A (shocking) confession

January 13, 2012 | 18 Comments


Many of you know this fact but I want everyone to know…. that I have a guideline sheet that I use to help draw my grids and keep my text straight. I have never sought to hide this fact but decided that it was time to come clean. Especially in light of a recent discussion on Inma’s photostream and a reminder that it was a total shock to many people when it fell out of my sketchbook in Lisbon….apparently “I went red and laughed a lot!”

I do not use it ALL the time – this spread I didn’t use for the text or even to draw the grid lines…but I do get VERY distressed when my writing isn’t neat or straight. (I am an architect and am old enough to remember the days when getting a job was dependent on having perfect writing).

I made this template using a CAD programme – making my lines very thick so that I can see them through the 150gsm paper. Also I experimented to find my preferred spacing- so one half of the A4 page is 6mm and the other 8mm. You can also see how I have marked the lines that I used on my opening page for each day in my recent holiday sketchbook. (my text and tea pages) SO it is especially designed my me for my sketchbook. I used to sometimes rule guidelines but this trick is certainly a LOT easier!

I am terribly sorry if I had mislead any of you that thought I could write so perfectly uniform… Perhaps if I really tried hard I might sometimes be able to do it… But of course I am too lazy… This way the gridlines are there if I want to use them. At least you all know now!


  • Parka says:

    There are no rules as to what should and should not be used for sketching.

  • No problem Liz!
    From what you have written, one can see that you are an utterly honest person. The swiss landskape painter Ferdinand Hodler used to say that the ugly truth is better than a parcial truth…

  • bosveldr says:

    I think our sketchbooks are an expression of who we are. What a great idea!

  • annechung says:

    Thanks for sharing, now I don't feel bad if my building sketches are crooked and my writing is all over the place.I always thought, oh, she's an architect, that's why all her lines are so straight!

  • Eveline says:

    Hey, if it works, why feel bad about it? In the end it's about expressing yourself and capturing what is important to you. If it's better for your own sanity to have straight lines, then it makes perfect sense to use this guide.

    As a great man once said, don't worry, be happy. 😉

  • Tascarini says:

    Thanks for the great idea. It sure beats sketching in lines and filling them in to write and then having to erase which is what I've been doing.
    I enjoy your blog, thanks for sharing.

  • Serena Lewis says:

    No need to feel bad at all…I'm SO glad you shared this, Liz! I have admired the perfectly lined text on your sketch pages for ages and I very much appreciate your tip. I plan to do the same from now on. It sure beats ruling lines in pencil and then having to erase them afterwards. Thank you!

  • Rincón says:

    Your system allows a very elegant and aesthetic text. Not to feel ashamed, but to feel proud of your imagination to improve your skech

  • Felicity says:

    No need to feel apologetic Liz! Some people will probably also feel miffed to learn that rabbits don't really come out of hats! 😉 I agree with Parka, there are no rules.

  • Claire M says:

    I am always totally amazed at your pages. It doesn't matter to me if you use a guidesheet. But, it is interesting for me to know it now and accept myself more for needing lines from time to time – either pencil'd in or guidesheets. Whatever works for you!! Just keep on sketching and painting!!!

  • Jo Reimer says:

    Ah Ha. Someone else does this. I also often use guidelines under my pages to keep my writing straight but I never thought about using a grid and can hardly wait till I have time to make one like yours. I use a sheet of lined college ruled paper and went over the lines with a heavy black pen so they'd show through.
    You have nothing to apologize for, but take our compliments for making this up. Don't calligraphers use lines under their work? It just makes good sense.

  • INMA SERRANO says:

    You are the beist Liz with or without guideline.
    This post in my blog is specially for you!

  • Luís Ançã says:

    That´s just a way of doing, a feature. Everyone has his own.
    Your sketchings are very nice like that.

  • This is really very charming Liz, I like the idea of a grid as a tip and reminds me of those lines and grids which I learnt to write with, to get the slope right (shows how ancient i am to remember the 'slope card') and also those wonderful ruled lines cards that came with airmail paper. Coming from poetry, I know that any form one adopts imposes its own rigour and cannot be considered cheating but a kind of formal discipline. Touche Miss Liz!

  • Jenny says:

    Maybe some people were not aware of the "technique". I also keep guide sheets for stationery and envelopes. Usually horizontal lines with vertical lines where they sill be the most useful for me. At one time I used huge laminated grids for flip chart presentations.

  • BarMill says:

    Liz, somewhere along the way I was put on to a wonderful "trick" for keeping my writing straight. I use a piece of drywall tape mesh . Cut a strip from the roll, place it on the page and using a penicl lightly make the lines the width that you desire. Remove the tape and you can begin to write. Erase the pencil lines and magically you have a nice straight bit of script. The tape has a slight bit of stickiness to it and will adhere again and again but does not leave any residue on the page. I have a piece placed on the interior of my sketchbook cover and use it repeatedl. I've learned so much from you and want to try your grid for larger pieces. You are amazing.

  • Susan King says:

    Thanks, Liz! So how do you draw the lines when you don’t use the grid? You said that you didn’t use it on this spread.

    • Liz Steel says:

      ah! that is another subject in itself. Drawing by eye and using an my architects tricks for drawing stragiht lines- a skill developed over time. Will add it to my ‘to blog about’ list!

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