Write, Draw, Sketch, Paint


Here is a guide to using the verbs write, draw, sketch and paint which are commonly confused.


‘Write’ is usually used to talk about putting words on paper. It is not used for pictures. You may write letters, reports, stories, notes and blog posts but you cannot write pictures. You may, however write a comic (because there are words there).

I am writing this story for my English homework.


‘Draw’ is used for pictures, designs and plans. You may draw a picture and, because of that, you may draw any visible thing.

I’m drawing this bowl of fruit for my art homework.

You may draw a painting that you are looking at but you should say:

I am drawing a picture of a painting.

You may draw a blueprint and a plan. You may also draw a sketch because ‘sketch’ is also a noun. It would be a bit strange to draw a drawing but not completely unnatural.

There is also an idiomatic phrasal verb, ‘draw up’, that means write. It is usually used with plans and contracts or very important documents.

I’ll draw up the final contract by Friday.


‘Sketch’ is used to talk about rough drawings which may help an artist make a larger work of art later. You may use sketch with most things that ‘draw’ is used with except that you do not sketch a sketch.

I’m sketching this bowl of fruit for my art homework.

The idiom ‘sketch out’ is used to talk about rough or preliminary (first tries) of documents like contracts, agreements and such.

Could you give me a couple of days to sketch out a contract then we’ll talk about any changes before you sign?


‘Paint’ is used to talk about pictures produced with a brush. It is also used to talk about decorating. A confusing sentence is:

I’m painting my house.

It is not clear whether the speaker is decorating or painting a picture.

Because ‘paint’ is used with pictures it can be used with anything visible.

I’m painting this bowl of fruit for my art homework.

You can also paint a painting but this sounds a little unnatural. It is better to talk about the thing you are painting a picture of or else say “I am painting an abstract piece.