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13 Architectural Drawing Tips

It is NOT 'all in the wrist' and twelve other ways architects sketch and draw buildings
July 16, 2021

Architectural Drawing Tip 1: Line Weight

How thick or thin the lines on the page are. Objects that are closer to us appear darker to our eyes.

Line weights create depth, hierarchy, and clarity in drawings. They signal what is important, and they tell the viewer where to look.

Thick lines show what's most important, what's being cut through, what's closest—heavy materials, like stone or concrete.

Use thin lines for texture, background, lighter materials, supporting information.

Medium lines fill in details. Think of the three lines weights as foreground, middle ground, and background.

Architectural Drawing Tip 2: PULL, don't push

Pulling gives a smoother line than pushing does. Use broader strokes instead of shorter, chopper ones.

Architectural Drawing Tip 3: Fluid Motions

Move your arm, not your wrist. Lock the wrist and move the pen or pencil with your arm.

Architectural Drawing Tip 4: Slight Waver = Good

It gives the drawing a 'sketchy' (in a good way) quality.

Architectural Drawing Tip 5: Use Confident Single Strokes

Longer strokes that are shortened with an eraser shorter are better than short strokes that are pieced together.

Architectural Drawing Tip 6: Overlap the corners

Just a bit. Cutting corners looks sloppy, but overlapping them slightly gives a crisp, intentional feel.

Architectural Drawing Tip 7: Use tracing paper

Design is naturally iterative, so you need layers to work through the options. If you make a mistake, just roll out another piece of tracing paper.

Architectural Drawing Tip 8: Background first

Begin with a pencil, blocking out everything in the composition. You can also set gridlines, draw perimeter info, and sketch places to fill in with detail later.

Keep it loose, but intentional.

Architectural Drawing Tip 9: Middle ground next

This is most of the drawing. Middle ground information. Window openings, doors, stairs, railings, vegetation.

Architectural Drawing Tip 10: Thick lines last

Use thick lines are for whatever the drawing is cutting through. Whatever needs emphasis in the drawing.

In a plan sketch, it is the outer perimeter of the walls.

In an elevation, it will be the cut section of the walls, floors, ceiling, and roof planes.

In a site plan, it would be the overall building outline.

Architectural Drawing Tip 11: The Squint Test

When you're done with the sketch, squint your eyes and look. You should be able to distinguish different levels of information.

Is the information jumping out at you the right information? Is it saying what you want it to say?

Architectural Drawing Tip 12: Shade and Shadow

Shading can indicate layering of systems, window glazing, and changes in surfaces. Shading is essential in both elevation and plan sketches. In plan, shading can highlight walls, stairs, furniture, etc.

Architectural Drawing Tip 13: Scale and Entourage

Showing the building in its surroundings puts it in context on a page.

Scale compares the size to known things, like people and pickup trucks.

Entourage is what you add to the drawing to give it life: foreground and background objects.

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