Orthographic Drawing Reference | Common Paper Sizes

Ansi series paper sizes (north america), iso 216 a-series paper sizes (international), architectural "arch" series paper size (north america), common paper sizes (north america).

paper drawing reference

Learn how to draw poses and gestures from references

Want to learn to draw? This free, hands-on tutorial will walk you through the basics of a professional drawing practice in about 15 minutes. Grab a pencil and paper and follow along!

Interactive drawing tutorial tool

Just pick your settings and hit the "get drawing" button to begin.

Be aware: This tool uses NUDE models, both male and female, unless you turn this setting off.

Cover and Clothing:

Notes from the above tutorial.

Gesture drawing is a commonly used exercise to prepare your brain to see the "important" parts of a pose, and prevent you from getting bogged down in the details. Thus, it's a very popular warm up before a drawing practice, and commonly used in university drawing courses to teach students good practice habits. We'll start there too.

Draw the line of action

We're going to start with the "line of action" exercise.

Whether from life or from imagination, the first mark made in most figure drawings is the line of action. You can start by thinking of the line of action as an imaginary line that runs down the spine. It is meant as the simplest possible description of a figure's main curve and force. The more curve you put into that line, the more attitude, force and/or movement the image will communicate.

Some artists make two lines of action -- one for the body, and one for the arms.

Eventually, you should be able to identify and draw the line of action within five seconds of seeing a pose for the first time. However, if this is your first time doing this exercise, allow yourself up to 30 seconds to examine a pose and make a decision about what shape its line of action might be. Try to make curves, not S-shapes or squiggles.

Once you can recognize the line of action in 30 seconds, try speeding up -- see if you can identify it and put it down on your paper in 15 seconds, 10 seconds, or even 5 seconds! Remember, you only need to identify and record a single line to successfully complete this exercise.

Why do this exercise? This exercise teaches your brain to see the figure as a whole, rapidly identify the essential essence of what makes a pose interesting, and sets you up to be a strong visual communicator.

Hang the head, ribcage and hips

paper drawing reference

Once you have established the line of action, it becomes easier to compose dynamic, expressive poses by "hanging" the head, ribcage and hips along this line. These are the "three movable masses" that compose the main trunk of the human body.

Even if you're just starting out, give yourself no more than 1 minute for this exercise -- find the line of action as quickly as possible, and then place your three movable masses along it.

If you have extra time, you can always add more to your drawing, but that's not required right now.

Again, gradually speed up this exercise until you find you can identify the line of action and place the 3 movable masses in 60 seconds, 45 seconds, 30 seconds, maybe even 15 seconds!

Many new artists are concerned when their short exercises don't look like much but lines and bubbles. This is a setup for disappointment and failure! Remember, these are exercises, not completed drawings . If you were learning to dance, you'd start every practice with physical conditioning like push-ups, and not worry that a push-up does not look like a dance. It's the same idea here.

Capture the limbs

paper drawing reference

Now, when you've completed the line of action and the head, rib cage and pelvis, add either lines or long ovals to capture the limbs. Give yourself no more than two minutes to capture the line of action, the three movable masses, the limbs and the joint locations.

Take special note of the major joints in the body like the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip socket, knees and ankles -- you may wish to add a dot or a bubble to indicate where these joints are . These are the attachment and pivot points for your limbs.

Remember: If you have extra time, you can always add more to your drawing, but that's not required right now.

From exercise to finished pose

paper drawing reference

"Under drawings" like these can become the basis on which you draw longer, finished artworks, giving you clues about the whole figure even as you start to focus in on details. Or, they can remain stand-alone exercises.

A few tips: Avoid over-focusing on details. In the time it takes you to draw one eye, you might also be able to get down an entire edge of the body that tells a better story about the complete pose.

Give yourself room to work! You may want to take up a full page with your longer drawings.

If you like, you can try to make a beautiful artwork. But you will learn more right now if you treat this as making visual notes about what shapes you think the body is made of and contains.

We recommend you write today's date and the length of time you just spent on that drawing on your sketch, so you can see your improvement over time.

Our "class-mode" will take you through short poses to warm you up, then gradually introduce longer poses, following the format of university figure study classes.

Beyond gesture drawing

Gesture drawing is a great foundation skill, but of course there is so much more to becoming a capable artist. That’s why we have an ever-growing wealth of practice suggestions in the Lessons & Tips section. You can also visit the forums to see what other self-taught artists are doing to hone their craft.

What Is A Reference Drawing In Art? And How To Use It!

Something beginner artists always struggle with is drawing what’s on their own minds.

We first need to learn the basics.

I know there are a lot of questions about references, including if that’s considering cheating or even where to find references for your artwork. So we’ll go through all major questions while understanding a bit better what references are for in art!

What Is A Reference Drawing For?

Afterward, you just need to copy what you see, into paper. The same goes for animals, people, flowers, plants, any kind of subject really!

This is a fundamental practice, not only when you’re just starting to learn how to draw, but throughout your whole artistic journey.

References are your friends and will help you avoid mistakes while drawing!

Drawing From Reference VS Drawing From Imagination

We all want to draw from imagination. It’s perfectly normal! Most artists want to learn how to draw because they want to put into paper, stories, and characters that swim in their minds.

When I was starting my artistic journey I would be often frustrated that my drawings looked nothing like what I had in mind.

And that’s where references come in!

You can find references everywhere. You can go outside and observe the real world and real people going about their lives. Grab a sketchbook with you and draw what you see outside.

Lookup for images of the kind of subject you want to draw. Is it a person? A dog? A specific flower? Search for different references and then draw them!

Then, once you got that down, you can finally draw whatever’s in your mind. Your imagination is free to run wild!

Is Drawing From Reference Cheating?

Not only that but there’ll definitely be exercises where you have to use references. Sometimes by using a picture, others by drawing real-life models.

Some people have more difficulty than others in memorizing or imagining subjects in their heads. Some people can’t visualize anything in their heads at all!

For that reason, some artists will rely much more on references than others.

They’re actually doing the right thing!

References serve not only for you to know how to draw a subject. They’ll also help you understand how light and shadow work. The same goes for perspective and composition.

Where Can I Find Life Drawing Reference Photos?

There are lots of places to find great reference photos. First, we have our good friend google.

It’s good for when you’re looking for a very specific subject that you can’t find anywhere else, though.

From action to sitting pose references . Individual, couples, or group poses. There’s a bit of everything so be sure to add this one to your bookmarks!

Learning To Draw Without Reference Images

It takes practice, but you’ll get there. The important thing to have in mind is to not force it.

Other days, you’ll be drawing something and you’re rusty at it or you’ve never really drawn before it, so you’ll need that handy reference right by your side!

Nowadays, a lot of the time I can just visualize a character in my mind and draw it. However, I’ll still prefer to gather some references, even if it’s just for inspiration.

But that doesn’t mean you’ll never use references again. Believe me, they’ll always be your friends and a big helper whenever you start a new drawing!

Related Questions

You’ll also be mimicking a style so it will be harder to develop your own style . When you’re doing it, be sure to focus on the things you like the best about it, to better understand it and adapt it to your own style.

Enjoy your stay and as always: Keep on drawing!

Related Posts:


paper drawing reference

Making a fuss about paper

Consider these two paper selection situations:

Situation 1: you see, through a window, a lovely bird on the branch of a tree in the garden. You grab a discarded junk mail envelope and a ballpoint pen from the table and quickly sketch the scene. This emergency drawing on an envelope becomes one of most memorable drawings you’ve ever drawn.

Situation 2: you go to a life drawing class without bringing your own paper, so you use the provided at the class. You realise soon enough that the paper is not very good, and you can’t make marks and lines as well as you do normally. You are frustrated during the class, and tell yourself you’ll never forget to bring the paper of your choice from now on.

We aren’t recommending high quality paper because we are paper snobs. For life drawing, you should be little fussy about your choice of paper, because using a suitable piece of paper actually makes your practice sessions more productive. This is not just because the right paper results in good looking drawings, but because the right type of paper will ‘take’ your intended lines more faithfully. You are more likely to ‘feel at one’ with your drawing while you draw the model. Note that the ‘right’ paper is not necessarily expensive paper!

We recommend you buy individual sheets, rather than sketchbooks or pads. The latter is more convenient to carry, but the sizes and types of paper are limited and tend to be more expensive per sheet. Unfortunately not many street art shops stock sheet paper. So we encourage you to explore good online art shops – they tend to have good selections of paper sold as sheets or even rolls!

For pencil, colour pencil, chalk:

Fabriano Academia

Surrey cartridge paper

Strathmore 400 drawing paper

Arches Hot pressed. This is actually watercolour paper, but is excellent for pencil. It’s very expensive though.

For pastel and charcoal

Fabriano Ingres. ‘Ingres’ is a general term for paper with a fine stripy texture. The feel varies by manufacturers.

Strathmore 500 Charcoal. This is excellent but expensive paper.

Daler Rowney Ingres

Sugar paper (very cheap but take charcoal/pastel well. Not suitable for building layers though)

Wrapping paper. This is not for everyone, but some people use this very cheap paper wonderfully.

Fabriano Tiziano (Pastel paper)

Ultimately, the best answer for your depends on your style and preference. We all use different pencils, pastels, paints, techniques and hand pressures to draw. So what is best for some might not be the best choice for others. Also the availability of specific paper differs by the country you live.

We hope that the selection outlined above is a useful starting point as you figure out what paper works best for your style.

Update – take a look in the comments below – there are some great additional insights into paper!


paper drawing reference

Let’s Make Pelvis Anatomy 10x Easier

Today, we are going to look at the pelvis, this massive structure inside the figure. It’s hugely important for the gesture, it’s hugely important for the

paper drawing reference

The 11 Steps to Great Gesture Drawing

I think there are 11 steps to getting really good gesture skills. Let’s say you do 10 out of 11 steps, that’s pretty good! That’s

paper drawing reference

How to Draw Shoulders in Three Easy Steps

  The problem: complicated anatomy Have you ever been drawing the figure from a side or front view and become quite confused about what you’re

paper drawing reference

The MOST useful anatomy idea is also super simple

https://youtu.be/jH0Vkkc3Mgw So, here we have our two artists, Harry and Sally. They both want to learn to draw figures and they spend some time doing


Every week or two, I send out useful tips and insights about life drawing. When you sign up, I’ll also send you our guide to the skills of life drawings so you can see where you are and what skills to work on next

Copyright ©. 2022 - Love Life Drawing. All Rights Reserved

paper drawing reference


  1. 2 to 5min Quick Sketches...Conte' on Fabriano paper

    paper drawing reference

  2. Study. Reference by @photographer_charis. Graphite on paper.#drawing #sketchbook

    paper drawing reference

  3. linda_terrified.jpg (378×504)

    paper drawing reference

  4. Human hands holding blank paper sheets of different size. Vector flat style cartoon illustration

    paper drawing reference

  5. First paper drawing in 2020

    paper drawing reference

  6. See this Instagram photo by @willwestonstudio • 2,798 likes

    paper drawing reference


  1. How to draw a OLD PAPER

  2. Drawing "H" on paper

  3. Drawing using 2b on rough paper

  4. draw on paper 25 #shorts

  5. Line Paper Drawing

  6. Two Drawings on a single paper.#short.how?


  1. What Is Paper Used For?

    Paper is used to make books, magazines and newspapers as well as paper money and photographic paper. It’s used to make writing paper, toys, boxes, wrapping paper, glassine, paper napkins, toilet paper, paper towels, facial tissue and paper ...

  2. Why Is Technical Drawing Important?

    Technical drawing is important because it helps companies visualize a concept so that it can be easily communicated for production into a physical item. Companies use technical drawings for both prototypes of items and the final version for...

  3. What Is the Definition of Orthographic Drawing?

    An orthographic drawing is a method that allows someone to represent a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional piece of paper. By drawing the object for a various angles, the artist is able to show how the object looks in the real wor...

  4. Pin on AS_3

    Paper Drawing, Drawing Tips, Pose Reference Photo, Art Reference Photos, Girls Holding. More like this. Shutterstock. 2M followers

  5. 290 Best Hand reference ideas

    different hand gesture vector set Reference Paper, Drawing Body Poses.

  6. Orthographic Drawing Reference

    ANSI Series Paper Sizes (North America) ; ANSI A, 8.5 × 11, 216 × 279 ; ANSI B · 11 × 17, 279 × 432 ; ANSI C · 17 × 22, 432 × 559 ; ANSI D · 22 × 34, 559 × 864.

  7. Learn how to draw poses and gestures from references

    This free, hands-on tutorial will walk you through the basics of a professional drawing practice in about 15 minutes. Grab a pencil and paper and follow

  8. Art Reference Tools

    Discover the perfect reference tool for your next art project at Guiry's. Shop our product selection from brands like Jack Richeson, The Color Wheel Company

  9. What Is A Reference Drawing In Art? And How To Use It!

    Most artists want to learn how to draw because they want to put into paper, stories, and characters that swim in their minds. However, in the beginning, it's

  10. Toned Paper Drawing

    I'm using this face drawing reference (by artist Anna Tsvell), to inspire the face shading that I'd like to do today in my own drawing. I love this messy

  11. Making a fuss about paper

    To help you, we have made some swatches of different types of paper for your reference below. They are grouped into those good for pencil and chalk and

  12. Drawing From Reference: 4 Ways I Use References in My Art!

    Hello everyone! In this week's video I am going to talk about how I use references in my art. =DThe references I used: Sitting

  13. Drawing Reference Tables

    they work great when laying drawings and blueprints out for discussion or reference.

  14. Drawing Size Reference Table, Architectural and ...

    Drawing Size Reference Table, Architectural and Engineering Drawing Sizes · All Types of Paper and Media · Professional Grade Drafting Supplies · Quality Large