Most of us probably don’t give any thought to the way we hold a pencil when we draw. I know I didn’t for quite a long time. But there are different ways to hold a colored pencil that do more than just give your hand a rest.
How to Hold a Colored Pencil
Over the course of the years, I’ve learned how to hold a colored pencil to get different results and to give my hand a rest without interrupting my drawing session.
Today, I’d like to share four of them.
Normal Handwriting Grip
The most natural way to hold a colored pencil is the same way you hold a pen or regular pencil. However, there are a few variations that can improve your drawing experience.
The closer to the tip you hold the pencil, the more pressure you can exert on the paper. Usually, you’re holding the pencil in a normal grip, so the tip is the only part of the pigment core that touches the paper.
You can fill in the paper better this way, you have more control over the amount of pressure you use, and you can draw finer detail holding the pencil this way.
When you hold a pencil at the middle or closer to the end, it’s more difficult to exert a lot of pressure on the paper without losing any control of the pencil. If you’re naturally heavy-handed, holding your pencil toward the end can help you apply color with lighter pressure.
With the vertical grip, you hold the pencil as straight up-and-down as you can to make marks. This grip is especially effective with a very sharp pencil.
Make marks either by moving the tip of the pencil in circular motions or by tapping it on the paper. This tapping stroke is called stippling and is a great stroke for adding unique textures to your art.
In this illustration, I held the pencil vertically to make a short, straight mark in the background. I have used this stroke to draw grass, but use it most often for stippling details around the edges of trees.
By stippling several layers of two or three shades of green, I can create the look of trees with shadows and highlights without actually drawing a lot of detail.
If the pencil is well-sharpened, you can add color with the side of the exposed pigment core. You can still vary the amount of pressure you use, but not to the same extent possible with a normal grip.
It’s also more difficult to work on detail holding the pencil like this.
You can hold the pencil anywhere along its length with the horizontal grip.
When you hold a pencil at the very end, you can exert what I call feather-light pressure. With this amount of pressure, you’re adding very little color to the paper. Instead, you’re really applying color only to the high parts of the surface texture, as shown below.
The closer to the sharpened tip you hold the pencil, the more pressure you can put on the paper. But since you’re also drawing with the side of the exposed pigment core, you can’t draw a lot of detail.
Holding the pencil by the end is best for laying down layers of color over larger areas.
I learned this grip from Bonnie Sheckter, the featured artist for the February 2022 issue of CP Magic!. She uses this grip to work on drafting film, but I’ve been using it on traditional drawing papers. It’s especially useful for sketching.
So how does it differ from the other grips?
Instead of holding the pencil between your thumb and forefinger, hold it between the second and third fingers.
This is a great way to give your hands a bit of relief without having to take a break from drawing.
4 Ways I Hold a Colored Pencil
Most of the time, I use the first grip, the normal grip, when drawing. But there are times when adjusting how I hold my pencil produces better or faster results.
I have no doubt that you could get the same or similar results without changing the way you hold your pencil. But I encourage you to give these a try if you’re looking for something unique in your work.
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