Basic Guidelines to Product Sketching

Learn the basics of product sketching with these helpful guidelines. Improve your design skills and bring your ideas to life.

Within the field of product design, ability to represent your ideas by using effective visual methods such as sketching opens doors for better communication between designers and clients. Designers find that using sketching is an efficient way to speed up the process of developing ideas in the real life.

There are times where sketch can express more than words and you get an instant understanding of a concept. Sketches are useful for designers who work in groups and sketches can deliver easy and fast way to brief an idea to others.

This article will introduce the main guidelines to product sketching that are useful to designers who just started the journey to product design. These few main steps will show that it is not that difficult to be good at product sketching.

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You have to love it

To be skillful in something, it requires a lot of effort and time which is not an exception when it comes to product sketching. The most important thing to know before you start sketching is to actually understand whether you are really interested in this subject.

You have to feel excitement and joy once a pen/pencil is in your hands. There will be times when only love for sketching will keep you going through rough days.

love sketching

Material and Equipment

Product designers depend a lot on materials they use for creating sketches. By choosing appropriate equipment it is possible to express your ideas in the best way and create a visual connection of your product with clients.

There is no need to buy expensive materials in order to create magnificent sketches. Even with a one grey marker, professional designers can produce breathtaking art pieces. A basic equipment is to have three grey markers that are 20 % away from each other.

For example, 10%, 30% and 50 % markers. It is enough to have three primary color markers – yellow, blue and red. If you have a budget to buy more markers choose secondary colors like green and orange. Also, don’t forget to buy a black marker.

The most popular marker brands for product sketching are Copic Markers, Prismacolor markers and Letraset markers. You will also need some black fine liners and ballpoint pens for contours. The best thing is to experiment yourself and find the right pen that works for you.

sketching materials

Get a sketchbook

Look around and sketch such as what you see and breathe around you. Use a pen because the advantage of a pen is that it cannot be erased and you have to start a new page. Keep in mind that everything you sketch should preserve not edited.

You can always turn the next page and start sketching again. Soon, you will notice that you are starting to sketch freely and without thinking too much into it. Take a look at this book written by Richard Brereton – “Sketchbooks: The Hidden Art of Designers, Illustrators & Creatives”. You will see that a sketchbook doesn’t have to be boring.


Perspective – What is that?

In order to create realistic sketches, the most important thing is to know what a perspective is and how to use it. A good perspective drawing gives the impression of something that is normally perceived by the eye, it looks “natural”.

Perspective in dictionary means the reproduction of something that is three-dimensional and is transmitted in a two- dimensional plane. There are several types of perspective drawings: one point perspective, two point and three point. Two point perspective is most used in product sketching because it creates enough readable product concepts.

Read more about perspective and how to construct it here

bike perspective wireframe

A Right Position Of a Pencil

A secret for the ability to draw long straight lines, is hiding in a way you hold a pencil/a pen. And, usually, the first skill that beginners have to obtain, is to learn how to draw a straight line without a ruler.

Drawing with a wrist will create only short and uneven lines on a paper, but with an elbow you are able to draw long lines.


Start with a simple geometry

Do not expect to sit down and create a masterpiece right away. At the beginning, start to draw different shapes – squares, triangles, rectangles, and ovals. You may ask, why waste time on simple shapes if most of the product forms are complex?

The answer is that everything can be broken down into shapes. For example, an iPod nano is made of two rectangles, two circles.


Sketch types

  • Process sketches – The main purpose is about understanding an assignment. There are more writing that sketching. A focus is examining problems and analyzing the contest.
  • Ideation sketches – Sketches that are created by designers while developing an idea of a product. Mainly roughly made and without details.
  • Explanatory sketches – Created to explain function, shape and structure of a design concept. These are sketches presented to a client. Readable to everyone.
  • Persuasive sketches – Finishing sketches that are usually created in digital softwares such as CAD-programs, Adobe Photoshop and others. Detailed and colorful to influence audience and sell a design concept.
sketch types


Shadows appear on objects in areas where the lighting is blocked or indirect. Before creating shadows it is important to choose a direction where the light source will come from. There are two main shadows that are typically drawn – Sunlight, and Cast shadows.

A cast shadows should be big enough to emphasize the shape of an object, but it shouldn’t be the main subject in a sketch. It also brings an illusion of depth to your sketches. Keep it simple and fast. If it looks good and the object is in the main focus, then you have done it right.

For technical explanations of shadow construction take a look at this website

shadow guidelines

Importance of details

Adding details to sketches, provides vital information for clients and other designers. Details can indicate the overall size of an object. Also, it creates more realistic look of a product you are creating. It is all about details when everything comes in one piece.

Take time to explore some everyday objects. Do they have buttons, try to understand why there are rubber, metal pieces on particular places.

joe sattler shoe sketch

Exaggerate the form

A design concept sketch is supposed to show a visual appeal of a product to users. It basically means that details are often exaggerated to present the best of the product character.

Elements describe product itself and that is why they must be enlarged in order to emphasize these details. Even in cartoons you often see big noses, ears, lips because these details show the unique character of a person.