Drawing With Masks

Masks are simply square windows in paper used to surround the area you’re drawing, on both the reference photo and the drawing. Drawing masks help you learn the essential skills of placement, scaling, and getting values just right.

Small Drawing Mask

Small Drawing Mask

1. Make a good sized square hole (1″ to 2″ sq.) in a sheet of white paper or an index card. This size mask works well on a 3×5″ or 4×5″ photo.

Large Drawing Mask

Large Drawing Mask

2. If you want to draw at twice the size of the reference photo, make this square twice as large as the first. Of course, you can use any reference to drawing ratio.

Be sure to keep both windows perfectly square. I cut them out with an Exacto knife for neat corners.


Drawing Mask In Use

Drawing Mask In Use

3. Use paper clips or low tack tape to hold the masks on your photo and drawing paper.

I use magnetic white boards as drawing boards and use magnets to hold my reference photos and masks in place.

Surrounding both areas with white gives you a reference point for both seeing and drawing true value. The windows break down placement of details into small bites, and scaling happens naturally.

A Caveat

Masks work wonderfully to keep a drawing absolutely correct, but most of the time it’s only necessary to use them for the focus point or most detailed part. Using them over the entire drawing can be hazardous to your art health, because art isn’t so much about getting things correct as it is about expressing the scene according to your perception. So use them to learn, and use them as another tool in your drawing box when needed.

I’ve Evolved My Use Of Masks

I used masks when I began drawing and they really helped me see things realistically, and that practice improved my life drawing skills too. I still use them when part of a drawing  that I want to be drawn correctly fights me!

Keep those pencils moving everyone!

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