Formats, supports and framing of drawings

In the following article, we will explain what are the formats in drawing. Why are they so? You will learn about formats, supports and framing in drawings.

You will have to choose the right format for each situation, even drawing on irregular formats, a whole new experience, which we will tell you about next.

We will give you two great exercises, so you can understand, learn, and advance in your artistic development. Keep reading!

So what is the format and what is the support?

We call format, the shape and size of our support, which in most cases would be our sheet.

In different areas that have their roots in drawing, there are different supports, such as canvases, walls, ceramics, and a long list, depending on the discipline we do. In short, the support is that surface, wherever we create our artwork.

It is important to find new forms and resources, in addition to the already known ones.

When we are ready to draw and we take a piece of paper, it is most likely to be rectangular, but why is it rectangular? What is the reason for these standardized limits? Clearly, this convention has many reasons of practical convenience.

Books, screens, posters, and all reading media are rectangular.
So, this all makes a lot of sense.

For training in our drawing, and to be able to find new forms and creative resources, it is useful to try new media, perhaps, for a while, putting aside our habit.

hoja en blanco mostrando Formatos soportes y encuadres en los dibujos

The format is our condition, control the scale, and avoid forced resolution.

The arm does not fit, it leaves the sheet, so “I make it smaller”.

Many times, it happens that we are drawing a figure, which extends and approaches the margins, there, we tend to compress the drawing so that the figure fits completely on the sheet, this, gives us a forced result, in which we make a distortion, pressed by the limit of the margins.

This often happens, so it is advisable to avoid shrinking whatever reaches the margins, and, on the contrary, if this happens, what is outside, we will leave it outside. The main thing is to avoid these forced resolutions.

What happens is a clear example of the powerful influence induced by the limits of the support.

We will correct it, with the control of the scale and the correct placement of our figures, decisions that should be made with a general sketch, in the first lines.

From what has been said above, we propose you to carry out an activity to experiment and take advantage of the influences exerted by the format of our support in a conscious way. Therefore, for this work, we have two variants of exercises.

Let’s start with the first one

Drawing on new irregular formats.

The muralist’s work is conditioned by the format, in most cases, we find walls with various shapes and sizes. Also, with unexpected elements, such as windows, air conditioners, pipes, folds, or any kind of accident on them, which move it away from being a typical simple and straightforward format.

If the motif of your mural is already defined beforehand, you will have to try the best way to adapt it to the characteristics of the support (which in this case is the wall), but if the work is free, you can use improvisation.

At the beginning, you will take some time to analyze your wall and let yourself be influenced by its format, with all its folds and elements. The result is often very ingenious works, where the format invites you to create spatial games and drawings that interact with the support.

mural con Formatos soportes y encuadres en los dibujos

This is a clear example that demonstrates the influence of the format, and how it can induce us to play with ingenuity! Something that the typical rectangular sheet does not stimulate so easily. So let’s get to work! In the same way as the muralists, we are going to play on different supports:

First exercise What does it consist of?

For this activity, we are going to cut paper with our hands and scissors, in a free way, without worrying about producing a neat shape.

It should be noted that anything goes, from long strips to very irregular and uncontrolled shapes. Our main objective should be to vary, and break with the typical rectangular format. Are you ready?

We will make several, without anticipating to think about the drawing that will contain.

Paying attention, and taking advantage of the shape of each new support, we can start drawing the first thing that comes to mind.

In the experience of drawing in these strange formats, we will flow through their influence, thus, we will find new ideas, which could hardly come out of our rectangular sheet.

The deliberate choice of the format for the realization of the drawing.

Just as photographers tilt their camera to be able to make a full body frame, or modify the function of the device to be able to take a horizontal panoramic image of a landscape. The draftsman must pre-establish, in certain cases, which is the most appropriate format for its representation.

This is typically the case for cartoonists, who have the possibility of continuously creating a wide variety of frames and vignettes to suit each illustration.

There are many possibilities, the most common shapes of the vignettes are based on rectangles and all its variants. From landscape rectangles, longitudinal rectangles, squares, trapezoids, parallelograms, etc.

encuadres y formatos

Not to mention all the geometric shapes that are used in many cases, such as triangles, circles and other not so common.

Second Exercise

This second exercise proposes to experiment with some different formats that we usually do not use, but that could be useful to make an illustration.

In this case, unlike the previous exercise, it is recommended that we look for an idea before starting, then with the scissors, we will give the new shape to our sheet, and in this way, get the desired format.

Thus, we will be aware that the limits of our drawing area are very important. Sometimes they can dominate and influence us, but we can let ourselves go, to find new results.


As it was mentioned during the article, the format is an essential part of drawing, the more we get used to different formats and supports, the better our skills will be in the work to be done.

The above exercises are simple and practical, and by analyzing them well, you will understand the importance of these elements in drawing. Go ahead and practice them!

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