I Don’t Know How to Draw and You Can, Too

Sarah Cooper
Aug 25, 2016 · 4 min read

A lot of people ask me if I do all the illustrations on TheCooperReview.com, and the answer is yes and no. (And people really do ask me that, I’m not using that as a clever intro, although it is pretty clever)

The truth is, I don’t know how to draw. But I do know how to trace photos! And that’s what most of the drawings on my site are.

If you want to add visuals to your blog posts, presentations or whatever it is, and you’re as bad at drawing as I am, I think tracing photos is a good place to start. (Of course, make sure you have rights to any photos you use, or just use your phone and take photos yourself)

I use a Wacom Tablet in Photoshop to trace the photos. I make the photos very large, then trace with the paintbrush in a new empty layer. I then get rid of the photo layer and put my tracing over white. I select all, hit ‘copy merged’ and paste it into Illustrator, where I use ‘image trace’ to turn it into a vector.

Here’s an example from my recent NYC vs SF post:

This is also what I did for my upcoming book, 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings. I got my husband and two friends to act like they were having a meeting and took photos of them, then traced away.

So, if you’re struggling with drawing like I am, try tracing photos! Very little artistic ability needed :-)


Although tracing photos is still the quickest way for me to get a drawing done, I am learning to draw freehand, slowly. SkillShare has been a huge help with this.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned about drawing is that it takes *time*. Which is really annoying. It’s annoying that the first strokes you make don’t perfectly match the image you have in your head. It sucks that I seem to have no sense of size, shape, perspective, color or even the ability to name more words like that. But I’m learning.

I’m using the iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil and the Tayasui Sketches app. This has been so much better than using pen and paper (don’t judge me real illustrators!). I hate having to start over and over again and with the iPad and I can just undo.

The Sketches app is great because it has layers! I do a rough sketch to start, then I use those tracing skills (I think real illustrators call it “inking” but I won’t use that because I’m a hack) and create something more final. And sometimes I have to trace that again, too.

The Sketches app also lets me move, resize and duplicate any piece of the drawing when I invariably draw something that seems okay but it’s in the completely wrong place.

Here are some SkillShare classes I found helpful in learning how to draw:

Creating Webcomics
The First Steps of Hand Lettering
Random Word Doodle Workout
Drawing Dynamic Gestures

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Sarah Cooper is a writer, comedian and creator of TheCooperReview.com. Her first book, 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings comes out October 4th.

The Cooper Review

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Sarah Cooper

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The Cooper Review

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