Ask an Expert: Are You Sharpening Your Pencils the Wrong Way?

Welcome to the Bluprint blog’s new Sunday drawing series! In Ask An Expert we share advice directly from our experts, in response to popular questions asked by our members. This week Lisa Dinhofer stops by to dispel pencil sharpening myths, shares shading tips for realistic results and much more. Let’s dig in!
Ask an Expert

Meet this week’s expert: Bluprint instructor Lisa Dinhofer

Lisa Dinhofer is a prolific artist whose work has been shown in more than 100 exhibitions and featured in Art News, The New York Times and American Artist Magazine. In 2001 she was awarded a commission from the Metropolitan Transit Authority to create a 90-foot mosaic mural at New York’s Port Authority subway station. Now, she teaches drawing at the National Academy of Design School of Fine Art and here on Bluprint.

Now, onto the must-have answers:

Expert Tip of the Week from Lisa Dinhofer

A Bluprint student asks:

One of the teachers I had in design school scolded me for the use of a pencil sharpener. She said it breaks the tip and wastes quite a bit of the pencil. Is there a best practice for sharpening pencils? What would you recommend?

Bluprint instructor Lisa Dinhofer answers:

I like a very pointed tip. I find a pencil sharpener to be both convenient and reliable, and they work fine with wax-based pencils. I use both electric and hand sharpeners. I like a sharp hand sharpener (be sure to hold the pencil steady while rotating the hand sharpener, not vice versa). And, I also have a industrial strength electric sharpener. If you are having problems sharpening Prismacolors®, use a graphite pencil in-between colors; that seems to clean the wax off so it doesn’t break as easily on the next Prismacolor. It’s always a great idea to experiment with tools in order to find the ones that work best for you.
Expert Tip of the Week 2 from Lisa Dinhofer

A Bluprint student asks:

I have a problem with removing the masking tape around my paper. It tears the paper. Any advice?

Bluprint instructor Lisa Dinhofer answers:

There is an artist tape called Low Tack that you might find helpful. Another technique is to put the masking tape on another surface first, such as a table. Then, pull it up and apply it to your page. That takes off some of the glue and makes it easier to remove!
Expert Tip of the Week 3 from Lisa Dinhofer

Any other advice before you go, Lisa?

Colored pencils are a great way to start your color exploration. They are easy to work with and very economical. You can spend as much time as you desire and they are very forgiving. If it’s control you are after, pencils allow you to make several different marks, textures and erasures. It’s always important in any art medium to experiment and have fun! Don’t worry about making mistakes. Just keep going! Bad art leads to good art. Making mistakes is fun, because sometimes when you make a mistake it ends up better than what you would have normally done.

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