Ah, childhood… In those times we didn’t ask ourselves how to learn to draw in pencil, because it was something natural, remember? However, as time went by, grief and negative comments from that art teacher made us stop drawing. It’s never too late to pick up the pencil again and bring your ideas to life!
According to Luis Gadea, sp’s mentor, to know how to draw is to be able to interpret reality through your art. As you can see, you don’t need to know how to draw realistically to draw well. You just need to practice some pencil drawing techniques to be able to capture on the blank page the vision you have in your head.
That’s why in this article we want to encourage you to connect with your inner child and start drawing again. And to make your way easier, we share with you this guide of 10 basic steps that will help you learn how to learn to draw in pencil step by step for beginners. 3, 2, 1… Let’s start!
1. Get the right materials
The first step for you to know how to learn to draw in pencil can’t be other than getting the necessary materials for the practice. Of course, having a pencil and a sheet of paper is essential.
“My way of working is usually by enjoying the means I have around me (…). Let’s remember that the use of different materials will give us versatility to use different media when putting our ideas on paper.”
So, in addition to the pencil and the paper you already have at home, we suggest you assemble your creative pencil case with the following materials to start drawing:
Different types of pencils-keep in mind that there are different grades of hardness (H or B) and tips. You could go to your nearby stationery store and try different options to choose the ones you like the most-.
A notebook with Bond paper sheets, although this will depend on your taste.
A pencil sharpener.
2. Warm up before drawing (and draw daily)
got your drawing supplies? great! What follows in our tutorial to learn how to draw in pencil is to start drawing some strokes, but not before warming up. Antonella Morelli, teacher of the online course Illustration for non-illustrators, tells us the following:
“Drawing with mastery has to do with the resistance and security of the line (…). It’s always good, before doing any illustration or sketching, to take a sheet of paper and start filling it with meaningless lines just to warm up your wrist”.
So, before drawing Goku or making a black and white portrait of your pet, “warm up” for a couple of minutes with exercises to learn how to draw. This will be enough to give you more fluency to your strokes and is something that will help you in your process of how to learn to draw in pencil.
Also, it is key that, if you want to know how to learn to draw in pencil, remember this advice: practice makes perfect!
Regardless of whether your goal is to learn how to draw anime or comics, or if you simply want to improve your skill, it is essential that you practice every day. Set a time in your day to draw, even if it’s for 5 minutes. Done is better than perfect.
3. Identify the basic shapes of what you want to draw
If you want to understand how to learn to draw in pencil it is crucial that you know how to represent the essence of each object or character. It’s not about drawing realistically, but about understanding what are the basic geometric shapes that make up the structure of each thing and that you can use to start your drawing.
Source: Online course Character design from scratch.
Practicing with geometric shapes will allow you to internalize much better the structure of what you want to draw, in this case, a pig. This way, you will be able to find what its essential shape is and see how, from this simplified structure, you can differentiate it from any other animal.
This is key when you study how to learn easy pencil drawing because, by starting to draw with basic shapes, you will quickly overcome any creative blocks and, later on, you will be ready to add all the details.
The exercise of drawing with geometric shapes will allow you to know how to draw faces. We invite you to this open class on how to create characters with geometric shapes, part of the online course Character illustration with geometric shapes by Nuria Muro.
4. Practice your perspective
It’s not bad to create drawings with a frontal plane, but in this guide on how to learn to draw in pencil we want to take your talent further. what if, instead of drawing that apple at your eye level, you draw it in a zenithal plane, as if you were looking at it from above?
5. Know the human anatomy
Something that will help you to be a better draftsman is to study human anatomy. Regardless of whether you want to draw realistically or not,knowing the appearance and proportions of the human being will help you in the process of learning how to draw in pencil.
Keep in mind that, even if you want to do cartoon drawing, you have to know the real proportions of the head or a foot, for example, to be able to exaggerate them.
One of the best exercises to learn how to pencil draw the human body is the one recommended by Alex Boyd, teacher of the online course Realistic Illustration of the Human Figure. Our mentor recommends using the width and height of a head to set the proportions of the body. he continues:
“For height, we replicate eight times downward from the head to define important points such as overall height, chin or head height, chest, navel, base of torso or crotch, mid-thigh height, knees, instep and feet. As for width, we use two heads per side to define the narrowness of our total figure.”
Download our free guide Drawing from scratch: The head and the face. find out how to learn to draw in pencil with the exercises you’ll find there!
Source: Online course Realistic illustration of the human figure.
6. Use a reference image
Now that we have practiced a little more, surely you already understand how to learn to draw in pencil, don’t you? Well, we are going to propose you an exercise with which you can start creating your first 100% original drawings.
First, you must find and land an idea of what you want to draw. However, if at this moment a million ideas come to your mind, you might freeze thinking about which one to choose. don’t get blocked! Liliana Camacho, teacher of the online course Sketching: Conceptualization and techniques, explains how you can choose the theme of your pencil drawing:
Think about what you are drawing for: is it a gift, is it to decorate your house, is it to express an idea?
Make sure your illustrations not only have a beautiful form (lines, colors, textures), but also a background (story, emotions, ideas)
Start with what you already know, what you like and what you have experience in drawing. This is a tip on how to learn to draw for beginners.
Create a list of ideas, which can be abstract or not, and think about what images you relate them to.
Think about where and when the scene you want to draw is happening, what the characters are doing, who the characters are, who they are and what they are doing.n doing, who they are, why the scene is happening and what their mood is. This will help you define the elements that will compose your pencil drawing, such as characters, objects, colors and textures.
Once you have more clarity about what you are going to draw, it’s time to find references. These images will be useful if you are taking your first steps on how to learn to draw in pencil, as they will be your study material to know the basic structure and details of what you want to draw .
In this regard, Antonella Morelli comments the following:
“References are very important for illustrators, since we don’t always have in our heads the specific details of the things we want to draw. It is very important to use references, especially if you are just starting out in drawing, because many times our memory fails us”.
Explore the work of other artists, create your own boards on Pinterest or download pictures of the objects you want to draw in pencil. Remember that it’s not about copying, but about studying basic structures and details!
7. Practice your pencil valued lines
If you want to highlight some elements in your pencil drawing, valued lines will help you to achieve it. That’s why they are a basic step in this guide on how to learn to draw in pencil.
what is a valued line? Jota Ilustra, teacher of the online course Overcome creative block: Illustrate your sketchbook, defines it as follows:
“It’s the thickness of a line to give importance to certain elements within your illustration.”
Practicing with different thicknesses has a lot to do with the pencils you purchased in step #1. B pencils create a thicker line than H pencils. So, in general, use B pencils to outline your drawing and H pencils to make details. Also, at this point of the tutorial to learn how to draw in pencil we recommend you to practice basic pencil drawing techniques.
8. Don’t neglect proportions
An important part in this guide on how to learn to draw in pencil is to keep proportion in the sizes of the different objects. This will help you maintain the realism of your drawings, even in manga, comics or cartoons.
Whether you draw universes or fictional characters, they must follow some rules to be understood by your audience! Study about the proportions of anatomical drawing and you’ll understand how to learn to draw in pencil for beginners.
9. Fall in love with thumbnails and sketches
“Hey, hey, slow down, brainiac: what’s a thumbnail?” Relax, our mentor Liliana Camacho explains it to us:
“Thumbnails are tiny drawings that allow us to find the general shapes in the illustration and prevent us from getting distracted by details. They are the first step to create a sketch. They are used at the beginning of the project and serve to explore the composition of lines, color, lights and shadows”.
The idea is to make several thumbnails to try different ways of arranging the elements of a drawing. For example, Antonella Moreli shows us here 3 examples of thumbnails for a pencil drawing.
Source: Illustration for non-illustrators online course.
Once you have decided how the composition will look like, the sketching follows. In this stage of the process on how to learn to draw in pencil from scratch you will make most of the creative decisions that will be part of your final creation. Antonella Moreli explains it this way:
“When we do our final illustration we are going to be very nervous because it’s going to be irreparable if we make a mistake, it’s like staging. So, see the sketch as the rehearsal, the more we rehearse, the more prepared we will be (…) We have to explore everything we want to explore at this stage because afterwards, the idea is simply that we execute what we already know is going to look good”.
10. Add colors, textures, shadows and other details
At this point you are very close to fully understand how to learn to draw in pencil. You already have your sketch and it’s time to add details. You can start with coloring, then shading, then textures and, finally, all the extra details you want to include.
About colors, we recommend you to study color theory and try different techniques and materials to achieve different textures: colored pencils, markers, watercolors or crayons, for example. Color can convey moods, feelings or the passage of time, so take your pencil drawings to the next level.
Now, check out how to learn to draw shaded pencil. To draw shadows, basically, you need to know how many light sources there are and where they are. Depending on the amount and their location, two types of shadows can be generated: the cast shadow and the self shadow. In this regard, Jota Ilustra teaches us this:
“The cast shadow is the shadow that the object generates on the surface and the self shadow is the shadow that is generated by the lack of light.”
Source: Overcome creative block online course: illustrate your sketchbook.
Just as you add shadows, you can also add glows, textures, lineart with B pencils or, if you want to give it a more professional finish, try G pens, microtips or markers, etc. Now you know how to make pencil drawings step by step for beginners. congratulations!