Use these pencil drawing techniques to improve the skills of graphite and colored pencils.
Pencil Drawing Tips: Sketching Cats with Sketch [Photo: Bobby Chiu]
Whether you’re using graphite pencils or colored pencils, these pencil painting techniques from top artists will help you take your painting skills to the next level.
For many artists, pencil painting is a technique for introducing them into the art world. Even if you have turned to a different medium, understanding how to paint with a pencil can help you improve your skills elsewhere. These pencil drawing techniques cover everything from basic knowledge of mark-making to advanced processes, bringing you to the comfort zone.
We will also provide advice on the tools and materials you need to know, such as mixing stumps, paper options and different erasers. If you are a beginner or just want to upgrade your kit, check out our best pencil guide.
Time is tight? The above video from character designer Bobby Chiu runs through some pencil drawing techniques. For more in-depth advice on how to capture the composition of light and shadow, check out our Art Tips article. Or, for inspiration, take a look at the incredible summaries of realistic pencil drawings.
01. Use the right grip
Pencil grip for pencil drawing techniques
Think of the pencil as charcoal in a wooden sheath
The first step is to master how to hold a pencil correctly. Chiu recommends holding the pencil like you could a piece of charcoal, and using the side of the lead to draw, rather than the point. This helps keep the pencil sharper for longer.
“When covering large areas, I shade with my pencil perpendicular to the line I’m drawing to get wide, soft lines,” he adds. “For details, I hold my pencil parallel to my lines to get sharp, narrow marks. The only time I use the point is when I’m working on intricate details.”
02. Use a stump for soft blending
Drawing of some flowers, with pencils and a blending stump on top
Using a stump between layers of colour will create a blended effect [Image: Jennifer Healy]
How you blend your work can have a big impact on the final result. For a soft blended effect, try a blending stump.
“After each light layer, I very gently blend the coloured pencils with the stump,” says US-based artist Jennifer Healy. “Don’t push too hard or the colour will stick, making it more difficult to softly blend. I repeat this process as often as I need. After many layers it produces a very soft and delicate look.”
This technique requires a little trial and error, though. Healy warns that if you blend too softly, the stump can pick up colour that you’ve already layered on the paper.