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.
Homemade pencil case via Petals to Picot
Even if you’ve written with pencils since you were a toddler, though, creating art with pencil is a new and possibly intimidating step. This drawing with pencil tutorial will not only include an easy method of getting started, but will also cover some basic tips for materials and technique.
By refining this basic method of drawing, you’ll be creating works of art in no time.
Before you get started
Photos via CakeSpy unless otherwise noted
Before you draw, stock up on the right materials.
While on the one hand this might sound obvious, the question of which pencils to use is a little bit more specific. For drawing, there are far more varieties available than the standardized test #2 pencil. There are two scales by which pencils are graded: by number and by letter. In a nutshell, “H” pencils are harder, and “B” pencils are softer. Within each letter category, there are various numbers which indicate the hardness or softness of the pencil in question. This post offers a comprehensive view on choosing the right pencils.
You don’t have to know exactly what you’ll be drawing to buy pencils; simply buy a variety of soft and hard pencils, which are typically less than $2 a piece even for fancy models, and you’ll be covered.
What about mechanical pencils? These pencils can be great, and never require sharpening. They’re fantastic for line work and creating hatching and cross-hatching, but not as great for soft shading as a regular pencil. If you’re serious about drawing with pencil, it’s a great idea to figure out what types of tip (more broad? Finer?) and graphite hardness you like, and then take the leap to invest in a good quality mechanical pencil.
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.
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.
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 then 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. You can even transfer the sketches you’d like to develop into finished pieces on to good paper using transfer paper, and then create a finished piece.
Mastering a few basic methods of pencil sketching will help you figure out how to create various tones and textures using pencil. This post on various pencil techniques will help you figure out some of the ways to make different textures and shapes in your work.
Drawing with pencil: an easy method
Step 1. Choose a reference image
If you’re just getting started, a photograph can be a great reference because it will remain the same. Try to choose an image which is fairly simple for a beginning project: a flower or simple object, for instance. In this example, we’ll use a doughnut.
Step 2. Make an outline
Draw the basic shape of what you’d like to draw. You don’t have to be photo-realistic at this point, and you can take liberties.
Note: If that sounds way too complicated, you may find that using a grid can make images much more accessible. Here is a tutorial on how to use grids in your artwork.
Step 3. Begin to add tones and textures
Once you are happy with your basic sketch, you can start refining your drawing by adding light texture and tone. Evaluate your reference image for distinct textures. In the case of the doughnut, the “cake” part of the doughnut has a slightly uneven texture. You could start by filling in that area in your outline with light to medium scumbling. This will be quite light, so to add some definition, you could either darken the scumbling around the edges, or add hatching or cross-hatching to portions of the radius of the doughnut, to correspond with the darker portions of the doughnut in the image.
Step 4. Refine your drawing
Begin to refine your drawing by using various pencil marks to make areas darker or lighter, and use a variety of tones which will show “color” even in a black and white piece. Start slow, because you can always make an image darker, but making it lighter is more difficult. Pause every now and again and look at your image from a distance. It will help you determine what areas need more shading, etc.
You can take the drawing as far as you’d like from this point, working it into a highly detailed work or leaving it more “loose.” Follow your intuition, and have fun with pencil drawing.