BeLoose Graphic Workshop

Past Tips of the Week

A Quick and Good Sketch

A very quick and good sketch on vellum and outlined with green pen (can be in black or brown pen) on front and makers rendered on the back.  Use of SketchUp as a base and total drawing time is only 45 minutes. - Waterfront project in Shanghai by Brian Lin while at AECOM.

Tips used: Drawn on Vellum Paper with Pen on Front and Markers on Back, Use of Straight Edge, Render to Frame, Overlap Corners, Color Pairs: Yellow-Purple, Red-Green, Blue-Orange, Colored Over Edges, 45 Degree Strokes, Profile Lines, Good Design, Good Composition, Trace Figures.

Tip of the Week: Rendering in Revit

REVIT has an internal rendering engine that is quite useful to quickly visualize materials and effects before investing time in post-production efforts in 3D Studio Max and Adobe Photoshop.

An easy way to express
your design idea comprehensively

This is an approach to show your design very clearly so your clients can apprehend your idea vividly. It is very easy, just rotate your floor plan slightly and project line down from every corner vertically for 4-8 feet (to plan scale), then add furniture and render it with your favorite media.  This great illustration is done with Pen and Ink and Watercolor by our feature member Frank Bartus from Altamonte Springs, Florida.

Tip of the Week: Exploded Axonometric Diagrams

When you have a project that has multiple layers and / or levels, an effective graphic tool is to utilize exploded axonometric views. Once drawn, these levels could be connected with lines and graphic texts to show flow, circulation, and programmatic data.

20 of the World's Tallest Buildings by 2020

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) has released a study on the world’s 20 tallest buildings projected to be built by 2020. The Council introduced the term ‘megatall’ to describe buildings over 600 meters (1,968 feet) tall, which is twice the height of the previous superlative ’supertall’ buildings. Buildings that have been stalled and do not have a predictable completion date have been excluded from the study.

The 20 tallest megatall buildings, nicely lined by the CTBUH are:

  1. Kingdom Tower, Jeddah: 1,000+ meters (3,280+ feet)
  2. Burj Khalifa, Dubai: 828 meters (2,717 feet)
  3. Ping An Finance Center, Shenzen: 660 meters (2,165 feet)
  4. Seoul Light DMC Tower: 640 meters (2,101 feet)
  5. Signature Tower, Jakarta: 638 meters (2,093 feet)
  6. Shanghai Tower, Shanghai: 632 meters (2,073 feet)
  7. Wuhan Greenland Center, Wuhan: 606 meters (1,988 feet)
  8. Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel, Makkah: 601 meters (1,972 feet)
  9. Goldin Finance 117, Tian Jin: 597 meters (1,957 feet)
  10. Lotte World Tower, Seoul: 555 meters (1,819 feet)
  11. Doha Convention Center and Tower, Doha: 551 meters (1,808 feet)
  12. One World Trade Center, New York City: 541 meters (1,776 feet)
  13. Chow Tai Fook Guangzhou, Guangzhou: 530 meters (1,739 feet)
  14. Tianjin Chow Tai Fook Binhai Center, Tian Jin: 530 meters (1,739 feet)
  15. Dalian Greenland Center, Dalian: 518 meters (1,699 feet)
  16. Pentominium, Dubai: 516 meters (1,693 feet)
  17. Busan Lotte Town Tower, Busan: 510 meters (1,674 feet)
  18. Taipei 101, Taipei: 508 meters (1,667 feet)
  19. Kaisa Feng Long Centre, Kaisa: 500 meters (1,640 feet)
  20. Shanghai WFC, Shanghai: 492 meters (1,614 feet)

Interesting but not surprising to see that half of the projects are in China and that 70 percent of the buildings are in Asian countries that are low in available area and high in population density.

Even more interesting would be to see where the highest occupiable/usable floors land in the buildings.

As the study points out: "With every increase in height, there are energy implications in the construction, maintenance, and occupation of a building. Additionally, with added height comes less space efficiency, as structural members and service cores increase to service the increased height of the building. At what point are the significant benefits of increased density provided by building tall overtaken by the energy repercussions of height?"

Image: CTBUH

Tip of the Week: Use of Pencil Strokes

When sketching in pencil, don't forget to use strokes to create tones and apply the following graphic tips: Fuzzy Outlines, Dark-Light, Mass-Void, Focal Point, Zig-Zag, and most importantly the use of Strokes.  You are encouraged to copy the below pencil sketch a few times so you can be very good quickly.

US 20 Best Firms, by Profitability, Sustainability and Design Quality

1. William Rawn Associates
2. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
3. HOK
4. Rafael Viñoly Architects
5. Perkins + Will
6. Gwathmey siegel & Associates Architects
7. BWS Architects
8. DLR Group
9. HDR Architecture
10. BLT Architects
11. Klingstubbins
12. CO Architects
13. Gensler
14. RBB Architects
15. SB Architects
16. Goody Clancy
17. Good Fulton & Farrell
18. BNIM Architects
19. NBBJ
20. Heery International

World’s 20 Largest Firms, Ranked by Size

1. Aecom (USA. 1,370 architects employed. Over $400m Fee Income)
2. Gensler (USA. 1,346. Over $400m)
3. IBI Group (Canada. 1,129. $160-169m)
4. Nikken Sekkei (Japan. 1,109. Over $400m)
5. Aedas (China/UK. 1, 078. $200-209m)
6. Perkins & Will (USA. 771. $220-229m)
7. DP Architects (Singapore. 736. $70-79m)
8. HOK (USA. 715. $240-249m)
9. Samoo Architects & Engineers (South Korea. 712. $250-259m)
10. Foster & Partners (UK. 646. $200-209m)
11. Stantec (Canada. 643. $210-219m)
12. HDR Architecture (USA. 640. $280-289m)
13. RSP Architects (Singapore. 640. – )
14. P & T Architects (Hong Kong. 624. $130-139m)
15. Sweco (Sweden. 600. $70-79m)
16. Atkins (UK. 597. $100-109m)
17. Woods Bagot (Australia. 565. $130-139m) 
18. Jacobs (UK/USA. 547. $200-209m)
19. Skidmore Owings & Merrill (USA. 543. $200-209m)
20. Cannon Design (USA. 539. $130-139m)


This week's Tip of the Week highlights the technique of not drawing EVERYTHING. With the sophistication of digital rendering programs, doing multiple design options in digital format can take quite a bit of time to get the look just right with articulation accents, sun angles, and materials selection in the BIM model for accurate renderings.

If quick design options are needed for review with a client, as in this example for a mid-rise tower study, draw in detail the design option line work, but leave contextual buildings, streetscape, etc. drawn as simple outlines. You'll find that this will highlight your design option very clearly and help you economize on your drawing time. Ink line work for the design options are applied to create the sense of ethereal "looseness"; overlap corners, mechanical lines, 45 deg. strokes, etc.

Download images from our acclaimed books

Per many members' request, we have scanned our acclaimed and popular books for you to
download hundreds of sketches, renderings and illustrations so you can study, copy or get
inspired by.  Due to the copy right law, we need to scan in slightly lower resolution and cut
a few pages.  As some of you don't have these books, this will be a great opportunity to
download them in your own computer.

"Drawing and Designing with Confidence"  1234

"Architectural  Rendering  Techniques"   1234,  5


Tips of the Week: - "Over Edges",
a very loose and powerful method to render a drawing. 
Remember to use the following rules:

  * Outlined a sketch with a black pen.

  * Apply colors over and beyond the black lines, even better if watercolors or
    markers bleed the
pen on paper to show the looseness of the sketch.

  * Use Primary Colors: Yellow, Red and Blue.  Add Green, Purple and Orange will
    make the sketch even more colorful.

  * Apply lighter value of colors so the black outlines are still more dominant. The
    darker of colors used, the thicker of the black outlines is needed.

  * Remember to leave White Space and use of Repeat Lines, Continuous Lines,
    Zig-Zag, Professional Dots, Gaps and Overlap Corners.

The upper drawing was done by one of our workshop attendees using Sharpie on
Paper Towel with Chartpak Markers.  The lower drawing is by Artist Moh'd Bilbeisi. 

Tips of the Week: Rendering a Landscape Plan

Outlined landscape plan with a black pen (use circle template with thick and thin pens to outline trees for 3D look and use of straight edge for planters).  Don't color large trees so you can see beneath.  Use Chartpak cool grey #5 for shadow and never use black as it will cover subjects below.  Leave white space in planter edge, mound, evergreen tree and flowers.  Color water darker blue toward planter and use orange sculpture to complete the water.  Use color pencils (yellow, red, bule and green) to highlight the grass with darker value toward planter edges.  By Mike Lin

Tips of the Week:
Drawing a Tree

A simple 5 mins tree with Chartpak markers:  First outlined it with red or 6B pencil and render leaves with Grass Green and Nile Green; trunk with Buff, Suntan and Mocha.  Finally outlined it with black Sharpie and hit it with Prismacolor pencils - Poppy Red and True Blue.  Always apply markers from lighter to darker color and leave appropriate white space. Use darker green to show off lighter trunk and don't forget to illustrate the zig-zag shape of tree.  Copy this drawing a couple of times and you will be good.

TIP OF THE WEEK: Inserting Cars in Perspective

Part two of the Revit drawing overlay tip is an example of how to insert cars in perspective using Sketch Up.

Sometimes we find it a challenge to find cars to trace or image of cars from the internet that have the correct viewing angle to match our perspective view. You can use Sketch Up to download actual models of cars and rotate them so they sit accurately into your drawing. Here's how:

Step 1: Isolate your perspective image (as the base) onto its own layer.

Step 2: In Sketch Up, go to the "download models" option and find a car that you would like to insert into your view.

Step 3: While in Sketch Up, rotate your view by using the "orbit" command to align the view in Sketch Up to the view you have set up in Photoshop.

Step 4: After exporting the chosen view orientation in Sketch Up as a 2-D file, bring in the jpeg into your Photoshop file and place the car(s) on it's own layer. Use the "transform" tool to manipulate the cars further to adjust any minor mis-alignments in the view.

Step 5: Since the main entry of the building in this exercise is the main focal point, adjust the opacity of the cars layer so their presence in the drawing doesn't overpower the design of the entry.

Main Entry Study (Revit model base w/ pen and trace overlay and Sketch Up).


An easy process on how to "soften" the look of your perspective views from Revit. Here's how:

Step 1: Export your chosen camera view as a JPEG (high resolution) and print out a hard copy. This can be at any size, just be aware that it should be large enough to show design intent clearly.

Step 2: On a separate sheet of trace paper, trace over the essential linework by freehand; overlapping corners, leaving slight gaps, and lineweight depth adds a warmer feel vs. the Revit view.

Step 3: Import the Revit view and sketch on their respective layers into Photoshop. You can then add trees, shadows, people, and a little color to help make the view more vibrant.

TIP OF THE WEEK:  Part two of the Revit drawing overlay tip and is an example of how to insert cars in perspective using Sketch Up.

Sometimes we find it a challenge to find cars to trace or image of cars from the internet that have the correct viewing angle to match our perspective view. You can use Sketch Up to download actual models of cars and rotate them so they sit accurately into your drawing. 

Here's how:


Step 1: Isolate your perspective image (as the base) onto its own layer.

Step 2: In Sketch Up, go to the "download models" option and find a car that you would like to insert into your view.

Step 3: While in Sketch Up, rotate your cars by using the "orbit" command to align the view in Sketch Up to the view you have set up in Photoshop.

Step 4: After exporting the chosen view orientation in Sketch Up as a 2-D file, bring in the jpeg into your Photoshop file and place the car(s) on it's own layer. Use the "transform" tool to manipulate the cars further to adjust any minor mis-alignments in the view.

Step 5: Since the main entry of the building in this exercise is the main focal point, adjust the opacity of the cars layer so their presence in the drawing doesn't overpower the design of the entry.


As you produce design ideas on Revit model overlays, you can quickly estimate heights if you've inserted a scale-able known object (like a human figure) in your print out. Here's how:

Step 1: Export your chosen camera view as a JPEG (high resolution) and print out a hard copy. This can be at any size, just be aware that it should be large enough to show design intent clearly.

Step 2: Using the scaled item (human figure in this example), use the 5' height increment to use for determining heights in your proposed design sketch. The proportional method is highlighted in "red". This particular design is horizontally canted with signage to capture directional foot traffic.


Main Entry Study (Revit model base w/ pen and trace overlay).

Creating quick design studies using Photoshop over exported camera views from a Revit model.

  • Step 1: Export your chosen camera view as a JPEG (high resolution) and open in Photoshop
  • Step 2: Insert your graphic onto a dedicated layer to manipulate using the "transform" and opacity tools
  • Step 3: Add people for scale and further adjustments to hues and contrasts to balance your rendered view. You can also use the screen graphic (as shown) as an art piece once you put it on a layer of its own.

Once you have a system of views and layers set up in your Photoshop file, creating different options and views can be done in very little time, and depending on the complexity, can range between 15 minutes to 1 hour. These studies are great when trying to get concepts in front of your client to get their approval to keep the project moving forward.

Six Ways to Design A Space:
There are six ways to design an open space, when layout a space, just follow the red grid on the right, the design shape can easily be obtained. View other four ways to design a space, please click HERE.

Foreground, Middle ground and Background.
When we open our eyes, we see the above three parts of composition, but we often neglect to include foreground in either taking picture (right) or doing illustration (below by Dave Wells). So don't forget as the foreground elements will make your composed picture or sketch more appealing and stunning.

An abstract painting that you can do yourself in minutes

Use markers in red, green, orange, blue, yellow, purple and apply them randomly with a touch of color pencils if desired.  Use the following tips: Zig-Zag, Complimentary Colors, Dots, Lines, Strokes and White Space.



Want to draw well? you just need to know three steps: 1. Master tricks of graphics (we will provide them periodically, so stay tuned.. or purchase the above book), 2. Copy or imitate other people's good drawings, 3. Practice, practice and practice. Use your clients as victims, ruin as many drawings as you can, then these steps will get you the great result beyond your dream.

A Slide Presentation that will get you
motivated to draw and learn. Enjoy.





Draw with Strokes

* Chisel the pencil first.
* Use thick strokes to draw.
* Apply on smooth paper.
* Apply 45 degree angle strokes.
* Every stroke or two, leave gap.
* Strokes from line to line.
* Apply gradual value change.

How to draw trees and shrubs with a pen using 4 leaves language

How to draw a cube and render it with pencil, ink, markers and pastel



How to render a sofa with markers

Left Sofa: (Rendered as Designer's sofa): Outlined sofa lightly with a red or B pencil, then render each surface of cushions by applying Chartpak Colorless Blender first and use the value sequence of Sunset Pink, Salmon, Deep Salmon, Scarlet and Maroon to achieve a nice Graduate Value Change to White Space.  Lastly, highlights with Chartpak Maize and Prismacolor pencil True Blue.  Sharpie was used to show shadows and Grey #1 and #2 for the floor.  A plant is added to create Contrast Line against the white cushion.

Right Sofa: (Rendered as Artist's sofa): Outlined sofa lightly with a red or B pencil, then render the entire sofa with Chartpak marker Maroon. The values and brightness of light are achieved by applying Prismacolor pencil White.  Shade sides of sofa were obtained by adding color Maroon a couple of times to show more depth.  Sharpie was used to show shadows.  Use Chartpak Sunset Pink and Grey #1 and #2 for the floor.  Add plant with Light Color to add Color Glow and create interest. 

Graphic principles were shown in bold and colored.






                            How to draw Bubble Diagram and Marker Lettering 

1. Use circle template, apply one circle with Sharpie and another one with Thin
    Pen (don't forget Professional Gap within circle), two circles offset to each
    other with small gap in between.

2. Use different shades of green and blue markers and apply stripes with Over
    The Edge just a bit.

3. Use red and yellow marker and draw arrow heads outlined with Sharpie
    first and then Thin Pen second with 1/8" space apart.

4. Apply colorless bender for base first and use different markers to create
    Graduate Value Change to White Space with many light colored dots.

5. Marker lettering was done by letter the alphabet with marker and outlined with
    Sharpie and Thin Pen using straight edge, Front of letter highlighted with red
    colored pencils and apply shade using grey marker with darker on the
    vertical plane.

See more examples, please sign in and browse under Tips - On Line Lessons.

Chartpak Markers: Willow Green, Grass Green. Nile Green, Sapphire Blue, Blue Glow, Maize, Banana, Sunset Pink, Scarlet, Purple Sage, Cool Gray 2, 3, 5 and Blender.  Plus Prismacolor Pencils: Orange, Poppy Red, True Blue.


How to use pencil technique

Attached is a pencil technique on video using a regular 6B pencil or can be a Prismacolor black pencil. Tips are bold in blue:

  • outline building with Constant Fuzzy Line and Hit-go-Hit.
  • outline trees with Variable Fuzzy Line using leaf language (McDonald, Wendy).
  • apply Tone Line with 45 Degree Strokes and Gradual Value Change.
  • apply sky with High Contrast Line to pop the building and make it whiter.
  • emphasize Focal Point by applying darker value toward center of drawing on trees and grass.
  • leave front of building and top of the tree white.
  • remember to Draw Small without touching the Edge of paper.




How to render a tree with markers

It is rendered with Chartpak markers in Willow, Grass, Nile, Sunset Pink, Maize, and Saphire Blue.  Outlined with Prismacolor Black pencil, then color glow with Derwent watercolor pencils in Yellow, Red and Blue.  Please follow the exercise while watching the video and we will critique it if you e-mail your tree to us. This method of blending colors is very essential to the marker technique. So practice a few times until you feel comfortable. 





Render Landscape Plan

How you can render a landscape plan with the following easy steps:

  • Outline your plan with pen (LePen used). Use tips: straight edge, circle template, overlap corner, professional dot, gap.
  • Outline two trees with heavier Sharpie pen next to thinner pen as they are closer to your eyes.
  • For more details, click here.



Watercolor Technique

Are you interested in watercolor technique?  We believe you should, as it is not as hard as you think.  We like to offer some tips for the following rendering exercise we used in our workshop. Please take a couple of hours and enjoy the fun journey of watercolor technique that can relax you and take the pressure off your work.  Click here for details.




Render many trees and shrubs

How to render an open space with many trees and shrubs?  Does your drawing look flat and colors look dull?  Click here for more details on color selections and rendering tips used.  You are encouraged to copy it (original drawing without color is provided).  The markers we used are made by Chartpak Marker Company and it is outlined using LePen by Marvy.

TIP OF THE WEEK: No Trace? Draw on Xerox Paper.

The next time you have a xerox copies of your site plan, try sketching your diagrammatic ideas directly onto them. These an be done during a client meeting or used as part of the design process with team members.

TIP OF THE WEEK: PSD Warp Command on Hand Sketches

Dear BeLoose Members,

During a design meeting, a client wanted a quick study of building facades based on my building massing sketches. Instead of building the curtain wall families in Revit...which I eventually will do, I played around with Photoshop during lunch and was able to quickly throw on some articulation by doing this:

  1. Scan my hand sketch / photograph using my smartphone.
  2. Emailed the photo to my desktop computer and opened it in Photoshop.
  3. Brought in some computer renderings of facades from my old (really old) projects.
  4. Used the "warp" from the "Free Transform" tools and shaped them to my sketch massing.
  5. Added a layer of trees to help break down the scale at the podium level.
  6. Emailed to the client for approval.

The best part is that I was able to do this all during my lunch break, which was about 30 minutes. And you can do this too!

TIP OF THE WEEK: Coloring on Trace Technique

A quick rendering method of coloring on trace with colored pencil without
smearing pencil or red pencil outlines in four easy steps:

Step 1: Outline your layout in pencil/red or blue pencil on trace or vellum.

Step 2: Flip the drawing over and tape down to your drawing surface.

Step 3: Add color pencil evenly in order to get a nice wash of color.

Step 4: Tape/mount over your base map, and now you're ready for presentation.


TIP OF THE WEEK: How to place people in a sketch

It is very easy to place people in sketches or perspectives with the following rules:

1. You must assume yourself is a 5 ft tall person and people you are drawing are all 5 ft. tall just like you.

2. Draw an eye line on paper, then sketch or trace people with their eyes located on the eye line.

3. Draw people bigger (closer to you) or smaller (further away from you) so your sketch has good depth with interest.

4. If you don't know how to draw people well, don't attempt as bad people can quickly ruin your drawing, so find any entourage books and trace people into your sketch, just to make sure their eyes are all on the same eye line.  Believe it or not, over 90% designers are tracing people from entourage books. So should you.

TIP OF THE WEEK: How to draw good trees


Do you have hard time drawing good looking trees?  Here are some tips:

1. Use of a black pen and outlines the tree with one of the four leaf languages -
    Concave, Convex, Wendy and McDonald.

2. Don't draw any details inside a tree, just apply it with 45 degree strokes,solid
    color or leave it blank.

3. Use only one language per tree or grass, however, you may use of McDonald
    on the top of a tree and Wendy on the bottom to show a deciduous tree, or
    use of Wendy on the top and McDonald on the bottom as an evergreen tree.

4. Most often people draw badly as they draw too much details inside the tree.

5. Once you master these 4 languages, you can apply them to any field sketches
    easily  and convincingly.

Remember, it is not really hard to draw good trees if you draw less details and
use of four leaf languages.  Trees can ruin or save a drawing, so you must
practice until your trees look satisfactory.  You can make it if you try hard.

Tips of the "Loose Sketch"Tips of the Loose Sketch with Marker and Pen


Often when you like make sketches to be loose and lovely with markers and pen,
here are some tips to help you achieve great results and satisfactions:


  • Paper: Use of paper towel, napkin or any rough texture paper.
  • Outlined with black ink pen: First outlined the sketch with black pen, the darker marker colors used, the thicker pen needed.  Thick pen like "Sharpie" or thin pen like "LePen" are recommended.
  • Colored with markers: Colored the sketch using primary colors (Yellow, Red, Blue) or complimentary colors (Yellow-Purple, Red-Green, Orange-Blue) to create vivid and exciting appearance.
  • Over Edges: Use lighter marker and apply color over black lines to achieve looseness look. If darker marker colors used, the black lines need to be thicker.
  • White Space: Leave at least 20-40% white space to catch eyes.




TIP OF THE WEEK: How to make a loose, quick and good sketch

For the past 40 years, I often saw poor sketches from many students or even
design professionals. I noticed from one of our featured members Liz Steel who
has a very good sketching style.  Her sketches are loose, quick with good quality
and contain the following tips that you should know:

* Tips of graphics: Freehand Lines, Overlap Corners, Repeat Lines, Continuous
   Lines, Color Earthy, Outlined with Black, Over Edges, Shades and Shadows,
  Gig-Zag Edges, Leave White Spaces, etc. 

* Writing to support sketch that many of us tend to ignore or forget to include.

I suggest you to read her "How I Sketch" which she wrote especially for our
members, then go to her web site to view more of her beautiful sketches.
The best way to learn how to sketch is to start copying other people's drawing,
mimic style and later you can then create your own.  Try to do a couple sketches
today would you please?  Thanks to Liz for her sharing.

Her statement on how she sketches: How I Sketch
Her web site is:

Brian and I will continue to provide you with good information so hope you do
appreciate our effort.

Mike Lin,
BeLoose Graphic Workshop
Wish you  Happy-Holidays

PS: For those who will attend our January workshop in Manhattan, Kansas, you are
required to mimic the following 3 sketches on 8 1/2 x 11 paper and bring them
with you and get ready to make huge improvement beyond your dream.

Liz Steel's Sketches (3)

TIP OF THE WEEK: Tips for a Quick, Loose and Good Sketch

To make a quick, loose and good sketch, you need to observe the following tips:

* Freehand lines (without straight edge)
* Overlap corners (when two lines cross)

* 45 Degree strokes (apply tone to building, tree and sky)
* Gradual value change (apply to berm, building and lake)

* Professional gaps and dots (Leave gaps in a line, and put dot by the end of a line)
* Compose a sketch in foreground (post, roof, rail and leaves), middle ground (lake
   with island) and back ground (building with orange sunset)

* Colored in total of six colors- blue, orange, green, red, yellow and purple (don't miss one)
* Colored in complimentary colors - blue and orange, green and red, yellow and purple

* Create focal point - colored concentrate in the center of the sketch
* Leave white space (in lake and foreground building)

Hope the above tips with the sketch below will help you to apprehend the basic skills of a quick hand sketch.  Sketch by Brian Lin, outlined with pen and rendered with colored pencils on white trace paper. 20 minutes.

TIP OF THE WEEK:  If you turn your digital 3-D model into a black and white graphic, you can easily transpose programmatic information over the model as a quick way to show program flow and adjacencies. This view of a proposed expansion for the San Jose Convention Center was inserted into Adobe Illustrator and then colored by program. 

San Jose Convention Center Expansion Proposal / Brian Lin + NBBJ LA

TIP OF THE WEEK: A sketch can be "inversed" by using the magic wand tool to select pen strokes and selecting different colors and dropping them in with the paint bucket tool.

Xi Community Center / Guangzhou, China by DRDS Architects




Part of the design process is the ability to draw your design thinking in plan, axonometric, and perspective...sometimes simultaneously. By drawing your design thoughts in multiple views, you can generate graphics quickly conveying your ideas and is especially effective when creating these graphics in front of your client(s).

TIP OF THE WEEK: Photoshop Collage on Elevations and Axon Studies

Placing photoshop applied images and referencing them directly on the presentation board that they are displayed on with labels will streamline the design intent of your design project. This was one of many design boards created for the Beijing National Convention Centre that was created with CAD elevations, sections, and hand-drawn axons and perspectives. All were colored in Photoshop and notated in InDesign.

Simple tips of applying colors to a drawing.

Do you know when we stare at a color (Blue for example), we actually saw the opposite color of the color wheel (Orange), these blue and orange colors are known as complementary colors in the color theory (see below left for a test). 

Therefore two colors (Blue-Orange, Red-Green, and Yellow-Purple) complement each other and create interest and excitement.  I am including the following examples of each pair of complementary colors:







Blue - Orange



Blue- Orange: A well known San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge was purposely painted orange color to compliment the blue sky and ocean.  That is also why nature creates human skin in orange color to complement 75% of the universe (sky and ocean). 

No wonder why every television's talk show always has blue color background to make people’s faces look more interesting to watch on the TV screen.  If you are swimming in the ocean and need to wear a life jacket, orange color is the best choice so people can easily find you if you are in trouble.  You can also wear blue if you don't want to be found.

Red - Green



Red - Green: What are two most colors you see during the Christmas? Of course the red and green, because these two colors create excitement when stand side by side.  Many fruits are in these two colors combination like; watermelon (left), apple, strawberry, and red rose. 

A popular hot sauce named “Tabasco” was designed in red/green to stand out from other brands (left).  Remember when complementary colors are placed side by side, it produces excitement, and allows people to be more relax when watch.  Now you know why most hospital’s walls are painted light green or light blue and surgeons always wear earthy green uniform so when they perform surgery by seeing red blood, they need to see green walls and each others' green uniform to relax their eyes.

Yellow - Purple




Yellow-Purple:  Although fewer examples can be found, the most common one is iris flower (left) and Easter colors.


Therefore, we as a designer must understand the above tips and apply them to either design projects or renderings.  A group of people wearing shirts or hats in red should be illustrated on a green golf course rendering, a very bluish tone rendering should include orange sunset in the sky to enhance the drawing quality. 

The following are some basic tips of applying colors to a drawing.

  • Color Rainbow: Use all six colors (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue and Purple) on
    a drawing.  Better yet, use all 6 colors on any single object in a drawing, for example, use all 6 colors on a tree but use more green so it looks like a tree, or apply all 6 colors on a brick but more red on it.
  • Color Glow:  Apply light value on white background paper so the drawing shows energy and glow of the light.
  • Color Repeat: Apply not only 6 colors on every object of the drawing, but repeat it on ever 1-3 inches so color will echo and create harmony.
  • Color Change:  Within the same surface of the object, change colors from one to the opposite color of the color wheel (Purple to Yellow, Blue to Orange and Green to Red), this is due to the reflection and can create interest of a drawing.
  • Color Earthy:  Apply earthy (dirtier) tone to objects so they look the way we see in real life.  As I said before, our human eyes see opposite color on the color wheel, therefore when sun light hits any surface, we therefore see darker of that color, by toned down the value is ensuring the correct color we see.  The best way to apply color earthy is to 1. Outlined with black, 2. Toned down with black color and 3. Mix the complimentary colors or all 6 colors.

The "Before" drawing  (left) only uses 3 colors, no color repeat, no color change, no color earthy. The "After" drawing (right) uses all 6 colors, applied color repeat, color change and color earthy by outlined with black and mix all colors.  These two drawings were actually done by the same person in just 3 hours with such a drastic improvement during our BeLoose Graphic Workshop.

TIP: When highlighting architectural materials on your perspectives renderings, try using "outline" trees and color with marker. The linework will augment the architectural detailing and not fight with it.

Pen and ink on trace with marker/detail with pencil by Brian Lin



Announcement: Some great web sites not to be missed: Over 1 million photos and pictures to download and get inspired. More than 500,000 photos from top designers to get ideas from. All designers and projects Information. Find most current home value in the USA.


Tip of the Week What a wonderful illustration by one of our featured members Milo Olea from Lake Forest, CA USA. It is a colored pencils rendering with the following tips he used; Outlined with Black Pencil, Color Rainbow (applied all six colors - Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple), Color Glow (three amigos), Color Repeat, Shade and Shadow, Leave White SpaceZig-Zag with Buildings, 45 Degree Strokes, Gradual Value Change, Color Change, We love this drawing immensely and hope you will spend a few minutes to study and imitate his style to improve your own skill.  Mike and Brian.

Tip of the Week: Quick sketch ideas from notebooks can be used to convey information to clients and the design team. Make sure you note important design details (materials, dimensions, BIG ideas), and then snap a shot with your smartphone to email.


Sketch ideas for light rail canopy designs: "Tensile Ribbon" Option - San Francisco

Tip of the Week: Quick Plan Renderings on Trace Paper

Try coloring with markers directly on trace paper for quick plan drawings. Markers will not bleed on trace as they do on bond/copier paper, so colors go on crisp and accurate.

View larger size  b/w version

A beautiful landscape plan nicely rendered by our member Romella Edgmon who took our workshop in July 2007. She wrote the entire rendering process (click here) to share with our members.  Hope you will find time to practice on this project.  Thanks Romella.


I often wonder how master illustrators are able to render their sky so beautifully.  I believe I have found one of the answers for you.

While conducting a workshop in Brisbane Australia last month, one of the participants Andrew Tremelling was showing me his professional illustrations during the break, I have found his sky to be imaging and incredible, so I have kindly asked him to share his secret of rendering the sky with our members and he has agreed without hesitation. 

Here it is as follows:

First, please watch his video to obtain the sky shown on the left drawing below and practice a few times with following materials:

Yellow trace paper, Spray adhesive and Knife
Prismacolor Nupastel and Kleenex
Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser
Battery or electric operated eraser


Then the final rendering he did using the above method shown on the right drawing.  I believe this is how most illustrators do their sky.  So even if you are using media like colored pencils or markers on your illustrations, the sky can still be executed by using the pastel and the result will give you very realistic look.  So try it and have fun.

I will write a blog about him and his work on our web site soon.  In addition, he also has a very loose style on marker technique, I am attaching a couple of his drawings below so you can copy, practice and get inspired.  More of his work can be found on our web site under PHOTOS.

Hope you will learn something from this e-mail and please don't forget to encourage your friends to join our great web site that Brian and I will always continue to provide you with more great tips to make your life easier.  Have a great week.


Mike Lin



Beijing International Cultural Center / Hybrid Drawing: A Marriage Between Hand and Digital Media









I have been working on a large mixed use CBD (Central Business District) Development in Beijing, China over the last couple of months and I wanted to share one of my unique opportunities of a new technique that I just recently started using on my project work. This opportunity came about because the rendering company in China did not have the resources to produce another rendering view without charging us an exorbitant amount of money and required another 3 days to produce the drawing. The problem was that this rendering was needed for a presentation to the Mayor of Beijing the very next day. As this presentation was about building programming and responding to how we would connect to the underground subway system, it was extremely critical that this drawing be produced in the most efficient way possible because time was an issue.

As a designer, not only do you need to be cognizant of the scope and parameters of the design problem that you are trying to delineate and solve, but you are also designing a process on whatever is needed to get the job done, and panic is never an option! So after receiving my marching orders, I went to my desk, picked up a red pencil and started to draw:

Step 1: Red Pencil Blockout. Loose mock up of pedestrian connection to the Mall Level and Botanical Garden Enclosure. This began with an eyeline/horizontal line. Working in red pencil allowed layers of information to be loosely drawn with out over-committing on certain design elements until overall design feel was revealed. I drew people in order to understand the height, width, and depth of the space I was designing. Once I got what I wanted, I quickly drew the design elements in black ink. (20 minutes)


Step 2: Ink Line Drawing. After getting confirmation and sign-off for the initial linework, I taped another sheet of trace over my block-out in Step 1 and illustrated the final linework with a Le Pen fine point pen. Sketch people were added for scale and to give proportion and activity to the space. At this point I had yet to decide whether or not to use photoshopped people, so I left the sketch people in if by chance I ran out of time. I then scanned the linework and imported it as a PSD (Photoshop Drawing) file and cleaned up the linework of any miscellaneous marks or wrinkles in the trace paper. (12 Minutes)

Step 3: Image Shopping and Cropping. In order to give this rendering a more refined "digital" feel, I began looking for images and tidbits of entourage like people, ticket dispensers and metro maps (this is a main link to the Beijing Subway System), and then added base colors to the pavement, ceiling, and tones yellow for indirect and direct sunlight coming from the Botanical Garden. The image of the Botanical Garden was from one of my excursions to the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. The stone wall was used here because it is also repeated at the main entry of this CBD. By adjusting the filter and layering, I was able to get a soft semi-transparent effect that didn't overpower the other design elements in the drawing. (25 Minutes)





Final Step: Presentation Image. This last and final step is the culmination of a balance of hand line work and carefully selected images with filters and effects. The final artwork was exported as a JPEG and emailed to Beijing where it was inserted into a powerpoint presentation. (Total Design and Production Time: Just under 1 hour)


Tip Of The Week: The 3 Minute Napkin Sketch

This is a three-minute bar-napkin sketch with black felt tip pen of the main dining room at the Palo Alto Cheesecake Factory. Using the overlay method, design modifications and addition of color becomes a valuable tool to generate multiple design solutions quickly and effectively.  - Brian Lin


How to draw well by hands

To draw well, you simply need to do the following three steps: 
1. Learn best graphic tricks available. So don't waste time studying by yourself.
2. Learn to copy other people's work.
Buy graphic books and copy, copy, and copy.
3. Work hard, never stop drawing.
Create opportunity to draw and draw continuously.

Believe me, if you follow the above 3 steps, anyone without talent can eventually draw like a pro. Below is a quick sketch done in minutes on trace by Brian Lin at



Why designers can't draw comfortably with hand anymore?


Improvement of Before / After drawings in just one week during the BeLoose Graphic Workshop


For the past 35 years, I have taught at universities and run the BeLoose Graphic Workshop on "how to draw quickly and convincingly with hand".   I have found the following reasons that most designers are afraid of using hand graphics on their daily projects.  I also listed their solutions to share with you.

1.  Lack of talent or believe having no art in their blood.
     To be talented in drawing, one only needs to work hard, learn tricks and copy others' drawings.

2.  Afraid of making mistakes when draw.                                                                    
     Mistakes lead to improvement after good and honest criticism.

3.  Don't like to be criticized or laughed at their drawings.          
     Proper guidance will allow you not to make the same mistake twice.

4.  Worry about bad drawings that can affect academic GPA or office promotion.                  
     Most successful designers received C average in school, besides employers don't look at GPA Or if you are good in the firm, why worry getting canned.

5.  Like to compare with their peers and feel pressure.                                                      
     When you are good, people get jealous on you. so often need to be humble to be liked.

6.  Expect to draw perfect but their hand can't deliver the product.                                        
     You need to know how to draw well so your eye will agree with your hand which delivered.  Remember a designer doesn't need to draw well, it is only the process unlike the artist which a drawing is a product.

7.  No confidence when draw, often got discouraged.                                                    
     Because you failed often, by drawing well will boost your confidence in drawing.

8.  Too tight or anal, just can't be loose.                                                                              
     Too tight or anal means you have bad graphic skills with bad attitude. Being loose means having good graphics.

9.  Rely on computer so hand graphic skill doesn't get chance to improve.                          
     Rely on computer which uses left brain, to be a good designer, use hand graphics can only make you to use more right brain and be more creative.

10. Lack of graphic skills or not been taught well in school.                                                   
     Take a reputable graphic workshop that will improve your graphic skills instantly.



Create your own book of Illustrations on computer

Do you realize that there are over 2500 sketches, renderings, illustrations, design photos and nice pictures on our BeLoose web site under "Photos", many beautiful drawings are done by very talented illustrators from around the world.

You are encouraged to spend a few hours and go to the www, under "Photos" section, and download the ones you like into your computer, so you can constantly watch them and learn at your own pace.  You can even run slide show to cultivate the quality of your appreciation so this will help to improve your drawing skills.  Please remember that those illustrations are for personal use only, any intention for commercial use is prohibited. Our suggestions to categorize them are as follows:

C:/ (your computer drive)
   beloose Illustrations (new file created)
      renderings and Illustration (sub file)
      design photos (sub file)
      others (sub file)

Brian and I have done ours and we never stop watching and learning from these peers. So please don't forget to do this homework, it will help you to refine and improve your graphic skills immensely.





Designer's Furniture

No matter which design profession that you
specialize in: architecture, landscape design,
interior design, graphics, industrial design or
engineering, you should know a little about
classical furniture.  We would like to feature
the table by Noguchi and MR Lounge chair
by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.  Please click here
to see more well known classical chairs, tables,
lights and etc,  Enjoy.



Six approaches to layout a successful space

After completed the bubble diagram, site analysis and preliminary design, often we are stuck in determine how to lay out appropriate lines to a successful space.  By laying your design on one of the six grids and follows each approach's rule, a satisfying result can easily be obtained.  6 examples are as follows:


1. Rectilinear: A design approach uses vertical and horizontal lines on a square grid.  A very orderly, expected, rigid and forceful approach.








2. Rectilinear - 45: A design approach introduces vertical, horizontal and 45 degree lines on a square grid.  An active, bold, dynamic and exciting approach.




3. Radial: A design approach uses various sizes of circles that branch out from a central point and multidirectional straight lines on a radial grid.  An interesting, flamboyant, maze-like and progressive approach.



4. Arc and Tangent: A design approach comprised of horizontal, vertical, and 45 degree lines, and quarter, half, three-quarter and full circles on a square grid.  A soft, soothing, pleasing and refined approach.


5. Irregular: An approach contains vertical, horizontal, 45 degree, and multidirectional lines on a square grid.  An exciting, dynamic, fluctuating, and intriguing approach.

6. Curvilinear: A design approach consists of compound curves and the absence of straight lines on a square grid.  A very sensual, serene, organic and graceful approach.














Designer verses Artist's Drawing

 There are two kinds of drawings that we do daily as designers:
Designer's drawing (right by Brian Lin): A drawing that shows a design process, so it doesn't need to be perfect as long as it conveys and communicates ideas to the clients. Therefore you now have a license to explore ideas, without penalty.


Artist's drawing (Left by Dick Sneary): A drawing that shows the concept as a product and is mostly executed by an architecture illustrator. It needs to be nearly perfect with the goal of showing what it will be look like once it is built.

You may ask yourselves why do some design schools encourage and even require that students draw an artist's drawing when we really should be spending more effort on process drawings? Remember, it is only a piece of paper that you are ruining and not your life. So just do it to make mistakes to learn.


 Quick thumbnail sketch #1

It is only 3"x4" in size and colored with markers and colored pencil using all six colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple). Outlined with Prismacolor black pencil.  Took only 5 minutes, it is a great way to communicate your great ideas quickly with your clients.  Remember, the best designers who don't need to draw well but only need to believe in themselves.

Quick thumbnail sketch #2

Again, the size and time spent is same as the one above, tips used are: Color Rainbow (all six colors), Color Pairs (orange and blue), Outlined with Black (Prismacolor black pencil), Dark foreground / light background, Color Glow (using light colors on white paper), Try them, you can do it too.  We have found so many tips that anyone who has will to draw, can draw.



BeLoose is a workshop where the experience will definitely change people's lives and increase their confidence beyond their expectation.

52 Languages


Before / After Drawings

"Before" drawing was done on the 1st day and "After" was done after 6 days. This can happen to you, so just show up, we will do the rest for you.

See more....


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