Drawing Techniques: Check Alignment to Ensure Accurate Drawings


Checking alignment is the third of the drawing techniques you need in order to master the art of realistic drawing. Once you have learned how to measure proportions and check angles, the next step checking alignment.

The basic idea is that once you get the overall shapes blocked in with all the major proportions right, then you will need to check if they are aligned correctly with respect to each other.

To illustrate the techniques I use, I'll use this snapshot.

check alignments 1

The way to approach this scene is to draw the bottle first, because it is the largest geometric shape.

Measure the ratio of the length of the neck to the rest of the bottle. Roughly speaking, It looks like a 1:3 ratio. If you have any doubts, it is ALWAYS wise to double check.

So how did I come up with that?

I use two methods:


For the first, I use the length of the neck as a unit of measure and by measuring, I find that the rest of the bottle is roughly 3 times longer than the neck.


check alignments 2 For the second method, I mentally divide the bottle in half and observe that the bottleneck starts halfway up the top half of the whole bottle—which corresponds to a ratio of one part neck to three parts bottle.

Now look at the foliage. You may want to treat it as a mass, ignoring the holes and negative space between the different parts.

Measure how far it stretches out to the right in relation to the bottle. You can use either the bottle height or width as your unit of measure; I prefer the largest dimension.

check alignments 3

Drawing Techniques - Use Your Pencil To Grid Your Image Freehand

In my demonstration drawing, the plant is an ideal subject for this drawing technique. After I block it in, as for a contour drawing, I check the alignments of the different objects.

In this drawing technique, you hold your pencil straight up. The pencil serves as a plumb line in this case.

Start with the bottle and find the closest leaf in the cluster. Locate a convenient station point on the leaf, I hold my pencil at that point and check how the nearby objects are aligned. I mark the key locations on the drawing pad, and then move on to the next point, always using the already established landmarks.

check alignments 4

After I finish checking the vertical alignment, I move on to look at the horizontal alignment. Since I already have a set of vertical alignment marks, it is easier to find the horizontal alignment.

check alignments 5



When I'm finished, I connect the dots and markings that I made. I also check the tilt of the leafs against the border of the drawing paper using my pencil.

This part is made easier because you already know the rough position of each leaf. I would refine the edges of the leafs afterwards.

The next step is shading to capture the correct value (tonal relationship), but that is a separate task.

The markings are plotted all over in relation to their alignments to each other.

drawing with a  plumb line 1

Now dots are connected with directional lines.

drawing with a plumb line 2

Adjustments in distance and sizes of shapes are adjusted.

drawing with a plumb line 3


As you learn to check alignment, think of the technique as similar to using grids . You use a straight object as a plumb line to find how edges are related to each other.

Unlike the grid method, however, which is more mechanical and doesn't necessarily capture all the subtleties, in my opinion, this freehand drawing technique, when practiced consistently, becomes natural and automatic. It also really trains you to see what you draw. When you perfect these drawing techniques, you are well on your way to mastering the art of drawing.

Check out this AMAZING measuring method to enhance your drawing skills here and read my review on it.

How to Draw What You See

> > Drawing Techniques By Using Vertical and Horizontal Alignments



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