How to Draw a Complex Knot in 29 Easy Steps

You never know where you'll find the next bit of inspiration for your creative work. At the library, I found a really neat book about knots with photographs of every imaginable knot and instructions on tying the knots. I love a good mental challenge, and so decided to draw some knots.

Perfect for fishermen and drawing nerds alike.


Working on knots with a slicci pen in my Rhodia journal.

Complex knots are complicated drawing subjects. Knots are mental puzzles. There are various ways to approach knots. There are lots of quick-and-easy YouTube videos showing how to create generic celtic knots, but I like a good drawing challenge.  Try approaching the negative space first. With simpler knots, this is the easiest way to capture the essence of the knot. Unfortunately, one solution does not always work, especially when there is a section of the knot that doesn't make sense in your mind.

General process.

  1. Get a clear photograph of the knot you would like to draw.
  2. Don't worry about giving the knot depth {shading etc.} until you grasp drawing the knot itself.
  3. Use one of the methods below {negative space, outline, section, line} to get started.
  4. Number your steps. Make notes. This is brain work. Mental exercise.
  5. Until you get the knot right, keep trying various methods. Draw until the sketch no longer looks anything like the photograph of the knot. No reason to keep going, because the goal is to draw the knot. Try again.
  6. Try each method a few times. Work slowly. If you grow frustrated, set it aside. 
  7. Analyze, analyze, analyze. What is working? What is not working?
  8. Imagine tying the knot. What goes under, what goes over? What overlaps? What parts of the rope are concentric? Almost parallel? 
  9. When you draw a section of the knot that is accurate, leave it that way and draw it again immediately. It seems repetitive but this helps your mind "understand" how to draw the particular knot. Muscle memory, perhaps. 
  10. Once you draw the knot accurately, draw it again and try to understand what worked and the easiest way to draw the particular knot. Where is the best starting point?

Approaches to drawing knots

Negative space.

  1. Draw the outlines of the negative space within the knot, the areas between the edges of the ropes. If you imagine a flashlight shining through the knot, this is the space where you would see the light. 
  2. Draw the ropes that extend around the negative space.

Object outline.

  1. Draw the external outline of the knot.
  2. Fill in the outlines of the negative space.
  3. Finish out the edges of the rope lines.

Draw one major section.

  1. Select one section of the knot and draw only that section.
  2. Draw outward from the section to complete the knot.
  3. You can work each part of the knot as a separate section and then work them together as you "learn" each part.

Draw the lines without any thickness.

  1. Draw the entire knot as if your pen line was the rope. This helps to understand how the actual knot works.

The first knot I attempted was the Angler's Loop {photograph below}.


The Angler's Loop.

The next knot is the Artillery Loop.

This knot was not as complicated as the Angler's loop. 


Next, braids, which are types of knots. Braids are also called Sinnets.

To better document the work in my journal, I numbered the strands in each of the Sinnets.


Finally, I tried an infinitely complex knot called an Ocean Plat and threw my hands up in the air!