Learn to Draw with a Grid

Beginner Lesson

Grids and Viewfinders

durer grid, gridding, viewfinder, drawing
Albrech Durer - Original Grid System

The Gridding system, attributed to artist Albrecht Durer, is a means to analyse a scene in small segments thus making it far eassier to judge distances and angles, resulting in a more accurate interpretation. It is a common tool used amongst drawers and painters and will certainly aid the beginner. You can either match the size of the squares on your paper to the item you're drawing, or you can scale the size of the grid up or down on your drawing paper to increase or decrease the size of the thing you are copying.

Below we will look at a means in which you can create your own simple grid for drawing more accurately and producing better proportions, though my personal advice would be, by all means use this method (after all, there's no such thing as cheating in art!) it can in part help teach you how to see, but do not become dependent on it, because it doesn't really teach you how to draw. The Old Masters did use gridding methods, sometimes to scale up their sketches when time was scarce, but they were certainly masters of their craft and were in no way dependent on using grids.

plastic wallet and ruler gridding technique

Creating a Grid

Using a clear plastic wallet, or a sheet of acetate and a suitable marker pen that will adhere to a shiny surface, mark out a set of parallel horizontal lines at equidistance from one another. Measure out another set of vertical lines to form an even grid. The size of the grid is down to your discretion to a point - the more squares you use, the more detailed and accurately you can copy your subject.

Using the same number of squares as on your plastic wallet, lightly replicate the grid on your paper. You can either keep the dimensions the same for a life-size recreation, or if you are working on a larger sheet of paper, you can scale up the drawing, or conversely, scale down. When your outlines are in place, you can take a piece of putty eraser and rub out the grid.

grid and viewfinder grid for drawing

Because the gridding system guarantees the make up of the composition, it is also possible to work on each segment, completing one square before moving onto the next.


When drawing from life, periphery vision can distract from the focus of the scene we wish to draw and accurately gauging a frame that might correspond to the sides of your paper is tricky. A viewfinder allows you to frame a scene, and remove all the unwanted and distracting information, also allowing you to frame and choose the best composition.

Creating a Viewfinder

Use a sheet of cardboard, or thick paper, and mark two diagonal dissections from the corners of the card to determine the centre. Draw a rectangle of the same proportions as the paper you will drawing on, something around 1.25" by 1" often works well.

Using a craft knife, scalpel or scissors, cut out the rectangle. You now have your viewfinder.

viewfinder creating a viewfinder

If you close one eye, and hold up the viewfinder, you can frame your shot and use that frame to better perceive negative spaces.

gridding, draw using a grid


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