Pencil art may sound simple, but it’s an art form that can be used to create incredibly detailed and realistic compositions. To get started, you don’t need many materials, but you can benefit from a foundational knowledge of pencil drawing techniques. Armed with these techniques, you will be able to add texture, detail, light, and shading to your creations.
Below, find a comprehensive guide to pencil drawing techniques, as well as everything else you’ll need to get started, from basic drawing materials to a list of ideas for your next piece of pencil art.
Pencil Drawing Techniques
How to Hold a Pencil When Drawing
Before you get started, it’s helpful to learn how to hold a pencil when drawing. There are several different grips you can use to achieve different effects. A traditional grip—the grasp you use when writing—is the most common and natural way to hold a pencil.
You can also opt to hold the pencil further away from the tip, but still with a traditional grip. This will give you a wider range of motion to make longer, looser marks. Or, you might grip closer to the tip of the pencil, using your index finger to press the point of the graphite onto the paper. This can give you leverage to quickly fill in areas of your drawing with dark marks.
As you practice, you’ll find that different pencil grips will be useful for different pencil drawing techniques and types of compositions.
Now, with a pencil in hand, you can move on to foundational pencil drawing techniques.
The technique of hatching consists of filling in areas of a drawing with multiple parallel lines to create the illusion of texture, shadow, and form. You can achieve a more intense effect by increasing the number of lines and their proximity to each other. In other words, the more lines and the closer you draw them together, the darker an area you’ll create.
Hatching can be done in a variety of ways—vertical hatching, horizontal hatching, cross-hatching, or expressive—to achieve different effects.
A technique used primarily for shading, stumping refers to the process of smudging elements of your drawing with a stump (a drawing tool made of paper tightly wound into a stick), a soft cloth, or even your finger. You can use this technique to create smooth, evenly blended areas of a drawing, or you can choose to incorporate more movement. For example, by smudging in small, circular motions, you can create a visually interesting texture for trees or shrubs.
With stippling, you create texture or shadow by drawing a series of dots. Similar to hatching, the more and closer together the dots, the darker an area you’ll create.
As silly as it may sound, scribbling is considered a pencil drawing technique. And it’s just as free-form as what you are probably picturing. Scribbling, alternatively known as circulism, simply consists of moving your pencil in random formations across the page. Like with the other techniques, the closer you make the marks, the more dense and dark of an area you’ll create.
- Contour Lines
In French, the word “contour” means “outline.” And that’s exactly what contour lines are: the outlines of an object. However, contour lines aren’t only found on the outer edges of an object. In pencil drawings, you’ll also find contour lines within an object, where it has folds or creases or where it changes color or shape.
Add Depth to Your Drawings
Charcoal & Graphite—Shading Techniques With Emmy Kalia
Pencil Drawing Supplies
If you are just getting started with pencil drawing, you’re in luck—all the materials you need are easily accessible and affordable. Here’s what you need:
- Graphite pencils
- Drawing paper or sketchpad
- Pencil sharpener
Drawing pencils, or graphite pencils, are graded on the graphite scale (or HB scale), which measures the hardness/softness of the lead. On the HB scale, B stands for black. The higher the number, the softer the lead—so the darker (or blacker) the mark. H stands for hardness. The higher the number that accompanies the H, the harder the lead and lighter the mark. A pencil rated HB would fall right in the middle of the grading system—theoretically equivalent to a No. 2 pencil.
However, there is no industry standard for the grades between different brands, so whatever brand of pencil you choose, it’s important to get to know the individual drawing pencils in that set.
Drawing Paper or Sketchpad
You can certainly use plain printer paper for practice drawing. However, at some point, you may want to purchase paper or a sketchpad that’s better suited for pencil drawing. A heavier weight paper, for example, can better handle more erasure and constant pressure from your pencil. A thinner paper—like printer paper—is more prone to tearing.
When it comes to texture, a smooth to medium texture is ideal for graphite pencil drawings. A more textured paper will pick up blacker marks, but will make it more difficult to add lighter, nuanced detail to your drawings.
Most artists use gum erasers, kneaded erasers, or vinyl erasers. Gum erasers are the softest, while vinyl erasers are the most firm. The eraser you choose can depend on your personal preference, or it may vary by project.
You should also invest in a pencil sharpener to keep your tools in top condition. Whether you choose a manual or electric sharper, make sure it’s a quality tool—a poor quality sharpener can damage your pencils or waste more material than necessary.
Pencil Drawing Ideas
Once you have your materials and a good knowledge of pencil drawing techniques, you’ll be ready to get started. But do you need ideas for what to draw? Find some inspiration for your next composition from the list of pencil drawing ideas below.
Practicing drawing geometric shapes can help you get a better feel for how to incorporate light, shadow, and dimension into your compositions.
Drawing landscapes provides ample opportunity to incorporate light, shadow, and texture.
Choosing an animal as a subject can provide valuable practice in adding texture to your drawings.
Drawing a portrait of a person can be intimidating—but once you understand correct facial proportions and how to light and shade on the planes of a face, you can produce beautiful portraits.
The details and individual strands of feathers make them an ideal subject for practicing pencil drawing techniques.
5 Incredible Examples of Pencil Art
A simple pencil can create beautiful, complex art. Below, we share some of the most impressive examples of pencil art. Can you believe these are made with just graphite pencils on paper?
- Teresa Esgaio
Teresa Esgaio’s detailed, photorealistic compositions, like this drawing of water, often play with textures and the contrast between light and shade.
- Paul Cadden
Hyperrealist artist Paul Cadden creates drawings that are nearly indistinguishable from photographs. He incorporates the highest level of detail to, as he puts it, “create the illusion of a new reality not seen in the original photo.”
- Armin Mersmann
As an artist, Armin Mersmann strives to understand and depict the deepest complexities and details, which you can see in this impressive pencil drawing of a human eye.
- Michael Naumets
Ukrainian artist Michael Naumets creates photo-like portraits using graphite pencils.
- Pierre-Yves Riveau
Also known as PEZ, Pierre-Yves Riveau creates pencil art; however, he’s also a painter, graphic designer, and illustrator. Unlike some of the other artists featured here, he focuses on depicting traditional subjects in a more creative, non-traditional way.
While these impressive examples of pencil drawings can seem intimidating, they all start with the same basic, fundamental techniques. Start experimenting with your drawing pencils, and see what happens.
Create Photo-Like Drawings
Simple Realistic Drawing For Beginners With Nadia Dias T.