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

26 thoughts on “Be the master of your pencil

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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 ?

  4. Pingback: Pencil Weight and Pressure - Blog - The Fairies Demand Tea

  5. 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.

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