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The Difference Between Drawing And Sketching - More Of A Study Than A Blog Post

Updated: May 27, 2020

We have all heard the terms sketching and drawing thrown around all the time, am I right? What on earth is the difference? Don't worry, I'm dedicating this whole article only to answering this very question.

What Is The Difference Between Drawing And Sketching?

The term drawing describes a precisely crafted, and completely finished graphite or charcoal artwork. Sketching on the other side is a technique that includes making short and rough strokes to indicate a vague outline at first and then refining it many times so it gets more detailed.

Yep, as you might have already guessed correctly, there are some caveats to that answer such as the one I'll talk about in the first subheading now. This question divides the pencil artist community secretly without anyone really fighting about it. But there are definitely discrepancies between many artists.

I. All 3 Different Opinions

There are a lot of different opinions on that topic and there is not a real answer that is the one true truth, you know? Nevertheless, I want to shed some light on that frustratingly confusing question and all its answers that can be found online.

What are the three different explanations answering the question about the difference between drawing and sketching?

1. They Are Different Things

2. Sketching Is A Kind Of Drawing

3. Sketches Result In A Drawing

Let's just start without further ado with the first statement.

1. They Are Different Things

What this statement is all about has already been mentioned at the beginning. The bolded paragraph is based on this statement. In case you're still wondering, yes, there is no clear answer to this question and everybody says something else.

By saying drawing and sketching are essentially two completely different things they mean the following. Sketching is a technique that is about roughly (re-)creating one subject. Sketching is about only depicting the most important or prominent parts of the subject being sketched.

For people justifying this statement, drawing is considered to be about the complete opposite. That means from this point of view "drawing" stands for hyper-realistic drawing that portrays a certain subject as detailed as possible.

Maybe you were already able to read between the lines and detected that I'm of a different opinion. If you ask me, that what is being referred to as drawing here is something else. Hyper-realistic drawing is from my point of view the detailed drawing technique and drawing itself.

This leads us to the next point.

2. Sketching Is A Kind Of Drawing

This view represents the opinion that drawing is the main category in the world of graphite and charcoal art that has many different subcategories. Sketching being one of these subcategories is part of their point of view.

By they, I mean the people representing the statement that we're talking about at the moment.

The definition of sketching, however, remains the same entirely. Sketching is also in their eyes a way of roughly portraying a subject and not drawing it completely detailed. The art of drawing something in a very detailed and realistic way is another subcategory apart from sketching.

This category can be called realism drawing or photorealism drawing. Just call it whatever you like since this is irrelevant for people supporting this opinion. It doesn't involve very rough initial strokes but already very strong, long, and almost finished strokes and shading not only at the end but often already throughout the process.

3. Sketches Result In A Drawing

If the title confuses you and you can't really tell what I mean by that, don't worry. Let me explain what this third and finally last possible point of view means.

This statement is all about sketching being some kind of alpha or beta version of drawing to say it in a gamer's words. If you're defending this particular point of view you assume that sketching is somewhat an early form of drawing.

When you're sketching something you start off by roughly indicating the outer lines of your subject but refining these lines over and over again and also defining it at the end is also a part of sketching. If you completely finish your sketch by creating depth through shading you have a very detailed and exact drawing, right?

This is what they are basically saying with this opinion. Sketching is so to speak one way to get to a finished drawing.

Another way of creating a finished or let's say detailed and realistic drawing is the one called rendering. In rendering you actually work your way across your subject as a printer is printing an image.

Rendering is a very popular way of drawing since the results are impressively realistic and close to a photograph for example. Normally you divide your reference image into equally large pieces and so you have to with your drawing surface.

Now you have to move from square to square and copy exactly what you see. For beginners, this is a great method to learn observation skills in an easy and fast way because the results almost always look great.

For advanced artists, I wouldn't recommend this technique because it doesn't really train and improve the real perception skills that are necessary to draw from life successfully. In order to get it right learning the five basic perception skills is mandatory and key for every drawing artist.

My Opinion:

We at Mac H. - Creative have a very particular opinion of this topic. It's kind of a mixture of the second and the third statement that we are supporting here.

Absolutely nobody in the team thinks that sketching and drawing are two terms that can be seen on the same level. Drawing is clearly the main category since our whole passion is literally called drawing.

We think all sketches are drawings but not all drawings are sketches.

This can definitely be associated with the second point of view that sketching is a certain subcategory of the main category called drawing. But that's not exactly what we think because we really have our own way of describing sketching in relationship to drawing.

So here it comes... What is the meaning of sketching in the field of drawing?

Drawing is a way of creating art with graphite and charcoal and other mark-making tools. Drawing can be subdivided into three main subcategories. Life drawing, fictional drawing, and design drawing. If it is being drawn from references one can use various methods. Rendering and sketching are examples.

Now I hope you fully understand my exact point of view on this whole topic. Remember, this is not only my opinion but all the creatives and artists of the team agree with me on that one. We represent this new view on the drawing vs. sketching debate as a unit.

Sketching is a freehand drawing method.

This sentence basically says everything. It states that drawing is the main category standing above everything else. It states that sketching is not a subcategory of drawing but simply a method to draw the subcategories of drawing that don't require any other tools than a pencil and a hand. It is a freehand drawing method.

II. How To Learn Sketching

Now, that we've finally concluded the question of what the difference is between drawing and sketching and dealt with any possible aspect of it you might be wondering one more thing. How do you learn to sketch? Are there some simple tips for beginners?

Yes, there are some simple beginner tricks and I've actually already uploaded a blog post on this site dedicated to these great sketching tips. You can check it out by clicking here and you will be sent to the post in a new tab.

The tips include understanding the perfect pencil grip for sketching or even drawing in general, so it's an important tip in general. It also includes tips to finding the right subject to draw from and I'll talk about the mentality you need for basic sketching.

Say goodbye to perfectionism...

Get to the article here:

III. Related Questions

1. What Is The History Of Sketching?

Already around 30,000 B.C. cave men have created rough first sketches of animals and human beings on the walls of their caves. They were found in Spain and France and often they used charcoal from fires to draw on the walls.

2. What Is Live Sketching?

Live sketching is a quick method used by drawing students and aspiring drawing artists serving the purpose of learning to draw from life as fast as possible. It is mostly used in figure drawing. By only sketching the model in front of them and not precisely drawing it the students learn about proportion and internalize their perception skills much faster.

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