Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tuesday Tips & Tricks: "Framing a Sketch"

Framing a Sketch
Have you ever made a sketch that you felt was missing something or was unfinished?  Couldn't figure out exactly what it needed?   A well thought through sketch can mean many different things depending on who you are talking to, but for me, one of the most important factors of a beautiful, well composed sketch is how it is framed.  I’m not talking about ripping your sketch out of your sketchbook, taking it to Michael's, having it matted, thrown in a frame and calling it done (although many of your sketches deserve to be framed), because that would be too easy and this post would be a waste of your time.

So what do I mean by framing a sketch?  Here are a few bullet points on what framing a sketch is, followed by just a few of my favorite examples and techniques:

Framing a sketch:   
  1. is to compose or arrange the subject of your sketch in a way that draws attention to the most important part of your sketch
  2. is the ability to draw your viewers eyes to what you want them to see
  3. is putting your sketch in a position to be resolved, and finished compositionally
  4. can be done not only for long, involved sketches, but ALSO for quick, on the go sketches
Here a few of my favorite framing techniques:

Pick one object out of a particular scene and draw it so that it can stand alone and still look complete. Instead of capturing everything you see, just pick one object.  Here I drew the Villa Rotunda, and centered it on the page.  In order to suggest what it’s surrounding looks like, to resolve the sketch, and to give the building something to visually rest on, I drew a wavy line that very quickly begins to suggest where it is.  The line centers the building within everything that is drawn, and makes the building the focal point.
© Andrew Banks 2014

Incorporate the Subject:
This might be one of the most popular techniques.  Use your subject to your advantage.  Transform the subject into the framing device for your sketch.  Here I used two obvious options, a window and a door. Everything fits inside the openings and the frame becomes part of the sketch. 

© Andrew Banks 2014

© Andrew Banks 2014
Fade out the edges of the sketch by using less pigmented paint, less cross hatching, less shading etc...  The detail will be concentrated in the center while the faded out edges focuses the attention where you want it to be .

© Andrew Banks 2014

Use architecture and architectural features such as walls, arches, colonnades, columns and even windows to frame your sketch.

The buildings on the left and right rise up on each side of the picture plane, framing the busy street scene.  © Allan B. Jacobs 2014

This column and arch is the focus of the sketch as well as a framing device for the background content of the sketch.
© Andrew Banks 2014

Compose the subject in a way that allows natural or built landscape features to frame the subject. Some popular and effective landscape features are trees, tree trunks, tree canopies, bushes, large plants and flowers, leaves, and street furniture (planters, benches etc...)

The tree canopy curves over the top of the entire sketch.  Combined with it's strong, dark value, it works as a strong framing device. © Allan B. Jacobs 2014
Value/ Contrast / Line weights:
Differences in value, contrasts, and line weights are perfect framing tools.  Use objects with more value or thicker/stronger line weights along the perimeters and in foregrounds of your sketches.  Lighter values and line weights will recede to the background, allowing your framing devices to be that much more evident.

Buildings in foreground, on left and right have stronger line weights than those in the background.
© Andrew Banks 2014

The contrast in value and drawing technique of the trees from the rest of the drawing emphasize them as framing devises. © Andrew Banks 2014
Literal Frame:
This is the least creative of the options, yet an option nonetheless.  Draw a literal box around your sketch. Make sure your drawing fills up the box and that parts of the sketch come into contact with the box.
© Andrew Banks 2014

A fun twist on the literal box is to break the box up and allow the subject to overflow out of it.  Here, the dropped out silhouettes of the people on the bottom become part of the continuous line border of the sketch.

© Andrew Banks 2014

I hope you find these tips to be helpful!  Feel free to comment with any questions or any of your own framing techniques!



  1. Wow, a very informative post! These framing techniques are excellent! Thank you!

    - Tina

  2. Excellent post and great tips for a beginner like me !

  3. Excellent article. Helps to define an image.

  4. Very interesting and useful. Thanks. Love your example sketches.

  5. Great tips, EXCELLENT examples! Merci

  6. Thanks for a great post. With your post fresh in my mind, today I lifted an average sketch by including an overhead arch. It made such a huge difference I was amazed!

  7. Glad to hear so many of you found this to be a helpful post! I'd enjoy seeing some of the sketches you create using these or some of your own framing techniques These are just a starter list, and each can be treated differently as well.

  8. Amazing, wow, really very good post it.Thank you for share.good bye.
    Clipping Path Service


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.