Segment Drawing

I am always looking for new techniques I can use to improve my drawing skills, and I recently started using one that I am really enjoying! It is called Segment drawing. For those of you that follow Lee Hammond, you may be familiar with this technique. This is one method Lee uses to teach her students in classes, in videos, and in her books. I am writing about it today because I highly recommend it if you are looking to hone in and further develop any of your artistic skills.

Segment drawing is focusing in on one element of your art to develop a skill. You can use this technique with any art medium. Remember the whole purpose of using this technique is to practice your skills, as well as develop a style or technique. Don’t get to hung up on “what” your drawing.

To begin with, I determine what it is I want to practice, then I go look for a reference photo. I get most of my reference images from my personal library of images, or I get them off of Pixabay, an app where you can get free photos to use for your art.

When picking photos for segment drawing, there are two important things to consider. The first is finding a variety of what you want to practice. The second is how crisp the photo is.

If you are practicing drawing leaves, you might try to find 4 pictures that each contain a different type of leaf. If you continuously draw the same type of leaf, you may stop referring to your reference photo. This may lead to you missing details, and therefore creating “bad habits”. Select a good variety of photos, so that each of your 4 segment drawings will allow you to practice the same technique, but with a different end result each time!

Make sure your are selecting a sharp and clear photo to ensure your reference is accurate. When we zoom in on photos, they become pix-elated, or blurry. This may lead to your drawing being inaccurate. As you are supposed to be studying your reference photo in this step to ensure accuracy. A blurry photo may lead to more “bad habits”.

Once you have chosen your reference photos, you will want to crop the area you will be working off of. You can do this with any basic photo editing program. If I am on my laptop, I will use Windows Photo Editor, and if I am on my tablet I use a free photo editing app.

Next I will add the photo into Sketchbook Pro, and add a grid on top of the photo. I will  be writing a blog post on how I create my layout grids in the mobile app, Sketchbook Pro in the next couple of weeks. I recommend using the layout grid method for all of your initial sketches to ensure accurate proportions and perspective.

Once I have a grid applied to the reference photo, I will create a box that is the same size as the perimeter of the reference grid. Once I have the grid setup, I will create my initial sketch working from square to square, making sure all of the shapes are placed in the right portion of the box. In my opinion, this step is just as important as rendering the details. A poor sketch will ultimately lead to a poorly finished piece.


Once I am happy with the sketch, I will remove the grid and start working on the details. Hopefully you have done some research on how to achieve your final result. Watch some YouTube tutorials, or read an art instruction book. In this step, you are developing your technique to achieve your desired final result. Everyone has a different style, and creating small drawings like these gives you creative freedom to try new things, and find a style that suits you.

Here is a reference photo I used recently to do an eye study of a Macaw. In this Segment Drawing, I was practicing eyes, and feathers. I liked this reference photo because there were a couple of different styles of feathers in one study, and there was a lot of contrast between the values.  Macaw

This is the finished result of my Macaw Segment Drawing. This was my first ever drawing of an animal with feathers, so I still have some opportunities to develop my technique on drawing feathers.

Macaw Study

That is what I love about segment drawing! I was able to practice feathers, without spending hours working on a full piece of art that I probably wouldn’t like. I haven’t developed a technique on creating feathers yet, and this technique allows me to do little studies until I am able to develop that skill. Knowing this was a practice piece allows me to look at it as such, and determine what I want to work on in my next feather study.

I hope this post has given you an idea of ways to practice your skills and techniques as an artist! Is this concept new to you, or do you do segment drawing all the time? Do you find this technique has helped you grow as an artist? Let me know in the comments below!





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