Be the master of your pencil

There are two extremely common concerns that are expressed to me through email, comments and forum posts, that both have their answer in better control over how much weight you place on your pencil when drawing.

The first is being unable to go from under-drawing construction to completed work without seeing the "messy" under-drawing peeking from underneath.

The second is being unable to produce anything but harsh looking shadows.

In both cases, being able to produce more values from your pencil will help greatly to correct these issues.

How do you gain greater control of your pencil?

Back in high school (I attended an Art's Magnet Academy), there was an entire semester where we began each day in homeroom by doing a pencil-weight control exercise. It's very simple. You take a piece of paper and draw five boxes on it. Then, using a single pencil, fill in each box with a different color value, from lightest to darkest.

The next day, draw six boxes, and repeat the exercise.

The following day, seven boxes -- and so forth and so on. Pencil Weight Example

No matter how many boxes you draw, each one must always contain a slightly different color value. At the end of a month, you'll be the master of any pencil you pick up. Almost any pencil you find can create hundreds of color values!

To help you practice, I've created a printable worksheet, with your first 13 days of practice ready for you.

Click here to Download the Pencil Weight Exercise Worksheet


Chrisbreen13 (unregistered visitor)

This is a great exercise, I did this before In my high school art class and it really improved my shading :) .

rufino ramirez (unregistered visitor)

i just wanted to thank you for this awesome tip, im going to continue to read through your site and learn more helpful ways of improving my art and help me so much at my art institute schooling, wich by the way, is where i learned of your sight through my instructer.

Katiane Vaz

loved this worksheet! I've done this exercise really helps;-)

Taylorsss (unregistered visitor)

oh this is so helpful.thank you very much.

dylstew (unregistered visitor)

Thank you, this sounds like a very good exercise!


Sounds like good advise, will give it a try.

Brian Hermelijn (unregistered visitor)

Awesome exercise. Definitely doing it.

Aya (unregistered visitor)

thanks alot ,, very useful
i also desperately need to know how to make gradation between different values ,,how to make them blended (as in shading a still life drawing)

is there any exercise for these technique ?


i think it will help

Pencil Weight and Pressure - Blog - The Fairies Demand Tea (unregistered visitor)

[…] thing I’ve always struggled with is pencil pressure. This little exercise from artists.pixelovely sounds just perfect for sorting that […]


I begin to draw and thank you for this exercise. and also for the training sheet


useful lesson :) thanks for sharing!

mayorrlayor (unregistered visitor)

great advice


At 61, I am trying my hands on painting after retirement. I am sure, this forum will be of great help to me. I find sketching more difficult but interesting to learn. A grip on pencil for sketching is confidence building exercise for paint art.

Kamukama Brander (unregistered visitor)

well done i apleciate


i'll try this today.thanks


What happens after Day 13?

Kim - Administrador del sitio

You can re-use days 9-13 as many times as you want, or draw your own set of boxes with even more rows to fill in. This is just a sample exercise to get you started. :)


Made some extra worksheets, you can find them on the forum :-)

AntiMatter78 (unregistered visitor)

Thanks! I'll do both :-)


Made some extra worksheets, might as well share them :-) See forum or:

Flávia Rode Nogueira (unregistered visitor)

Hi!!!! Your site is simply marvelous! I really enjoy it!! Thanks for this great idea!!!!

dhushi (unregistered visitor)


Tomek (unregistered visitor)

Got any tips for smoother and straighter lines? Can't get it :) Drawings look like my hands were shaking :)


Me too hahahah

LindaPS (unregistered visitor)

I remember doing this in high school art. Right now I am trying to relearn all my art skills using an Apple Pencil and digital art on an iPad. Getting the hang of the “feel” of the pencil on glass and not paper has been a challenge. Finding the right “Brush” in Procreate and working with these excercises and classes is helping tremendously! Thanks!

8ge (unregistered visitor)

I love painting!!(`・ω・´)

Nori (unregistered visitor)

Can this exercise be used for biro pen as well? I'm just wondering because a biro pen is heavier than a pencil it'll be a bit harder

Kim - Administrador del sitio

It might be more challenging, but I don't see why not :)

Sexy70 (unregistered visitor)

Just printed the exercise. Can't wait to begin.


Je ne peux pas avoir accès au exercice supplémentaire. Le lien ne fonctionne pas.

Kim - Administrador del sitio

I just tested the link and it loads fine for me, maybe there was internet trouble at the time?

Sea Ch1cken

What pencil grade do you recommend using for the exercise?

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