55 Drawing Prompts For Beginners: Easy Ideas to Get Started

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Kevin Hayler: Professional Wildlife artist, author, and traveler.

Sometimes you hit an artistic brick wall and need a few drawing prompts to kick-start your imagination. This post is intended to get your creative juices flowing with 55 drawing prompts for beginners, including techniques, and easy exercises on the themes of nature and animals.

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Easy Drawing Prompts For Beginners

If you are just beginning your drawing journey, you’ll benefit from a few nudges in the right direction. At the same time, it doesn’t harm old hands to get a few reminders of what is possible and to revisit some drawing techniques.

Whatever stage you’re at, it can only help be open to new drawing ideas and occasionally, play with different ways of doing things. Even a change in the subject matter can kick-start your imagination.

It’s all about practice and fine-tuning your drawing skills. No one is born with everything they need to know, we are all learning as we go. If this list of drawing prompts gives you a starting point and one new drawing idea, it’s worth reading.

Only you know how much free time you have to spare. You might have only 30 mins a day, in which case choose an exercise and master a drawing skill.

If you have more time, set yourself a project and spend a few hours testing out some creative drawing ideas.

If you have an ongoing drawing in progress, some of these ideas might refresh you and take you in a new and exciting direction.

Cherry-pick the drawing ideas that resonate with you and don’t be afraid to push yourself. You will get nowhere if you settle for safety. Remember things can, and do, go wrong, and that’s how we learn, from our mistakes. Step out of your comfort zone.

Simple Drawing Prompt Ideas

1. Copy Your Favorite Artists: Study How They Worked

We all have to start somewhere and most of us get our initial inspiration from the artists we admire and want to emulate. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t learn

Reference this helpful post: Can You Copy Art and Sell a Painting of a Painting Legally?

2. Grid a Photo and Draw The Most Important Outlines

Although it’s not ideal to be a slave to the grid, it does help you achieve successful results early on and that will motivate you. As you progress make the boxes larger and larger and that will improve your skills.

Refer to these posts:

3. Draw a Simple Landscape and Add Figures

Sit down, draw, and compose a very simple landscape. Add some people for scale and added interest. A landscape without a human figure, or animal, is dull and lacks a story.

Drawing prompt idea for a roadside tree
One of my early drawings of a tree in Indonesia

This is a good one: How to Draw a Forest Background the Easy Way

4. Draw an Image Upside Down

Flip a photo and copy it directly. This will teach you to see and draw what is really there and not what you assume to be there; there’s a big difference. This will improve your observational skills.

5. Draw Rapid Landscapes

Time yourself to 30 minutes and stick to the essential lines to convey the scene. Avoid details. Use thin and bold lines with high contrast. This will refine your compositional eye.

6. Practice Composition Using Thumbnail Sketches

Composition can be intimidating. Rapidly improve your compositional eye with throw-away thumbnail sketches. It gives you the freedom to experiment with dynamic compositions without any risk.

Read this: How to Plan and Compose Your Art: A Beginners Guide

Thumbnail sketches example
Thumbnail Sketchbook Page

7 More Drawing Prompts For Simple Projects

It can be a good idea to set yourself a project and challenge yourself. The following drawing prompts will get you to think about different ways of seeing.

7. Practice Drawing Animals From Life, at a Zoo, or on a Farm

Drawing moving subjects is a real challenge. All you can hope for is a lightning sketch capturing the essence of the subject. Drawing animals forces you to draw economically and increases your visual memory.

Try this post: Best Drawing Ideas of Animals: Cool Drawings and Tips

8. Draw Three Heads in Different Poses as a Triptych

A device I have used before when I have a number of portraits that look good individually and striking as a trio. Three is the magic number.

9. Draw the Same Animal in 3 Different Poses as a New Composition

Similar to the triptych idea. It’s a way of combining separate images that, in themselves, are pleasing but lack any real interest. It’s a way of constructing a unique composition using the references to hand.

3 Giraffes drawing called Eyelashes by Kevin Hayler
‘Eyelashes’ A Pencil Drawing by Kevin Hayler

10. Draw 3 Animals (or Objects) Progressively Smaller and Lighter

Staying on the groups of three themes, this is an extension of the idea of recomposing your subjects, this time by adding depth by adjusting the scale and lighting as each subject recedes into the background.

Helpful tips: How to Create Depth in Your Drawing: 7 Best Ways

11. Draw a Close-up of Just the Eyes

If there is one element that you must get right if you are to hook your viewer, it’s the eyes. Choose a charismatic animal and draw the eyes as a standalone subject. It will give you an idea about reflections, shadows, lashes, fur, and creases.

12. Draw Your Cat or Dog

This is how I learned to draw animals. Poor Sooty had to put up with so much. A few titbits and a little patience and you will get all the practice you need to draw a pet from life. Alternatively, take a photo using a 55mm lens or above. Avoid wide-angle lenses, they will warp your image.

'Sitting Pretty' A pencil Drawing of a pet Siamese Cat by Kevin Hayler
‘Sitting Pretty’ Drawing of a Siamese Cat by Kevin Hayler

This might be of interest: How to Sell Pet Portraits and Start an Art Business

13. Draw Ducks and Reflections in The Local Park

A treat, and great practice with simple shapes. The idea is not to get every feather right, it is to study how simple shapes reflect in rippling water.

A pencil drawing of domestic geese on a pond with reflections.
One of my old drawings of geese and simple reflections

This how it’s done: How to Draw Water in Pencil: Drawing Water Step by Step

14. Draw a Wave Breaking

Not as easy as it sounds. A breaking wave has to have a dynamic movement and strong light to retain interest. Note that the barrel is a cylinder and often translucent. Try lifting out the foam with a battery eraser.

15. Draw a Dogs Shiny Wet Nose

Often overlooked in demonstrations, getting the nose to look authentic requires acute observation. The nose has texture, high contrast, and wet shine. All these techniques are worth practicing.

16. Draw a Butterfly With a Shadow as if it Landed on Your Drawing Pad

A great bit of fun. Take a drawing of any subject, even a past failure that didn’t quite work, and add a butterfly landing on the paper as an optical illusion. It’s called Trompe L’oeil

Drawing Prompts For Landscapes

I’m a wildlife artist primarily, but all animals belong in a landscape. These drawing prompts are intended to get you thinking about settings and context.

17. Draw Trees in Full Leaf

This is a much more difficult challenge than you think. Do you draw all the leaves or just the shape? Practice drawing one tree and then a clump of trees. Don’t forget to create the gaps where the light shines through the foliage.

There are surprisingly few good tutorials for drawing trees.
Try this one by Jason Morgan

18. Draw Winter Trees

Now you will have to study the structure of the trees. Each species grows in a different pattern. Try drawing the twigs using the side of the pencil lead to indicate the complexity.

19. Draw Tree Bark

Two ways. Draw a tree trunk from afar and concentrate on the shadows, then make a close-up study. Bark has many forms and offers up an unlimited variety of textures to draw.
Think about the coarse grain of oak, the peeling bark of a birch, or the rings of a cherry. They are all so different. There are lichens, mosses, cracks, and fissures. The list goes on.

This post will give you ideas: How to Draw Texture in Pencil: 7 Tips for Realistic Results

20. Draw a Twisted Tree in Pen

Abandon that pencil and pick up a pen. You will have no choice but to draw key lines and make them interesting for the viewer. Take a look at the illustrator Arthur Rackham for inspiration. Draw the tree in a twisted fluid form. Don’t be afraid to exaggerate it for artistic effect.

Winter trees Pen and ink with in watercolor washes by Arthur Rackham
The Magical Art of Arthur Rackham

21. Draw the Same Tree in 4 Different Styles

In detail, silhouetted, in outline, and impressionist. This encourages you to experiment with different pencils, techniques, and styles. Draw all the leaves on a tree in detail and then contrast that with a silhouette of the same tree.
Shade it in and try lifting out the foliage with an eraser or a piece of Blu-Tak.

22. Draw Falling Leaves

If there is one thing you can draw from life without much planning it has to be leaves. It’s a challenge to draw a series of leaves at different angles and consistent light. It allows you to compose a picture and draw the same object multiple times without getting bored.

23. Draw a Lake or Pond and Practice Reflections

Forget the ducks! use the pond or lake as the subject and get to know how reflection and shadows interplay. Note where the reflections cut the waterline, how their tone changes, and how the sky reflects on the water.

24. Draw a Patch of Grass in Super Detail Like Albrecht Durer

The great thing about drawing foliage is being able to simulate super-realism without having to be super accurate. There is so much leeway for error that only major mistakes will ever show up.

Drawing realistic grass. Albrecht Durer turf drawing.
Grass turf by Albrecht Durer

This is the post to read: Drawing Realistic Grass The Easy Way: For Beginners

25. Draw Grass Out of Focus Like a Camera

Very much a modern technique based on photographic imagery. The fancy term is ‘Bokeh’. We are so used to the foreshortening blurred-out effect created by a zoom lens that it has now become a standard way of isolating a subject.
Use this technique to frame your subject without the need for authentic foliage.

Tiger in the grass. A pencil drawing of a tiger staring back hiding in out of focus grass. By Kevin Hayler
Out-of-focus effect. A pencil drawing by Kevin Hayler

26. Draw a Series of Clouds Using Just Lines

Clouds are so ephemeral that a series of different sketches can be made in minutes. Leave out the complexity and concentrate on the form. Don’t ignore the role clouds play in a landscape. Empty skies are usually dull.

27. Give Upright Trees and Posts a Slant

A simple tip and great exercise. Look into a landscape and how the pathways and fence lines lead your eye into the picture. Now look at the same scene and pretend the wind has blown through.
Imagine the fence posts tilted at varying angles and the trees leaning slightly to one side. It’s an age-old device for adding interest. Try it.

Drawing Ideas Using an Eraser

Drawing is as much about what you take out, as it is about what you put in. Using an eraser as a drawing tool is vital if you are to draw well. Use these drawing prompts to erase creatively.

28. Shade a Silhouette of an Object and Draw in Reverse Using an Eraser

A quick way to establish the most important shapes and where the shadows lie. It trains the eye to break up complex forms into simpler shapes. Done well it creates a painterly atmosphere.

29. Draw Fur, or Hair, Without Drawing Lines. Lift Out The Highlights With an Eraser

In the case of a portrait, you would block in the hair in layers and flick a kneadable eraser in the direction of the major highlights. In the case of an animal, this can be done all over, just follow the direction of the fur.

What Eraser? Read this: Best Erasers for Drawing: The 9 Eraser Types for Artists

30. Draw a Layer of Graphite and Lift Out The Clouds Using an Eraser and a Blender

Use harder pencils to reproduce the more subtle range of greys, making sure not to press hard and score the paper. Use light strokes and a blender to merge the tones if required. Lift out the highlights with erasers to restore the white paper.

31. Practice Drawing White Lines With an Eraser Pen

White lines are easier to draw at the final stages. The trick is not to draw the darks so black that they cannot be erased. Build darks in gentle layers that can be erased more effectively. Slice the tip of a Tombo Mono eraser pen and use the sharp edge to draw a white line. Practice makes perfect.

That’s one way, read more here: How to Draw White Lines in a Pencil Drawing

How to draw thin white lines Pin
Best Drawing Tool You’ll Buy (Cheap Too)

32. Draw Distant Snow-Capped Mountains in a Landscape and Lift the Snow Using an Eraser

An insanely effective technique. Draw the mountains in silhouette against a grey sky and lift the snow caps with flicks of an eraser. Figure out the direction of light and leave the opposite side in the shade.

Drawing Techniques and Exercises

The only way to progress is to play around with ideas and shortcuts. it’s wiser to set aside time to explore a few ideas than risk a new technique in the middle of a drawing. Try some of these drawing ideas and see if you can make them work for you.

33. Draw Using Tinted Paper as a Mid-Tone and Shade With White and Black

Instead of using white paper try using a Strathmore mid-grey or tan paper for your mid-tones. Be cautious using the white pencil. Only use white for highlights and the very lightest tones, otherwise, you risk drawing a ghost.

34. Draw a Subject on Tinted Paper and Highlight the Edges to Simulate Backlighting

Using the same mid-tone paper draw a subject without strong shadows and highlight the edges. It’s a clever way of giving a standard drawing atmosphere.

35. Draw Simple Outlines and Break The Lines to Add Movement

Otherwise called the ‘lost and found’ technique. Long lines look infinitely better if they are disjointed and broken. It adds life and movement to monotonous perfection.

Use this post as a reference: How to Make Your Drawings Interesting: 14 Ways to Improve

36. Practice Indenting Paper and Creating Texture

Indenting the paper for creative reasons is a common technique but with inherent risks. You cannot repair mistakes, so you have to get it right the first time. It’s used to draw ultra-fine white lines. Use a toothpick, an empty old Biro, or an indent tool.

Tiger portrait with white whiskers drawn using the indent method
Tiger whiskers: drawn using the indent method

37. Draw Rock and Stone Using a Graphite Stump and a Piece of Blu-Tack

This is an easy trick that looks insanely detailed to the viewer but is easy to do. Gently shade the rock with a soft pencil and brush it with a very soft 4B or 6B graphite stump.

Dab and roll a piece of Blu-Tack over the surface randomly. Define the patches with a few nicks and tweaks, and it looks like a rock.

Pencil drawing of a Leopard standing on a rock. This drawing demonstrates the drawing the texture with Blu-Tack
Rock texture using Blu-Tack. A Drawing by Kevin Hayler

38. Draw a Flat Black Background by Cross-Hatching

The trick to laying a flat black background is patience. Hatch diagonally across the whole area with a 0.3mm B grade Pentel Mechanical Pencil. The lines must be parallel. Reverse the diagonal and go back across the area. Repeat until you get the required tone. DO NOT USE ONE HEAVY LAYER.

39. Draw Uneven Background Using Hatching and Blenders

For a sketchier feel draw the background in patches. Drawing many patches at different angles will please the eye. Keep them separate and clean. Experiment with using a blending stump to bind the patches together.

Lone wolf drawing using a loose cross hatching style. A drawing by Kevin Hayler
Wolf drawing using uneven cross-hatching

Do you lack confidence? If you need more help with drawing, then I urge you to check out Dorian Iten on Proko. His course is reasonably priced.

40. Practice Drawing Short Fur

Criss-cross short lines in roughly the same direction the fur grows. Or use the grain in the paper and use a semi-blunt pencil tip, or the side of the pencil, to bring out the grain.

Three ring tailed lemurs drawn by Kevin Hayler. Short fur example using the side of a pencil
Short fur created using a ‘blunt’ mechanical pencil’

41. Practice Drawing Long Fur

Using long strokes use the same stroke formula and criss-cross the lines. Perfect lines look wrong. Add wisps of stray hair to add realism.

Male orangutan drawing by wildlife artist Kevin Hayler
Drawing Long and curly fur example. A drawing by Kevin Hayler

42. Practice Drawing Curly Fur

Draw fur in wavy clumps using the same criss-cross method and drag a Tombo Mono Eraser Pen or Kneadable Eraser over to indicate the curly highlights.

43. Practice Drawing Black Fur

Follow the line of growth and draw in layers using the fur technique. When you reach the right tone, start lifting out with flicks of a kneadable eraser. For more detailed highlights use a Tombo Mono Eraser Pen or even a sharpened Jakar Battery Eraser

A pencil drawing of a spider monkey by Kevin Hayler. Example of drawing long black fur
Black Fur Demo. ‘Out on a Limb’ A Pencil Drawing by Kevin Hayler

Drawing Prompts for Birds

I’m including these drawing ideas because we all have access to birds wherever we live. If nothing else you can visit your local park and feed the birds. Urban birds are tame enough to get reasonably close and you don’t need any fancy camera gear to get references.

If you need some inspiration, check out
Sarah Stokes on the Nature-Based Art Classes Page

watercolor techniques for illustrating birds on Domestika

44. Draw Birds at a Feeder

It’s a fun idea to get your sketch pad out and try to capture the fleeting visits of songbirds at a feeder or bird table. It will force you to draw at a rapid pace. Forget detail, you are interested in shapes and poses.

45. Draw Birds in Flight

In my opinion, one of the hardest things to draw is convincing flight. Don’t worry about counting primary feathers, concentrate on the structure and shadows.

Barn owl flying. A pencil drawing by Kevin Hayler
Barn Owl in Flight. A Pencil Drawing by Kevin Hayler

46. Draw Songbirds Sitting on a Wire

Let’s be honest, you will use photographic references. Take a series of shots of one bird sitting on a wire or a twig and draw it in various poses, all sitting in a row. A simple and fun compositional idea.

Songbirds perching in a row by Hector Giacomelli
Vintage Illustration of songbirds perched in a row by Hector Giacomelli 

47. Draw a Songbird Singing From a Tree Branch

Again get your camera out and see if you can catch a bird singing. Look for a good profile and simplify the foliage with some good pruning.

48. Draw Some Bird Feathers

Getting the sheen of a feather is not at all easy. It requires a very steady hand. Unlike hair or fur, feather lines are parallel.

Drawing Bird Feathers. A Drawing of a Cockatoo by Kevin Hayler.
A Pencil Drawing of a Cockatoo by Kevin Hayler

49. Draw an Old Fence Post with a Bird Drawn to Scale

Getting the perfect shot of a bird is hard. You can often get the pose but not in the right setting. Use your artistic license to relocate the subject. There are two problems. Getting the scale correct and the shadows falling in the right way.

More Advanced Drawing Prompts and Hacks

These are drawing hacks that I use to spice up my art. I can’t rely on award-winning imagery. My references are strictly my own and they’re not perfect. They’re over or underexposed, out of focus, and often cropped badly. I have to deal with what I have.

Read this: Is Drawing From Reference Photos Bad? Are You Cheating?

To get a stronger image I must adapt my existing images and draw the missing features. If an expression is absent I have to create one. It’s all about giving the subject some personality and a story. To do that there are techniques to learn and tricks that can help.

50. Draw a Pot Plant With Strong Shadows on The Wall

Drawing shadows is not straightforward. The edges are never truly sharp and reflected light can bounce onto the shadow. Shadows will not look right if you draw them flat. Try making the inner shadow slightly lighter than the outer edge.

Use this post as a guide: How to Draw Realistic Shadows in Pencil: Light and Shade

Drawing of two cats keeping cool in the shadow of a potted palm. By Kevin Hayler
‘Cats Keeping Cool’ A Drawing of Cats in Dappled Shadow by Kevin Hayler

51. Draw Eyes and Change the Direction They Are Looking

Many reference photos look OK but would be great if only the animal was looking another way. Try changing the direction of the eyeball and see how the eye shape changes. Sometimes moving the highlight alone will work. Reference other images for accuracy.

52. Open Dull Eyes Wider

On the same theme, sometimes all you have to do to rescue a pose is open sleepy eyes. A subject will look much more interesting if it is alert and the eyes are bigger. Don’t be a slave to the truth, change things that could be better.

53. Add One Image to Another Seamlessly

Take a series of shots and use the same subject in different poses and stitch them together. The example below is an example of opening the eyes and re-arranging a better composition by stitching two images together

Penguin drawing showing the two reference photos used to construct the composition
Re-arranging your references and drawing a better composition.

54. Flip an Image and Draw It as a Reflection:

It is not totally true to life to just flip an image for a reflection, but it is close enough. You can adjust the perspective and add some rippling to disguise the contrivance. Lose the detail and remember the rule: darks reflect lighter and lights reflect darker.

55. Adjust a Pose and Redraw the Composition

There is usually something wrong with a reference image that could be improved. The head can be too low, a leg in the wrong place, or an ear in the wrong position. Making a few subtle adjustments can make a dull image come alive.

White rhino drawing. The original photo next to the final drawing. Before and after. Drawn by Kevin Hayler
The original photo of a White Rhino and the subsequent pencil drawing by Kevin Hayler

Drawing Prompts for Beginners: Final Thoughts

I tried to list art prompts that will help you to create better drawings and get your imagination working. I attempted to do that in a practical, no-nonsense way.

My aim is to improve your skill level and advance your capabilities. If you are stuck in a creative rut or have an art block, you will benefit from these sketchbook ideas.

N.B. You might be tempted to use a prompt generator, I’ve just tried to use a couple. Don’t waste your time, they are next to useless. They are either silly drawing prompts and patronizing, or just links to Reddit threads and Facebook groups. They’re just gimmicks.

You are better off carrying a sketchbook around with you, and jotting down ideas as, and when, you see or think of something to draw. Inspiration is ephemeral, ideas and dreams come and go, and if you don’t capture them straight away, you’ll lose them.

As with all the arts, it’s about practice. The more you draw the better you will become. Be consistent, draw little and often, and you’ll progress.

With that said, out of 55 drawing prompts, there must be one or two that you can apply to your own work.

There is no better time to start than now.

If you like the way I draw and want to try things for yourself, this is my basic kit

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For more advanced tuition consider Stephen Bauman. He is classically trained and has a very academic approach to his art. This guy knows his stuff and is a very good tutor

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55 drawing prompt ideas: Tips for beginners. A Pinterest pin
The artist and Author Kevin Hayler

Hi, I’m Kevin Hayler
I’ve been selling my wildlife art and traveling the world for over 20 years, and if that sounds too good to be true, I’ve done it all without social media, art school, or galleries!
I can show you how to do it. You’ll find a wealth of info on my site, about selling art, drawing tips, lifestyle, reviews, travel, my portfolio, and more. Enjoy

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