Learn Pencil Drawing : Step by Step

Every time I paint a portrait I lose a friend. 
Self Portrait Graphite on Wove Paper
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

John Singer Sargent

Oh! No, no. It is not so. Once we get our hand swiftly moving on a paper, the pencil starts working for us and for the person being portrayed. What the master artist meant to say was that no one can draw a perfect portrait.

How to Draw Pencil drawings, the portrait paintings, of film stars, are one of the most favoured subjects of all of the artists. 

When at the age of 40, as a by-product of ‘spare time available’, an artist in me had started waving his sides, from left to right and vice versa, I took a pencil in my hand, even if I had vowed not to do that at any point in time in my life. Here we can see how the master artists like Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres had depicted his art of the portrait painting.

Yes, I had decided not to look at the world of art. The only compulsion for doing so was this: I was married and my better half had a wonderful artistic disintegration with the art of painting.  But everyone's time comes. After two decades of my struggle-full and blissful married life, I had to find out some element of courage within me. Thus start doing paintings where the show of my first rebel against the domestic freedom-less-ness I was suffering from. I think this is enough about me. Now let us start the real talks. Here are some articles which would throw some light on the Art of Pencil Drawing.


This article is not designed to teach the reader how to be an artist in pencil drawing, nor is it step-by-step instruction on how to draw on paper or canvass. My humble endeavour here is to declare that the pencil is the first tool an artist should befriend with were he or she seriously interested in going ahead in the art of painting.


Pencil drawing is simple marks of pencil on paper. But these simple markings are very expressive and artistic. When a beginner takes a pencil in his or her hand and starts putting lines or dots on paper, he or she feels deeply rooted in the work.

There are techniques to learn. But you can learn it by practice only, and not by hearing or seeing the lectures on the subject. By travelling on the road of the process of constant practice, you would learn many things like, how to sharpen the pencil, how to get the sharp edge or thick edge of the pencil, where to put pressure in drawing and where to keep it low, whether to use white or coloured paper, whether to use graphite pencil, charcoal or coloured pencils and how to do creative drawing.

The violinist Niccolo Paganini 
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
Pencil-1819 Louvre Museum, Paris


In pencil drawing, shading is an aspect that exploits an artist’s best skills. The creative shading of a pencil can create a picture as beautiful as in any other medium like watercolour and oil colour. Shading in pencil drawing is just like putting different tonal values of colours.

By selecting a proper colour and applying that colour in different tonal values, a painter animates his or her mental images on paper. Notes of music might be unpleasant, if not played with care; and it fails to impress. Such is the case with line drawing in the art of painting. While drawing the light of dark lines by the tip of a pencil the artist varies the weight of the line. It is done by lofting the pencil or pressing it a little bit harder. In pencil drawing the artist exploits the use of pencil, executing it by light line or weight.

PENCIL PORTRAITS: Drawing Eyes, Nose and Lips

In order to do a perfect pencil portrait an artist needs to study the subject first; here subject being the face of a person whose portrait is to be drawn. Eyes and nose posing crucial identity of a person, we should draw it realistically. It is important to know about the size and shapes of both eyes. Artists generally believe that the lines while drawing the nose should be hard. In fact, the nose requires more shading work.

While using pencil drawing as the medium of communicating through the art of painting, the artists have to keep several factors in mind. The major is the appropriate balance of lines and shading. Shading is the technique of varying the tonal values on the base, usually the paper, to represent the shade of the subject itself as well as the placement of the shadows falling on the opposite side of the subject. Pencil drawing is simple marks of pencil on paper. But these simple markings are very expressive. When the artist or a beginner takes a pencil in his or her hand and starts putting lines, dots or shading on the paper, he or she feels deeply rooted in the work.

Drawings of animals, pets, horses and dogs

While doing all types of paintings or drawings, an artist enjoys a poetic license, a license to use his or her artistic freedom. In the case of portrait drawing or painting, this facility is withdrawn. The person whose portrait is being done would insist on a cent per cent similarity with his or her face. A tiny dot here or a small mistake of lining there would turn the face a different one.

Once an artist put the first stroke of a pencil or a charcoal stick on paper, things start happening. The pet you are drawing remains only the base unlike in portrait painting of a man or a woman. At this point in time, the artist is not only the spectator or an observer of the object; he or she becomes the governor of the situation. The artist makes out a mental picture of the animal sitting before his or her eyes, and then the mental picture starts being animated on the paper. Thus while making a portrait of animals, a horse, a dog or a cat, the artist owns a room for using artistic prowess. 

The Art: You need not have previous experience of any sort of drawing or painting before starting the pencil drawing. It hardly matters that you have missed out on art classes when you were in school. You can very well learn how to draw. You can start the journey to the land of art called ‘painting’ by just taking a pencil in your hand and the passion for the art in your heart. The art does not look at the age or position of a person entering the field. Only the person should have the fire to enter the arena of art. Pencil drawing is the gate. 

The Technique: Once you have taken the decision to learn the pencil drawing; the second step is to decide about the materials to use in the process. To remain cool-headed, just ignore most of the things told and lectured about the subjects. And avoid reading more ‘How-to’s. To think about the types of pencils, like graphite pencil, Charcoal stick or coloured pencils would be interesting in the days ahead. You just start with a good set of a pencil; say three pencils of different grade and white papers. The coloured paper is also an alternative but keep it for the future.

Get, Set and Go: The first thing that you would be doing is quite simple. It can be just putting off some markings with your pencil on the blank white paper. Do it, and do it without any preplanning. That’s the real way. The art is not like the water coming from a designed pipeline laid by the local authorities; it is like the water gushing out of a stream; so forceful, so fresh, and so wild. And after going through this fresh and wild experience, let us go to another type of drawings.

PENCIL DRAWING: Of Dogs and Pets

How to Portray Pet: While drawing the face of your pet, you have no such risk. It is because the pet dog or cat would not mind it; even if you make serious mistakes in its portrait. But that facility hardly relieves the artist from his or her responsibility, to be honest to the art.

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