My Favorite Specialty Strokes

My Favorite Specialty Strokes

In a previous post, I shared five of my favorite pencil strokes. Strokes I use for almost every drawing. I promised at the time that I’d show you some of the other strokes I use on special occasions. So today, let’s talk about my favorite specialty strokes.

My Favorite Specialty Strokes


I take credit for the name of this stroke. I didn’t learn it from anyone else and no one helped me name it, so if it looks and sounds silly, it’s because of me!

This is a random-pattern stroke that I use almost entirely for sketching foliage in landscape drawings. As you can see here, the “shape” of the stroke lends itself very well to outlining a tree, a group of trees, or low growing shrubs. It’s also great for sketching the shapes within the larger shape of the tree.

My Favorite Specialty Strokes

Sometimes, I use it later in the drawing process to place highlights, but I don’t do that very often.

To use the squiggly stroke, put your pencil on the paper and “wiggle” it around the shape you want to outline. I generally use a pencil that’s not quite sharp and medium-light pressure, but I’m also usually using it on Pastelmat or another textured paper. If you draw on smooth paper, you will want to use light pressure.

Long & Graceful

This stroke is a variation on the directional stroke I described in the previous post. As the name implies, it’s just longer and more graceful than the usual directional stroke.

I use this stroke toward the end of the drawing process and almost entirely on landscape drawings. It’s ideal for adding taller grass as an accent or detail to the landscape.

It can also be useful for adding wisps of long hair or whiskers to animal portraits.

To use this stroke, place your pencil on the paper and make a long, smooth stroke without moving your hand. As you stroke away from yourself, the pencil naturally begins to lift off the paper, creating a tapering mark. You’ll have the best results using light or medium-light pressure with a very sharp pencil.

You may need to practice this stroke a few times before trying it on a drawing, although you can also use the not-so-graceful strokes to add random details to your landscape.

One caution: This is a stroke that you will want to use sparingly.

This detail from Yellow Trees shows how I used the long-and-graceful stroke in the foreground.


This is a stroke that most artists who teach beginners recommend as a basic, all-purpose stroke. It is definitely good for that.

But I learned colored pencils before internet teaching was popular and I learned a different stroke that gives me smooth color every time. I talked about that in the previous post.

I do use the scumbling stroke in some cases, however, and I use it on all kinds of subjects.

So why is it a specialty stroke for me? Because I may start out with a scumbling stroke and use it for a few minutes only to discover that by the time I’ve finished the area, I’m using my old standby, the back-and-forth stroke! Old habits, and all that.

I use the scumbling stroke most often with blending layers. A blending layer is when I add a neutral color over previous work to either tone down textures that are too obvious or to smooth out color. I’m more careful to continue scumbling a blending layer because it’s the best way I’ve found to get a smooth blend.

This sample of scumbling also shows how you might use this stroke to create texture. You can scumble over smooth color, or apply smooth color over scumbling to create textures suitable for pebbly beaches, gravel roads, stone fences and other things.

My Favorite Specialty Strokes

To use the scumbling stroke, put the pencil on the paper and move the pencil tip in circles. For blending layers, use a sharp pencil and light pressure.

The Bottom Line

These are my favorite specialty strokes.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I don’t use these strokes for every subject, or even for every landscape. But they are very handy to create specific textures.

You may also find them useful in other subjects. I hope so!

Sign up for Carrie’s free weekly newsletter and be among the first to know when she publishes new articles.


  1. Patricia E Wilson

    Well, this was very interesting on how you do different strokes and how a picture starts. I love this and would love to watch you create via video. Thanks so much for the great content.

    1. Patricia,

      Thank you for your very kind words.

      I had not seriously considered teaching videos until doing the Jelly Bean classes for Ann Kullberg. Since then, I’m beginning to see the possibilities. So maybe, sometime in the future…. We’ll see.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *