before I go, I’ve found an article that talks about some other tricks that you can use and that have been used historically for getting an image onto a canvas. Just click here to view the 3rd party link and you can check it out to see if you find it helpful.
Whatever method you choose, don’t let yourself get frustrated. Keep on painting and your skills will slowly but surely grow!