These Pencil Drawing Techniques will Inspire You if You are a Beginner

The first step in this free drawing tutorial is to master basic pencil drawing techniques and pencil strokes that every pencil artist needs in their pencil drawing tool box.

This tutorial should take less than half hour, but take as much time as you need to get to grips with the different pencil strokes. Do it until you can do every stroke without too much premeditation, and you can understand where each stroke can be useful throughout the pencil portrait process.

It might be useful further down the line if you can decide on a technique you prefer now, also. This means you can master that one stroke and execute it in more instances.

For example, I hardly ever use ‘cross-hatching’ in pencil drawing. I personally just prefer using the ‘hatching’ or a ‘back and forth’ technique, and feel I get better results from this with a pencil. I am more comfortable with this technique, which in turn gives me the confidence to execute it in instances whereby maybe another artist will frown upon it, and insist on using ‘cross-hatching’.

There is no right or wrong. Just your own preference.

The Different Pencil Art Techniques

For this you will need;

  • A Pencil
  • A Sheet of paper

The Outline

This pencil technique is the most basic of all, and can be referred to as a ‘ light outline’ or a ‘heavy outline’.

You would use a light outline to create your guidelines and subject guide outlines, and can be drawn both with a ruler and free-hand.

To create a light outline, simply reduce any pressure downwards onto the paper and move in a slow, flowing motion. I find holding the pencil at an acute angle with the top of the pencil facing the direction you are moving and using a pulling technique helps to flow easier, as seen in the diagram on the right.

A heavy outline would be used in the final instances of each element, once you are happy with your work as heavy lines adding more lead or graphite into the paper makes total erasing near impossible.

Heavy outlines are usually drawn by free hand, and can be created holding the pencil closer to the nib to have better control and increasing the pressure to the desired shade instead as seen in the diagram on the right. You may also find it easier to add heavy outlines in small pencil strokes to avoid mistakes.

Tip; Holding your pencil closer to the nib gives you more control over the accuracy of your lines. Holding your pencil too close to the nib however, can obstruct your view.

Practice drawing straight light and heavy lines freehand, and work out how you are most comfortable holding your pencil. The best position will be the one which creates the straightest line.


The Hatching pencil technique is simply marking out small lines bunched together to create fill color from further away.

This technique is a shading technique, and like outlines can be light or heavy by reducing or adding pressure.


The same method of hatching above, except the process is repeated in the opposite direction in a second layer on top of the first layer.

This technique is a shading technique, and is a good way of adding darker shades to your pencil portrait, as multiple layers can be added. I don’t recommend this method if you wish to blend the graphite.


The Stipping pencil drawing technique uses the same principle as hatching, but the lines are very small, similar to tiny dashes.

This technique is a shading technique, but for smaller areas such as iris’ of the eyes, or even designer stubble facial hair.

This technique is great for blending if light pressure is used.

Back and Forth Stroke

The Back and Forth pencil drawing technique is probably the first shading technique all of us learned when we youngsters.

It is simply moving the pencil in a back and forth motion at a more rapid speed all towards the same direction.

Again, you can alternate the pressure to create lighter and heavier pencil shades. This technique is useful near the outline of the subject, to ensure the fill shade stays within the correct area. Exactly the same as when we were kids!


Finally, the Scumbling pencil drawing technique. This technique is moving the pencil in small, circular motions keeping them all very compact.

This technique is brilliant for keeping the shading tight, and blends very well. This is a favourite of mine as I like to keep the graphite soft on the canvas, and blend the tones tightly to create a smoother texture.