99 Drawing Ideas to Improve Your Skills
A lack of ideas should never hinder creativity!
That would be a travesty. Yet, we often find ourselves wanting to create something but unable to find what we want to create. This is particularly true for drawing.
When you sit down to draw with your pens or colored pencils, you’ve got to be inspired by what you’re doing as well as challenged enough for your skill level.
To get the creative juices flowing, we’ve put together a giant list of fun ideas and drawing prompts that combine a nice variety of objects and scenes from everyday life as well as some more abstract ideas to activate the imagination.
Rather than relying on an intensive stack of books on the subject, we thought that we'd provide you with the core aspects of an amazing drawing with plenty of fantastic visual sources of inspiration.
This list is designed to help you develop your drawing skills both for realism and your unique style through various drawing techniques. Whether you're drawing in a physical medium and putting pencil to paper, or using a vector drawing tool like Vectornator, you'll find the source of inspiration you need here.
3 Reasons Why Drawing Is Good For You
Any form of creative expression has proven to be beneficial for myriad reasons.
Art drawing helps our brains develop and balances our nervous systems. Not to mention, humans are creative by nature, so it's vital for us to express ourselves in this way.
The three primary benefits of drawing include:
- It's therapeutic and meditative - Drawing has been proven to improve your mood. It helps you become present in the moment and allows you to reflect on yourself and the beauty of nature, quiet your mind, and express yourself, resulting in a calmer, happier disposition.
- It improves your creativity - Drawing unlocks the part of your brain responsible for innovation and problem-solving. It exercises your ability to think differently and gets creative juices flowing. Check out Sunni Brown’s Ted Talk on the life-changing power of doodling to learn more about this fascinating subject.
- It improves communication skills - Drawing is a type of language that isn't limited to straight lines. That's why it's good to try drawing exercises where you have to visually communicate something abstract like "draw what is true to you." This pushes your capacity for visual communication and subsequently improves your overall communication skills beyond your drawing techniques.
Why Is Drawing So Hard, Though?
Drawing is a difficult skill to master.
Whether you’re taking it on as a new skill or improving the drawing skills you already have, it will feel challenging when you haven’t had enough drawing practice to aptly portray the image you set out to draw. Practice is the name of the game here!
Remember to choose the right drawing exercise for your particular skill level. If you choose something too difficult, you’re going to become frustrated and disheartened. If you choose something too easy, you will get bored and hinder your advancement.
Still, it never hurts to start off with a few basic drawing ideas. Try looking at pictures of things like a rocket ship or a tea kettle and begin refining your basic drawing techniques.
It’s important not to judge your ability and talent based on what simply comes down to lack of practice.
Improving any creative skill takes time and iteration. It’s essential to persevere to the point where you make that breakthrough and suddenly find yourself producing pieces of a higher quality and accuracy than you were before. Seeing your progress leads to a lot of satisfaction, so make sure that you’re keeping track and looking back to note the improvement you have made.
Coming up with creative drawing ideas to keep the practice consistent can also be challenging. That’s why we’ve created the list below, so you’re never short of ideas for your next piece of art. Don’t let a lack of ideas be why you don’t practice your drawing technique.
If you find your drawing projects and exercises challenging, you might want to keep the following in mind. The American Psychological Association has revealed that challenges to creativity occur when:
- You're stressed
- You're not challenging yourself
- You're limiting your knowledge
- You're not taking notes and compiling ideas
- You aren’t surrounded by interesting things and people
- You’re tired
People embarking on developing a creative skill often find it too challenging and give up or slack off because they haven’t committed to making a habit of it.
Scholar Robert Epstein said, “As strange as it sounds, creativity can become a habit. Making it one helps you become more productive.”
So take care of your biochemical state, stay inspired, and be sure to make a habit of practicing creativity!
How to Improve Your Drawing Skills
Coming up with cool drawing ideas for practice is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what you can do to improve your skills.
There are certain things you can do specifically for drawing that are excellent exercises for improving this skill and the action that can be taken to support your overall creativity. We’ve listed some suggestions below:
- First and foremost, tap into your creative energy by ensuring your nervous system is balanced. This means taking care of yourself and ensuring that you are rested and as free of stress as possible. Getting that meditation session in and engaging in healthy activities that make you feel good (whether it be hiking or playing board games) is one of the most essential things for developing your drawing skills.
- Practice drawing perspective. This is one of the foundational drawing skills that help you portray subjects realistically. You can practice perspective by choosing any subject, from a room to a landscape or an object, and drawing it from different angles, as well as creating grids to help you understand how perspective works.
- Learn how to sketch on paper. Sketching is a vital drawing skill that will improve your fundamental drawing ability, especially when you have the ideal light source.
- Make use of drawing tutorials online. The internet is a vast landscape full of tutorials. You can find plenty of free drawing tutorials on youtube or go the route of an online course. Skillshare is an excellent platform for creative skills. You’ll find tons of drawing tutorials there, from creating a convincing outer space scene to bringing a comic book character to life and even mastering everyday objects.
- Practice creating digital art. Many people love drawing digitally on a tablet or a drawing pad (like we do!), and with the fantastic tools available for digital art, such as Vectornator, it’s an excellent way to unleash creativity without limitation.
- Use a digital device to help you with your drawing practice by creating a grid overlay on top of the drawing so you can get the proportions right, or change your digital drawing to greyscale if you’re drawing in pencil or charcoal.
- Look for #drawinghacks on social media. TikTok, Instagram and Pinterest are perfect platforms for finding drawing inspiration from others.
- Follow your favorite artists on social media to stay inspired.
Investing in an educational course is always a good idea if you’re committed to learning something.
You can scout your local area for art teachers and institutions that offer courses in person, or you can opt for an online course. Check out these courses:
- Vectornator Academy on YouTube
- The Ultimate Drawing Course - Beginner to Advanced on Udemy
- Drawing Courses on LinkedIn Learning
As mentioned, there are tons of courses on Skillshare as well. So have a browse and find a course that's right for you. There's something for every budget!
Just like tons of designers partake in design challenges to improve and stay inspired, partaking in or setting drawing challenges for yourself will ensure that you’re pushing your skills to the next level.
You could commit to drawing exercises once a week that really challenge your skills and drawing technique, such as blind contour drawing. You can search for ideas and competitions online.
You can try drawing things like hair underwater, a complex or mechanical object, or your favorite foods.
It's also a great idea to buy a drawing book to help with ideas, learning, and inspiration. Some of the best drawing books you might want to check out are:
- Dover Anatomy For Artists by Reginald Marsh
- Perspective Made Easy by Ernest R. Norling
- The Sketchbook of Loish: Art in Progress by Lois Van Baarle
- Sketching From The Imagination: Creatures And Monsters
References vs. Imagination
So, do you copy reference images or come up with your own original idea for drawing?
Well, if you’re a beginner, drawing from a reference is necessary. You need to learn how things from reality transfer onto the page. You need to analyze proportions, perspective, and light. However, you can’t become overdependent on images and spend your life copying other people’s art.
When you are ready to create your own unique artwork, you’ll collect various references such as photos and objects to combine into one original artwork. You can draw from your own photographs for more originality, as well.
You can also go the route of completely drawing from imagination, in which case you will focus particularly on developing this skill.
Find Your Happy Medium
If you’re committing to improving your skills, you’ll want to experiment and work with a medium that inspires you.
There are plenty of mediums you can draw with outside of the traditional graphite pencil. Having a creative idea for your drawing project or exercise is one thing, but you need the right medium to bring it to life.
You can change between mediums, or you can commit to mastering one medium if that calls to you.
It’s always good to experiment in the beginning.
This is step is more important step than you might imagine. You can create work that you hate when drawing in graphite pencil but discover that you actually have a cool, unique style when you draw with charcoal.
Also, keep in mind that you can draw with color and greyscale, and it presents opportunities to advance other creative skills such as capturing shadows and understanding color.
Types of drawing mediums include:
- Oil Pastels
- Soft pastels
- Graphite Pencils
- Ink Brushes
- Color pencils
- Chalk pastels
- Digital (Vector or Raster)
- Ballpoint Pens
- Watercolor Pencils
99 Drawing Ideas to Keep You Busy For the Rest of Your Life
Finally, we’ve made it to the good stuff - the big, giant, enormous list of drawing ideas.
This is how it’s going to work:
We’ve broken it down into five different sections that include real-life drawing ideas as well as mythical and abstract ideas that will really challenge your imagination and hand; plus, we’ve thrown in some ideas for kids if you have a class or children you intend to draw with.
There are plenty of cool drawing ideas in here, as well as some ideas that might sound boring or difficult but are good challenges for your skill. We’ve chosen each of these ideas to give you the perfect mix between fun, inspirational and challenging. You can choose to use the list in any way you like. Here are some recommendations:
Without further ado, here are 99 drawing ideas to get that creativity flowing.
Learning to draw the human form is fundamental to drawing skills.
It teaches you proportion and perspective. If you’re interested in drawing as realistically as possible, focusing on the human form is an excellent idea. You can focus on particular areas of the body, bodies in motion, facial expressions, clothing, and the proportions of the body as a whole.
- Hand Gestures - Drawing hands is notoriously difficult, so gesture drawings are fantastic for challenging your skills. You can draw from your own hands, a photo, or find images online.
- Self-portrait - Creating a self-portrait is something every artist should do. You can take a photograph or try to do it from memory.
- A nude figure - Stop blushing; this is how we learn. Drawing nude figures is one of the foundational drawing exercises taught in art because it teaches anatomy and perspective. You can try to find a live nude figure drawing class in your local area, look on Pinterest for inspiration, or find resources in an art book or online art academy.
- Eyes - These are the perfect drawing challenge because they are pretty tricky to draw, especially trying to get them to look the same. Drawing eyes is the ideal challenge for shading techniques, so if that’s something you’re looking to focus on, look no further.
- A caricature of yourself - This one requires some imagination and is a fantastic overall creativity challenge. You can make it as detailed or silly as you like. Look at some other caricatures for inspiration before you begin.
- Side profile - Drawing the side profile of a face teaches you another aspect of drawing faces and helps to hone your perspective skills.
- An aged face - This is another more advanced challenge, as drawing aged faces requires some skill and a lot of shading technique. It’s an excellent exercise for developing your realistic drawing skills.
- A dancing form - This will help you learn how to convey a sense of movement. It’s also the perfect exercise to hone skills around the proportions of a human body.
- An emotive expression - Learning how to visually communicate emotion is an important part of developing drawing skills. You can choose a reference of a face that’s hyper-expressive with laughter, tears, or surprise.
- People in conversation - This is an excellent challenge that combines skills in portraying movement, gesture, and emotion and will teach you how to bring life to a drawing.
- A fashion illustration - You can choose to illustrate an outfit you own, something from your imagination, or simply copy an illustration from a fashion designer that you find online. This is an enjoyable challenge that also allows you to experiment with different drawing styles.
Many people love animals and love drawing animals.
Trying your hand at drawing various species will help you become comfortable depicting various proportions and textures. Household animals, in particular, offer artists the opportunity to capture something more profound than just the animal’s body.
Maybe there is something about a cat, dog, or bird that you find adorable, and you want to try and portray their personality and cuteness through the drawing. Conveying the love you feel for the animal to the viewer is crucial for learning to communicate well visually.
- A cat - These creatures are fantastic to draw not only if you’re a cat lover, but also because depicting their fur is an excellent shading exercise. Check out our tutorial on how to draw a cat.
- A dog - There are so many different types of dogs. Drawing some of the various breeds will keep you busy for a while and is a good opportunity to develop your skills with texture and pattern. Drawing a poodle, a husky, an Afghan hound, and a “pavement special” will help you learn how to portray different textures. Check out our tutorial on how to draw a dog.
- A fish - Another excellent opportunity to play with textures and patterns, plus drawing a fish in its underwater context will allow you to play with light and shading to depict water. Here's a tutorial on how to draw a fish.
- A koala bear - Just because they’re adorable.
- A monkey - If you really study them, you’ll notice that monkey’s faces are highly expressive. These animals make for an excellent drawing challenge because of the lines, texture, and details in their faces and hands and the texture of their fur. You can also have fun with it and humanize the monkey with some personality for a cool drawing idea. Yep, we did a tutorial on how to draw a monkey!
- A bird - There are many types of birds to choose from. You can play with the color of parrots and flamingos and challenge yourself to depict movement by drawing birds in flight.
- Your own pet - Because you know your pet, you might be able to capture some personality in this drawing. Work from a reference photo that captures your pet in a way that inspires you.
- A dinosaur - These can be pretty fun to draw, and there are lots of species to choose from. It’s also a good challenge for playing with unique proportions.
- An elephant - These beautiful creatures have very textured skin that makes for an excellent exercise in shading.
- A snake - Because they’re cool. You can get creative with this one as well and draw a pet snake wrapped around a woman’s body or draw the mythological character Medusa with her snakes for hair. There’s plenty of reference inspiration online.
- A butterfly - You can practice portraying beautiful patterns and color combinations and even get creative with your unique patterns for butterfly wings.
If you’re inspired by magic, fiction, and mythology, drawing a fantastical creature might motivate you.
It will also activate your imagination and open up your mind to unique ideas that might lead to conceptualizing creatures of your own. Drawing mythical creatures falls more on the challenging side of the difficulty scale, but you can always simply reduce it to a basic line drawing depiction.
- A dragon - You can challenge yourself to intricacy and detail with these timeless creatures. If you’re a beginner, you can simply dragons down a lot to basic line drawings.
- A mermaid - An excellent opportunity to combine your skills in human form and animal form, not to mention depicting water as well.
- Huldra - This seductive forest-dwelling creature from Norse mythology similarly challenges you to combine human and animal form, with the option to add the context of the creature’s environment.
- Hecatoncheires - Ok, this creature from Greek mythology is terrifying. If you’re into horror, you might dig it. It will make for a more advanced drawing project.
- A centaur - Another excellent option for combining human form and animal form. Try challenging yourself to get as detailed as you can by depicting the muscular physique of this creature.
- Your favorite mythical creature - Can you come up with a mythical creature of your own? You can guide the process of drawing your own mythical creature by compiling and combining references from other creatures.
- Cerberus - Another horror-inspired scary creature, the three-headed dog is an excellent opportunity to challenge your skills.
- A fairy - This is one you can adjust a lot for your skills level, making it as simple or complex as you desire. You can also have fun playing with color and light if you like.
- Your favorite superhero - Do you have a favorite superhero? Why not combine their specific design with figure drawing exercises? This is especially effective if you want to start drawing your own comics.
- A unicorn - Similarly to the fairy, you can adjust this to be as beginner-basic or intricately detailed as you wish.
- A vampire - there’s tons of reference imagery for this one purely from the number of series and films that portray vampires. Choose a favorite that inspires you and give it a shot at drawing.
- Your favorite breakfast food - A creative challenge from start to finish: make the breakfast, take a beautiful photo of the breakfast and then draw it.
- An apple - Art teachers love apples. Not because they’re teachers, but because apples are an awesome drawing challenge that you can adjust to any skill level. Try drawing an apple from real life. Also, try to draw this one with color.
- A super decadent ice cream - Make it fun, make it colorful, make it five scoops topped with cream, sprinkles, oreo, and a cherry to finish it off. Or, you know, whatever you want.
- A bottle of your favorite soft drink or beer - Glass bottles are an excellent opportunity to practice light and shading. Plus, the label will be an added level of challenge.
- A fruit bowl - This is a foundational drawing class subject. Everyone’s gotta try it at some point!
- A piece of cake - Make it decadent and beautiful! And then grab a piece of cake afterward, because you’re gonna wanna.
- Sushi - A fun and cute project. Try to play with a unique illustration style.
- Your favorite takeout - You can order it or copy it from real life or take a photo. This could make an awesome date night or an art-inspired hangout with your buddies. Order takeout, then draw your takeout.
- A salad - It might seem simple, but if you pick the right ingredients, you can make it colorful and interesting.
- Food art - Have you seen this? It’s when you combine real food with drawing to create a unique artwork. Try it out; it’s a whole bunch of fun!
- A cup of warm, steamy coffee - Because YUM! This makes for a lovely, cozy little artwork that you could even gift to a friend who loves coffee. You can also depict it quite nicely as a line drawing if you’re a beginner.
- Your favorite skyline - Choose a city and draw the skyline. You can make it a simple line drawing if you’re a beginner. Plus, you could gift the finished product to a friend or relative who loves that city too.
- Simple flowers - There are tons of video tutorials on this. People love drawing flowers. There are plenty to choose from; they can be easy for beginners, and the finished product is beautiful.
- A fancy skyscraper - You could make this quite an intricate drawing challenge.
- The view in front of you - Make a day of it, and go outside to capture a real-life scene.
- The beach and ocean - The ocean can be challenging to draw. There’s a lot of motion, shading, and light to capture. You can always simplify it. Look for the right picture that inspires you and is appropriate for your skills level.
- A tree - This is an excellent opportunity to try and capture a lot of detail.
- A sandy desert - You could get creative with this and fill in the dunes with patterns. Add some cacti to make it more interesting.
- A train station - Try and capture the business of the scene with people going about their day or simply it and just capture the train itself.
- A line drawing of a peaceful landscape
- Clouds - A good idea to learn how to shade.
- A rose - Notoriously difficult if you’re going to capture it realistically, therefore a fantastic skills challenge!
- An indoor plant - Choose whichever inspires you, and try to draw it from real life.
- A game controller - These can be quite challenging. Give it a try.
- A room in your home - Take a photo of your favorite room and draw it.
- A peaceful day indoors - Capture the ambiance of a relaxing day at home.
- Books - Stack some of your favorites up and draw them. You could even just redraw the cover of your favorite book.
- An instrument - Challenge yourself by making it super detailed, or simply try a line drawing of an instrument.
- A lamp - Simple, yet powerful. This can be a good exercise to practice shading.
- A bath - Make it ambient, steamy, candlelit, and inspiring.
- A drinking glass - Another good opportunity to capture depth and how light falls through shading skills.
- Cutlery - It sounds boring, but it’s a fantastic exercise for your skills.
- An armchair - Make it colorful, patterned, rugged, or fancy. Have fun with it.
Shapes and Patterns
Many of the drawing ideas mentioned above will help to advance your realism skills and allow you to develop a unique style.
The ideas listed below, however, will challenge your creative thinking and teach you to play in the abstract realm. Abstract drawing is a valuable and beautiful part of art.
- A zentangle - They don’t teach it to you in school, but it exists. It’s basically just combining a lot of different patterns. Look it up.
- Free flow scribble - Get the creative juices flowing and warm up your hand with some free-flow scribbling.
- Basic Shapes - Try drawing as many as you can, as accurately as you can freehand.
- Circles, circles, circles - These are essential for any drawing practice! Drawing circles as accurately as you can from freehand trains the eye, and trains your hand to become steady.
- A cube - An excellent challenge for practicing depth and perspective.
- An icosahedron - Do you know what it is? Look it up and then draw it. Also good for depth and perspective.
- A globe - Practice drawing circles, but with the added challenge of depth.
- A geometric pattern - Challenge yourself by conceptualizing one of your own or find one online. And check out this article about how you could use a geometric pattern for design.
- Draw a landscape - Fill each element with a different pattern.
- An impossible triangle - The thing about impossible triangles is they are not actually impossible to draw. Try it! It’s great brain exercise, too.
- Get totally abstract - Choose an object or person and interpret it as an abstract drawing.
Drawing from your imagination is a whole different ball game.
It can be difficult to draw without a reference, but it’s a fantastic opportunity to develop your creativity and tap into an authentic style of your own. The list below consists of drawing prompts designed to activate your imagination and challenge your hand.
- Draw something that’s true to you
- Draw how you feel right now
- Illustrate something from your favorite book
- Draw your favorite song
- Draw something you couldn’t live without
- Draw a creature from your imagination
- Draw love
- Draw a cat at a birthday party
- Combine two or more animals to come up with one of your own
- Draw yourself as a mythical creature or superhero
- Draw your ideal day as a comic strip
Drawing Ideas For Kids
You might have children of your own or young students that you teach, so here are some ideas to start nurturing the creativity of the little ones.
These ideas don’t require much explanation. You can choose from the list and find references online or in real life. And hey, there’s no reason adults can’t try these.
- A cupcake with a face
- Your favorite animal
- Draw a bird using the outline of your hand
- A self-portrait
- A full-length person
- Draw a rabbit using the outline of your hand
- Numbers 1-10 each with a different pattern inside
- Draw what happiness feels like
- Draw the alphabet and make each letter a character
- Concentric circles
- Draw a creature from your imagination
Draw it. Share it. Repeat.
Save this list and refer to it whenever you need a drawing prompt.
Make sure to play around with both drawing realistically and in your own stylized way. The more you practice, the more likely you will find a unique style.
And don't forget to download Vectornator for free to practice your vector drawing skills!
We would LOVE to see anything you might have drawn from the list, so be sure to share your art with us! We often share our readers’ art on social media, so use the hashtag #vectornator if you want a chance of being featured!