Why you should try to break objects into simpler shapes

As you learn to draw stuff, you'll probably notice that a lot of things have similar shapes. It's very evident in the sections on symbols, as a large number of the designs are based on the Latin Cross. Once you notice this, it comes as no real surprise that a useful trick when drawing things is to draw groups of simple shapes during the lay out step.

Just about everything can be broken down into simple shapes. Practice breaking things down and see how things go together. Once you get used to doing this, you can work out simpler and easier methods to draw almost anything. The four most common shapes used for this sort of thing are straight lines, squares, rectangles, triangles and circles. Other, more complex shapes like pentagons and hexagons can be used as well, but they aren't as commonly used.

Breaking up a lamp
In the above image, a lamp is deconstructed into a handful of simple shapes. On the right is the completed lamp, on the left are the three trapezoids and two ellipses that make it up.

Lastly, here are a few tips to keep in mind when you're working out what shapes make your figure:

  • The fewer shapes used for an object, the better. Don't focus on details; this is only the first step in making the drawing, so add those in later. For now, just focus on the basic outline and positioning of the figure.
  • If you're having trouble with a complex shape, try exaggerating it to make the shapes more apparent.
  • Don't forget that shapes can overlap or be only partially visible.
  • Practice often. You'll get very good at this with a little effort. If you want a little freestyle practice, try this little game.