Drawing Tips to Minimize Hand Stress

Drawing Tips to Minimize Hand Stress

Today, I want to address a topic that’s near and dear to all artists, regardless of age, or type of art: our hands and drawing tips to minimize hand stress. The article is prompted by the following question.

Boy, do I love coloring with my pencils…but I can get a sore right hand. Especially since I have Carpal-Tunnel Syndrome. Besides setting myself time limits, what else helps, in your experience?
Thanks much, Denise

Denise asks a great question. Even if you don’t have Carpal-Tunnel Syndrome, there will be times when the repetitive nature of drawing causes hand and wrist fatigue, discomfort or pain.

But there are ways to manage those symptoms and possibly prevent them altogether.

Drawing Tips to Help Minimize Hand Stress

The best way to minimize hand stress is to take breaks. If you can draw comfortably for half an hour, then start to feel stress or discomfort, take a break from drawing every 25 minutes. It’s best if you leave your drawing table or easel and walk or do something else for five or ten minutes because that gives the rest of you a break, as well as your hands.

But just putting down the pencils and doing some simple hand exercises at your drawing table or easel helps strengthen your hands, improves flexibility, and relieves fatigue.

Beyond that, here are some drawing tips that may also help.

Solvent Blending

Using solvent to blend colored pencil allows you to continue drawing with colored pencil, but reduces the amount of time you need to spend on each drawing, and reduces the number of strokes.

If you blend by burnishing, you’re exerting a lot of pressure on the pencil. That usually also means you’re holding the pencil more tightly. Both things cause stress to the muscles of your hands and fingers. Solvent blending eliminates much of that pressure.

Drawing Tips to Minimize Hand Stress - Blend with Solvent

Water Soluble Colored Pencils

Try using water soluble and traditional colored pencils together. Draw with them dry or use them like watercolor to do as much of the work as possible, then add details with traditional colored pencils.

You won’t need to work as long on a drawing, and can cover more area more easily with a brush. It doesn’t matter how you use water soluble colored pencils.

Mixed Media

Watercolors, inks, markers, and even acrylic paints make great under drawings for colored pencils. Just make sure to use them for the first portion of the work, then add traditional colored pencil over them. None of these mediums stick very well to colored pencils because of the wax or oil binders in colored pencils.

Drawing Tips to Minimize Hand Stress - Watercolor Pencils

Drawing Tips to Minimize Hand Stress

The bottom line is that we all need to be more mindful in how we draw. The best way to manage hand and wrist pain is to find ways to prevent it.

There are many reasons you might be dealing with hand and wrist pain. The best first step is consulting your doctor to find out why, then treating that underlying problem.

I make no claims on medical knowledge. I’m not doctor! These are just a few things I’ve found myself doing to get through long work sessions.

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  1. Vickie C.

    This was a very good question, and I certainly learned some things from Carrie’s answers. Also, I find that my hands hurt less using Prismacolor Premier (soft and waxy) than when I use Polychromos (oil based) pencils. I’ve wondered if others experience this.

  2. Mariepier

    I discovered solvent with colored pencil with Carrie when I first read her articles. It is a savior for me having arthritis in my hands mostly “trigger fingers”, it became harder and harder to get a blending I finally love, no more finger locking on a pencil. I had to learn a new way to knit now I have a new way to draw. After inventing a minimal brace for my troubled fingers better than what physio. was offering me, now I am going back to my arts. Thank you, Carrie

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