I am a web designer, using grids in web design is pretty easy. I would really like to try and design 2d illustrations, though I am not good at drawing. Recently I keep coming across drawings (like the one bellow) what show the use of a grid.

These kind of grids seem to be "made up". For example, with the grid bellow, you can only create that buddha, were as if you wanted a grid for the apple (mac) logo, you need another grid! I am wondering

A) do designer always use such grids (or is the use of such grids recommended) and
B) can you direct me to some source where I can learn about these grids (I been searching in google and can't find any useful tutorials apart from images)


  • 2
    While not 'made up' per se, they are often arbitrary. It's just a guide for drawing with mechanical tools. For examples look at mechanical engineering blueprints from pre-computer era. In this particular example, however, he grid seems entirely arbitrary given the actual drawing hardly aligns with it and is all done freehand.
    – DA01
    Dec 6, 2013 at 23:02
  • possible duplicate of What is this circle technique called? Dec 7, 2013 at 14:49
  • It is very possible you're looking at a study someone did, not an original. Maybe of a sculpture or an engraving that someone wanted to study and try to figure out the proportions of, perhaps for duplication but could also just be as a pure study.
    – Ryan
    Dec 19, 2013 at 14:41

2 Answers 2


Here's what most likely took place, I'm guessing....

The artist sketched the figure by hand. This gave them a road map of the general shapes and layout of the piece. From there, the artist may have scanned the sketch to use as a general roadmap.

Looking at the sketch, you can create the grid and circles for the areas you want to align. Then using tools in the software, allow the paths being created to work with the grid system. Even if those paths doesn't precisely follow the original sketch. I would guess (and it's pure guessing) that only half of that image was drawn then mirrored to create the other half.

In the end, almost all artwork starts with a sketch or idea of what is to be created, then the grids and guides are used to refine placement of paths and create harmony and symmetry between areas.

I've never seen someone create a grid, and then decide what to draw. It is very doubtful that someone created a bunch of circles and lines, then decided what to make using them as guides.


I second DA01 - the grid is not necessarily the starting point, designs may not start with a grid, but might as well be something added later. Take a look at this post; it might answer some of your questions: What is this circle technique called?

  • Of course if you are drawing a head or a figure there is a grid that every decent life drawing tutor provides - you know about Leonardo Da Vinci right? And the golden triangle as applied to architecture and graphic composition - Jan Tschichold. These help with proportions and symmetry when drawing (and in DTP). In early renaissance painting it was often applied quite rigidly by such as Piero della Francesca who, not surprisingly, was also a mathematician. They felt the order and sense of perspective raised the work to something more divine (and also hid secrets in the work ala Dan Brown). Nov 4, 2016 at 13:19
  • Getting back to your point then, beyond this (as an illustrator) I don't use prescribed grids for particular drawings, as said, it starts with a doodle, then a sketch, and often some measurement or reference (if it's more technical). If you look at artists like Matisse, who went away from rigid symmetry to natural free forms, these have a joy and uniqueness of their own. Some designers such as David Carson and Jamie Reid have tried to apply this to graphics, Neville Brodie to some extent in his typography. Its a good idea to study Fine Art before graphic design. There can be beauty in chaos. Nov 4, 2016 at 13:30
  • Lastly - have a look at Javier Mariscal out of Barcelona - a formidable graphic designer who is also a great painter and a cartoonist... not a straight line in sight. Nov 4, 2016 at 13:32

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