How To Get Your Own Style

Periodically I get questions from students, professionals, and curious people, and sometimes, those questions get me thinking. Recently, I received a question about how to develop a style. It really got me thinking, because I’ve never tried to deduce the origins of style when it comes to sketching. It happens so subtly and naturally, that it can be a hard thing to totally explain, but I have a few pointers and tips based on my own experiences that you may find useful. As always, feel free to leave any insights you have below, and as always, videos are coming soon :-)

simkom sketchsite

1. Find your Inspiration:

Don’t just copy someone, but rather seek out sketches or illustrations that give you that feeling or drive to draw even more. Find subjects that you like and practice them in your sketchbook. By doing this, you’ll find yourself beginning to mimick (not copy) the feeling of the sketch or illustration. It’s a natural process that happens over time when you have the right inspiration. For me it was feng zhu (artbyfeng.com) – I loved his sketch style at the time, and I admit, I tried copying a few things, but that wasn’t beneficial to me. It really clicked when I analyzed what made his sketch good, and then adapted that to my own natural tendencies. Simkom.com is another great online resource that’s updated frequently with juicy juicy sketches from many designers. Mainly car stuff, but adapting things you like is the key.

2. Pick a Tool:

Pick a tool and stick with it. I think when starting out, you’ll hear alot of people say use a felt pen or a pen in general. It’s good advice, but above and beyond the confidence you’ll gain from using a pen, when you can master a tool, your flow will be significantly greater. What I mean is, the awkwardness of using a tool to express an idea or concept can be a hinderance, and when the awkwardness is gone, your style will flow so much easier, as will your ideas.

3. Let Your Personality Flow on to the Paper

I’m a cheery, jovial guy, and I think alot of that translates into the paper. I tell people to relax when sketching. It’s good advice for technique in general, but good advice as well when trying to develop a style. Style is really about personal expression – letting it all out. If you’re shy, or afraid, your style won’t ever come out on paper. Be confident with each stroke and learn to express yourself. It’s OKAY to make a few mistakes here or there. My best sketching happens when I’m not caring so much about the accuracy or precision of each stroke, but rather the espression or the “big picture” of what I am trying to accomplish. Which leads me to my next point.

Sketch Spread

4. Break The Rules

When you master a set of rules, don’t be slave to them. Learn to break free. Now, I don’t mean abandon principles of perspective, lineweight, proper ellipse construction or basic primitive proportions. What I mean is learn to bend the rules a bit. Drawing with your shoulder and drawing through are two great rules that we’re taught early on, that can be broken. Coloring between the lines and not past is another example of a rule that can be bent to express your style and experiment in new means of expression.

Cropped bag sketches

5. Get Some Signature Moves

This is that little dot you put at the end of a line, or a non-descript squiggle at the end of a marker stroke. It’s the gaussian blur in photoshop that you use on a particular part of a rendering. Discover your signature moves when experimenting while “breaking the rules” as I mentioned, consistently implement them, and you’ll have a style developing from it.

car

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  • http://www.coroflot.com/aham73 Adam Hammerman

    As always, a great article Spencer. I’d like to add one big important step…HAVE FUN!

    I think I’ve already met one too many jaded designers and I’m not even out of school yet. Every time I get to talking with them, it seems like they’ve gotten tired of the “grind”. Stale, style-less work is the result. And although I can’t predict my future, I know that it’s just as important for a student to keep things fresh and new. A lot of busy ID’ers I know do this by keeping an artistic or active hobby a close 2nd to ID. What ultimately happens, is that passion shows up in their professional work. It makes the work unique, different, and genuinely more enjoyable to do.

    -Adam

  • http://www.coroflot.com/aham73 Adam Hammerman

    As always, a great article Spencer. I’d like to add one big important step…HAVE FUN!

    I think I’ve already met one too many jaded designers and I’m not even out of school yet. Every time I get to talking with them, it seems like they’ve gotten tired of the “grind”. Stale, style-less work is the result. And although I can’t predict my future, I know that it’s just as important for a student to keep things fresh and new. A lot of busy ID’ers I know do this by keeping an artistic or active hobby a close 2nd to ID. What ultimately happens, is that passion shows up in their professional work. It makes the work unique, different, and genuinely more enjoyable to do.

    -Adam

  • http://pdxindustrial.com DannyP

    I love your thoughts here, but have a different opinion regarding #2 (Pick a Tool.)

    I find it beneficial to jump between sketch tools … from prismacolor to sharpie, from small thumbnail to large-scale, from analog to digital, etc.

    Depending on the subject matter, one approach seems to work better than another. And as a way to re-open the idea floodgates when an idea thread runs thin, sometimes changing tools is all it takes …

  • http://pdxindustrial.com DannyP

    I love your thoughts here, but have a different opinion regarding #2 (Pick a Tool.)

    I find it beneficial to jump between sketch tools … from prismacolor to sharpie, from small thumbnail to large-scale, from analog to digital, etc.

    Depending on the subject matter, one approach seems to work better than another. And as a way to re-open the idea floodgates when an idea thread runs thin, sometimes changing tools is all it takes …

  • Steve S

    Show more products man. I see one cool product sketch, and a million tiny car thumbnails. I think i’ve seen a million cool car renderings, but expressive product renderings are in short supply it seems. I like the images I see on Tminus but I dont see them here.

    • http://www.idsketching.com Spencer Nugent

      OKay Steve.

    • CP39

      ….because most ID designers don’t have the skillz!

    • Mayur Humne

      can u give the address of the sites

  • Steve S

    Show more products man. I see one cool product sketch, and a million tiny car thumbnails. I think i’ve seen a million cool car renderings, but expressive product renderings are in short supply it seems. I like the images I see on Tminus but I dont see them here.

    • http://www.idsketching.com Spencer Nugent

      OKay Steve.

    • CP39

      ….because most ID designers don’t have the skillz!

  • Arjun

    Great article. I agree with it 100%. Most often young desingers like me stumble upon their signature…and find it appreaing in all the renderings. I personally have a few of my own signature moves and its good to have recognizable designs.

    Thanks Spencer

  • Arjun

    Great article. I agree with it 100%. Most often young desingers like me stumble upon their signature…and find it appreaing in all the renderings. I personally have a few of my own signature moves and its good to have recognizable designs.

    Thanks Spencer

  • Tanguy

    Great article. I’d like to add a tip on the point 3. I got lucky enough to teach sketching to MA students in Umea (Sweden), and I used this trick: a loud cooking timer. Self confidence is key to great sketching, and time pressure helps forgetting all other fears… my classes went like this: “we’ll sketch a , 3 perspective views on 1 A3 page. You get 4 minutes per view, plus 4 minutes for colouring it all afterwards. and 4 minutes for retouching details, comments, signature, date, etc. Keep track of the page composition and diversity of perspective angles. start now !” that makes 20 minutes, and you have a well composed spontaneous A3 page. Shy guys should try it.

  • Tanguy

    Great article. I’d like to add a tip on the point 3. I got lucky enough to teach sketching to MA students in Umea (Sweden), and I used this trick: a loud cooking timer. Self confidence is key to great sketching, and time pressure helps forgetting all other fears… my classes went like this: “we’ll sketch a , 3 perspective views on 1 A3 page. You get 4 minutes per view, plus 4 minutes for colouring it all afterwards. and 4 minutes for retouching details, comments, signature, date, etc. Keep track of the page composition and diversity of perspective angles. start now !” that makes 20 minutes, and you have a well composed spontaneous A3 page. Shy guys should try it.

  • James90

    Im a product design student, at my place of study we don’t get taught to sketch which is a real frustration. Guys like you are a real help for guys like me, i love to see how you’ve made your stuff from scratch. Hopefully one day ill be up to your standard, fingers crossed. Thanks Spencer!

  • Tancredo56

    Hello Spencer,
    I’m a student of industrial design and get amazed by your kindness for sharing so much great tips, advice and much more, that for us, students, is pure gold. I was just wondering that i don’t see so much, or almost nothing, about helmet designs. What you think about an article or video covering some tips and tricks about this great and wonderful object? Thank you so much for the great support you provide us. See ya.

  • Mayur Humne

    your site is great.i am very much inspire from your sketches,and articles….
    Very Intresting site,Its more fun and inspire me to see more new sketches….

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  • http://www.designerhacks.com Tony Gushanas

    I love “get some signature moves”. It makes me feel like a super hero or wrestler. It’s so perfect.

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