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Pencil Drawing - How to Get Started

Updated on June 13, 2015
Pencil drawing equipment
Pencil drawing equipment | Source

Pencil Drawing - Tutorial No. 1

How to draw in pencil. Getting started is often the hardest part and so this guide to pencil drawing and pencil drawing techniques is designed to point you in the right direction.

I've devised a few exercises in pencil drawing to help you get the best out of your art materials, to show you the range of pencils available and to highlight the different qualities that you can bring to your pencil drawings.

You'll explore how many types of line you can produce, and how many different tones and textures you can make using pencils. We'll also touch on using an eraser as an art tool.

These are the art materials you'll need: a sketchbook, a range of pencils, an eraser and something to sharpen your pencils. You'll also need a bit of time and enthusiasm.

This is your first exercise in honing your tonal awareness, so lets see you drawing with a pencil now.

How To Draw in Pencil

If only it was that simple!

This is more of an how to learn how to draw in pencil! There are so few rules to learn in art and the student finds it discouraging to be told that they can't be taught to draw by mearly learning 'the tricks of the trade', but rather that they must learn by example, work, practice and perspiration. Talent, I'm sorry to say, also plays a part.

Having said that drawing, like any other skill or trade, can be learnt and so can the use of the tools, in this case, the pencil. This guide will help you to get going by showing you the sort of range that can be produced with pencils.

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Keeping in touch - these are the two key sites:

The List Of Tutorials This is simply an index of the Projects, lessons and other modules that go to making up this course.

'The Common Room' A facebook group where I'll be posting links and you can meet other students for chat and support.

Drawing Pencils

Each drawing pencil is labelled according to how hard and soft they are. I use this range:

  • 3H - very hard
  • 2H - quite hard
  • H - hard
  • HB - this is the 'normal' pencil that you have around the house
  • B - softer
  • 2B - softer still
  • 6B - Very soft
  • 9B - I've never used a 9B!

What you do need is a range of pencils from the hardest, and so the palest and finest, to the softest and darkest so that you can achieve a range of lines and textures. Sometimes you'll use a pencil sharpened to a keen point for a fine, biting line, and other times you may want a nice, rounded end for a softer feel.

If you look below you'll see the tone exercise that I've carried out to use as an illustration and I used a variety of pencils gleaned from around the house. What I did notice is that the texture changed from one make of pencil to another, so, because pencils are quite cheap, it might be better to invest in a whole set from the same manufacturer rather that do what I have just done!

In reality, you won't be doing exercises, but working on your own drawings, and I expect that, like me, you'll gather together a range of materials that you like personally - not necessarily 'sets'.

Derwent Graphic Drawing Pencils, Soft, Metal Tin, 12 Count (34215)
Derwent Graphic Drawing Pencils, Soft, Metal Tin, 12 Count (34215)

No need to buy posh boxes of pencils like this, but if you do they'll last you a very long time!


Use Large Graphite Sticks with Your Drawing Pencils - Add this to your art tools

When you want to draw on a larger scale, I find these large sticks of graphite useful for blocking in areas of tone.

Stanley Knife

Buy one good craft knife. I bought a Stanley knife that has shown me excellent service over many, many years. Use this to sharpen your pencils, although you can also use a pencil sharpener. You'll need this knife to cut cardboard, paper, mounts and all manner of things. This is going to be one of your basic tools.


I like to have two types of eraser, the puty rubber, and a harder, plastic eraser. Your eraser is an important art tool.

Art Materials

Go to The Art School Shop for more information about materials

The Drawing Handbook - learning from the Masters - By Ettore Maiotti


This little book is excellent, taking you through stages logically and carefully. It tells you everything you need to know about drawing from how to use an easel to drawing from the figure or drawing animals. It's illustrated with a range of nice drawings in various media. If you want to buy a 'How to Draw' book, then this is a good one, and I'll be using it to put together some of my tutorials.

A Drawing Handbook - If you need a 'how to draw' book, then this one is excellent

Project No. 2

Exploring the pencil

Drawing Pencil Lines - 'Variety is the spice of life'


Take your pencils, ranging from hardest to softest, and see how many different lines you can produce. You can vary your lines by having a sharp pencil or a blunt pencil, or a flat'ended pencil. You can draw with the tip, or the side or you can start a line with the tip and graduate to the side.


Use the Eraser as a Drawing Tool - Put texture in with an eraser


As children we are used to using the eraser to eradicate errors. Ok, it is sometimes useful for that, although at art school we were taught to incorporate errors into the drawing - after all Leonardo da Vinci did. The Italians have a word for these linear memories, 'penitimenti'.

Instead of removing, try using your eraser to add texture and variation. See what you can do by rubbing the lines softly, passing the wide end of the eraser over the line or attacking the line with the sharp edge of the eraser.

Play with your materials.

Tones and Textures - Try out your pencils in patches of tone

drawing with pencil
drawing with pencil | Source

Now repeat the exercise in patches of tone. See just how many different tones and textures you can squeeze out of your pencils. Use your sketchbook and make a note of which pencils you used as this will stay in your sketchbook for future reference.

Do remember, this is essential work and should be kept to remind you just how rich a pencil drawing can be.

Modulating Patches of Tone - Tonal drawing in pencil - How to use the eraser

Drawing-how-to | Source

Produce another sheet of tonal patches of drawing and then see how you can extend the tones and textures using the eraser. As with the line drawings, try rubbing the pencil down gently with the rounded end of the eraser, rub vigerously, rub over with the sharp edges of the eraser. See how many different variations on a theme you can make.

Tone Exercise - Tonal drawing with a pencil

drawing-with-a-pencil | Source

This is why this tutorial has taken so long. I had to carry out this exercise myself and it did take time. I'd like you to take out a good few hours, sit down with as many of your pencils as you can from 3H to 9B. You can see that I've skipped pencils as these were the pencils that I could glean from around our house.

The aim of this exercise is to develop your eye for tone and your manual skills.

Begin with an A4 sheet of drawing paper - ideally use your sketchbook. Draw a grid of squares. Each square should be about 2cm x 2cm. It should be 9 or ten squares wide and make it as many down as you have pencils. Start with the hardest pencil and mark the pencil type of each line. Work from the hardest to the softest.

It would be best if you can use pencils all by the same manufacturer as I found the textures changed from one make of pencil to another. It would also be nice to see a complete run of pencils from 3H - 9B - although this is a tall order, don't I just know it!

Try to achieve the following:

  • Make each square even in tone (note I started in the top left hand corner and these are often darker. Try to avoid this!)
  • Horazontal strip: Make each step from one tone to the next an even step
  • Vertical strip: Same here; make each step from one tone to the next an even step
  • If you achieve this the diagonals should also have even steps


  • Do this work in good daylight
  • Set aside a good few hours and take your time
  • Sit somewhere comfortable where you can concentrate and not be interrupted (if possible)
  • Start off light. You can always go back and darken your squares
  • Avoid using the eraser. Firstly it's difficult to erase the pencil accurately, secondly, using the eraser changes the nature of the paper so when you add more pencil, it will look different from the adjacent squares.

Test your Results by Looking Through Screwed -up Eyes - This simplifies the tone

drawing-how-to-eyes | Source

This is one of the most important thing to learn - screwing up your eyes!

Screw up your eyes, (no matter how old this makes you look or how much you fret about developing wrinkles!), and look through your lashes, as this simplifies the tone and colours and allows you to see through the detail.

Share Your Work

When you've finished, post your results in The Common Room our fb page

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© 2012 Barbara Walton

Leave a comment for me - I'd love to hear from you

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    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      Pinned to my drawing board - for when I get around to it. :)

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 5 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      I love drawing but it is good to have the steps lined out.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      Beautiful work. I've always enjoyed art. Thank you for publishing this lens.

    • profile image

      mumsgather 5 years ago

      Pencil Drawings have its own beauty.

    • rpatrick profile image

      rpatrick 5 years ago

      Nice info. I draw in pencil just for fun.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I am always fascinated by pencil-work. Very beautiful sketches can be achieved by just pencils, there is magic in those pencils.

    • tylerabernethy22 profile image

      tylerabernethy22 6 years ago

      I like drawing, but I have never had somebody layout the steps to getting started the right way, until now!

      Great reference, I really enjoyed the read!


    • tylerabernethy22 profile image

      tylerabernethy22 6 years ago

      I like drawing, but I have never had somebody layout the steps to getting started the right way, until now!

      Great reference, I really enjoyed the read!


    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 6 years ago from Kansas

      Great tutorial on drawing, and very informative. Blessed.

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @intermarks: Do post your pencil drawings when you've finished. I'd like to see how you got on.

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @Annamadagan: Thank you so much Anna. Pleased you enjoyed the drawing tutorial.

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @Lee Hansen: Thanks, Pastiche. It is hard work learning, but worth the effort.

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @pkmcruk: Thanks Paul, although I can't believe you have time to draw as well. Do let me know if you give it a shot.

    • HealthfulMD profile image

      Kirsti A. Dyer 6 years ago from Northern California

      Very helpful tutorial.

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @HealthfulMD: Many thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment, Comfortdoc.

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @Paul Ward: Thanks for dropping by Paul.

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @Funny_Beekeeper: Thanks funny_beekeeper. I hope she finds it useful. Do you really keep bees? we have a couple of hives here at Les Trois Chenes so that we can serve our B&B guests our own honey.

    • intermarks profile image

      intermarks 6 years ago

      This is going to be a lot of hard work, I will need a lot of practice to learn to draw a line and do the tone exercise. Thanks!

    • profile image

      Annamadagan 6 years ago

      Sprinkling some angel dust, too. :)

    • profile image

      Annamadagan 6 years ago

      Nice lens. Thanks for all the tips. I love drawing + sketching!

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 6 years ago from Vermont

      I've loved to draw since I was a wee tot. I sketch a bit in pencil to create a rough these days, then scan and work it in my computer. These are excellent first steps for anyone who wants to learn to draw.

    • pkmcruk profile image

      pkmcr 6 years ago from Cheshire UK

      Fascinating and as someone who believes they cannot draw I think I might well be able to make a go of it from this information

    • Paul Ward profile image

      Paul 6 years ago from Liverpool, England

      Another very good lens in a very good set.

    • profile image

      Funny_Beekeeper 6 years ago

      Great instructions for any pencil drawing beginner. I know a person who like to draw with pencil, and I'm sure she will love your lens once I pass it over to her. You did great work and you deserve a like! :)

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @John Dyhouse: Artyfax - I'm the same with materials. I have scrappy little bits of my favourite things, but then when I was a student I put in the groundwork properly. I think it is fun, but I did need to concentrate. See how you get on with the materials you have, I just found that when I moved from various hard pencils into Derwent ones there was a change of texture that affected the tone. Not a problem in real drawing but spoilt my chart a bit! Looking forward to seeing your results and feedback. This way of working is new for me too as I'm used to the classroom and art school environment.

    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 6 years ago from Maryland

      Wonderful! I think I'm going to try it! I LOVE your art class idea...very well organized! :) Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @Brandi Bush: I do hope you do, mamabush, and be sure to post it on the 'Common Room' fb site!

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @burntchestnut: Ah, like everything else, these things come in and out of fashion. In the 1900s they used to like to make their drawings as much like a marble statue as possible, hence the smudging, by the time I arrived at art college there was a backlash against this. I try to stress looking at a wide range of good art over the ages, and having a good command of materials. Then you make your own choice. There are few real rules in art. Thanks for visiting.

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @Hagglecoins: Hagglecoins, thanks for leaving a message. Tone is one of the basics in art - one of the differences between professional art and work that hasn't quite arrived yet.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 6 years ago from UK

      A very useful introduction, Like a musician learning the scales, an artist should be able to do this almost without thinking. I will be tackling the exercises and will post to the common room as requested. I have done similar exercises with watecolour paints but only used 5 tones. Should be fun creating these patterned exercises or am I a masochist. I have a box of pencils just like your example, not sure if they are derwent or not, I have lots of art "stuff" which I have never used properly. So I am fully equipped for this session.

    • profile image

      burntchestnut 6 years ago

      Good explanation on the use of various pencils. When I took art class in high school, we were taught to smudge our pencils marks with our fingers to help with shading.

    • Hagglecoins profile image

      Hagglecoins 6 years ago

      Awesome lens, really like the section on shading and tone.


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