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Design

How to Draw All Crystal Shapes

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This post is part of a series called Learn How to Draw.
How to Draw Ears
How to Draw a Diamond
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

If you want to draw crystals, first you need to answer a question: what crystals? There are so many different shapes! Luckily, they all have something in common—they can be built using a simple geometric formula. 

In this tutorial, I will show you how to use these formulas to draw all the types of crystals you can imagine! This will not only be a fun activity, but also a valuable exercise at drawing things in 3D.

Disclaimer: this is not by any means a scientific article. I'm not an expert on crystals, and this is simply an artistic approach to drawing them in various shapes.

1. The Basics of Perspective

Before you start, you need to make sure you understand the basics of perspective rules. I'm not talking about horizon lines and vanishing points, and all that stuff—I'm talking about what happens to the objects when they're rotated.

When we are taught how to draw figures in math class, perspective is usually conveniently ignored. These drawings are supposed to show three dimensions: width, height, and depth, but not in the way we actually see them. Just compare these two cubes: one of them is easy to draw... and the other one is correct.

one point perspective wrong

What's the difference? It's all in the angles and lengths. That square face of the cube only looks like a square (right angles, equal sides) when you look at it directly. When it gets rotated, it loses its right angles and two of its sides get shorter—to finally get to 0 degree angle and 0 length when the rotation is complete.

how to rotate cube
Notice that two faces of the cube can't be shown fully at the same time—it's only when one gets shorter that the other one gets wider.

Not all figures have square faces, but all have axes that define their width, height, and depth. The length of these axes and the angles between them define the actual 3D form of the figure. They're also crucial to developing all seven systems of crystals!

cube axes

If this short introduction was too brief for you, you can learn more about perspective from these courses and tutorials:

As I mentioned, there are seven basic crystal systems:

  • Cubic
  • Tetragonal
  • Orthorhombic
  • Monoclinic
  • Triclinic
  • Hexagonal
  • Trigonal

Let's learn about them step by step!

2. How to Draw the Cubic Crystal System

Cubic crystals are the simplest of them all: they have three equal axes, all perpendicular to each other. In simpler words, cubic crystals have a square base and equal faces (but they don't have to be cubes!).

Step 1

Let's start with the square base. Imagine one horizontal side of the square and rotate it—the bigger the rotation, the more shortened the line should be.

draw first axis of a cube

Step 2

Cross it in the middle with the other axis. Although it's as long as the other one, perspective will change it—the longer the first line, the shorter the second one. Pay attention to the angles as well—the closer to horizontal position the longer one is, the farther away the other one.

draw second axis of a cube

Step 3

Attach a copy of the line to both ends of the other lines to create a square in perspective.

outline the square base of a cube

Step 4

But these were just two axes: width and depth. Let's add the third one now. Although it seems vertical, it's affected by perspective as well—it's rotated towards us, because if it wasn't, we wouldn't see the square at all. Just take a cup and try to see both the side at full length and its top as a circle—not possible! So the height must be shortened as well. The more "squarish" the square, the shorter the height (just like the more oval the top of the cup, the less of the side you can see).

draw third axis of a cube

Step 5

Copy the square to the top by drawing parallel lines through the top of the height axis.

draw second base of a cube

Step 6

Connect the corresponding corners of both squares.

connect two square bases

Step 7

To create a sense of depth, accentuate the lines that are in the front.

finish the cube

3. How to Draw the Tetragonal Crystal System

Tetragonal crystals are to cubic crystals what rectangles are to squares: they have only two equal axes, still perpendicular to each other. This means they have two types of faces on them.

Step 1

Let's start with a square base: these will be the two equal axes that we need. Remember the rules!

draw first axis of tetragonal crystal
draw second axis of tetragonal crystal
outline the base of tetragonal crystal

Step 2

The third axis should have a different length. Let's make it way, way longer than the other axes to accentuate the difference.

draw third axis of tetragonal crystal

Step 3

Copy the square to the top.

draw second base of tetragonal crystal

Step 4

Connect both squares.

connect both bases of tetragonal crystal

Step 5

As before, accentuate the visible lines.

finish tetragonal crystal

4. How to Draw the Orthorhombic Crystal System

Orthorhombic crystals have three axes perpendicular to each other, but this time all three are unequal.

Step 1

Start with one axis, picking any length you want.

draw first axis of orthorhombic crystal

Step 2

Cross it with another axis. The angle must follow the rules of perspective, but the length should have nothing to do with the first axis.

draw second axis of orthorhombic crystal

Step 3

Outline the plane.

outline the base of orthorhombic crystal

Step 4

Add the third axis. Again, pick any length you want.

add third axis of orthorhombic crystal

Step 5

Copy the base rectangle to the top.

add second base of orthorhombic crystal

Step 6

Connect both rectangles.

connect both bases of orthorhombic crystal

Step 7

Accentuate the visible lines of the form.

finish orthorhombic crystal

5. How to Draw the Monoclinic Crystal System

These crystals have three unequal axes, just like the previous system, but this time only two of them are perpendicular to each other. This is where the fun begins!

Step 1

Draw the first axis using any length you want.

draw first axis of monoclinic crystal

Step 2

Cross it with another axis. Pick any length you want, but keep the angle characteristic for a rectangle (these will be our two allowed right angles).

draw second axis of monoclinic crystal

Step 3

Outline the rectangle.

outline base of monoclinic crystal

Step 4

Add the third axis. Give it any length and any angle you want!

add third axis of monoclinic crystal

Step 5

Copy the rectangle to the top. Be very careful here—the copied rectangle will not be directly over the original one this time!

add second base of monoclinic crystal

Step 6

Connect both rectangles. Notice how these lines follow the angle of the third axis.

connect both bases of monoclinic crystal

Step 7

Finish the drawing by accentuating the front lines.

finish monoclinic crystal

6. How to Draw the Triclinic Crystal System

As you can probably guess, these crystals have three unequal axes and not a single right angle between them. It makes them quite hard to draw properly because it's easy to make them look wrong—as if you didn't know how perspective works!

Step 1

Draw the first axis any way you want.

draw first axis of triclinic crystal

Step 2

Cross it with the second axis of any length, at any angle.

draw second axis of triclinic crystal

Step 3

Outline the shape made by these two axes. It may look like a rectangle in perspective, but it's really not!

outline base of triclinic crystal

Step 4

Add the third axis, of any length, at any angle. Try to avoid anything similar to a tetragonal system.

add third axis of triclinic crystal

Step 5

Copy the base to the top very carefully, because it's not above the original at all.

add second base of triclinic crystal

Step 6

Connect the corners of both bases.

connect both bases of triclinic crystal

Step 7

Finish the drawing.

finish triclinic crystal

7. How to Draw the Hexagonal Crystal System

Hexagonal crystals are quite simple and effective: they have three axes of equal lengths with equal angles between them, and one more axis of a different length, perpendicular to all of them. It sounds complicated, but it's easier than you think!

Step 1

Start with one axis of any length.

draw first axis of hexagonal crystal

Step 2

Cross it with another axis of the same length (affected by perspective). They both should look like a slightly tilted "X".

draw second axis of hexagonal crystal

Step 3

Cross them with a third axis of the same length.

draw third axis of hexagonal crystal

Step 4

Connect the axes, creating a hexagon.

draw base of hexagonal crystal

Step 5

Add the fourth axis now of any length, perpendicular to the base.

draw fourth axis of hexagonal crystal

Step 6

This time, to copy the base hexagon, copy the axes first.

draw axes of second base of hexagonal crystal

Step 7

Connect the ends of the axes.

connect both bases of hexagonal crystal

Step 8

Outline the copied hexagon.

outline second base of hexagonal crystal

Step 9

Finish the drawing.

finish hexagonal crystal

8. How to Draw the Trigonal Crystal System

This system is, in my opinion, the most confusing to understand and draw properly without making it look wrong. All three axes are equal, with none of them perpendicular to each other, but all faces have the same shape.

Step 1

Start with one axis.

draw first axis of trigonal crystal

Step 2

Add another axis of the same length, at any angle.

draw second axis of trigonal crystal

Step 3

Outline the rhombus.

draw base of trigonal crystal

Step 4

Add the third axis. It must be the same length, but placed at a non-right angle.

draw third axis of trigonal crystal

Step 5

Copy the axes of the rhombus on the top.

draw second base of trigonal crystal

Step 6

Connect both rhombuses.

connect both bases of trigonal crystal

Step 7

Outline the upper rhombus.

outline upper base of trigonal crystal

Step 8

Finish the drawing.

finish trigonal crystal

9. How to Draw Detailed Crystals

But these are just the bases, so-called prisms. We can create more interesting crystal shapes by combining prisms/planes with other formations. Let's take a look at a few of them.

Crystal Windows

Mark each side at the same length, and connect the marks to create triangles. Erase the lines within the triangles.

mark vertical sides
mark horizontal sides
mark crystal for cutting
draw triangles on corners
how to draw crystal windows

Pyramid

Instead of copying the base to the top (thus creating a prism), connect the corners of the base directly with the end of the third axis.

draw axis in the middle
connect the corners

how to draw crystal pyramid

Dome

Again, don't copy the base—just draw the third axis twice, symmetrically, along one of the base axes. Connect them with a line parallel to that axis, and then connect it with the corners of the base.

mark one axis
draw the height
connect the axes
connect the corners
how to draw a crystal dome

Sphenoid

This time, copy the base and put it on top of the third axis, but scale it down, creating a pyramid with a cut tip.

draw a smaller rectagle inside
extend the axis
draw a box
connect the corners
how to draw a crystal sphenoid

You can combine all these methods to create various crystals. Most of these shapes are pretty straightforward, but let me show you two special ones as a demonstration of building complex crystals out of simpler shapes.

how to draw various crystals

10. How to Draw a Dodecahedron

This crystal has 12 faces and looks very effective, but it's pretty simple to draw.

Step 1

Start with a cube. Mark all the axes in the middle.

draw axes inside of a cube

Step 2

Elongate each axis equally, taking perspective into account.

elongate all the axes

Step 3

Add a pyramid to each face.

draw pyramid on top
draw pyramid on the side
draw pyramid in the front
draw pyramid on the other side
draw pyramid in the bottom
draw pyramid in the back

Step 4

Accentuate the lines visible in the front. Be very careful here!

how to draw a dodecahedron

11. How to Draw a Pyritohedron

Pyritohedron is a special type of dodecahedron, with 5-sided polygons as its faces.

Step 1

Draw a cube. Add a dome to its top and bottom.

mark the axis on top
extend the axis
draw a ridge
draw two domes

Step 2

Add domes to a pair of other faces. They don't have to be the same as the previous ones!

cut the sides
elomngate the axes
draw two ridges
draw domes on the sides

Step 3

Add domes to the last pair of faces.

cut last pair of sides
elongate the axes
draw ridges on sides
draw more domes

Step 4

Finish the drawing by accentuating the lines in the front.

how to draw a pyritohedron

So Pretty!

Now you know how to draw every crystal shape you need! If you want to create something crystal-related, you may be interested in our other tutorials:

Or maybe you'd like to keep drawing other geometrical things? We've got you covered!

how to draw crystal shapes types systems

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