how to draw

Methods & Materials : Drawing Pencils- www.Lost Art © | All rights reserved
How to Draw with Pencils
by LAS Staff


Drawing is sacred to the visual arts studio and the pencil is like a holy relic. In addition to graphite, there is carbon, wax, conté, charcoal, grease, lead (if made soluble). Physicians use special pencils for marking human skin before surgery. There are pencils that write underwater. Astronauts use pencils because they are unaffected by gravity, pressure or atmospheric conditions. Pencils are often used with other media such as charcoal, crayons, conté, pens, markers, ink, washes, watercolor, turpentine, acrylic and oil pigments.


Paleolithic Artists drew with chunks of red and yellow ocher. For paint, they ground these same ochers into powders they blew onto the walls or mixed with mediums, such as animal fat, before applying. They used a variety of different mineral mixes that were surprisingly sophisticated. The artists made brushes from reeds or bristles and used a blowpipe of reeds or hollow bones to trace outlines of figures and to put pigments on out-of-reach surfaces.

Ancient Greeks and Romans used flat cakes of lead to mark on papyrus.

Middle Ages used rods of lead or silver. (Silver point)

1500’s graphite’s marking abilities where realized. England mined and exported it.

1700’s 1st wood cased pencil

1795 Nicholas Conte (French Chemist) experimented with powdered graphite (inferior graphite) and clay proportions. After heating them he created cylindrical rods that were inserted into hollow wood.

Mid 1800’s William Monroe (Massachusetts cabinetmaker) and Joseph Dixon where discovering ways to mass-produce pencils.

1861 The 1st Pencil factory. Eberhard Faber.

1879 Eagle Pencil Company patented the 1st mechanical pencil.

Today there are over 10 billion pencils manufactured around the world each year.

The future of the pencil. Technology is making mark making more obsolete. Email has replaced the hand written letter and graphics tablets have replaced hand sketches. Not only do some graphic designers draw with a mouse or the stylus without touching a pencil, the computer can simulate the brush, charcoal, and the pencil.  Regardless, their will always be an important esthetic value to the pencil for the visual arts.

1. Brake the picture down into simple shapes
2. Work the entire page at once rather then starting in one section only
3. Sketch lightly and add dark values and detail toward the end.

Begin each drawing with a loose gesture sketch to position the subject on the page. To concentrate on action more than precision, allowing only three minutes for this preliminary drawing. Most bad drawings are such because of this first 3 minutes. This loose initial interpretation prevents stiffness associated with tracing or projected images.

Square No smudging or shading with the side of your pencil. Using the side of your pencil leaves you at the mercy of the paper texture.

Square Avoid accidental smudging by keeping a piece of still paper under your sketching hand.

Square Do gradient tone by make slow light gentle strokes.

Square Start the drawing with an HB or a 2B.

Square Use a higher H pencil when you need details and soft tones.
As the drawing moves towards closure start working with B pencils to push your darker tones.

Square Some artists will add 10 to 20 layers of pencil to achieve the desired gradations.

Gradient: (1) Draw gradient bars with the different drawing pencils (2) Draw sphere using a light source.

Square Carpenter Pencil: Try a large sketch with a carpenter pencil. They have a rectangular or oval lead and can be purchased as 2B, 4B, and 6B. Experiment with textured paper and newsprint.

Square Pencil & Turpentine: Sketch in pencil and use turpentine and brush to push around values.

Square Scraffitto & Pencil: Press lightly into paper surface with burnishing tool, toothpick, or brush end. Work over embossing with gradient pencil tone.

Square Value Exercises: (1) Cloth (2) Still-life (3) Single Object


Cased: Clay and graphite in cedar wood.

Colored: Wax, dyes and pigment. It doesn’t smear like graphite or charcoal, and it allows one to create gradual, almost indiscernible value changes. Prismacolor now makes 120 various colors. You can purchase water resistant or water-soluble. Washing effects may be created by brushing over the drawing with turpentine. Water-soluble leads are harder and less waxy.

Conserve:  Use an pencil extender (or) mechanical pencils.

Erasers: By drawing lightly first and building up your values you can eliminate the need for a lot of heavy erasing. This will not jeopardize the integrity of your paper. Eraser” Kneaded eraser can be used to lift graphite off the paper. Magic rub works well. Old pink erasers leave residue.

Grade: Pencils are graded from 9H (hardest) to 6B (softest). The 9H pencils are lighter. For the center of gradation use H, F, HB, B. They are all similar to No.2 with subtle changes.

Line: A s harpened pencil offers little variation. The harder leads don’t smear as much, but are not capable of as wide a tonal range. They are useful for scientific illustration, under-drawing (where you don’t want lines to show on the finished work), and for very delicate rendering.

Mechanical: The 5 mm mechanical pencil will take a variety of leads. Softer the lead the easier it will break. A 2B is about as soft as you will want to go. These pencils are great for fieldwork. Linear effects are also easily created with the mechanical pencil. If you add value using small lines you will use the same hatching or repeated line process.

Paper suggestions: You want your paper to have a little “tooth” to grab and hold the graphite. Slick, greasy hot press paper is better for ink. Too much texture can frustrate as well. Your lead will not be able to get down into the tiny surface depressions and value will appear lighter than you intended. Textured paper will give you a implied-textured drawing.

Sharpening: Razor blade and sandpaper gives the pencil a long tip.

Smudging:  Many artists train themselves to begin in the upper left corner and work down and across. Try hold the pencil in a “drawing” position rather then the “normal” position”. Keep a piece of paper under your hand when drawing large images. Blending stumps can be effective with smooth paper…most of the time it just looks smudged.

Tone: Amazing gradient tones can be achieved with skill. Softer leads are capable of thunderous darks, but smear easily. Try a high H pencil when you need a super light tone. Using gentle repetitive strokes rather then smudging.

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