pencils drawing

How to Hold A Pencil When Drawing

Theories abound regarding how an artist should hold a pencil. One of the worst things you can do for your drawing is force yourself to use an artificial grip. It only creates stress and disturbs the natural flow of your line. Learning how to hold a pencil in new ways is worth exploring — you may find methods which better play off of your natural tendencies.

Let’s take a look at each pencil grip, showing you how to hold the pencil and when to use each one.

The Basic Tripod Grip
The most common method for holding a pencil — the same one you probably use for writing — is the basic tripod grip. Together, the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger form a triangle, while the ring finger and pinky support the form.

This grip allows tight control over the pencil, so is ideal for drawing fine detail when precision is important. Using the tip of the pencil rather than the side, the upright position of the pencil allows for accurate shading.

When using the tripod grip, use your fingers and thumb to control the pencil’s movement.

For fine work, your hand may rest on the page. Use a spare sheet of paper to keep your drawing free from smudges and skin oils.

If more movement is required, your wrist or elbow may rest against the edge of the drawing surface and be used as a pivot.

The Extended Tripod Grip
Another useful way to hold a pencil is in the extended tripod grip. As with the basic tripod, this method utilizes a triangle made up of the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger, but the grip is higher on the pencil.

Drawing with this grip may be more comfortable for you because it is similar to the more familiar grip. You can also enjoy the extra freedom it offers.

A tripod grip makes it possible for small finger movements to produce large movements of the pencil tip — a good, economical grip when sketching. It also keeps your hand off the creation surface, reducing the chances of smudging your work.

For best results, keep a relaxed grip on the pencil — a tight, vice-like grip is both tiring and restricting.

The Overhand Grip
For sketching, the overhand grip is a popular way to hold a pencil. It allows you to shade with the side of the pencil and is useful for holding the pencil vertically, such as on an easel.

To create the overhand grip, grasp the pencil lightly against the fingers with the flat of the thumb. This position will vary according to your hand size; the goal is to have a comfortable but secure grip. Make sure your arm has a full range of motion so that you can make marks freely and expressively.

Overhand grips are sometimes deemed the “correct” way to hold a pencil for drawing (and they are useful methods), but they are no better or worse than other grips when it comes to drawing.

The Underhand Pencil Grip
Holding a pencil underhand is a very loose, relaxed grip. It is useful for casual, broad sketching and is a great way to draw with charcoal.

Basically, this form is a tipped-over tripod grip, but can be modified based on your comfort level. For instance, you may move the thumb higher up on the pencil. It’s also common for artists to hold their pencils in the “V” of their thumb and palm, with their index and middle fingers gently controlling the tip.

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