November 8, 2015

Tutorial: Drafting Necessities

Drafting Leads

Since everyone uses leads with varying amounts of pressure and the need for depth in architectural plans and renderings resulted in the needs for many different types of leads. B Leads are darker and as you get to 9B they become more and more charcoal like. When starting to draft, always use an H, generally 4H to 9H. They are lighter in shade, with a harder lead that erases the easiest. Just be careful not to write/draw too hard, it will indent the paper resulting in issues with paper texture and eraser. You can also get a ghosting affect when shading.

Drafting leads can be expensive, so get a combo pack or buy a few different ones. F's tend to be crappy lead, so instead opt for an HB, F's work well for quick sketches though. If I am using only a few line weights in a drawing I will use a light 2H for the construction lines (very light hand pressure), a harder 2H for the smaller line weights (more hand pressure) a medium light 2H (a bit more pressure) and a 2B for dark linework. You can also use a harder 4H for an additional lighter line weight for the construction lines. Generally you need at least 3 line weights and as your drawing gets bigger, adding additional B leads will increase the detail and intensity of your drawing. For additional line weights, add a 4B, 5B or whatever works for you. Leads right next to each like a 2B and a 3B are only slightly different so jump leads by at least 2 or 3 to get more definitive line weights. Each lead you use will also have at least two line weights itself. If in doubt, test on scrap paper of the same kind of paper you are using before you start adding line weights to your final drawing.

Lead Holders (Clutch Pencil)

Lead Holder or Clutch Pencil

Leads are used with a lead holder, also referred to as a clutch pencil. It is much faster to have a few lead holders so you can have a different lead in each clutch pencil. If you can afford it, start with three lead holders and three types of leads or if you can't, a couple different leads and a holder will suffice. There are many to choose from. Some even have a rotating cover so you can select the lead in the holder making drafting easier. Others have colored caps to identify which one has which lead.


2mm Leads

Leads come in packs of 2, 12 or more. Be sure to choose your leads carefully and know which ones you are buying. I generally use 2H, HB, 2B and 4B at the very least but remember we are all different so pick what works for you. Try with drawing pencils first before you spend money on leads to what might work for your hand. Always use at least 3 lineweights and remember how far viewers will be away from the piece. Leads also come in different colors depending on what you will be working on.


The leads can be sharpened with a Rotary Lead Pointer which is the quickest way. You can also use a small sharpener, a piece of sandpaper or even a scrap piece of paper. Some clutch pencils also come with a pencil sharpener built in the button. A lead sharpener has built in holes to set the lead length so you can either sharpen it to a point or a very sharp point. Be sure to clean the lead after you sharpen it. A lead holder has a built in lead pointer pad, they get dirty fairly quickly, but you can get refills. A rag or an old towel works in a jamb if you're careful.

Lead Pointer - src


White Eraser

On vellum, a white eraser such as a Staedler Mars erases the best, however on paper, a Papermate Pink Pearl Eraser often can work the best. When you are working on the details of your drawing, it can be hard to erase so use an Erasing Shield. You simply put one of the holes of the shields over your drawing to protect it and erase through the shield.

Erasing Shield

Drafting Must Haves


Recommended list of things that every Architecture Student should never be without. Scale - Both Engineering and Architectural. You'll need either a parallel drawing boarda T-square and a drafting boardor drafting table with a parallel ruler or T-Square, one large and one small of both a 45 and 60 degree triangle. An adjustable triangle can also be helpful if you will be doing a lot of hand drafting. I have one of those drafting machine drawing boards which is great for rendering and drafting.

Drafting Triangles

Drafting with Pen

If you decide to draft with pen, a prismacolor or Sakura Micron pens are not design for drafting but are great for sketching and diagramming with. There are drafting pens out there. The refillable ones are very expensive while there are also cheaper disposable drafting pens. It is easier and cheaper to use pencil, but nothing beats a nice drafted ink line on velum.

Ko-I-Noor Rapidograph Drafting Pens
RoTring Tikky Graphic Fineliner

Hand Rendering Tutorial

Once you have learned about line weights using either pen or pencil, you can check out the Hand Rendering Elevations Tutorial. The tutorial is based on tracing computer generated elevations, which I generally do for class, however, it explains the different methods of coloring and layer colors using trace or velum which will be helpful for conceptual sketching and graphic conceptualization of your ideas.

Pen and marker on trace

Further Information

The best book to get for your architecture collection is Francis D. K. Ching's book, Architectural Graphics currently in its fifth edition. I have this book in my collection, It goes through leads, paper, and drawing technique in the first chapter. The rest of the book is how to draft architecturally. Plans, sections, elevations, perspectives, you name it, it has it. I use it for reference every now and again even now. Buy it from Amazon from a third party seller either 'New' or 'Like New' condition which will save you a bit of money. Always check seller reviews.

Pencil and Lead Tutorial

If you are new to the architecture field or drawing in pencil and are interested in knowing more about pencils, their different leads and types, check out my Tutorial on Pencils and Leads. In this tutorial, I explain different lead types, different pencils, their quality and the uses for each.

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