Learn Pencil Sketching Step-by-Step To Fire Up Your Creativity

Learn Pencil Sketching and Drawing Step-by-Step to expand Your Creativity

Young woman in art class sketching life model
Young Lady Sketching Live Model. Troy Aossey Getty Images

Drawing is one of the most fulfilling and relaxing hobbies you can have. Learning to draw is a skill like any other, but you certainly do improve faster or pick up more with training when you have some talent for it. There are many ways of making a picture but one of the most popular – probably partially because it only requires a pencil and paper – is pencil sketching.

Learn how to do amazing pencil sketches does take time but it starts with learning the basics, teaching yourself more advanced skills and then practicing regularly until you get good at it.

Types of Pencils and Ratings

The first thing that you’ll want to know if you want to learn pencil sketching is what kind of pencils are out there and which one you should be using for what type of sketching. Most pencils that are out there have a rating that describes both how hard the lead is and how dark the pencil sketches. These are represented by two letters – H and B –  then numbers next to those letters.

Learning to read these codes will help you choose your pencil a little better. H indicates the hardness while B indicates how dark the wedges. An HB pencil is at the exact middle of both. To the left of the middle are H pencils such as H4 and to the right are B pencils such as B2 and B9. B2 is also known as number two and is the standard pencil used in school.

Holding Your Pencil Correctly

There are several ways of holding your pencil when it comes to using it for pencil sketching. To learn pencil sketching, you will need to come up with ways to hold your pencil so that it feels comfortable and allows you to have the control that you need to draw.

The standard way of holding a pencil – between your thumb, index, and middle – works for most things you want to draw.

However, you can also hold the pencil underhanded if you want to do shading and there are other, more advanced techniques, that vary from one artist to another.

Choosing Your Drawing Paper

You also need to decide the paper you’re going to be working on. The best thing to use for pencil sketching is some sort of an artist’s pad. Get a cheap one to start off with. These are available in art supply and hobby stores – as well as in some department stores – and they come in different types that are intended for different ways of drawing or painting. For pencil sketching, a lightweight, fine-tooth paper works well but if you want a more rugged appearance to your drawing, you might want to go with medium texture paper instead. A paper that has what is called a "tooth" which you can get from smooth to rough.

Pencil Sketching Basics

There are four basic principles that you are going to have to learn if you want to be successful and learn pencil sketching. First, you need to learn how to draw good lines or “clean lines” meaning not fuzzy with constant drawing over existing lines.  Lines that are wonky or do not stay straight on the page will make it difficult to create really good drawings. Secondly, you must learn how to make perfect shapes. Such as ovals, squares, rectangles, and circles, are a pencil sketching artist’s bread-and-butter.

The third is proportion. The size of an object on your canvas in relation to the other objects in the canvas is very important and learning to accurately depict the size differences is a measurement of your maturity as an artist.

Finally, light, tones and shadow are advanced techniques that you will want to learn eventually.

Contour Drawing

Contour drawing is also going to be an important part of your artist toolbox. Although lines and shapes can serve you very well for many things there are always going to be objects that you want to draw that do not have a shape that fits any of the standard shapes or lines. If you can accurately depict the contour of an object you will be able to reproduce things that have odd shapes much more easily. Drawing contours is difficult for everyone at first but it gets better with practice. Try to draw things like mugs or stuff with simple bases that have irregular shapes until you get good at it.

Measuring for Accuracy

You might be surprised at some of the tricks your eye can play on you. A good artist is able to use their pencil to measure so that they can draw an item accurately.

For example, if you are drawing a rectangular or square object, you want to measure on both sides to make sure that they are even if looking straight on, or are the right length in relation to each other otherwise. Don’t just guess but get good at knowing what the distance should be and then measuring it with your pencil.

Drawing in Perspective

Drawing in perspective is another important part of your artist education. In pictures, depicting an object close up will require drawing it larger than if you were placing it farther away in the background of the picture. This illusion is known as perspective. Being able to draw in perspective will show the viewer where the object you are drawing should be in three-dimensional space. Just as with other, more advanced drawing skills, it takes practice to get your perspective drawing right so do not be discouraged if you are unable to pick it up immediately.

Practice for Perfection

The most important thing that you can do to become a great artist and learn pencil sketching is to practice. Practice daily. As with any form of art, drawing, singing, dancing, etc., it takes a lot of practice before you are able to do something really well. What separates the amateur from the professional is often nothing more than a great deal of practice, sometimes each and every, day until you improve. If you are passionate about drawing and you want to improve as quickly as possible, then set aside some time every day to practice. You will be able to draw objects that you never thought you could in just a short period of time.