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How to Hold Your Pencil When Drawing and Sketching


When learning to draw, sometimes itís difficult to know what techniques are available to artists, which ones you should use, and which ones you should not use. How to hold a pencil seems to be trivial in nature but can make a huge difference in your drawings and sketches.

In this article you will learn a few different ways to hold the pencil and how to adopt them into your drawing practices. This is important because most people donít realize that there are more ways than one to grip a pencil when drawing and sketching. They generally pick it up like they were taught in school for writing. But writing and drawing are a lot different. So the way you hold your pencil should be different as well. A lot of problems such as hatched lines and unsteadiness originate from holding the pencil incorrectly.

The first grip is the basic tripod grip. It is the technique that they teach young children in school. Itís probably the same one that you use for writing. You grip the pencil with the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger to form a tripod or triangle. This tripod is usually supported by your ring finger and pinky fingers. The grip allows the pencil to be controlled when making fine strokes and is great when applying fine details.

The fingers are in control of the pencil when using the tripod grip. Itís also nice when doing the finer details because your hand can rest on the page as it lays these in.

Sometimes smudging can be a problem, but no fear, just lay down a sheet of paper to keep your drawing free from the smudges.

The problems of this grip are that it is a frustrating way to draw. A flowing line is impossible to do this way, your hatching and cross-hatching isnít done correctly and the lines become curved, the pencil pressure is off, and itís not the most comfortable.

The position that is closely related to this position is called the extended tripod grip. It is essentially the same as the basic tripod grip with the exception that the tripod is formed further up on the pencil. This benefits the artist because only a small movement of the fingers can produce greater movement of the pencil tip. One thing to remember with this is to not squeeze it too tightly.

The technique that a lot of artists use is called the overhand grip. This grip is where the pencil is held almost as if you were holding a bow for a violin. Your hand goes over the pencil and is held lightly against the fingers and the flat of your thumb.

This overhand grip is ideal for sketching with the side of the pencil and is the preferred grip among artists. It doesnít need a propped arm and the limitations are only your arm span. Not nearly as many limitations as the other grips have.

This overhand grip produces flowing, sweeping lines and is great for sketching, hatching, cross-hatching, value work, with the side of the lead. It is a huge preference for academic drawing. Itís great when using a drawing surface such as an easel.

One common rule in whichever grip you choose to use and whatever works for you is to never, ever choke the pencil tip. This is never a good thing to do for artists.

Just remember to use a grip that you are comfortable. There are many variations of these grips and do what you are comfortable with and you will see your drawings come alive.

If you have any questions on figure drawing, please feel free to email us at:

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