Technical drawing for theatre, film or television designers

A 4-day introductory/refresher course.

Next course dates September 1-4 2015 

Central Saint Martins, London (see below)

The course focuses on traditional hand-drawing using pencil, drafting paper and drawing-board and practical guidance is given on how to work with these tools. But it also aims to bridge the divide between these methods (still the best in terms of a true engagement with the design process) and computer-aided drawing, by using Google SketchUp as the principle exercise tool throughout the week.

The key to being able to produce good, professional technical drawings is simply using common sense in the way structures are represented in line, coupled with an awareness of the basic ‘conventions’ (in other words, standard accepted practice) for theatre, film and television drafting. The course is aimed at those who have either done little or no technical drawing before; those who have experienced difficulty and need a clear, explained approach; or those who have had some experience but would like a refresher. The teaching approach is based on a number of years teaching technical drawing on undergraduate design courses. Apart from anything else this experience has provided me with a very clear idea of the ‘grey’ areas i.e. those which often pose most difficulty or are least understood.

Principal areas

The purposes of technical drawings
Who uses designers’ drawings and how?

Thinking and working in scale
Choice of scale and sheet size appropriate to the task. Metric and Imperial compared. Using a scale ruler. How detailed should drawings be?

Laying out the parts of a drawing
What is a standard ‘orthographic’ drawing? Rehearsing the layout. Lining up drawn views. How much to include on one sheet.

How and when to vary line ‘weight’. ‘Hidden’ lines describing structures outside the drawing viewpoint. When to use other dashed lines. How to indicate movement.

Written information
Accepted ways of writing measurements. Labels, title block and notes. Aids for lettering. Coding (i.e. linking) drawn views.

Groundplan, elevation and section
What should be included on the groundplan? How much of the stage, theatre or studio should be included with it? How to indicate steps and levels. Indicating surfaces such as brickwork, tiles and glazing. When are sections necessary? Indicating them on groundplan or elevations.

The course is hosted by University of the Arts London as part of its short course SummerSchool programme. More details and booking information can be found here ..

.. or if there are problems with this link, Google ‘CSM technical drawing’ and it will come up.

9 thoughts on “Technical drawing for theatre, film or television designers

  1. Hi david ,
    I’m a student propmaker and northbrook university and were creating a 6ft Egyptian statues of the god Ra. My group and I were wondering if you had any advice on scaling up a drawing or advice on armature with a polysculpt ?
    Thank you in advance

    • Hello Sarah,

      I’m not sure. Re scaling up .. let’s say 6ft is 180cm, so if you make the finished drawing or photo image 18cm high and draw a grid of square centimetres over it, then you’d have to enlarge this 1,000 percent, which is a bit of a chore on the photocopier. So it would be better to draw a ‘full size’ grid of 10cm squares on paper on the wall and then project the image on to it to fit and trace from that? Re armature for ‘polysculpt’ do you mean polystyrene, or similar i.e. styrofoam? For either it’s better if the armature is flat plywood i.e. like a basic outline which blocks of styrofoam could be glued onto then carved. Gluing would have to be something that would work with foam and not dissolve it i.e. Gorilla glue works well!

  2. Hello David,

    I’m an established art director in comedy, and keep hitting a brick wall, when trying to make the step ‘up’ in scale to large dramas and films etc, they want their art directors to draw in a certain style, and find my theatre trained style of drawing lacking. I can read TV/film plans fine and can make good models from them. I’m rusty at my hand and CAD drawings, but good in Sketch-up model making.
    Would your course offer help for this, gap in my skill set and would I leave the course with a series of physical drawings as evidence to show designers and art directors in these meetings?
    Your previous comments about the expense of the London Film School course is right, it’s a hideous price like the Pinewood course. Also I’ve herd from designers that they don’t recommend the Pinewood course because they are tired of seeing the same set of drawings in everyone’s portfolio, does your course offer a freedom of expression in this area?

    Thank you for your time, any guidance appreciated in chipping away at this apparent glass ceiling.

    All the best

    • No Dani, I don’t do any online courses .. I’m not sure I’d ever like to though perhaps I should give it some thought. There are only my two articles on Technical Drawing here which give quite a good introduction. Also it could be worth looking at Patricia Woodbridge ‘Designer Drafting for the Entertainment World’ perhaps.

  3. Hi David,

    I am highly interested in participating in your course. Previously, I attended the Set/Production Design course with Clara Zita. To develop my career as Junior Art Director, I would like to learn sketch up and technical drawing. Do you have any dates planned for Jan/Feb 2016?

    please let me know,
    thank you
    Best Cat

      • Yes Catharina, the course only takes place once, in late July or early August but unfortunately I have other work commitments at that time next year. I’m afraid I can’t suggest any alternatives because last time I looked I didn’t find any, apart from a very expensive 3-week film technical drawing course. You could see whether things have changed (London Film School, I think) or perhaps get in touch with Skillset? Sorry I can’t help directly .. though re technical drawing my articles on this site should be a help, or the book by Patricia Woodbridge ‘Designer Drafting for the Entertainment World’. Re SketchUp .. it’s such a simple programme that the best way to start to learn is to just try it out!

  4. Hi David,
    I already did a Set/Production Design Course with Clara Zita and would really like to join your course asap. Are there any dates planed for Jan/Feb 2016?
    Best Catharina

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