How I Plan for Large Art Pieces

Starting a large art piece can be intimidating. What is considered large? Well it really depends on you! If you’re used to working on 8 1/2 x 11 sized paper then working on 18×24  sized paper could seem intimidating. Personally, big for me is a couple of feet by a couple of feet. No matter how large the piece you’re planning is, the techniques I use apply.


Thumbnails are quick sketches to get your ideas down. They’re used to quickly work out problems in your composition. These don’t have to be perfectly rendered. Once you have a concrete idea of where you’re going, you can start rendering it more.

Scale Drawings….

Now you can start rendering the details more concretely. This involves a bit of math, but is entirely doable. Before you start the scale drawing, however, you need to decide what size you want your drawing to be.

Let’s say you pick 18×24 and you only have a 8 1/2 x 11 sketchbook. To create a scale drawing, you pick a number and divide it into your chosen size. I always try to get at least one number to come out evenly. For example, if I divide 4 into 18×24, I’ll get 4 1/2 x 6.

Scaling Pics-1

You can always do more than one scale drawing, especially if what you’re planning on doing is several feet. I often do several smaller scale drawings and then one or two larger ones to work even more of the detailing.


Gridding is a way to transfer your scale drawing to your final surface. This grid allows you to easily scale your drawing up, almost exactly to your sketch. Like the name implies, you create a grid on both your sketch and your final surface. You want the same amount of squares in each grid.

Scaling Pics-2

For example, if your sketch is 24 x 24 in and your final surface is 48 x 48 in, you want to find the least common multiple of both these numbers. In this case it is 8.

8 x 3 = 24

6 x 8 = 48

Scaling Pics-3

The common multiple is the number of squares in the grid and the other number is the number of inches the square is. So each square in this grid is 3 x 6. After you draw your grid out, you’ll follow your smaller drawing as a guide for where each part of your drawing will go.

Scaling Pics-4

Don’t be afraid of working big! When I first got to art school, big for me was 18×24. Now I want to create pieces that are 5, 6 feet tall (taller than me!) If you think you want work big start slowly and only do what you’re comfortable with. These tips will work with any size piece of art. Also, don’t let anyone make you think all good art is big art. Some artists create the most amazing art and it is two or three inches big. Do what works for you, not what works for anyone else.


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