Pencil Drawing Techniques

Are you constantly doodling on the side of your notes during meetings at work? If this sounds like you, consider learning some basic pencil drawing techniques to improve your skills. Learning new techniques could help you unlock the artist inside. You may have thought those doodles were nothing special; however you can learn to develop your skills and grow as an artist. Those simple doodles may turn into cartoons or even realistic life drawings. Having more pencil drawing techniques will also help you figure out what drawing style you like to create. Every artist is different and develops a drawing style all their own.

There are many different drawing styles you can study to help you develop your own. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start learning new pencil drawing techniques. Take a look at other artists work and use it to help you learn all of the different techniques they use. It’s important to know how to critique other artists work and your own. Seeing the different pencil drawing techniques in pictures will help you figure out the best way to apply them to your own works of art. Don’t forget when you are critiquing your work that it should be fun and relaxing. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you are learning. Everyone has to develop their skills with practice.

Getting Started

In order to start practicing your basic pencil drawing techniques, you will need to gather a few materials. The first thing you want to do is select the right type of pencil for your project. There are many different pencil grades for you to choose from, and sometimes the pencil grade of one brand may be different than another, even if they are the same number. It’s a good idea to select a case of pencils with varying grades, or choose individual pencils from the same company.

After you have selected your pencils you will want to pick a sketchbook. It is important to be able to carry a small sketchbook with you everywhere you go. Whenever you have a chance to practice pull it out and do some quick sketches. Having one that is small and can fit inside a pocket or purse makes practicing your drawing easier to do. This can be especially handy if you have to take a bus, train, or subway to work; instead of reading a book pull out your sketchpad and began practicing.

Outlines and Line Variety

When you begin your drawing, start with a harder pencil to create lighter outlines. A drawing usually has two layers of outlines. The first is a light outline that is used as a guideline to create your basic shapes. To create this technique you want to use less pressure as you press down on your pencil and draw in a slow smooth motion. You’ll want to be able to erase some of these lines as your drawing evolves.

The next is to create a heavy outline that will be used to define the edges of your elements. Begin by retracing your original lighter outlines and adding more pressure as you go along. You still want to be careful that you don’t press down to hard making it harder to erase your lines. In this stage you’re still developing your outlines and want to be able to erase if you make a mistake. As you continue to work on your drawing the outlines will become heavier as your edges develop. Your final outline will be much darker than the original lighter layer that you created.

It is important to know that you can use your pencil to create a variety of line values and thicknesses. Using the side of your pencil will create a thicker line, than using the point of your pencil. Make sure to use these techniques to your advantage when outlining and shading your drawing. Learning to master outlines will allow you to create better drawing on the fly. You can even use it to help create quick and quirky caricatures for all your friends.

Hatching and Crosshatching

The drawing technique of hatching is created by using small lines drawn closely together. This technique is used to create shading across an object. Drawing the lines in one direction following the form of the object helps define it better. You can also use crosshatching to help create a more realistic look to your sketches. Crosshatching will help you create more value and depth in your drawings. To do this you would draw hatching lines in one direction and then cross over them in the opposite direction. The tighter and closer together the lines the more realistic it will appear, as it will be harder to see the pencil strokes.

Circular Technique

Creating circles and scribbles is great to create contrasting textures, when objects are similar in value. To create this technique you would create tiny circles and move your pencil in a swirling motion. You want to keep these circles and swirls tightly drawn together. This is great for using to blend shading together. You can easily create a group of swirls and continue to press down on your pencil creating a darker value and blending the two values together.

This technique can be especially good for creating skin textures. When creating the shading for a portrait, use small tight circles of varying values to create a better appearance of skin. When done correctly a person’s eye will blend the circles together when viewing from afar. This technique gives you a lot of control when blending, without using any other tools.

Smooth Shading

There are a couple of ways you can create smooth shading across your drawing. The first of the pencil drawing techniques is to use your pencil to create smooth strokes close together. It may help to use the side of your pencil as you’re creating your lines. Start with your hardest pencil creating light lines with a varied starting point. Continue to darken your values by pressing down slightly harder and changing to a softer pencil. You want to try to keep your lines as close together as you can to create a smooth effect.

Another way to create a smooth shading effect is to do one of the pencil drawing techniques above, like hatching, and use a shading tool. You can use a Q-tip, finger, or tissue to help you smudge your pencil strokes together. Start by creating the hatching effect and then taking your smoothing tool and blending the two hatched sections together. You also want to use the shading tool to smooth the individual hatch marks together to create one contiguous effect.

When it comes to mastering shading you can do it in stages, starting with one of your lighter values. Continue to define the shapes creating darker values of shadow as you go along. Remember to follow along in the direction of the shapes to help define them. If you find you’ve shaded too much in an area you can use your eraser to help lighten it up or remove it altogether. Remember that you’re using the white of the paper as your highlights and creating debt by adding shadows. One problem that many artists have is their drawings end up looking flat. Some artists are too afraid to push the dark values in a drawing. Don’t be afraid to use your softest pencil to create dark shadows. The contrast in your image will really help your objects to stand out. Try not to use a hard pencil grade to create shadows, by pressing down hard as you shade. Pushing the graphite too far will create a shiny effect, losing the contrasting darkness of shadow. It’s better to select a softer pencil for creating shadows.

In Conclusion

It is important to remember that the best way to get better at something is to practice. Don’t forget to carry around your sketchbook and practice when you have a few spare moments. Also don’t stop those doodles on the sides of your notes, assuming it doesn’t interfere with your work. Once you have started to master some of the different pencil drawing techniques and figure out what style of drawing you like the most you can look into more advanced ways to improve your artistic talents. Learning how to improve your techniques with portrait drawing is a great idea if If you really enjoy drawing people. Another important thing you should learn about, when drawing people, is human anatomy.

If you would rather stick with very stylized drawing, cartoons are a good choice. Even with cartoons there are plenty of things you can learn, in order to perfect your cute cartoon characters. You can also bring them to life by learning different ways to color them in. The possibilities are endless with art! Just remember to have fun and not be too hard on yourself, as even the best artists make mistakes and learn new things.


Perspective Drawing


If you look along a straight road, the parallel sides of the road appear meet at a point in the distance. This point is called the vanishing point and has been used to add realism to art since the 1400’s in Florence, Italy (via, no longer active).

Suppose you want to draw a railroad track that vanishes into the distance. The rays from the points a given distance from the eye along the lines of the tracks are projected to the eye. The angle formed by these rays decreases with increasing distance from the eye. The picture below shows an overhead view of an observer (camera or eye) looking down the the track.

The next picture shows a side view. The observer’s eye or camera is above the ground.

Draw these pictures on graph paper and try to figure out where the points would fall on the plane of the drawing. Can you draw the railroad track?

To draw in perspective, draw a horizon line and draw a vanishing point anywhere on the horizon. Lines which are parallel in real life are drawn to intersect at the vanishing point.

Distant figures appear smaller but have the same shape and proportions as they would close up. In geometry, we would say that the figures are similar.

The picture below shows a long hallway with a window in the left wall. The window is a trapezoid. Can you use your knowledge of geometry to draw another window further down the hallway? An entire row of windows? To start with the simplest problem, assume the window tops are all at the same height in the hallway and assume the window bottoms are all at the same level in the hallway.

What pencil is the best to draw and sketch? How to pick pencil for artist and illustrator. How to choose a pencil to draw for yourself?

Many people ask me what kind of pencil I use, well I really have no favorite, really. But if I recalled a few years back, it was probably a Clutch pencils (mechanical with big leads), then sometimes I would use thin lead mechanical pencil. But in life drawing session, I would use regular wooden pencils, or big thick graphite stick or charcoal sticks if I am drawing on a big pad. So really, it the matter of purpose or how I like them at time.

I personally use 2B-4B regular wood pencil of any major brands in art store.
Nowadays, I use what I can find around me pen or pencil doesn’t matter as long as I can fit the proper lines and value in the sketchbook.

A lot of good professional artists I know have their own preferences, they use different kind of tool varies from person to person. One of the best artist I know can draw anything so great with just regular mechanical pencil with hard lead (2H, or H). But I probably wouldn’t be able to pull that off, I love dark lead but not too soft. So it is really up to you to decide which will fit you.

There are many kinds of drawing pencils; here’s an overview of lead hardness, line darkness, and varieties of pencils for drawing.

A good pencil is an artist’s best friend. No subject is beyond an artist’s rendering if they have the pencils they need. A good rule of thumb to remember what each pencil does is to remember that the softer the lead, the darker your line will be. Pencils with “B” in the name are soft. Pencils with “H” in the name are harder leads.

This is a list of pencils and/ or lead to help you determine what type you need for different purpose.

Grades of graphite. A word here is appropriate concerning the different grades of graphite. The grades range from numbers 2 to 9. There is a letter following that to determine whether it is hard “H” or soft “B”. In the middle where the two grades meet you will find things like HB, B, F (finepoint) and H. Hard pencils are lighter in tone while soft pencils are darker. So the actual order you will find it 9H 8H 7H 6H 5H 4H 3H 2H H F B HB 2B 3B 4B 5B 6B 7B 8B 9B.

* 2H- This is a very hard lead pencil that makes light marks. It is good for drawing details and preliminary drawings that you may not want to be permanent.
* 6B- This pencil makes dark, softer marks. The 6B shown in the example is a wide woodless, which is great for expressive drawing and sketching.
* #2 or HB- You remember this pencil from school. Most of use started our drawing career using this beauty to doodle on homework. Its lead falls between soft and hard and makes a great all-around go-to pencil. Keep this one with your sketchbook at all times.
* #2 Jumbo- Remember these monster-sized pencils from kindergarten? They have all of the benefits of a regular #2, but they have a very wide lead that is perfect for expressive drawings and thick lines.
* 2B- Softer than the HB, 2B makes darker lines. 2B is great for outlining drawings.

what pencil is best to draw

what pencil is best to draw

A) Clutch or Lead Holder pencils. They use 2mm graphite refills which are the same size as the wood cased pencils. There is a clutch mechanism in the tip that is activated by the plunger which holds the refill firmly in place. This allows me to extend the graphite as far as I may desire as well as retract it for more detail work. Being 2mm, they also can cover the paper rather quickly when necessary. Creating a chisel point at the tip (by holding the pencil at about a 45* angle and scrubbing a flat spot) allows me to cover larger areas with the flat side but simply turning the pencil gives me a sharp chisel line for those times when I need that. Using it in this way means I do not need to sharpen the graphite very often. I am also very particular about the brand of graphite refill I use.

B)Pencil Leads for Clutch pencil.

C) wooden pencils. The most common is F, the wood cased pencil. These generally come in sets of 9B to 9H and are what most new artists begin using. I would suggest a new artist begin with these but be aware that there are some negative things with them. First, they will change in weight and balance as the pencil is sharpened. I have found this to be annoying. Secondly, my technique will not allow a regular sharpening but requires that they have a good ½” of lead freely available to work with. This brings me to one of the largest drawbacks I’ve found. The graphite is not always centered in the wood so when you sharpen them the tip becomes off center and I often find myself trying to draw with the wood instead of the graphite. The last problem can be overcome with pencil extenders (I don’t have one so I can’t show it) but as they wear down to a nub, a certain amount of the pencil will most certainly need to be thrown away. These pencils require a traditional sharpener or a razor blade to sharpen.

2 thoughts on “Pencil Drawing Techniques

  1. Reply

    What You ll Be CreatingIn this beginner tutorial, you ll learn techniques for creating forever scalable pixel art in Adobe Illustrator.

  2. Reply

    Think about your straight lines as guide lines instead which you can go back to and use other techniques such as shading to give the perception of being straight; I m thinking if you were drawing landscapes for instance and there was a building included you would instead concentrate on the shades and highlights which make up the shape of the building rather than straight lines themselves.

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