How to create a relief-like drawing on paper

Here is a useful way to bridge the gap between two dimensional work on paper and three dimensional work in another medium such as clay. I have been working with 60 year 5 children on a project depicting King Richard III upon his battle horse at the Battle of Bosworth Field. We spent about five weeks exploring how to draw horses and some life drawing sessions of people, however I needed a linking session that encouraged them to think in a more 3 dimensional way and thus prepare them for their final clay relief.

Here are the steps that will lead you through an enjoyable, challenging and satisfying process.

Firstly you make an out line drawing of what ever image you wish, it could be a copied silhouette, a line drawing of an interesting shape, or just something simple like a leaf.

Here’s my image.


Then cut it out carefully making sure you keep all the detail, and remember to cut out any negative spaces too (you can see the one here between the horse’s mane, Richard’s arm and his leg, its a sort of triangular shape).King Richard, Battle of Bosworth

Once it is cut out you then need to place a plain piece of paper over your cut out image and rub over it with graphite, or thicker pencil. (Ensure you hold it in place with one hand while you create your ‘rubbing’ otherwise your cut out underneath will move and you’ll get several images, instead of just the one).

King Richard III 'rubbing'

Once you’ve finished the rubbing and all of your cut out image shows through, then you can begin the process of rubbing out with a putty rubber/normal rubber the detail of your subject. For example on this horse I rubbed out the ‘bulgy’ bits, i.e. the muscles, stomach, main, tail, hoofs, King Richard’s lance, helmet, parts of his armour, leg muscles and armour, I even did a bit of his saddle and a cloth beneath it. You can rub just a little bit and it sort of mixes your dark colour more solidly but if you continue to rub in the same spot for a while it then begins to get lighter and lighter.

King Richard III on his horse

Once I had completed the muscles I then took a 4-6B pencil and worked in some definition around the lighter muscle areas. If you look just behind the front leg muscle where it attaches to the body you can see an example of this. I also darkened some areas of the background juxtaposed to lighter areas of the body, have a look around the underneath of the tail, you can see the tail stands out more because of the dark shadow beneath it.

I found that leading the children through this process before they dived into clay work was useful as it made it much clearer to them where these ‘bulgy’ bits were and how the background of a relief must sit back from the main image. It also happened to give us some very effective pictures which have been greatly admired on our walls.

Here follow some images of the children and their fantastic work in progress.

King Richard III Battle of Boworth Field


King Richard III Yr 5 Art


King Richard III Year 5 Art


King Richard III Battle of Bosworth




Year 5 Tudors Art


Hints and tips:

  • Cut your rubber with a pair of scissors at an angle so you have a sharper point for detailed areas.
  • If your rubber gets dirty then rub it on a scrap piece of paper on the black, dirty bit and it will clean itself.
  • If you’re using a putty rubber then you can mould its shape with your fingers to make a pointy shape for detailed areas.
  • Be patient when rubbing out, its a slow careful process. You must keep looking back at the image or subject you are copying to ensure you are capturing what’s actually there and not what you think is there.



3 thoughts on “How to create a relief-like drawing on paper

  1. Pingback: King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in clay | flaircreationsblog

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