Draw like an Architect – Essential Tips

Hey, Eric here with 30X40 Design Workshop,
in this video, I’m going to walk through a few essential tips you can use to improve
your architectural drawing technique. We’ll start with what I think is the most
important one: line weight. Line weight is simply how thick or thin the
lines on the page are. Line weight in drawing actually exploits a
natural phenomenon known as atmospheric perspective where objects which are closer to us are rendered
in higher contrast and appear darker to our eyes. The farther something is from you the more
atmosphere between you and the object which reduces contrast, reduces color saturation
and detail; all which have the combined effect of lightening things in the background. Architectural drawings, which are primarily
two-dimensional, look more natural when we exploit this effect and using a variety of
line weights mimics it pretty convincingly. Consider for a moment how you react to a lecture
delivered in a monotone voice. It’s boring right? You stop listening because there’s no texture
or color or interest; no emotion. Line weights are like inflection in speaking,
they create depth, hierarchy, and clarity in our drawings. They signal what’s important, tell the viewer
where to look and they organize the information on the page. And this applies to both sketches and technical
drawings alike. So, how can you use them? Well, thick lines in a drawing carry a lot
of weight. They show what’s most important, typically
what the drawing is cutting through, what’s closest to the viewer in the foreground, silhouettes
we want to call attention to and they can also signify heavy materials like stone or
concrete for example. Thin lines by contrast are fainter and appear
farther away – in the background. Use thin line weights to render textures,
lighter materials and generally highlight less important objects or supporting information. In between the two are medium line weights,
which make up the middle ground of the drawing. If we simply distill drawings into foreground,
middle ground and background this is a good basic starting point for selecting line weights. For sketches I use three weights at a minimum:
a lead pencil, an ultra fine point Sharpie, and a Sign pen. So, a fine light grey, a medium black, and
a thick, heavy black. Each of these can be further varied by using
thicker or double strokes, or by varying the pressure applied in the case of the pencil. Or, you might also use a harder or softer
lead. To add even more variety, we use dashed or
dotted lines to represent hidden objects or to suggest special centerings, things like
that. Now, a couple of quick tips. Pay attention to how you move your pen or
pencil. You always want to pull the pen or pencil
along the page, not push it. Larger, more fluid motions are preferable
to small ones. Move your arm in a fluid motion, don’t just
pivot at the wrist. Lock the wrist to your arm and move the pen
or pencil with your entire arm. The best thing you can do is to be confident
in the stroke on the page, you can even add a little waver in it which gives it that imperfect,
sketchy quality. I recommend intentional longer strokes over
short dashes. Corners are important to getting you the look
of architectural sketches right; corner lines should overlap just a bit. Be careful not to cut them short as that just
sort of looks sloppy. Just a little overlap lends it a crisp, intentional
feel. And one last thing: for sketching media I
prefer trace to almost anything else unless I’m traveling or hiking and then I’ll
use a sketchbook. Architects use tracing paper because design
is naturally an iterative process. If you make a mistake on the base layer, simply
roll out another sheet and sketch over it. Layer upon layer will help you refine your
ideas and your sketching style and it should remind you that sketches don’t have to be
perfect. You want to optimize for results, rather than
perfection. Now, I like to begin with the lightest line
work in graphite and block everything in the drawing out first defining the composition
and major shapes. The lightest lines serve as your layout lines
and background information. You can use these to set grid lines, draw
perimeter outlines, basically anything in the background and places you may want to
fill in with more detail later. Keep these loose but intentional. Once the light line work is done, begin layering
on your medium line weights. These will make up most of the drawing and
are closer to you than the background information you just sketched. This is everything in the middle ground of
the drawing. I’ll usually outline the major window openings
shown in elevation, then the cuts through doors or windows. Maybe floor planes or stairs and railings
in the distance, figures in section, sight lines, the trees outside, vegetation. When that’s complete, I move on to the thickest
lines. Thick line weights outline the perimeter of
whatever the drawing is cutting through. I also use them for building outlines, and
anything I want to emphasize. In a plan sketch this would be the outer perimeter
of the walls, in a section, the cut line of the walls, floors, ceiling and roof planes,
and in a site plan the overall building outline or a silhouette in a perspective. Once it’s looking like something, you can
come back and add in textures. I’ll do this using the lead pencil for finer
detail and light accents, indicating fasteners or vegetation indications or furniture too
and the ultra fine point Sharpie I’ll use for concrete or heavier materials. When you’re done, squint your eyes. If you’re able to see different information
– that is – darker lines jump out – you know you’re on the right track. Now ask yourself, “Is it the right information?” “Is it saying the things I want it to say?” It should make sense to you and add clarity
to the drawing not be confusing. Do like materials have like renderings and
similar line weights? Ultimately, you’ll have to experiment to
develop your own style but the goal is to begin adding depth to your drawing and line
weights are a real shortcut for doing this. Now, when we transition to digital drawing
on the computer, these techniques still apply. I use a rudimentary form of AutoCAD, but it
doesn’t matter if you’re using REVIT, ArchiCAD, Draftsight, or SketchUp, or whether
they’re never printed and only viewed on screen: your drawings need to utilize different
line weights. If every line on the page has the same value
and weight you’re doing it wrong. A drawing that looks good will communicate
your ideas better. Begin by subdividing each drawing into foreground,
middle ground and background, and use – at a minimum – three line weights to communicate
depth. Next up is shade and shadow. I use shading on nearly every drawing to indicate
layering of systems, glazing, and changes in surfaces or materials. Shading two-dimensional drawings can aid in
someone’s understanding of the relationships between elements. On floor plans, the shading that fills wall
assemblies we refer to as: poche and it doesn’t always have to be black. I use a gray tone, which not only conserves
ink, but – I think – is easier on the eyes. I’ll use differing values of gray in all
my CAD drawings, generally ten percent for light toning, twenty percent for medium backgrounds,
sixty percent for medium tones and eighty percent for the darkest for things like filling
in the walls on floor plans. Shading works in conjunction with varying
line weights to add depth. When you’re sketching, I find the best way
to shade is with a set of gray markers – either warm or cool gray. I’ve put the ones I use in the info card
above. In CAD you’ll use hatches or built-in rendering
effects like ambient shadows to create shade and shadow or you can fake them in Photoshop
using adjustment layers and masks. Scale and entourage. Setting the building in proper context helps
the viewer understand the overall size of your work in relation to something else of
known size. For scale, we all understand the human proportion,
so people – in silhouette – are an easy first choice. Vehicles are good too, especially if you’re
designing for them in let’s say a boat house, or a garage or site plan. Entourage is basically anything you add to
your drawing to give it life, to set the stage or introduce action. Furniture, equipment, vegetation, skies, animals,
birds, foreground objects, and backgrounds. For me, entourage can even help incite ideas
about how to move a design forward. Backgrounds and foregrounds add depth to the
drawing. Now, I’ve put a few links to the entourage
resources that I like in the description below. Now let’s look at a few of my architectural
drawings to show you these techniques in practice. The layout of the page is organized to correlate
the elevation views with the floor plan views. So, at the top I have the elevation views,
and you’ll notice that the line weights and types have all been selected to highlight
what’s important. The silhouette and the ground cut line get
the darkest weights, then there’s shadow on the wood storage area and eaves and the
projections like the barn doors. The windows are all shaded too and I like
doing this as it accurately simulates the real-world experience of architecture in the
daytime where we perceive windows as dark planes. Layered behind the elevations I’m using
the atmospheric perspective technique to indicate the wooded context of the structure, which
helps to set the building in three-dimensional space. Notice the line weight at the roof for a second. The front edge is thick and then at the rake
end, it tapers from being thick at the front eave edge to thin at the ridge. Note too, the use of dashed lines for sliding
doors or pivot points on the awning window or the hidden foundation. The base flashing is shaded a different tone
than the glass and I’ve added a scale Corbusier Modulor man too. Together these effects make the building silhouettes
stand out. Moving over to the plans, we see that the
outer wall edge which is the extent of what we’re cutting through is assigned the thickest
line weight. From there I’ll use lighter line weights
to indicate thicknesses of wall materials, like framing and finishes as well as windows
and doors. On floor plans and elevations I’ll usually
assign materials like wall shingles, floor boards, tile and decking very light line weights
– usually a ten percent screened gray tone on a hatch layer. And, furniture gets a place in most of my
plans as it indicates use and scale, but I’ll use a lighter line weight for it. Shading on the floor plan here indicates the
concrete finish and helps set off the furniture layout a little bit. You’ll see that I like to separate the notation
on my drawings from the line work using red as it’s another way of creating clarity
and hierarchy in a drawing. This could also be done using shades of gray
if you’d like too. I vary the line weight of the notations too,
see the detail indicators? They have thicker lines in places as do the
door and window tags. It’s a slight difference, but it feeds into
the overall hierarchy of the drawing. Does it pass the squint test? Now, I think it does, but see what you think. What do you think could be improved? In the end, it’s not about copying my drawing
style or anyone else’s. It’s about developing your own and the best
way to do that is by seeking out the architectural drawings you like and try and replicate their
results. Study their commonalities, how do they differ
from the way you draw? Some of my favorites are found in the Detail
in Contemporary Residential architecture books or Detail magazines; all the German stuff. See the info card above. If you found this video helpful, please tap
the thumbs up below, it helps me grow the channel and lets me know I’m making the
things you’re interested in. Cheers!


  • 30X40 Design Workshop

    You can download my digital drawing template here: thirtybyforty.com/autocad-template

  • Arentas REC

    I have find it ! Thanks. 😉

  • True Alpha

    Soooo can I use a ruler or I'll have to practice without em? ?

  • True Alpha

    Btw what are those red sentences and symbols? Are those saying it for more accurate? Sorry for wrong grammar :>

  • HollywoodF1

    Students: I'm a structural engineer who has worked very closely with architects for a long time now. We work arm in arm on projects and I understand their job very well. The following is a reality check for architecture students and aspiring architecture students– 

    Don't be blinded by the flashy title– architecture isn't what you think it is. Ask any architect if their job resembles what they thought it would be before they started architecture, and nearly all will tell you that it's not what they expected. They will also tell you that (unlike structural engineering, where the working world is almost exactly like what we did in school) the working world for architects does not resemble architecture school at all. So simply making it through architecture school is no indicator of how you'll do as an architect. It takes a certain type to succeed as an architect, and just wanting to design and build pretty things is no where near enough.

    Architecture is a highly constrained form of design. A huge amount of your time is spent on accomodating laws in the form of codes and regulations, and addressing the practical electrical, mechanical, plumbing, structural, geotechnical, civil, and other systems that need to be accomodated. And money is always king. As an architect, you are caught in the middle of a myriad of forces pulling you in all directions. You are a project manager, a lawyer, a draftsperson, an accountant, and a designer– in that order. You are trying to get work out of others while trying to stay on top of your own. You're managing construction issues and doing a lot of paperwork. Architecture requires leadership qualities, a diligent work ethic, and excellent organization and communication skills. You should be willing to work long hours when deadlines loom, and learn to manage stress. You must also accept that it will be many, many years before you are leading headline projects because you have many years of learning (and relearning as times change) to do.  The best architects are the hardest workers.

    If you fit this type, you may have what it takes to be an architect.

  • Michaelson Sarmiento

    Long gone are the days of hand sketches. We live in an era of too much technology and so little art.

  • Jobayed Mohammed nasim

    Sir I want to work with you.

  • spabs

    im 15, and intent on becoming an architect. ive pretty much started from nothing considering no class is able to taken upon the subject at school, so in an attempt to gain some clarity on the scene, ive looked upon you to somewhat guide me in order to be better in all facets of my passion and drive to become an architect. any advice for someone like me?

  • Mark Carlson

    Very nice and informative….thank you!

  • Vulpinetide Cute Times

    Is it acceptable to work as an architect in digital rather than traditional? Using Software like Clipstudio EX/Photoshop?
    If I preferred to do my work digitally, would I have a harder time getting the job?

  • roland laus



    Try showing us simple architectural designs that we can start drawing as beginners and show us how to draw them in your own way

  • anthony white

    Draw like a narky tick

  • Srinivas Vuppununthala

    I want Advanced online BIM

  • Srinivas Vuppununthala

    BIM Exam online fee particular details tell me sir

  • Hayden Goodman

    subbed and recommending to my fellow arch students bruv

  • Toni Eluemunor

    3:07 slenderman sign 😮

  • k s

    Do you have an in-depth video of how you do your plans on AutoCAD?

  • macaroonana

    i just started architecture 1st year and now imm struggling with drawing even though i’m pretty good with it (or so i thought) :< i feel like ny drawings are never enough ahhh 🙁

  • Ninjaslash52 _

    Omg lineweight my highschool architecture teacher was right to stress lineweight

  • the unknown

    Just a 13 year old who is completely lost to where this is going lol

  • Tomek Drabas

    Is it me or did you break your own rule and pushed rather than pulled the Sharpie around 4:45? 🙂 BTW — love how you describe all these things — learning a lot!

  • Julián Santín

    Thanks for making these videos!!

  • humpty dumpkins

    is it possible those who doesn't know how to draw or in other words didn't have talent towards drawing become an architecture ?

  • diane umali

    i want to be an architect but we have financial problem :'(

  • Shahanavaj Inamdar

    Nice Minimalistic representation…….somewhere I feel nomenclature dominates the drawing

  • 황보람

    타이틀은 한국어로 써져있는데 한국어 자막이없네요…?

  • Renegade Russell

    Two things:

    Interesting use of red text. Normally I reserve red text for when I'm red lining a drawing, but admittedly I find the red text pleasing to the eye. I may adjust a drawing to see how it turns out.

    Second point. While I now use Chief Architect for my drawings, I used LT for years and still have it on my computer because I just love controlling my drawings to that point. I could have dumped LT, but the control freak in me keeps it around for special projects. CA is so automated it sometimes takes the fun out of the whole creative process, rather than add to it.

    Good video serious. Keep up the great work.

  • sunil patil

    Hi sir , i need a lecture on proper illumination in office home etc

  • Kin Sopheaktra

    Could you share me about technical drawing , format and template or annotation for cad?sir

  • Email Nasir

    This is one of the best videos of yours that I have watched and got informed simply and obviously.I am almost graduating but no body thought me these things, wish I knew these tips right from first year.Very grateful to associate my time with this channel.
    From West Africa(Nigerian) studying in East Africa (Uganda)

  • Crystal Yeow

    Thank you so much for teaching, I will learn it.

  • 3rutu5

    Will watch later, but assume the key points would be never close lines and work to the unbuildable 8 decimal points 🙂

  • Жасмін Вербна

    Thank you for useful information

  • thomas seven

    Get a cad program. Architects don't "draw" any more.

  • Zachary Olechnowicz

    I know I'm late but this video is is the cliff notes version of my 1st and 2nd year of classes at a private university. This channel is doing incredible things.

  • Mark Raven

    how can i improve my focus on creating my design?

  • Ricardo Raul Díaz Serrano

    I’m gonna all your videos

  • MC Architect

    Lmao there shouldn’t be a specific to “”draw like an architect””

  • R. Mercado

    I really like this presentation! Great teaching!

  • Octavia Pinckney

    Thank you for the tips! Really great points for suggesting how to develop a signature graphic communication style. Keep up the great work!

  • Jolo Jolo

    as a tip if u use trace: make marks or pin at the corners to put layers precise

  • anthony white

    draw like a narkey tick

  • alison norcross

    If you were left handed this eod add more suthentivity

  • alison norcross

    This reminds me of the 12hr design exam I di for ncarb

  • alison norcross

    I think I obtained a great skill when I worked in an architects office in us but the pay was awful

  • 76Eliam

    Can someone explain to me the "move you whole arm while drawing" thing?
    My drawing teacher at school used to say the same thing but I never understood why. It seems much harder to draw precisely.

  • Mohamedzakymohamed Zanaty

    علم قائم على الفكر والتصور واكيفية استغلال المساحات ومصادرالطبيعة (الاتجاهات)وخلافة …..

  • First Architecture School

    Not only are you are very talented but you also possess a rare gift for imparting your knowledge. Thank you.

  • Willy Kitheka

    Hey Eric! Thanks for sharing such useful information! I have subscribed, liked and clicked the notification button. I will be looking out for more from you! Cheers!

  • Rafia Shahzad

    I m a firsr year architecture student. I want to know that how people draw plans and elevations by free hand on scale without using archiscale? Like i have observed that it gives more freedom to ur mind to design but i dont know how they do it


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