How to Draw Buildings & Basic Architecture


Architecture is one of humanity's oldest fields. We require buildings to shelter us, and through the millennia architecture has grown from a utilitarian discipline to an art. Many people explore architecture and drafting, and they learn that creating architectural designs is not as difficult as it may appear. Of course, they are not architectural masters from the start, but the basic drafting techniques are easy and have been around for hundreds of years. Furthermore, computer drafting is not a difficult transition once you have the basic skills for hand drafting.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper or vellum
  • Drafting pencils of different grades (F, 2H, 4H, etc.)
  • Adjustable triangle
  • T-square or parallel bar
  • Drafting tape
  • Eraser
  • Architectural scale
  • Define what kind of building you are going to draw. Although many decisions are made by the architect and draftsperson as the drawings are made, you must first understand what you are trying to depict. Will you draw a house, skyscraper or something else? Define how large the structure will be. Size is important to determine the scale of the drawing. Because the drawing is limited by the size of the sheet of paper or vellum, you must shrink the building to a scale that is appropriate for the sheet.

  • Determine the scale of the drawing. Will there be multiple drawings on one sheet? If so, then you will need to divide the sheet into equal sections for each of the drawings you will make and choose an appropriate scale. Look at your architectural scale and decide which is right for you. Each tick on any side of the scale is equal to 1 foot. The fractions at the end of the scale give the scale of the ticks on that side of the scale. For example, 1/8 is 1/8 inch equals 1 foot, which is equivalent to 1 inch equals 8 feet. Ensure that you always use one scale for any one drawing, otherwise the drawing will be incorrect.

  • Tape down your sheet to the drafting surface. The surface can be any roughly horizontal surface, but the surface must be smooth, without dents or scratches. Ensure the sheet is square with the T-square or parallel bar.

  • Begin drafting your structure using your chosen scale. The most common architectural drawings are called orthographic projections. There are three types of orthographic projections: a plan, or horizontal cut through a structure showing the layout of a space; a section, or vertical cut through a structure showing the spatial characteristics of the building; and an elevation, or vertical cut showing the vertical surfaces of the exterior or interior of a structure. The elements in orthographic projections are the same dimensions at the same angles as they would appear physically constructed. Although the scale you use will determine the size of the elements on the paper, the scaled dimensions will be accurate to those built. So, a 3/8-inch line drawn at 1/8 scale is equal to 3 feet, and it would be built to that dimension in real construction.

  • Use your T-square or parallel bar for all horizontal lines, the edge at 90 degrees on the adjustable triangle for all vertical lines, and the angled edge of your adjustable triangle for any diagonal lines. The adjustable triangle can accommodate any desired angle up to 90 degrees. Angles greater than 90 degrees can be drafted by flipping the adjustable triangle onto another edge. Remember that all materials in architecture have a thickness, so do not draw walls or doors with only one line -- use two lines to denote thickness of these elements.

  • Explore changes to your building as you draft the structure. Architects and draftspeople use drawings as tools, and the architectural design changes as each building element is worked out.

    After you have successfully drafted your structure, try other types of drawings, besides orthographic projections. Isometric drawings are drawings that show elements that are properly dimensioned, but the angles and relationships are altered to give three-dimensionality to the drawing. Another type of drawing is the perspective. Perspectives show a structure the way we would see it in reality. A perspective can be: one point, with lines of depth converging to a single vanishing point; two point, with lines perpendicular to one another converging to two different vanishing points; and three point, similar to the two-point perspective but with the vertical lines converging to a vanishing point.

  • Render your drawings with shading or colored pencil to add realism to your drafted work.

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