How to Draw a Wooden Cross

Updated April 17, 2017

Drawing a wooden cross can be a powerful way to teach young people about religion. It is an iconic symbol for Christians (and non-Christians alike) all around the world. According to Lara Smith, in her March 18, 2009 article "How to Make a Wooden Cross" for the online source "Artipot," crosses can be used to teach different themes to young people: "A cross, in the early centuries of Christianity was a gruesome method for executing criminals. After Jesus was hung on the cross it became a symbol for grace and forgiveness." Since Jesus was a carpenter, drawing this cross with a carpenter's pencil, is an appropriate medium.

Place the wooden ruler vertically on the drawing paper and using the sharp side of the carpenter's pencil, trace around the ruler to form a long vertical rectangle that is 1 x 12 inches. This represents the vertical wood timber beam of the cross.

Lay the ruler across the vertical rectangle so it is perpendicular to it with the 4 1/2-inch mark roughly centred in the middle of the 1 inch width and positioned about two-thirds from the bottom of the vertical rectangle. Draw a 1- x 4 1/2-inch horizontal rectangle to create the left side of the cross. Flip the ruler over and draw the right side of the cross to complete the entire outline. Allow the horizontal lines to cross the vertical lines where they meet in the middle to indicate how an actual cross would be fused together.

Place the ruler at a slight diagonal to the vertical (timber beam) of the cross. and with the flat side of the carpenter's pencil, draw a series or rough short vertical lines alongside the edge of the ruler using it merely as a guide, allowing the lines to overlap freely. Don't worry about drawing perfectly straight lines--keep these rough to suggest the rough texture on the cross. Artists' sometimes call these types of lines "barbed wire" lines because they are uneven and are interrupted periodically with short breaks in them like the barbs on barbed wire. Finish filling in the entire vertical beam of the cross. Then place the ruler horizontally and repeat this process, filling in the entire beam.

Draw a barbed wire line around the entire cross outline with the wide side of the carpenter's pencil to create the effect of rough timber on the entire cross.

Add dark shadows to complete. Using the ruler as a guide along the right vertical side of the cross, draw a dark line the width of the chiselled side of the carpenter's pencil. Move the ruler to the right edge of the horizontal beam of the cross and draw a dark shadow. Then turn the ruler horizontally and draw the dark shadows underneath the horizontal timber and at the bottom edge of the vertical beam to complete. To create a dramatic effect, draw in dark clouds around the cross and sharp, jagged rocks below.


A carpenter's pencil has a wide lead that is ideal for rendering wood grain. By applying varying pressure you can recreate the variegated grain lines in real wood. For even more realism, add knots to the wood grain rendering. Use a kneaded eraser (a soft, pliable touch-up eraser to soften sap lines, as in real wood). Construct a cross out of wood and use it as a model to draw. To see how an artist uses "barbed wire" lines, check out the work of American artist Ben Shahn.

Things You'll Need

  • Carpenter's pencil (a flat, chiselled pencil)
  • Wood ruler, 1 by 12 inches
  • Drawing paper, 12 by 18 inches
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About the Author

Robert Gray has been writing full time since 1995. His first photography book took seven years to research and publish. He specializes in writing on photography and the arts. He's written for Photography Magazine, Large Format Camera Magazine and many online art and photography websites and blogs.