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shutterstock_123770368Are you constantly doodling on the side of your notes during meetings at work? If this sounds like you, consider learning some basic pencil drawing techniques to improve your skills. Learning new techniques could help you unlock the artist inside. You may have thought those doodles were nothing special; however you can learn to develop your skills and grow as an artist. Those simple doodles may turn into cartoons or even realistic life drawings. Having more pencil drawing techniques will also help you figure out what drawing style you like to create. Every artist is different and develops a drawing style all their own.

There are many different drawing styles you can study to help you develop your own. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start learning new pencil drawing techniques. Take a look at other artists work and use it to help you learn all of the different techniques they use. It’s important to know how to critique other artists work and your own. Seeing the different pencil drawing techniques in pictures will help you figure out the best way to apply them to your own works of art. Don’t forget when you are critiquing your work that it should be fun and relaxing. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you are learning. Everyone has to develop their skills with practice.

Getting Started

In order to start practicing your basic pencil drawing techniques, you will need to gather a few materials. The first thing you want to do is select the right type of pencil for your project. There are many different pencil grades for you to choose from, and sometimes the pencil grade of one brand may be different than another, even if they are the same number. It’s a good idea to select a case of pencils with varying grades, or choose individual pencils from the same company.

After you have selected your pencils you will want to pick a sketchbook. It is important to be able to carry a small sketchbook with you everywhere you go. Whenever you have a chance to practice pull it out and do some quick sketches. Having one that is small and can fit inside a pocket or purse makes practicing your drawing easier to do. This can be especially handy if you have to take a bus, train, or subway to work; instead of reading a book pull out your sketchpad and began practicing.

Outlines and Line Variety

pencil drawing techniquesWhen you begin your drawing, start with a harder pencil to create lighter outlines. A drawing usually has two layers of outlines. The first is a light outline that is used as a guideline to create your basic shapes. To create this technique you want to use less pressure as you press down on your pencil and draw in a slow smooth motion. You’ll want to be able to erase some of these lines as your drawing evolves.

The next is to create a heavy outline that will be used to define the edges of your elements. Begin by retracing your original lighter outlines and adding more pressure as you go along. You still want to be careful that you don’t press down to hard making it harder to erase your lines. In this stage you’re still developing your outlines and want to be able to erase if you make a mistake. As you continue to work on your drawing the outlines will become heavier as your edges develop. Your final outline will be much darker than the original lighter layer that you created.

It is important to know that you can use your pencil to create a variety of line values and thicknesses. Using the side of your pencil will create a thicker line, than using the point of your pencil. Make sure to use these techniques to your advantage when outlining and shading your drawing. Learning to master outlines will allow you to create better drawing on the fly. You can even use it to help create quick and quirky caricatures for all your friends.

Hatching and Crosshatching

pencil drawing techniquesThe drawing technique of hatching is created by using small lines drawn closely together. This technique is used to create shading across an object. Drawing the lines in one direction following the form of the object helps define it better. You can also use crosshatching to help create a more realistic look to your sketches. Crosshatching will help you create more value and depth in your drawings. To do this you would draw hatching lines in one direction and then cross over them in the opposite direction. The tighter and closer together the lines the more realistic it will appear, as it will be harder to see the pencil strokes.

Circular Technique

pencil drawing techniquesCreating circles and scribbles is great to create contrasting textures, when objects are similar in value. To create this technique you would create tiny circles and move your pencil in a swirling motion. You want to keep these circles and swirls tightly drawn together. This is great for using to blend shading together. You can easily create a group of swirls and continue to press down on your pencil creating a darker value and blending the two values together.

This technique can be especially good for creating skin textures. When creating the shading for a portrait, use small tight circles of varying values to create a better appearance of skin. When done correctly a person’s eye will blend the circles together when viewing from afar. This technique gives you a lot of control when blending, without using any other tools.

Smooth Shading

pencil drawing techniquesThere are a couple of ways you can create smooth shading across your drawing. The first of the pencil drawing techniques is to use your pencil to create smooth strokes close together. It may help to use the side of your pencil as you’re creating your lines. Start with your hardest pencil creating light lines with a varied starting point. Continue to darken your values by pressing down slightly harder and changing to a softer pencil. You want to try to keep your lines as close together as you can to create a smooth effect.

Another way to create a smooth shading effect is to do one of the pencil drawing techniques above, like hatching, and use a shading tool. You can use a Q-tip, finger, or tissue to help you smudge your pencil strokes together. Start by creating the hatching effect and then taking your smoothing tool and blending the two hatched sections together. You also want to use the shading tool to smooth the individual hatch marks together to create one contiguous effect.

When it comes to mastering shading you can do it in stages, starting with one of your lighter values. Continue to define the shapes creating darker values of shadow as you go along. Remember to follow along in the direction of the shapes to help define them. If you find you’ve shaded too much in an area you can use your eraser to help lighten it up or remove it altogether. Remember that you’re using the white of the paper as your highlights and creating debt by adding shadows. One problem that many artists have is their drawings end up looking flat. Some artists are too afraid to push the dark values in a drawing. Don’t be afraid to use your softest pencil to create dark shadows. The contrast in your image will really help your objects to stand out. Try not to use a hard pencil grade to create shadows, by pressing down hard as you shade. Pushing the graphite too far will create a shiny effect, losing the contrasting darkness of shadow. It’s better to select a softer pencil for creating shadows.

In Conclusion

It is important to remember that the best way to get better at something is to practice. Don’t forget to carry around your sketchbook and practice when you have a few spare moments. Also don’t stop those doodles on the sides of your notes, assuming it doesn’t interfere with your work. Once you have started to master some of the different pencil drawing techniques and figure out what style of drawing you like the most you can look into more advanced ways to improve your artistic talents. Learning how to improve your techniques with portrait drawing is a great idea if If you really enjoy drawing people. Another important thing you should learn about, when drawing people, is human anatomy.

If you would rather stick with very stylized drawing, cartoons are a good choice. Even with cartoons there are plenty of things you can learn, in order to perfect your cute cartoon characters. You can also bring them to life by learning different ways to color them in. The possibilities are endless with art! Just remember to have fun and not be too hard on yourself, as even the best artists make mistakes and learn new things.

Page Last Updated: May 2014

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