Pencil Drawing Lesson

Pep talk:  To improve drawing your drawing skills you must first learn the fundamental techniques and second you must practice using them all together.  This takes time. There are a lot of elements to juggle and not implementing one or  the other can lead to an unsatisfying final drawing.  In these lessons I've chosen to over-simplify in many cases. I feel if you know how to get the simple details right, then it's less overwhelming to tackle a bigger, more complicated drawing.

There are a lot of drawing tricks to learn.  Here are a few important ones.

This lesson continues to explore techniques to use line to create the illusion of form. The devil is in the details and there are A LOT of details to know. Every line has a role in suggesting a three dimensional volume on your paper.  Knowing what a line's weight and angle mean relative to all the rest help a drawing look convincing and even masterful. Here are a few and don't forget to click to view a larger image.

Thick lines can define the outer edge of an object while thinner wrapping lines can define areas of shadow and also suggest the three dimensional volume of the form.

Remember that this is only a few marks of graphite on paper.  Every line denotes the cylinder's form in an imaginary volume.  They depend on each other and even bring the white space in between into the third dimension.  Notice that the lines converge as they recede, that under side is shadowy and wrap, each hatched line wraps around the form, and the cast shadow orients us to the ground plane and makes it feel like it's floating. I'll grant that the drawing is sketchy, but there are few lines that don't know what they are doing.

You can make a wide variety of marks with a thoughtfully sharpened pencil. Each mark has meaning in the context of a drawing. It's just a matter of learning the language.  Once learned a pencil is the quickest, easiest way to visualize an idea.

I'll post a lesson on "advanced sharpening" in the future. A standard pencil is arguably not the absolute best tool to render realistically since there are limitations to the width of line it creates making it difficult to cover large areas quickly with darker value. However, pencils are so easy to carry around, clean up, and they're cheap so you can buy a fist full of them for a few dollars (or you can just steal them from friends and they probably won't even be that mad). In fact, drawing is one of the cheapest hobbies I can think of.

The major edges of objects in the foreground can be thick to attract attention, while objects receding into the background are treated with thinner, lighter lines.  It's all relative!  This technique mimics atmospheric perspective, but can also be a way to call focus to the important parts of a composition.
Note: Oops! I made a perspective mistake while rendering the tops of the cylinders.  Since the horizon line is below the tops, the elliptical top-plane should not be visible. The background building is more or less accurate. 


1) Ellipses are tangent to the vertical edge as they meet it.  This is a detail that really helps solidify the illusion of roundness.

2) Remember that what you can't see has impact on what you do see.  Even if you don't draw the back side of an object, know what's happening. The invisible side of things can create shadows that we do see.

3) Case in point.

4) Overlaps! Make sure that you pay attention to any overlaps that occur. This happens often.  Practice letting the line in the background thin out or even disappear just before going behind the foreground object.

5) The horizon line=your eye level! You are looking up at objects above it and down at objects below. It's crucial and you should know where it is at the beginning of every drawing to avoid the mistake I made rendering my "landscape" above.

If you're relying heavily on outside lines (as opposed to tones and shapes) it's good practice to give more weight to lines on the underside of forms. Also, try to give more contrast and emphasis to the parts in the foreground and subtly darken and soften the parts that are receding into space.

Accurate shadows in perspective add significantly to the sense of 3 dimensional space. Here's a diagram showing how to predict the shadows caused by an artificial light sources (i.e. lightsources other than the sun). Organic shapes become more difficult to predict, but this can you get pretty close to help make an educated guess.

For sunlight, use a point on the horizon as the "bottom of the lamp".


I'll stop here. Next time we'll look closer at how our materials affect how we render and also discuss the body dynamics involved in successful drawing.  It's important not to get in our own way.

Here's a taste:


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How Sketch said...

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NagaRaj Raj said...