How to Hold a Pencil When Drawing

Learning how to draw isn’t reserved for prodigies. We all start drawing at some point in our life. Some of us struggle with it more than others, but everyone can improve by studying the basics and structure of the drawing. How to hold a pencil when drawing is an essential skill for both children and adults. Being able to draw takes time and practice. Most beginners do not know how to hold a pencil properly when drawing and end up slowing down their progress and holding back the quality of their work. There are many ways a pencil can be held while drawing. This post will go in-depth into the different pencil drawing ways and the best.

Holding the pencil is one of the most important steps in drawing. Without proper pencil holding skills, you will not be able to achieve good results. This article discusses the various types of pencil holds that can help you draw better. You can learn how to hold a pencil when drawing with the help of this guide.

How to Hold a Pencil When Drawing: 5 Methods

At the end of the day, there are no correct or incorrect ways to hold a pencil when drawing. What works for one person may not work for another and vice versa. However, find that your drawing process is slowing you down because you’re dealing with wrist pain. It might be a good idea to pay attention to these common mistakes and make some changes, like spending less time drawing with a pencil in your hand, drawing in shorter bursts throughout the day, and taking frequent breaks.

There are many different ways to hold a pencil. These routines have been developed and altered over the last couple of centuries. The three most common methods of holding a pencil are the tripod, overhand, and the paint brush holding method. What method you choose is only a personal choice, but there are reasons why one may be better than the others.

Pencil Grip Method- 1: Traditional Basic Tripod Grip

hand griping red pencil

As the title implies, it is a traditional grip. We have all learned how to grip a pencil in this manner since the time we were learning how to write.  In fact, many of us use this grip as our only means of drawing.  Personally, this grip remains a top choice for many artists.  This is the grip we normally use when drawing something. The way we are most familiar with it is natural for us to grab a pencil in this way.  However, this grip limits our drawing abilities. We make contact with surfaces by using the pencil’s tip.  The grip offers a good deal of control, making it a good tool for details.

The method taught us how to form letters and numbers by drawing small lines and curves. When creating small details and short lines, you can also use the same grip.

In order to make these smaller lines, follow these steps:

  • The pencil should be held between your thumb, index, and middle finger, just as if you were writing a letter.
  • Instead of just using your wrist, use your whole arm.
  • Keep your wrists off the drawing surface and your desk. When you draw, you need to use both your hand and forearm to give you control without having to ground yourself, leading to unplanned curves that will appear in the line and details.
  • Draw with your pinky knuckles barely touching or gliding across the paper. The benefit of this method is that it will keep your forearm steady while keeping your pencil slightly more sideways, which will allow you to choose how thick you would like to make your lines – either along with the point or as you draw them along the side.

Pencil Grip Method- 2: The Paint Brush Drawing Grip

griping a black drawing pencil

The paint brush grip is similar to holding a paintbrush when holding a pencil.  In addition to encouraging you to loosen up, this grip also prevents you from touching the paper. This grip is utilized by easel painters using long paintbrushes that allow them to maintain some distance from their work. It is beneficial to the artist in two ways: first, it provides a quick overview of the canvas, and second, it allows them to keep their strokes loose. In order to use the pencil, you must hold it upright and rest the back edge against the crease between the index finger and the base of your thumb. 

With this grip, you can draw fine lines easily and quickly.  Furthermore, it is one of the best tools for comparing surfaces and laying out compositions. Drawing is generally done by contacting the drawing surface with the pencil’s tip. Using this grip, you can see the whole picture rather than becoming too engrossed in a single section of your drawing. Furthermore, it keeps you loose as you have even less control than when using a pickup grip.

Due to only being able to utilize the tip of the pencil with this grip, they are good for making light, delicate marks. They help prevent making extra heavy marks that can be hard to erase. Another advantage is that your hand won’t smudge your drawing since it won’t touch the paper.

The best way to begin a sketch is with an H-grade pencil. It is recommended to block thin, light lines that are easy to erase. Grass, for example, can be drawn quickly and smoothly with this grip! It can also help you become less dependent on the tripod grip. You will probably have more luck if you draw on a flat table rather than an upright one (see above). If you practice this method, you will be better prepared for easel painting.

Pencil Grip Method- 3: The Overhand Drawing Grip

drawing with pencil

It is a combination of the brush grip and the pickup grip. You can also use the side of the graphite pencil instead of the brush grip, so the pencil points more straight from your hand. In order to apply material forcefully, you should use this grip.  While pressing down on the pencil tip, the middle finger and thumb hold the midsection of the pencil.  When the pencil is almost parallel to the surface of the drawing, it causes the side of the tip to make contact with the drawing surface.  As a result, the marks tend to be inconsistent in width.  This grip is particularly useful for covering large areas of material quickly.  Using this grip, you are also forced to use your shoulders while drawing.

If you use the overhand grip in conjunction with a properly sharpened pencil, you will be able to introduce the edge into your marks, increasing their versatility.

By using the side of your pencil or drawing stick, you can quickly fill in large sections of paper with wide, tonal strokes. Your forefinger and pressure should support the pencil tip should be applied to ensure that as much graphite as possible is deposited as rapidly as possible without damaging the graphite. Alternatively, you can use the side of the pencil to make broad, loose strokes.

Pencil Grip Method- 4: The Inverted Drawing Grip

showing how to grip a pencil when drawing

The pencil rests on the forefinger in this grip while the thumb and lower fingers stabilize it.  However, the pencil should be pointed towards the artist.  The tip of the pencil and its backside serve to make marks because the fingers and the hand stay out of the way.

Pencil Grip Method- 5: The Pickup Drawing Grip

pencil drawing

Similar to picking up something with your fingertips, this grip is similar to grasping something with your hands. When sketching, a lot of artists use this grip, especially if they want loose, sketchy lines. With this method, it’s hard not to be loose. Since it’s almost impossible to use just your fingers, you need to use your whole arm and even your shoulder. This creates sweeping, long strokes that are impossible to achieve using a tripod grip. The following exercise is great for loosening up with your drawing.

Another reason you have to be loose with this grip is that you have to lift your entire arm and palm off the paper to get the pencil at the right angle. With this change, we can no longer rest our palms on the side and make small strokes with our fingers. Your thumb and fingertips are the most you can rest on the paper, and even then, you have to move your arm and shoulder to make your movements.

men showing how to grip a pencil

In addition to tonal drawing and shading, this grip makes it easy to cover paper quickly. Due to its close proximity to the paper, the pencil tip is easier to use and produces broad strokes when held near parallel. This also decreases the probability of smudging. The grip is also great for vine charcoal. With the pickup grip, you can make a wide variety of strokes with ease. If you tilt the pencil upwards, so the tip makes contact with the paper, you can create thin strokes or create broad strokes by keeping the pencil parallel to the paper.

When you start a drawing, use this grip to quickly and lightly indicate the rough outline of your subject. This grip is excellent for sketching gestures. Let the pencil barely touch the paper when using this grip. To begin, hold only the pencil in your hands while holding your fingers and thumb at the same time. Move the pencil with your entire arm. Resting your fingertips on paper will provide more control. Compressed charcoal sticks work great with this method. Compared to vine charcoal or thin graphite, these sticks can be applied more force and quickly cover the paper.

Final Words

Holding a pencil properly makes a huge difference in the quality of your drawing. This is one of those things that everyone knows, but few actually know how to do it properly. This guide on how to hold a pencil when drawing covers all the basics of controlling your hand, which will be essential to learning to draw. Once you understand the purpose of each finger and how it should be positioned, you’ll have a better understanding of how to hold a pencil and move it with precision. And once you can do that, getting started drawing will become much easier!

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