Using Borders…

When I am completing a sketch, I am evaluating many things— composition, values (how light or dark things are), color, story line, title, etc… I also evaluate the amount of white space, whether to color everything in, and how the eye flows around the sketch. There are times when I think a border will enhance a sketch… somehow a border ties everything together. Here are a few recent and older sketches to illustrate that idea…


This fuel station sketch was done while sitting in a coffee shop looking out the window at the airport gate area. Though most of the page is filled by the sketch itself, I added a border around a portion of it. I liked how it contained the text as part of the drawing.

como conserv

This sketch is really busy, with a ton of things going on… Although it also filled up the page, I decided to add a border while letting the plants and flowers and text ooze out of it. I felt it pulled all these random sketches together.


“Remi” is an example of me working on a much larger sketch page and liking all the elements. However, I determined that there was just too much white space for my liking, so a border helped make the sketch seem smaller and the space along the edge felt more manageable to me. I allowed Remi’s nose and the backpack to seep out of the border too.


This recent sketch from Friday is a two-page sketch. I started drawing the plant and decided to let the flower stems meander across the “gutter” (middle of the page), but then didn’t know how else to fill the space. I let it sit a day.  Sometimes I dream up a theme before I start to sketch, other times, I have part of a sketch and have to decide what to add to complete it. So I chose some Valentine’s candy. I tried to balance out the sketch by placing elements in diagonal corners and with some spattering of watercolors and a border, I think it ties it together. I could have written more text (under the plant pot), but decided to let the sketch “breathe” by keeping more space open.

Finally, I did a sketch of some snow shoes a few days ago. I chose to add a border at the end of the sketch, as I felt like the snowshoes needed showcasing in some way. I allowed some text and the enlarged area to peep out of the border.snow shoes

When do you like to use borders in your sketches? What are some things you have tried? I find that borders can enhance a sketch, although it does take courage to draw them. Many times I try to imagine what the page will look like if I put a border around everything, wondering what will happen if I don’t like it. You can’t get rid of it. But I just trust my instinct and find that usually I am happy with the results. And if you don’t like it, you can turn the page and move on. The beauty of sketching!

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