How to Hold a Pencil the Artist’s Way

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Duration: 2:49

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Even though you’ve been holding pencils all your life, as an artist, you can achieve more by holding them using a specific technique. Artist Savannah Tate Cuff emphasizes that this simple shift is important, and she has plenty of pro tips to guide you. You’ll want to draw with the side edge of the pencil, holding the pencil with the back of your thumb on the side of the pencil facing you, and your index and middle finger wrapping to the side of the pencil facing away from you. As you begin a drawing, as Savannah demonstrates, you’ll want to keep a bit of distance between your hand and the paper.

Savannah shows how she aims for light and loose marks, drawing with her entire arm and shoulder, not just the movements of her wrist. This allows for a longer line and create broad, sweeping lines, ideal for the beginning of a drawing. As Savannah begins rendering and modeling shapes, she uses her index finger to grip the pencil at the top while continuing to use the back of her thumb and third finger at the back, while keeping the pressure light. You can adapt for the grip that feels most natural to you at this stage.

To recap, keep your strokes light and loose at the beginning, making broad, sweeping lines using the entire arm, then adapt your grip slightly as you render. Savannah also notes that a mahl stick or dowel can be helpful in keeping your paper clean, as you can rest your hand on the edges and keep it from smudging the paper.