Best Speed Painting and Drawing Tips


A group of items on a table

This pro speed painting advice will help you create concepts quickly and master the art of speed painting and speed drawing.

Speed painting and speed drawing are exactly what their names suggest – creating art against the clock. Artists give themselves a limited time to finish a piece of work, which can range from a few minutes to a couple of hours. Speed painting is a great way to learn painting techniques, and speed drawing is an excellent way for beginners to learn how to draw. Both are also a load of fun.

To help you become a master of speedy art, here are 10 top speed painting tips, many of which also apply to speed drawing. On your marks, get set, go!

01. Use custom shapes

A drawing of a mountain

“Custom shapes are super-useful tools for artists and are often forgotten. They are simple, fast, and fun to make, and are great time-savers when designing and speed painting,” says concept artist and illustrator Alex Olmedo. On those days when you feel uninspired to make art, you can make these instead. 

This can also be useful practice for speed drawing. Getting to know some basic shapes can help you draw these shapes more quickly and accurately later on.

02. Fill a blank canvas

A close up of a knife

Illustrator and concept artist Katy Grierson says: “Use a big Brush tool to lay down some strokes of varying colour, tone, texture, and opacity. Try not to paint anything specific, just fill the canvas with colour and texture. You can switch brushes but try to keep the size quite large – this is good for speed and preventing the urge to paint something specific.

If you’re drawing, you can experiment with shading in parts of your canvas, or with using coloured pencils (see the best pencils here) to create a background.

03. Limit your brushes

Try working with only a limited number of brushes to help you save time and not become distracted by different brush types. 

Ubisoft concept artist Donglu Yu says: “Before I start working on a speed painting session I like to warm up with some custom brushes. Depending on the theme, try to limit your selection of brushes for the speed painting process. Working with a limited range of brushes can force you to work more efficiently by thinking about shapes and design rather than brushstrokes. This may take a while to get used to but it will speed up your whole process.”

04. Use the Gradient tool

Use the Gradient tool to add a base colour. “Once you have set the tonal values of your image you need to add a base colour,” says concept artist Massimo Porcella. The Gradient tool is perfect here because you can choose the colour for every part of the sketch, starting from the ground, at the base of the buildings, moving to the skyline shade, and finally picking up a colour to define the shade between land and sky. For an even colour palette, use the Eraser tool to blend all the colours together.”

05. Build your own photo library

James Paick created monumental fantasy ruins in one hour using photo textures he found in his personal photo library. Whatever type of art you do, it’s vital to have the right reference. “I can’t stress enough the importance of having a good photo reference library,” says creative director James Paick. “You can find plenty on the internet but nothing beats going out there and taking your own. You can get the right exposure, scenery, and contrast to work with your current piece, or just interesting landmarks or cloud formations which might spark a new idea and build the imagination.

These tips will help you paint and draw in speed.

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