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Willingham Primary School

Grid Drawing: KS2

For the next couple of weeks, we are going to learn how to do grid drawing. This week, you can try an outline drawing and next week, we will add some shading to complete the picture.

Grid drawing, or the grid method, is a way of transferring a 2 dimensional image from one place to another and helps you to achieve a realistic image. It is important to remember that great drawing does not have to be realistic: there are wonderful expressive and imaginative drawings which are not at all ‘true to life’ but give us great insight into the subject and the artist. However, I know that many of you like to draw accurately and this is a technique which you will almost certainly use at secondary school.

Methods similar to this have been used by artists through the centuries and you definitely should not see it as ‘cheating’! It is thought that the Ancient Egyptians used a grid to enlarge and transfer images onto walls and, centuries before the invention of photography, Renaissance artists such as Dürer and Michelangelo sometimes used a frame with equally spaced strings placed in front of their subject to help them.

The basic idea is to have an image with a grid marked over it. You need a similar grid, with the same number of squares, on your piece of paper. You then copy the main lines from each square of the original onto the corresponding square on your paper one square at a time until your drawing is complete. It is a little time consuming but you end up with something that really does look like the original.

It is worth thinking about why the method works. The lines and shapes within a small square are more manageable than a large, complex image. More importantly, when you are drawing part of an object, it is easier to recognise and reproduce the correct shapes and angles. When we look at an image of something with which we are familiar in the real world, our logical, knowledge-rich brain immediately recalls many facts about its size, shape, use etc. Although these facts are immensely useful, they can get in the way of seeing the object as it really is and of being able to draw it in two dimensions.

To do this exercise, you will need a pencil and a piece of paper. You will also need something to help you draw straight lines for your grid. The easiest thing to use  is a ruler, but if you don’t have one you could cut a piece of card from a cereal box or something similar into a long rectangle which you can then use as a ruler. It will need to have at least one straight edge.

Let's start with a simple outline drawing:

On your piece of paper, mark a grid which is 5 squares wide and 3 squares deep. They really do have to be squares! If your lines are not at right angles to each other, your drawing will not be accurate.

The easiest way to draw the grid correctly is to make each square the width of your ruler and to use the edge of the paper to help you. I have shown this in red so that it will be clear but you can just use a pencil.

You should end up with a grid with the same number of squares as on the original image:

Many artists find that it helps to label the grid so that you don’t get confused. For our example, we are going to use the numbers 1-5 and the letters A-C.

Once you have done this, pick one square are look closely at it. Don’t think about the dog, just think of lines and shapes. It is a good idea is to see where each line starts and finishes. Then start your drawing and do your best to recreate the lines and shapes in the corresponding square on your own piece of paper.

Then pick another square and do the same. Even the more complicated squares are not as daunting as drawing the whole dog if you remember to think about the lines and shapes. Carry on like this until you have completed all the squares. I hope that you will end up with a lovely picture of a dog. Here is the one that I have just done:

Now that you have got the idea, you can tackle a more complex picture. Black and white photographs can work well for this. Here is a wonderful example from a school in America in which the children used the grid method to draw animals from photographs:

I have chosen a number of royalty-free images of animals which you can upload from the box at the end of this post. The examples that I have given you use a grid of 5 x 7 squares as I know that you can draw a grid of this size on an A4 piece of paper with an average width ruler. If you use one of my photos, you don’t need to print the picture out, you can just have it on the screen in front of you. Here are two of them to show you what they look like, but if you use the versions at the end of the post, they will appear bigger on your screen

I tried to guess which animals you would enjoy drawing. I have even included a photograph of my own lovely dog. There is also a tractor, just in case you don't like drawing animals at all! If your favourite animal is not there, you can send me an email and I will do my best to add a suitable photograph. If you would prefer to choose a photograph of your own, you could to print it out and draw your own grid over it. It is also possible to draw a grid onto a plastic sleeve and place your chosen image inside. This works well if your image is in a book or magazine that you don’t want to make marks on.

The technique is exactly the same as we practised when drawing our dog. You will need to create a 5 x 7 grid on your piece of paper using a ruler and being very careful to make sure that the squares are straight and of equal size. This time, you will probably want to erase the grid before finishing your picture, so no Incredible Hulk pencil!


It is a little harder to work out where the edges are with a photograph, but if you work with focus, you should be able to produce a beautiful and accurate drawing. It is a good idea to stand back from your drawing from time to time, and especially when you have nearly finished, in order to see where you might need to make small adjustments. Grid drawing is a useful tool but you should also trust your 'artist's eye'. Next week, I will teach you how to add shading in order to produce a finished piece of work. If you have not yet had a chance to do the exercise on shading from a couple of weeks ago, it would be helpful to have a look at that before we move on to the next stage of this project. I hope that you have fun!