# Drawing ellipses

#1

Hi Guys,

I’m getting into the fine jewelry side of things, and I’ve come
across a problem in my drawing class.

The hell of the hand drawn ellipse. So far I seem to be able to draw
hard boiled eggs really easily, however this far from an ellipse.

I’ve looked into the trammel method, trammel tools, and even bought
a plastic cheat template, but the freehand drawing of an ellipse is
causing me a little grief.

I am practicing, using the minor and major axis. Some days they are
passable, some days Easter eggs.

What I’m after are tips and stories about how you draw ellipses.

Regards Charles

#2

An ellipse can be drawn using two drawing pins

a length of string, and a pencil: Push the pins into the paper at two
points, which will become the ellipse’s foci. Tie the string into a
loose loop around the two pins. Pull the loop taut with the pencil’s
tip, so as to form a triangle

Move the pencil around, while keeping the string taut, and its tip
will trace out an ellipse.

If the ellipse is to be inscribed within a specified rectangle,
tangent to its four sides at their midpoints, one must first
determine the position of the foci and the length of the string loop:

Let A,B,C,D be the corners of the rectangle, in clockwise
order, with A-B being one of the long sides. Draw a circle
centered on A, whose radius is the short side A-D. From corner
B draw a tangent to the circle. The length L of this tangent is
the distance between the foci. Draw two perpendicular lines through
the center of the rectangle and parallel to its sides; these will be
the major and minor axes of the ellipse. Place the foci on the major
axis, symmetrically, at distance L/2 from the center.

To adjust the length of the string loop, insert a pin at one focus,
and another pin at the opposite end of the major diameter. Loop the
string around the two pins and tie it taut. Then draw the ellipse as
above; it should fit snugly in the original rectangle.

#3

Hi Charles

Try turning the paper about 30 to 40 degrees to the left ( if you
are right handed) or don’t turn the paper and draw them off set.

Get a picture of size in your mind and draw, draw, draw. Practice,
practice, practice. Draw as quickly as possible, don’t try to get each
one perfect. It will take time. As you get better at drawing you can
slow down, perhaps draw a very light quick drawing and then perfect it
with a heavier drawing.

Orientate the paper to get the required angle for the ellipse.

Customers can be very impressed if you can draw confidently in front
of them, Then say you will do them a proper drawing over night.

Get a few different rings or images and copy them, starting as
quickly as possible. The thing about drawing is: don’t get your
nickers in a twist’, relax, relax, relax. Practice in front of a
friend, talking all the time about the ring, stone, gold, whatever is
pertinent. I do drawings at 2 to 3 times life size,.05 lead,
templates, rubber. Scan on to Photoshop then clean up page with
rubber, reduce to size, save to letter headed template. Print By the
way there is nothing wrong with using different templates
eventually. I now do most of my drawing on Illustrator and Photoshop
now. Hope this of some help.

#4

Just checking Wikipedia gives you several ways to draw ellipses.

Including Kempton’s 2 pin and string method.

Michele
MikiCat Designs
www.mikicatdesigns.com

#5

Hope that this helps. It may sound awkward but it works.

In the past (before computer drawing programs) I would take 2 push
pins and press them into my drawing pad. Then, take a measure of
short string and tie the ends together and slip the string around the
pins. Insert a pencil into the string, pull it snug and let it guide

then your ellipse will be a bit bigger than the distance between the
pins. To vary the size, either 1) vary the distance between the pins,
or 2) vary the length of the string.

For example, pin distance = 3 inches and and string length = 3 1/4
inches, you will make an ellipse of approximately 3 1/2 x 2 1/2.

Sandy

#6

Hi David,

Yep, practice-practice-practice. It’s funny that you mention the
speed thing, I seem to do better if I draw faster. It’s when I slow
down and try to be precise that, that’s when the trouble starts.

Customers in Australia are impressed by hand drawing, it sort of
gives them confidence that you’re a professional, and the reason I
want to perfect drawing. I’m just a little frustrated is all.

Thank you.
Regards Charles

P.S. Had a look at your website, and saw the letter openner… relly
understated, and really cool I’m also a first year at Enmore
TAFE, albeit an ancient one

#7

I confess that with my tech illustation background (I started before
CAD was standard practice) I use drafters templates for my hand
sketched presentation drawings. My father was an industrial designer
and way-back-when gave me a large set of ellipse templates along with
a very interesting contraption called an ellipse compass. The compass
is great for really large drawings (and as a conversation piece) but
for jewelry I find that my plastic templates work just fine. Tracing
paper works well if you can get one half of an ellipse drawn
reasonably well. Depending on how you’ve drawn it you can either fold
it in half or trace and rotate it, etc. I’ve also drawn a rectangle
representing the major and minor axes lengths, bisected each side and
created arcs from centerpoint to centerpoint. One last thing, never
underestimate the power of slight imperfections in a handsketch.

Good luck to you.

#8

Look up Betty Edwards book “Drawing from the Right Side of the
Brain”. She has a chapter on siting ellipses.

Melissa Stenstrom

#9
``````Yep, practice-practice-practice. It's funny that you mention the
speed thing, I seem to do better if I draw faster. It's when I
slow down and try to be precise that, that's when the trouble
starts. Customers in Australia...
``````

This is just dumb, but may give a laugh… As I read this, it popped
into my head as I read “customers in Australia” that it was going to
say “draw their ellipses in the opposite direction, of course”

Noel

#10

Whenever I need a complex shape (circle, ellipse or anything else
really), I tend to create it in PowerPoint (The MS Office presenting
tool, I use it in my day to day work and it is quite simple to draw
with). Change the page settings to whatever you are printing on
before doing the drawing or it will distort the picture when you try
and print it. Print using a laser printer (better than an ink jet as
it is less likely to run when wet) and then I glue this to the plate
I want to cut from using PVA. Works a treat.

Chris Penner
collarsandcuffs.co.uk

#11

I too come from a background of using ellipse templates, and I have
a sizable collection, which I save for nostalgia, along with drawing
pens and huge t-squares (well, I still use them sometimes)

But realistically, the easiest way to obtain an ellipse is to draw
it using a drawing program such as Illustrator, or even in MS Word.
Make it as large as you want, and the proportion you want, print it
out and transfer to your work.

#12

Teaching design for a few years was a fun time for me. But the
easiest way to get a decent oval is to secure your elbow on the
desk, keeping the hand and wrist stiff and practice…perfect
probably not but for most pencil and paint designs it works pretty
well.

#13
``````But realistically, the easiest way to obtain an ellipse is to draw
it using a drawing program such as Illustrator, or even in MS
Word. Make it as large as you want, and the proportion you want,
print it out and transfer to your work.
``````

Yeah when I get a data pad, I’ll put Lightwave on it and design the
items in photo realistic 3D.

However I have to draw ellipses in lead pencil. I spent all day
yesterday attempting to construct ellipses using many different
techniques… it’s giving me a headache.

I’m thinking of making an Ellipsograph, I have a pattern. Commercial
ellipsographs are a little on the pricey side for a small drawing
technique I don’t intend to do forever

Regards Charles

#14

May be I got it wrong, I was thinking of freehand design drawing of
rings etc for a customer. Anyway hope my post was of use to someone.

#15
``````I was thinking of freehand design drawing of rings etc for a
customer.
``````

Sometimes I use Orchid to help others, sometimes it’s to learn
things, like this thread. I can barely draw, in any real sense, and I
use templates because otherwise my drawing ~resembles~ and ellipse,
or even a circle. I CAN sit down with someone and use sketching as a
communication tool, but I just can’t draw a real, finished
rendering. Not in any real way…

All of which is to say that I admire people who can, and realized
that this thread is about that, drawing, not computer art or the
like. There’s a good movie called “Crumb” about an underground comix
artist from the 60’s-70’s. He’s a quirky guy, but much of it is
looking over the shoulder of someone who can draw anything, anytime.
It’s not a tutorial, but some of his thoughts about it say much, too.
It’s an obscure little movie, but worth seeing for those interested

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com

#16
``````Teaching design for a few years was a fun time for me. But the
easiest way to get a decent oval is to secure your elbow on the
desk, keeping the hand and wrist stiff and practice...perfect
probably not but for most pencil and paint designs it works pretty
well.
``````

Thank you Russ,

I’ll give that a try too.

I spend a day this week trying to draw ellipses by hand, with a
compass (I got close, but the method is really slow), I considered
buying an ellipsograph from Haff, but 120 euros plus postage for
something I wont be doing all the time seems a tad pricey.

I got a pattern for an ellipsograph off the net, and will make one
if I get sick of throwing paper in disgust

I picked up a set of french curves today, so I may have joy using
those.

Thanks again, and to everyone that has offered support

Regards Charles

#17

Success!

French curve are very efficient at drawing clean ellipses, still it’s
not a slam dunk, but it makes very nice images, and the french curve
used to make ellipses looks pretty professional

Thanks again to all
Regards Charles

#18

Have you considered using a drawing program as an aid? You can
others and also programs for MAC and ‘nix). You could use one of
these programs to print out a number of ellipses to either trace from
(place the printout and your drawing paper against a window) or just
as a guide for you to draw over as you practice your freehand
drawing skills… Another option would be to print yourself a set of
’blank’ drawing sheets with an ellipse printed in faint grey (almost
invisible - set your printer to print very light) as a starting
point.

Ian
Ian W Wright
Sheffield UK

#19

Hi Ian,

Yeah I do use drawing and rendering packages, but in this instance
I’m required to use lead pencil. The nature of the exercises, are
that it would require a telephone directory of ellipses to cover
every situation.

For customers further down the track, I intend to use a datapad with
Lightwave installed, as I could show them what the final product
looks like, and if they “want” a pencil image, there’s a plugin for
that.

I was even considering printing small ellipses onto perspex, have a
different minor axis, and wear it over my left eye. Then simply
trace what I could see.

I realised that at this time I needed a coffee, some alcohol, and
some time alone to cry.

As said earlier I have found that french curves work well enough to
produce sharp images. I still go over the construction firmly, and
it’s better that sitting behind a mountain of screwed up paper (art
paper I might add), and getting angry.

Regards Charles

#20
``````Yeah when I get a data pad, I'll put Lightwave on it and design
the items in photo realistic 3D.
``````

Hi again. I’m not sure what your point is…

I just assume that everyone has a computer at their disposal (excuse
me if I am being presumptuous), and drawing an ellipse is easily done
without expensive programs. I wasn’t talking about anything fancy.
You can draw ellipses using free word processor programs such as Star
Office. You can draw ellipses using a 20-yr-old apple computer.

If you have even a modest modern computer, you can get a free