Do I Need To Be Good At Drawing To Study Architecture?

If you are thinking about studying architecture, it’s good to be sure that you have the right skills to get into university and to be a successful student.

You do not have to be good at drawing to study architecture. Drawing is an integral part of architecture school, but it doesn’t matter if your drawings look bad. Computer software also allows people who are not good at drawing to produce amazing images of their designs.

Informed by our own experiences at architecture school and in architecture offices, In this post, we discuss why drawing is so important for architects. We will also explore what universities are looking for and why it doesn’t matter if you’re not very good at drawing.

Why do Architects Need to Draw?

Getting Ideas Out of Your Head

The most common reason architects need to draw is to get ideas from inside their heads onto paper.

These drawings won’t be shown to anyone, so it doesn’t matter how bad they are! It’s all about exploring and developing your ideas. Nobody can imagine the perfect design in their head, so sketching in a notebook is the best way to turn a rough idea into something more developed. An architect will continually draw throughout a project from conceptual to technical design.

For Explaining To Others

Using drawings is also a quick and easy way to explain ideas to colleagues, clients, or professors. This allows you to explain what you are thinking and start a discussion about your design. This type of drawing should probably be more precise than the rough sketches you do for yourself but don’t have to be a work of art.

It is common to sketch ‘live’ while talking to someone about a design. This is a way to visualize what you are saying, and these spur of the moment drawings can often be very messy. As long as you can get your ideas across – that’s good enough.

The more you practice these skills, the better you will get. But if you really struggle, it is possible to use computer programs such as Adobe Illustrator to create diagrams that explain your ideas.

Selling Your Idea

The final reason why an architect needs to draw is to sell their idea. At university, you will be selling your ideas to your professor, and as an architect, you will be selling to your client.

This is the place where your drawings need to be the best quality. If you are trying to convince somebody that what you have created is a good idea, the more striking and compelling your drawings are, the more impressed your client will be.

Don’t worry if you’re not good at drawing, though. As I explain in detail below, this type of image is most commonly produced on a computer these days. So if you’re not a confident drawer, technology can save you!

Explaining Your Design To Construction Workers

When a design is completed, it needs to be drawn in a way that shows every aspect in precise detail. These technical drawings are given to construction workers and allow a design to be built in real life.

These drawings used to be done by hand on a drawing board. But much like with visualizations, today, this work is almost exclusively done with computer programs such as AutoCAD.

Some universities still teach how to draw this way by hand in the first year of the course. Don’t worry, they won’t expect you to know how to do this, and because this is a very technical skill, it is much easier to learn than freehand drawing.

Do You Need To Be Able To Draw In A Certain Style?

It’s not necessary to draw in a particular style. In fact, everyone has a unique style of drawing. My sketches are really messy, but they help me get my ideas on paper, which works for me.

If there is a style of drawing that you love, you can always try to adapt the way your drawing looks to match your chosen style. This might take some time to perfect, but the more you practice, the better you will get.

Famous Architect’s Drawings

It can be helpful to look at the drawings of famous architects. Frank Ghery and Steven Holl are two of the world’s most successful architects. Still, they have entirely different styles of drawing. Ghery creates very fast, almost scribble-like sketches, whereas Holl makes watercolor paintings. 

These drawings might not be considered perfect works of art in the traditional sense. Still, they help the architect explore his ideas and portray these thoughts to colleagues and clients – that’s what makes them great drawings.

Computer vs Pencil

In the past, it was common for an architect to use beautiful hand drawings or paintings to sell their idea to a client, but times have changed. It’s now much more common for this work to be done on a computer.

Today, architects use 3D software to build their designs digitally and then use computer programs like Photoshop to make these designs look amazing. These skills are much easier to learn than drawing by hand, and there are plenty of online courses and resources which can help you.

Your university won’t expect you to know how to use these programs before you start, and most courses include modules where you will be taught the basics. That being said – there is no harm in getting a head start before you begin, and the more you know, the easier your first year will be!

Although this is a beautiful image, it is rare to see hand-drawn vizualisations today.

Is It An Advantage To Be Good At Drawing?

If you are a brilliant artist, this will definitely help you at university. You can use this to your advantage to create unique drawings that stand out from the rest of your class.

It is common for computer visualizations to look very similar, making it harder to stand out from the crowd. As hand drawing is becoming increasingly rare, you can use this to your advantage.

In a room full of computer-generated images, the beautiful hand-drawn artwork will be sure to attract attention from both professors and other students. Once you have people’s attention, the hard work is done, and selling your design should be easy.

Also, being a good artist will help when using Photoshop as the process is similar. Working out lighting and shadows in visualizations is the same in many ways as drawing by hand.

University Entrance Requirements

Some universities will require you to submit a portfolio as part of your application. Each university will tell you what exactly needs to be submitted, and sometimes this will include drawings.

Don’t let that worry you if you’re not the best at drawing. Universities aren’t looking to see who is the best at drawing – they want to make sure you are creative. You can demonstrate your creativity in many ways, such as sculpture, pottery, digital art, textiles or painting… the list goes on!

From the university’s perspective, it’s much easier to teach someone how to use a piece of software or improve their drawing skills than to teach someone how to be creative. Use the portfolio as an opportunity to show how imaginative you are and play to your strengths!

What Subjects Do I Need To Study Architecture?

Each university has different entrance requirements, but almost all will require one creative subject such as art or design. If not, they will likely as you to submit a portfolio to demonstrate your creative ability.

Although some universities will ask for math or science, many courses will accept students with only a basic understanding of these subjects.

Good Luck!

You don’t have to be amazing at drawing to study architecture. Sketches are more important as part of the design process than as a work of art. Don’t worry if your drawings look bad, and remember, the more you practice, the more you will improve.

Remember to check the specific requirements for the university you are applying to and tailor your application.

Best of luck!


Matt created Low Key Architecture as a place to share everything he learnt at architecture school and in the workplace. He has a master's degree in architecture and has worked around the world.

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