Tips for Drawing Miniature Art

Tips for Drawing Miniature Art

I’ve long been an advocate of drawing miniature art and small format art. Colored pencils are ideal for both, but I’ve also used oils, acrylics, and graphite—even a ball point pen—to make miniature art.

We all know colored pencil is a slow medium. You don’t have finish dozens of drawings to figure that out. The fact of the matter is that you have to do only one piece!

It not seem to make sense, but drawing tiny is one way to improve your ability to render details in artwork of all sizes.

First, though, lets think about reasons why you might want to draw miniature art.

Tips for Drawing Miniature Art

Reasons to Draw Miniature Art

Faster to Finish

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, colored pencil is a naturally slow medium. It takes a long time to finish a detailed drawing no matter what size it is.

Of course, the bigger the drawing the longer it takes to complete.

For a lot of us who work jobs or have families or other obligations, drawing time is limited. That means it may take months to finish a piece that takes only 24 hours of actual drawing time. That’s a long time to work on the same piece.

The answer?


Even if you do a lot of detail, you can still finish a miniature in just a few hours. If you have an hour a day to draw, you can probably finish one miniature a week. I drew these eight ACEOs in less than two months for a card swap, while I had a part-time job.

Tips for Drawing Miniature Art - Field of Eight

And we all know that finishing a piece is very motivating!

Forces You to Focus on the Important Details

When you draw small, you don’t have room to draw every detail, so you have to choose the most important details. That’s good exercise no matter how large you usually draw.

Unless you’re going for hyper-realism, when you really do draw every single hair.

Drawing Miniature Art is Perfect for Quick Sketches

Trying to figure out a difficult part of a larger drawing?

Working out compositions?

Just doodling?

Draw miniature sketches. They’re quick. They’re easy. And they’re extremely portable. You can keep a small sketch book or art journal in your purse, briefcase or a field kit.

Miniature Drawings are a Great Way to Experiment

We’ve all heard it, haven’t we? To see if a pencil, type of paper, or drawing method works for us, the best thing to do is experiment.

But those supplies are so expensive, we hesitate to “waste” them on experiments.

Why not experiment with miniature art? You can learn just as much about new supplies, tools, or methods by drawing small as you can by drawing large.

Miniature Drawings are a Great Way to Use Paper Scraps

Speaking of expensive, don’t you hate throwing away those scraps of paper left over when you trim a sheet to size? Don’t throw them away; turn them into miniature art!

You don’t even have to cut them to any specific size. Use them in whatever size or shape they happen. I have a box of scraps cut down to ACEO size because I did a lot of those one year.

But I also save every scrap of paper that’s more than an inch wide on the short side, no matter what shape it is. When I’m stuck for something to draw, I sometimes go through those scraps and see if one of them sparks an idea. Even if the result isn’t a masterpiece, I did draw something. Some days, that’s a huge win!

Tips for Drawing Miniature Art

Keep Your Pencils Sharp

Sharp pencils are always important, but unless you want a broad accent (which doesn’t need to be very broad for a miniature,) sharp pencils are doubly important to drawing the important details in miniature art.

The sharper your pencil, the smoother your color layers, too.

Keep the Background Simple

Unless you’re doing a miniature landscape, it’s best to keep the background simple with miniature art. Especially with human or animal subjects.

Work Slowly and Carefully

Of course this is important with all sizes of colored pencil art, but it’s especially important with miniature art. You don’t have a lot of room to correct errors or cover mistakes when you’re working small.

So Are You Ready to Try Drawing Miniature Art?

I’ve written a tutorial showing how I drew this miniature portrait for a client.

So if you have new supplies to try, a new method to check out, or you just want to have a little fun doing something new, may I suggest drawing miniature art?


  1. Bev Symonds

    Hi Carrie. . . . . .
    Congrats on your new look!! I think it’s wonderful! So bright and, so colourful ;-)
    Love your course on “How to Add Colour to a Horse Using the Umber Under Drawing Method” and although I have chosen a different model, I feel as if I am progressing. . . . . .a tiny bit every day!
    Still think you are one fantastic Lady and love, love, love, your way of teaching! Thanks so much!!

    I have been subscribed to The Virtual Instructor for 2 years and find it a very informative site. Once I got used to Matt’s accent,(lol) I was able to follow along with his lessons with no problems. He, also, is a terrific teacher!
    Cheers and hugs from Canada!!

    1. Bev,

      Thank you for your very kind words!

      I’m glad you like the new look. That was a spur of the moment decision, as I looked at the blog on Saturday and realized I wanted to see something different; something more indicative of what the blog has become.

      I’m glad the posts on adding color over a horse using the umber under drawing method is useful. A little bit of progress every day is a good thing!

      You mentioned choosing a different model. Are you drawing a horse, too, or something different?

      I watched a few videos from The Virtual Instructor and have found them helpful. It’s been difficult to find anything to do with colored pencil video demonstrations, but they are starting to appear.

      Thanks again for reading the blog and for leaving a comment, as well as your very kind words.

      Best wishes,


      1. Bev Symonds

        Hi Carrie. . . . .

        Yes, I am attempting to draw a horse! My very first try at such a complicated subject; but, I follow your instructions, and break the work down into manageable pieces. After all that’s how you eat an elephant, right? One piece at a time! lol! (not that I’d ever want to eat an elephant. . . )

        Finding helpful instruction in the use of CP’s, was and is very difficult. I don’t want to spend a ton of money on books that are mostly just a vehicle for the artist to show his work. Us old retired folk have to watch the art expenditures.
        Finding The Virtual Instructor was a blessing and finding you was just magic.
        I have ordered a book from the Library , that I think might be a winner. It’s by Janie Gildow & Barbara Newton . I can only keep it for 3 weeks, but if it’s good, I can keep renewing it! “Colored Pencil Solution Book”

        Thanks, once more, now it’s back to the bust of this horse . . . . no feet!

        1. Bev,

          I have a copy of the Colored Pencil Solution Book. It was one of the first books on the subject that I bought. It’s an invaluable tool and if you can find a good, used copy at a reasonable price, buy it.

          Horses are complicated, but they can also be fun to draw. At least I think so. If you have any questions specific to the horse you’re drawing or to your drawing, let me know. I’ll be glad to help.

          I am delighted that you’re getting help here, on this blog, as well as on The Virtual Instructor. If there’s a topic you’d like to know more about, let me know. I’m always on the watch for things to write about and if you have a question, I’ll be happy to answer it!

          Keep up the good work on the horse drawing. You will enjoy it far more than you would enjoy eating an elephant!

          Best wishes and happy drawing,


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