Drafting Tips

Picking Lead

Everyone has different handwriting styles which creates the need for different types of leads as well as the need for depth in architectural plans and renderings. 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 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 and Lead Pointers

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 one. 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. If you are new to drafting see our Tutorial on Drafting Necessities: leads, lead holders, erasers, sharpeners, etc.

Drafting Lead, Lead Holders, and Lead Pointer

Starting a Drawing

Sample Lineweights
It is best to start any drawing with an H lead of your choice. I use a 4H to start on vellum and a 2H on drawing paper. I do write considerably hard and snap leads easily, the initial part is to sketch the drawing out. Do it with some style, meaning make lines a bit too long, show the line intersections which adds to the visual clarity of a completed object. Always erase mistakes so be sure to start light, with a hard lead, don't press down too much and crease the paper. Mostly complete the drawing. You don't have to finish it. I generally get the basics done, then when I start to add the lightest lineweight (other than the construction lines). I will add them in before preparing to start to finalize the lineweights. These are things like tiles, flooring, radiator, things that are detailed, but not major. You will likely want to use between a 4H to a 2H unless you are making a large, 24inX36in or so drawing, then no lower than a 8H. You can always play around on a scrap piece of paper to pick out the leads you want to use, depending on the drawing's scale.The larger the drawing, the further people will stand from it, so always stand back from your work periodically to check its readability.

Prepare the Drawing for Proper Line Weights

Dry Cleaning Pad
So after the drawing looks good and you want to go over it and add some line weights, rub your dry cleaning pad over the drawing, using a light back and forth motion. Don't push too hard or you may erase your work. This will take care of any smudges, thereby cleaning the drawing before you start to finalize it. From here on, use a drafting brush to remove any eraser bits, if you brush it away with your hand at this point, you will end up smudging the drawing.

Adding Line Weights
Drafting Brush

To start adding the final lines to your drawings, start with the lightest or thinnest line weight first using a harder H lead. Add lines to the drawing by gradual switching from a harder to a softer lead, leaving the softer lead for last (ie 2B or 4B), they smudge easily. With the higher numbers you may need to blow off the dust it produces, never brush it away with your hand or you will smudge the drawing, always blow it away or use a drafting brush. A 2H lead works best for lettering, using anything softer than a HB will usually result in a lot of smudging and issues with erasing. Stencils make for quick, easy, and consistent lettering.

Drafting Tips:

A good tip is that if you are working on something with a lot of detail or is very large, you can tape, or place a scrap piece of paper over whatever part of the drawing you have finished to protect it from smudges. Don't write on the paper or you will get your pencil on the back of it and off of your drawing, making it look funny. If taping it down, you can lessen the stickiness of the tape by sticking it to your cloths a couple of times. Folding over a tape edge will also help you get it off later. Be careful with your triangle or straightedge because sometimes the tape can stick to the bottom of them so be sure you don't have any of the sticky side facing up.

When you get to the B leads, be careful when sliding your triangle or straight edge on the drawing. You can easily smudge the drawing at this point since B leads are more charcoal like. Pick them up and set them on the drawing, no sliding. You can always use some eraser crumbs from the dry cleaning pad so they will 'glide' over the drawing. I never had too much luck with this technique and it can erase the drawing, though it may work for some. Any beginner drafter should probably not bother with it. I just don't slide my triangle over the drawing. Also be sure to use a clean triangle or other straightedge. An old towel, handkerchief or a mild soap wash will keep your tools clean. Cleaning the lead off after every time you sharpen it will also help keep your drawing from getting lots of smudges. You can also rest your hand on a piece of scrap paper. Tracing paper works well since it is cheap and see through.


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 and erase through the shield. Don't brush the eraser crumbs away with your hand or you will slightly erase what you have already done. Use a Drafting Brush to get them off your drawing.

Erasing Shield

Drafting Must Haves

Recommended list of things that every Architecture Student should never be without. Scale - Both Engineering and Architectural. Either a parallel rule or a 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.

Drafting with Pen

If you decide to draft with pen, a prismacolor or micron pen are not design for drafting. 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.

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 fourth 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 our my Tutorial on Pencils and Leads. In this tutorial, I explain different lead types, different pencils, their quality and the uses for each.

Drafting Necessities

If you are new to drafting see our Tutorial on Drafting Necessities: leads, lead holders, erasers, sharpeners, etc.