How to Illustrate Interior Architecture on the iPad?
Renderings are everywhere, and what’s more is they are outdated and overly expected at this point. Where renderings fail to add charm, hand drawings engage the viewer with their simplicity of space, use of materials, and their delicate portrayal of light. Hand drawings can convey a story that is both understandable and will bring a smile to your face.

Hey! My name is Henry Gao. As an architectural designer, I run a studio in San Francisco, California where I work with architectural clients at every stage of design, from conceptual thinking, to competition imageries, to fundraising visuals. Having a particular skill set in hand illustration, I can produce compelling visuals in a pinch.

Whether it’s done on paper or the tablet, hand drawing is a powerful way to communicate my ideas to paper, which is the first step in any design process. In this blog, I will share my hand drawing process and a few of my favorite tools and tips, so you can sketch more like an architect. Expect tutorials demonstrating the techniques in the future. 

With hand drawing, you have to have the right tools. My weapon of choice at the moment is the 12.9” iPad Pro with the Apple pencil. From there, my architectural illustration process is fairly straightforward. In a small project in San Francisco, I am designing a media space layout with an office component. Currently set up as a kitchen, which will be demolished, the space is only about 250 SF.

With most of my projects, I will transform the existing space into a 3D model using Sketchup. A model can help me understand the qualities of the existing space, give me a background for my sketch, and provide inspiration for the design and eventual presentation. Where other designers like to construct perspective from scratch, my process allows me to extract information from the model far faster and easier.

After creating a simple model, I export 2D images into Procreate, where the hand drawing process begins. Procreate for architects is useful as it offers customized brushes that mimic the look of pens and markers. Along with these go-to brushes, I use a textured image, which makes it seem like you are drawing on watercolor paper. Just for you, I have saved those brush settings in the description below for downloads.

The video only shows the design for one of the three options that were presented to the client. In this option, I already had a loose concept in my mind before the illustration, which was to create a continuous wall of cabinetry that connects the TV side and the office side together. 

Here, you can see me trying to figure out a gridline and some sense of rhythms for laying out the cabinetry. I think it’s important to know that I don’t draw perfectly the first time.Obviously, I look like a pro in the recording, but it doesn’t show the layers upon layers of scribbles before the illustration comes together.

Once the framework, or the bones as I like to say, have been set, it’s time to embellish the free hand drawing with more details, which will add a sense of scale and depth. Adding furniture, decor, and textures is a great step, but don’t overdo it. You should be going for a well-staged photo fromArchitectural Digest, and not look like your house that hasn’t been cleaned for weeks. (No judgement. It’s 2020 after all.)

With the substantial composition finished, adding color and mood can really make the architectural digital drawing come to life. For that, I have my special marker brush. Don’t worry if you can’t pick the right color the first time. The beauty of drawing digitally is you can pick and adjust color at any step of the way as long you make it easy for yourself by coloring on different layers. For example, I keep dissimilar colors on different layers, so it’s easy to color correct them later on.

When everything is done, I like to sleep on my drawings a little, and add on any final touches the next day when I have a fresher eye. If I need to make any changes, I just erase and recolor. No more days using the light table, scanning the trace at the copy machine, then bringing it into photoshop to put it all together.

If you found this video helpful, please give it a thumbs up! Let me know what else you would like to know and learn in the comments. My goal is to release more content where I can go into depth about exactly how I draw and techniques to help you sketch better.


Tools: Ipad Pro 12.9”

Apple Pencil (2nd Generation)

iPad screen protector for drawing

iPad case – magnetic case easily detachable from the Ipad

My favoriteProcreate brush setting