How To Correctly Hold Your Pencil To Draw
For an aspiring artist, making the transition from writing to drawing can be quite a daunting challenge, and one of the first things that I quickly learned when I started was that the way I held my pencil for writing was not necessarily the best way to hold it for drawing.
How should you hold a pencil when drawing?
There are two main grips useful for drawing; the Tripod grip (the one often used for writing) and the Overhand grip. For the latter, simply lay the pencil down on a flat surface then put your index finger on top of your pencil and take your thumb and hold it against the left side with your three other fingers against the right.
In today’s article, we’ll compare the most common and useful pencil grips, their variants as well as where they excel. We’ll also help you decide which grip works best for you And also talk about posture, stance, as well as wrist and arm movement to help you elevate your pencil drawings.
I. Tripod Variants
The Tripod Grip is also commonly used for writing and should be comfortable for most people, it also has some variants, namely; the extended tripod, quadropod, and underhand grips. This is a very solid grip that is excellent for control and detail.
1. Extended Tripod
The extended tripod simply has you move your hand up the pencil, away from the tip, while still maintaining the thumb and forefinger pinch on it.
One of the benefits of this grip is that you’ll be able to move your pencil over your paper with smaller finger motions, making it comfortable and not at all tiring for long drawing sessions as long as you don’t grip too tightly.
Additionally, it should keep your hand well off your paper, reducing the risk of smudging while providing you with a much wider range of motion. This grip should be very easy to learn since it’s so similar to the way of writing most people are used to.
The quadropod grip is really quite simple, pinch the pencil with your thumb, forefinger and your middle finger, then allow it to rest on your ring finger.
As you’ve probably surmised, this is simply the tripod grip but with an extra finger thrown in for more precise control.
It might strain your wrist a bit while you’re trying to get used to it, and I wouldn’t recommend using it 100% of the time, but for very small or dark details where the extra pressure and control of using four fingers is absolutely crucial, it can’t be beaten.
Similarly to the tripod, moving your hand up the pencil, away from the tip, and relaxing your grip will result in an extended quadropod.
Lastly, the underhand grip is found by many to be extremely relaxed and ergonomic. Simply hold your pencil in the traditional tripod grip, then slide your thumb a bit higher up the pencil and tilt your hand outwards slightly.
Use your pointer and middle fingers to guide the pencil while using the thumb to ensure that it doesn’t slip off while resting the pencil in the “V” between your thumb and pointer finger. Ideally, your wrist should be lifted slightly off your paper while drawing with this grip, though curling up your ring and pinky finger slightly will allow you to rest your hand on your paper if you’re doing a long drawing session.
This grip is a wonderful compromise between the control of the tri or quadropod grips and their extended variants, giving you a decent amount of control but also a large field of motion.
II. Overhand Grip
The overhand grip is accomplished by laying the pencil down on a flat surface, tip pointed away from you, then put your index finger on top of your pencil and take your thumb and hold it against the left side and your three other fingers against the right side of the pencil.
This grip is almost exclusively used for drawing, so if it’s your first time trying it out, be patient with it and don’t rush. When using this grip, you can hold the pencil at a slight angle so that the tip, as well as the side of the lead, can make contact with your drawing surface. Doing this will result in lines that, if used to write, might resemble calligraphy.
You can still use the tip of the pencil in this grip by either flipping your arm over so the back of your hand faces the paper or you can simply angle your wrist downwards.
By varying the pressure you place on the pencil and the angle at which it makes contact with the drawing surface you can create flowing, expressive lines that can vary in darkness and texture. It can be very fun to try this grip in tandem with the drawing tips and exercises we’ve previously recommended in other articles.
With your wrist off the paper, you can control the general movement of the pencil with your shoulder and your entire arm, providing you with an excellent range of motion, but you can still do minute corrections and details by articulating your wrist slightly and moving your thumb and forefinger.
Bonus! How to Sharpen Your Pencil
How you sharpen your pencil will directly affect how you draw, and having plenty of exposed lead will allow you to make much wider and softer lines. While you could certainly buy a fancy long-lead sharpener, they can be a bit pricey, so while you’re trying out these new grips, consider hand-sharpening your pencil as shown in this video:
III. Posture And Arm Movement
The last thing we’ll cover is your drawing posture and how you move your wrist and arm while drawing so that you’ll both draw better and more comfortably.
To start off, position yourself so that your forearm is parallel to your drawing surface. Try to keep your shoulders loose and relaxed, don’t scrunch them up and avoid the temptation to hunch over your paper.
Try to keep your back and head straight and, if possible, it’s often better to simply pick up the paper if you absolutely need to look at it closely.
As much as possible, your elbows and your knees should be bent at around a 90° angle so as to reduce strain and cramping if you’re drawing at a table. If you’re sitting down in a chair that doesn’t allow for this, consider getting a stool to prop your feet up on.
Some might find that they prefer to draw on a slanted surface as this will allow them to see what they’re doing without craning their neck too much. While you can buy a slanted drawing board or an easel, you might find the cost a bit prohibitive.
If you want to try out drawing on a slanted surface but don’t want to spend too much money upfront, you can try making a simple one yourself, just like the one in this video:
Congratulations! You’re steady on your way to become even better at pencil drawing! At this point, I’ll summarize the main points of the article:
The two most common pencil grips are the Tripod and Underhand grips, with the tripod being great for small, precise details and the underhand allowing you a wide range of motion by using your shoulder to control the pencil.
How you sharpen your pencil can also impact your drawing, and keeping a good posture is important for your long term performance and health as an artist.
In the end, however, these grips and techniques are merely tools through which you channel your vision. Practice continuously and consistently, and never falter in pursuit of your dreams.
When will you make your vision a reality?