Sketching Drawing – 3 Ways to Hold Your Pencil

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There are almost as many ways to hold a pencil for drawing as there are artists using one. However, let’s take a look at three of the more useful ways to hold your pencil for drawing and what the differences are…

1. Hold it like a writing tool

The majority of beginners who learn drawing hold their pencil in the same way that they hold a pen for hand-writing. The fingers are clasped quite tightly near the point end of the pencil shaft. This is simply due to habit from years of using a pen. This way of holding a pencil is great for fine-detail work where you need the most control of every pencil mark. However, this same grip on the pencil can make it difficult to control the pressure applied to the paper; most beginners actually apply far too much pressure resulting in dark lines that dig deep into the paper surface.
With this pencil grip you also have a tendency to rest the heel of your hand on the paper surface. This restricts the fluid movement of the pencil resulting in more definite detail work but can also smudge other parts of your drawing and also leave skin oils on the paper. You can avoid these issues by using a clean sheet of paper between your hand and the drawing surface.

2. Hold it vertically in your palm

Holding your pencil vertically so it lies on your fingers (your fingers are held horizontal), and is held lightly by your thumb placed on top of the pencil shaft, allows you to draw much more freely and with sweeping movements. Since your hand does not touch the drawing paper you can move your entire arm to produce energetic and dynamic curves and lines. This is a great way to loosen up your drawing and to produce rapid fire sketches.
This method is also useful for bigger drawings on large sheets of paper as it allows you to stand further back from the paper.

3. Hold it horizontally in your fingers

With you hand held horizontally as in 2, lightly grip the pencil with your finger tips and your thumb. Move your entire hand from the wrist joint in an up and down flowing motion to draw lightly on your paper. This method allows you to produce drawing strokes that fall in-between the other two methods; you can produce good detail but also sweeping, flowing longer strokes when necessary.

The tone of your pencil strokes can also be finely controlled using this method by simply moving your pencil either further into your hand (so you hold it closer to the point) or further out (so you are holding it away from the point). The further away from the point you hold the pencil, the lighter your pencil strokes will be; it is quite hard to apply too much pressure when holding the back end of the pencil!

Experiment with each method and use the most appropriate one for the drawing you are doing. This is especially important as you develop your personal style of drawing.

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