Use an extra piece of paper under your hand to avoid smudging your work
Use varied lines, says illustrator Rovina Cai. “Not all lines are equal. Subtle shifts in the width and darkness of your lines will create a dynamic, visually interesting drawing. Controlling the kind of mark you put down can be tricky in the beginning, but with practice you will be able to create a variety of marks that work together to make a cohesive image. Experiment with different pencil grades (from 3H to 6B) and with holding the pencil at different angles.”
“To test out whether your characters are readable as silhouettes, grab a piece of tracing paper and trace around your character, filling it in with a solid colour. A great way to test your silhouettes is to show them to your friends or colleagues and ask them what they see.”
This technique is a very time-consuming type of shading, but it’s sometimes necessary to describe a specific texture. Some artists have the patience to do a complete drawing using the dots only. The more dots you place, the darker the value is — the fewer dots create a lighter value. By varying the strength, size, and number of dots, you can make a range of values in a picture.
Graphite drawings can easily get messy, so it’s always a good idea to use something, like a sheet of paper under your hand, to avoid smudging your drawing. You can also try to work from left to right if you are right-handed or right to left if you are left-handed to minimize the risk of having your hand going over an already drawn area.
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Invest in an eraser. Even if your pencil has an eraser on the end, it will be worn down in no time. A soft gum eraser or a “big pink” eraser (like a pencil eraser but larger) are both good choices, and typically retail for $1 or less.
“Instead, use spare paper to doodle a big swatch of soft graphite or charcoal pencil, then use a large blending stick to pick up the soft dust to use for your image. Keep using the blending stick and adding more scribbles as you need more graphite. Using the same technique, start darkening some areas of the sky to define the tops of the clouds.”
“A benefit of tracing paper is that you can flip it over to see how your drawing looks from the reverse angle,” advises artist Justin Gerard. “This can help reveal errors in proportion. As you work, take advantage of this in order to arrive at a more successful drawing.”
Soft pencils are great for shading the darks and the middle tones. The most common medium soft graphite pencils are 2B pencils, which are usually used for general outlines and sketching.
Even if you just washed your hands, there is always a tiny residue of oil on your skin that might go onto the paper and make the graphite more difficult to remove. For that reason, you might want to avoid blending with your finger. Experiment with different materials — tissue paper or cotton swabs works well for that purpose as well as stumps. Don’t throw away your stumps when they are dirty, as they can be used to apply a light layer of graphite.
The grid method is often used to enlarge the drawing for a mural painting or a large artwork. This old method involves dividing the drawing into equal squares. Then, you compare and transfer abstracted shapes from the squares to the enlarged surface. This technique helps to see the comparative relationships between the objects.
“There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to make a clean-looking drawing that loses its brilliance and value thanks to smudging. Instead, use smudging to your advantage every now and then to smooth out shading. You can do this with several tools. I use a simple piece of tissue paper to get the job done.”
Produce unique textures by placing the paper over an object and rubbing your pencil back and forth.
Create subtle shading by smudging large areas of soft charcoal
Try to get a wide array of tones on your drawing ranging from very light to very dark. A true black is difficult to obtain with graphite because when the paper is saturated with graphite, it will glare. You can use charcoal in your pencil drawings to obtain a real black.
The negative space helps to find distances between the shapes. In the photo below, the negative space is the background around the cat, which helps you find the distances between the cat’s ears or toes.
Graphite pencils come in various degrees of hardness, from 9H (the hardest) to 9B (the softest). H stands for hardness and B for blackness, so a 9H pencil will be very hard and light, and a 9B pencil will be very soft and black.
Every drawing begins with a sketch. There are three main methods for getting the sketch just right which all involve extrapolating the information in front of you and using only what’s necessary, to relate objects to one another, understand the linear perspective and develop accurate forms.
To make the soft shading shown in #3, you would move your pencil in a circular motion. By moving it back and forth with a light touch, you create a slightly different texture.
Shifts in the width and darkness of your lines will create interest
“I like symmetrical drawings but they often look boring all too quickly,” says Croes. “A good way to prevent this is to add some subtle changes and only keep the general lines symmetrical instead of mirroring every small part. Keeping some elements asymmetrical helps to avoid boring repetition.”
A kneaded eraser very effectively removes graphite from the page, allowing you to define highlights in your work.
Steps for creating a simple pencil drawingOnce you’ve practiced the various techniques and mark-making, you can implement them into a single drawing. 1. Sketch your subject
Take control of your pencil by holding it correctly, says illustrator Sylwia Bomba. “If you position your hand closer to the end of the pencil, you have more control and precision, but heavier strokes (darker markings). Gripping further up the pencil will give you less control and precision, but lighter strokes (lighter markings).”
If you’re just getting started with pencil drawing, you probably don’t want to be drawing on expensive paper from the get-go. It’s a good idea to invest in two types of paper: sketch paper, which is cheap and ideal for testing out ideas and refining pencil techniques; and higher-quality archival drawing paper, which is thicker and has a gentle “tooth” ideal for graphite, for when you’re ready to work on a final piece.
Designer Patricia Ann Lewis-MacDougall suggests keeping some texture. “Some artists might find using watercolour pencils a little on the grainy side; however I like the added life the grain gives to a sketch. You don’t have to add water over the whole image. Leave some areas untouched to add a bit of texture to your sketch.”
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For a pencil that can create both broad strokes and precise lines, go with Cretacolor’s Monolith woodless pencil (included in this Cretacolor Silver Box Graphite Drawing Set). These pencils have a protective lacquer coating, are easy to sharpen and range in hardness from HB (medium) to 9B (extra soft).
Get yourself a good pencil sharpener. A great choice for beginners is a manual pencil sharpener with two openings. Each cavity is suitable for sharpening the pencil to a different type of tip; this means that every pencil can be sharpened to multiple points, making one more versatile.
Apply a masking fluid to your paper before drawing; the masking fluid will essentially block your graphite from reaching the paper. Then you can remove the masking fluid to reveal clean paper around your shading
While pencils don’t make the artist, being armed with the best equipment sets you up for drawing success.
If you’re a complete novice, you should have a look at our seven fundamental pencil drawing techniques and our 100 drawing and painting tips and tutorials. But if you’re ready to go, here some of the artists that contributed to the Beginner’s Guide to Sketching offer some expert advice to get you off to a flying start…
“Double this wavy line a little below the first. You can already see a curly ribbon forming before you. Now connect the open parts on the sides, remove the guidelines, and add some details.”
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Use a sharp tool to make small indentations in your paper; when you draw over the area, the graphite will not reach the indented areas. This is a great method to make whiskers, blades of grass or to draw any other super fine lines.
Harder pencils are sharp and can be used for details. They’re easier to erase but more difficult to blend. You can use them for very light shading, but it would be difficult to shade a large area with a hard pencil.
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Keep a nice contrast going between a finished look and a more of a sketchy feel
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“Have you ever noticed that every important character in an animation movie is recognisable from their shadow alone?”, says artist Leonardo Sala. “This magic has a name: the silhouette. The purpose of finding a strong and interesting silhouette is to create an easily recognisable character that will remain clear in the visual memory of the viewer.
“The use of irregular lines when shading adds a lot of dynamism to your sketch,” Bomba says. “If you want to create a fresh and unique sketch of a portrait, architecture, or concept art, you should definitely use this technique. I use it to sketch loosely, flat backgrounds (if there is no texture, this technique will add some), bushes, or grass.”
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Crosshatching is simply two directions of hatching layered atop one another. The more strokes you layer, the finer and darker the area is going to be.
These come in handy when you draw uneven surfaces, like a leafy bush or a tree.
In the sight method, you’ll set up your drawing pad right next to the subject itself, so you can transfer the object to the paper at an accurate size by measuring your object with a pencil.
The Beginner’s Guide to Sketching is a book that offers lots of inspiration and advice for anyone looking to take their first creative steps or wanting to add a new piece to their design portfolio. The comprehensive guide covers everything from choosing the right drawing tools to understanding shading and value, adding colour, and creating a finished scene.
Beyond pencils, make sure you have these supplies handyEraser
This involves is applying the pigment using the side of a pencil tip. Such soft shading is necessary around the highlights for a realistic appearance.
Though pricier, the Faber-Castell 9000 Graphite Pencils also come in sets of different grades of hardness and have superior black, break-resistant leads.
If you want to sketch a sky, artist Marisa Lewis has some advice: “Sometimes it’s preferable for your shading to be less sketchy and more smooth and subtle. Pencil lines don’t blend perfectly unless you’re very careful. We don’t want a sky full of scribbles, unless it’s on purpose.
For this approach, you’re only creating texture in a particular area. The type of paper you select (rough, with a bit of a tooth) is important.
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A gum eraser removes less pigment than a kneaded eraser, so you can produce depth.
“When shading, use an extra piece of paper underneath your hand,” advises artist Brun Croes. “This will minimise the amount your hand smudges your pencil lines. If you’re right-handed, start shading from left to right; if you’re left-handed, start at the right and move to the left.
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Some artists produce energetic, rough lines, while others make deliberate, careful contours. The quality of the line determines how interesting your subject looks.
The blending of graphite works best with a paper stump or a small piece of sketch paper. Don’t rub the surface, however, because it ends up looking smudged. Strive for a nice and even application of pigment, which requires just a bit of blending. Blending tends to make all tones (values) look as the middle tone. Thus, it’s important to re-establish the darkest areas and to work on the highlights afterward.
Comparative measurement involves seeing the ratios between the objects and using the negative space as a measuring device. For instance, an apple might be two times smaller than a vase placed next to it; a child could be three times shorter than an adult. In other words, you relate one object to the next by placing invisible comparative lines to demonstrate the relationships.
To block in the subject, make a simplified division between the light and the dark parts of a composition. Observe the light, how it travels across the form and where it turns to shadow. Sketch in the shadows first, as you can see in the sketch above on the left.
Want to draw curly hair? Illustrator Eva Widermann suggests these sketching tips: “Draw two straight vertical lines; these will be your guidelines for the width and length of the curl. Now loosely draw a wavy line down between the two lines.
Drawing with pencil is an accessible method of creating artwork at any skill level. It requires minimal materials, and even beginners have a strong grasp of how to use this medium.
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Hatching is simply drawing parallel lines to fill a space with value. This is one of the most common forms of shading and mark making.
If you look at the examples here, it’s clear that the first girl is holding a mug, but what about the second one? It’s not as clear!