Art Blog

Monday’s Mini Art Lesson #1: Pencil Drawing for Beginners

Beauty in Ghana by Susan E. Brooks, Pencil on Paper, 5 x 7 inches

Pencil drawings can be preparatory sketches for larger paintings or beautiful artwork in themselves. Pencil drawing ideas range from simple geometrical shapes to flowers to complex portraits. Whether you choose to draw from life or from photos, the following tips should be helpful.

1. Know your graphite pencil scale.

Graphite pencils are labeled according to their hardness and blackness.* Think “H” for hard and “B” for black. “HB” is the hardest pencil in many sketching sets, probably because softer, darker “B” pencils are better for shading. For shading, the higher the number, the darker the “B” pencil. “8B” is the darkest, softest pencil in my set.

2. Start your outline with a harder pencil.

Use an “HB” on a “2B” to begin drawing your outline. While you are establishing proportion and accuracy, the hard pencil will erase easily and smear less than the softer, darker one.

3. Once your outline is established, switch to a softer pencil for shading.

Look for the darker areas, and begin to shade lightly with a “2B” or “4B” pencil. You may want to use overlapping crosshatching marks, or lay the pencil on its side for a thicker mark. A third option is to let your pencil shading follow the curve of the edges of your subject.

4. Switch to a softer, darker pencil for the darkest areas.

As you finish up with shading, think about the darkest areas and use a “6B” or higher pencil to darken and add contrast to the drawing. The area with the strongest dark/light contrast will probably become the center of attention, so choose your darks strategically.

In later posts, I will explain values, shading techniques, and positive and negative space. Until then, play with different pencils and have fun with your drawing!


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