How to Draw Ovals

oval mirror illustration image by robert mobley from

Things You'll Need

  • Drawing surface that will not be damaged by pushpins
  • 2 pushpins or small nails
  • Non-stretchable string, such as thread or fishing line

The oval shape, which is also called an ellipse, is observed in many aspects of everyday life. The human body can be drawn using ovals of varying shapes and sizes. Artists, designers, woodworkers and others frequently need to construct ovals with a high degree of precision. Numerous formulas, often extremely technical, exist for drawing an oval, but just as effective is a relatively simple technique that involves string and pushpins.

Draw a horizontal line with a pencil and ruler. The length of the horizontal line is the width of the oval. Label this line with the letters A and B at either end.

Draw a perpendicular vertical line at the exact midpoint of horizontal line AB. This vertical line governs the length of the oval and should be shorter than line AB. Label the vertical line with the letters C and D at each end.

Place a nail or pushpin at each end of horizontal line AB. Secure one end of the string at point A with the pushpin.

Pull the string taut toward point B, and secure it there with another pushpin.

Cut the string to the length that matches the distance from point A to point B.

Remove the pushpins from points A and B, and place one pushpin at the top of the vertical line, point C.

Secure both ends of the string at point C, forming a loop or double strand.

Pull the double strand toward line AB, and mark the point where it intersects line AB on the left side of the vertical line (call that point E) and on the right side (point F).

Remove the pushpin from point C.

Secure each end of the string with pushpins at point E and point F. The length of the string is longer than the distance between points E and F.

Push the pencil against the string toward point A. The loop formed by the string and the pencil becomes a triangle. Keep the loop taut at all times.

Begin with the tip of the pencil at point A and, moving clockwise, draw the oval's top arc, through point C and finishing at point B.

Adjust the loop of string by pushing the pencil toward point B.

Draw the bottom arc, moving the pencil tip from point B through point D and finishing at point A.

Ovals are a popular design element among artists of many disciplines.
oval fleurs coeurs image by artisolas from

Remove the pushpins.


  • If you are certain of the length of line AB, in Step 2 you can cut the string according to ruler measurements rather than using pushpins.

    Although this technique requires concentration, a relaxed but firm grip on the pencil gives you the best control.

    In your first few experiments, do not criticize yourself if you draw less-than-perfect ovals. As with most things, practice is paramount.

    Depending on how many ovals of the same size you need, you may wish to draw one on cardboard or heavy paper, which can be precision cut (with a razor) and used as a guide to trace additional ovals.

    Many software programs enable you to generate an oval of the exact size required. Depending on how often you need to draw ovals and the degree of precision required, you may want to invest in one of these software programs.

    Try drawing ovals freehand. With practice, you will see that it is easier than you might imagine.


  • Make sure that the string you are using does not stretch, or this technique will not work.