How to Draw 3D Cubes and Freehand Stars

Kawaii cubesIt is surprisingly hard to draw freehand stars and cubes, as I found out this week.

Originally, I planed to practice various shapes: squares, triangles, etc. But after one day I realised that my time is better spent on practicing cubes in perspective and freehand stars.

I’ll explain why later in the post.

This is Week 4 of my challenge to learn how to draw kawaii in 6 months.


It’s been the hardest week so far!

Materials

Here is a complete list of materials I used this week.

I've included Amazon links to some of the materials. If Amazon is your shopping place of choice, they will throw a few coins into my piggy bank for referring you (no cost to you). And if not, no worries at all. Just buy them wherever is most convenient.

How I Practiced Squares, Cubes and Stars

My original task this week was to draw various shapes, such as squares, triangles, ovals etc. But I didn’t see how it applied directly to the skill of drawing kawaii.

To give you an idea, here is one of the practice pages I made while drawing squares. It can work well as a coloring page too. More importantly, it gave me the idea to draw cubes instead of squares.

Pattern with squares

Pattern with squares that can be used as a coloring page

Next, I thought I would fill a page with cubes… and that’s where it all came to a halt. Turns out, cubes are hard to draw accurately! It’s easy to draw a basic cube, but when I tried to turn it and tilt it (like I did with spheres), I had to get a reference model made up.

The art store said they didn’t sell cubes, so I made one up using plasticine.

Plasticine cube for drawing reference

Plasticine model for drawing cubes

I used this reference to understand how a cube will look, if I turn it and tilt it. I also put it above my eye level and below my eye level to see the difference. This is one of my practice pages.

Drawing cubes with different angles

Cube drawings from reference, turned at different angles

Oooh, it was tedious work!! Dull. I really had a hard time staying motivated. It felt like taking bitter medicine that I knew I needed to get better. Better at drawing, that is :).

To add a bit of fun to drawing cubes, I put kawaii faces on them, ha! Looks like kawaii faces in perspective don’t look as cute. That’s probably why kawaii characters are usually drawn front on.

Kawaii cubes

Having fun with drawing cubes

Finally, towards the end of the week I felt that my work with cubes was done. So I tackled another shape that I often have trouble with: stars. I can draw a star using guide lines with no problem, like we learned in school. But I wanted to practice freehand stars.

After a while, I got the hang of it. See the end of the post for a technique I discovered, that makes drawing freehand stars much easier.

Practice sheet for freehand stars

I filled the page with stars and colored around them. Not all the stars are even, but it’s ok! It’s all part of learning :)

Techniques for Drawing Solid and Convincing 3D Cubes

  • When in doubt, use a box for reference. That’s why we have them! It’s devilishly hard (at least for me) to visualise a cube in space without actually looking at it. Maybe with some practice it will become easier… but for now I will use a reference.
  • A cube drawing is defined by 3 angles, one for each side. If you get the angles right, the cube will look solid and convincing.
  • Use your pencil to check the angle of each side. Align the pencil with the cube side, and then transfer the same angle onto the paper. Like this:
    How to measure angles with a pencilYou can also use a string instead of a pencil. Or use a plumb line (a weight on a string) that will show you the perfect vertical line. Then you can judge the angle you see in comparison with the vertical of the plumb line. Here is an article that explains measuring techniques in detail.
  • Put the paper right up to your reference cube and compare with the lines you’ve drawn. It’s easy to see the errors, when they are side by side.
  • When looking at a cube that is turned or tilted, it’s hard to actually “see” how to draw it. The reason is because our brain tries to straighten the cube in our mind, makes the angles flatter and more even. Most of us have drawn a cube as a child. We learned it as a box that looks something like this:
    Cube as we learned it as a childIn reality, cubes are rarely this even and flat! As I turned my model cube around, I had to constantly remind myself to double-check what I am actually seeing. If you are aware of it, you can control it! And you will draw better cubes :).
  • Nerd alert! This tip may sound scary, but if remember that parallelogram is like a skewed square — it becomes easy! Here it goes:
    Drawing of a 3D cube is usually made up of 2 or 3 parallelograms (skewed squares), depending on the view. If you look at the shape of each parallelogram, rather than the whole cube, it may be easier to judge the size and angle of each cube side.

Simple Way to Understand Perspective

Why cubes don’t just look like squares? It’s because of perspective. A very simple way to understand perspective it to remember this: things get smaller as they get farther away. That’s why we have vanishing points. Cause things get so small in the distance, they nearly vanish! :)

Here is another helpful tip from an Australian artist John Lovett, who explains perspective in a simple way:

Simple way to explain perspective

Clipping from “International Artist” magazine, in which Australian artist John Lovett explains perspective in a simple way.

Technique for Drawing Freehand Stars

The problem with drawing stars is that 4 legs come out ok, but the fifth one comes out too fat or skinny. We don’t leave enough space for it.

As I drew lots and lots of lopsided stars, I eventually figured out that the sides of the star legs align. Like this:

How to draw a freehand star

If I keep in mind that the sides of the star legs align, the legs come out even. Woo hoo!

Drawing Time Diary

Monday, Dec 5: two sessions, 25 min, 20 min
Tuesday, Dec 6: two sessions, 45 min, 15 min
Wednesday, Dec 7: no drawing :(
Thursday, Dec 8: one session, 1 hr
Friday, Dec 9: two sessions, 45 min, 30 min
Saturday, Dec 10: one session, 15 min
Sunday, Dec 11: no drawing

Total drawing time: 4 hr 15 min

Do you find it hard to draw cubes and stars? Or is it just me?

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