Having a lazy Sunday morning? Have some time to fill at work? Here’s a productive idea — draw your coffee mug! This step by step tutorial shows you how.
- Pencil (HB or a normal writing pencil)
- Kneaded Eraser
- Coffee mug
Draw The Mug’s Shape
Brace the drawing paper at an angle, or your drawing will be distorted.
With your pencil in an overhand grip, use the side of the lead to draw big loose lines in the general shape of the mug. These first thick lines are meant to be more exploratory than precise.
Keep the beginning lines light, especially if you’re drawing a very light mug.
You can’t draw anything right until you’ve drawn it wrong. So make lots of wrong lines, compare them to reality, and then redraw them.
You don’t need to erase anything yet. Just let the lines build up over each other, nice and easy.
Refine the Shape
After you’ve made a lot of experimental lines, start to sharpen and define the outline with the pencil held in an ordinary writing grip.
The rim and bottom of the mug are made of circles seen from the side, or ovals, and they are nearly at the same degree of tilt. Both of my ovals measure about an index finger’s width deep. Measuring helped me make matching curvature at the top and bottom of the mug.
Add the handle after the sides are drawn. Note how far from the edge it joins the cup. To help place it, look for any space between the inside of the handle and the mug’s edge.
Lighten The Line
Carefully erase any lines that don’t belong.
If the final lines are darker than the mug, form the kneaded eraser into a rounded shape and tap or roll it over lines until they lighten to about the ‘mid-value’ of your mug.
A mid-value is anything between the darkest shadow and the lightest highlight on the mug. You can read about and download some helpful tools for seeing and drawing value here.
Hatch The Mug
Fill the mug with a mid-value hatching. Make the hatching look as smooth and even as you can.
If you’re still struggling with finding a mid-value, try this test:
Make a test hatch on a corner of your paper out to the edge, and hold it next to the mug to compare. Squint your eyes to blur everything and check to see if it’s lighter than most of the shadows and darker than most of the highlights. If so, that’s a good mid-value hatch.
First Shadows And Highlights
Shadows have hard and soft edges. Hard shadow edges end abruptly, like the shadow lines around the handle and rim of my mug. Soft shadow edges end gradually and blend into the areas next to them, like the shadow on the left side of this mug.
Look for the most obvious shadows on your mug and hatch them until they darken a bit. Visually, it’s more important for shadows to be in the right place than it is for them to be perfectly formed, so you have some wiggle room.
Erased body hatching can be a little tricky to match, so if you do need to erase a shadow, gently ‘tap’ it with the kneaded eraser until it lightens, and then touch it up afterward.
The inside of your mug will most likely be shadowed, with several hard edged reflections around the lip. Shade “around” the largest highlights, leaving them lighter than the shadowed inner part of the cup.
More Highlights & Shadows
Pinch the kneaded eraser into a wedge or point shape, and then drag it across the hatching to erase more highlights. I erased them from the rim, handle, and bottom of my cup.
Like shadows, highlights don’t have to be perfectly shaped, but it helps to create a realistic effect if you get them in the right places.
Add the darkest details with the point of the pencil. I added the darkest shadows on the rim, the handle, and along the sides and bottom.
Lightly hatch a cast shadow to make the mug look like it’s sitting on something. Notice that cast shadows have soft and hard edges too. My cast shadow starts with a hard edge near the mug, but then softens as the shadow gets farther away.
Add any decorations now. Here are some things to consider:
- Any horizontal stripe will match the curvature at the top or bottom of the mug.
- To help place designs in the right place, look at how close they are to the edges, top, bottom, and handle of the mug.
- Designs distort as they near the mug’s edge. For example, the apple nearest the edge on my mug is skinnier than the one in the middle.
If you’re new to drawing and want to learn more about pencils and other tools, my Beginner’s Guide To Pencils, Erasers and Blenders page will let you in on many secrets of the ancient practice. If you want my overly opinionated view on which supplies you need, you’ll want to read my Basic, Intermediate, And Advanced Lists. And, if you just want to drool over art supplies, try Free Art Supply Catalogs And Online Art Stores. I try to keep it updated.
Draw well, draw strong, and never stop!