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7 Ways to Hold a Pencil for Drawing – Find Your Preferred Grip

Wondering how to hold a pencil for drawing?

Drawing is one of those hobbies where every single thing you do matters. How you sketch, how you look at a subject, how you take your ideas and put them on paper, and even how you hold your pencil.

You’d think that for something as simple as holding a pencil, you wouldn’t need a guide. But for artists, especially beginner artists, we recommend exploring different ways to hold your pencil.

Key Takeaways – How to Hold a Pencil for Drawing

There are many different ways you can hold a pencil as an artist, those are:

  1. Writing Method (most common also known as “Tripod Grip”ideal for thin lines)
  2. Extended Writing Grip (good for tablet drawing)
  3. Drumstick Method (easier for shading)
  4. Overhand Method (good for big shapes)
  5. Underhand Grip (best used for drawing on vertical surface/drafting table/angled tablet with light strokes)
  6. Painter’s Method (good for avoiding smudging)
  7. Inverted Method (offers better visibility)

Plus here are some tips to help your drawings are:

  • Holding your pencil wrong won’t effect your drawing skill, but it can put unnecessary strain on your hand/wrist
  • try to move your whole arm when drawing instead of just your hand/wrist (this helps make drawing more fluid)
  • Next, holding your pencil loosely can help your line quality and control
  • We recommend trying out each of these grips to see what one feels best for you

These methods were designed to help an artist achieve a certain style or look for their drawing, however, that does not mean these methods are written in stone. The most important thing about being an artist, besides being creative, is being comfortable. If you’re comfortable with how you’re doing things, chances are it’s going to reflect on your work.

So if you try any of these methods out and you find that none of them works for you, that’s totally fine. Stick with how you usually hold your pencil and achieve the art style you want with just that.

That said, I’ll be talking more in-depth about these methods for those who want to try them out. So stick around and keep reading!

Table of Contents

    How to Hold Your Pencil When Drawing

    If you’re wondering how to hold your pencil when drawing, it’s simple. Place the pencil between your thumb and index finger, and rest it gently on the side of your middle finger.

    Hold the pencil lightly and use your forearm to move it, especially when you’re shading. Don’t limit your movements to your wrist only. Give yourself a lot of freedom and don’t be afraid to go buck wild with your pencil.

    Of course, don’t just flail your arms around and hope for the best. Draw whatever it is you intend to draw, but give your arms and wrist the space. This will help your drawings be more fluid and less stiff.

    People often limit their drawings due to the lack of freedom they give their arms when they draw. This causes their drawings to be more stiff.

    To avoid this, try to practice drawing with your arm and not just your wrist. Clear up some space on your desk (or if you have a small desk, try to draw while standing up) and don’t hold back on moving your arm.

    Hold the pen lightly and draw. Do this for as long as you get used to it. This practice will help you get used to drawing more fluid lines.

    If you want more tips to work on your lines, have a look at this video:

    How to Draw Better Lines

    Now let’s talk about the different ways we can hold our pencil:

    1. Writing Method (Tripod Grip)

    The most common method is the Writing Method

    The Writing Method or the Basic Tripod Grip is the one I briefly mentioned earlier and will likely be the most familiar grip for many.

    It is the most common way people, artists or not, hold their pencils.

    It’s mostly used for writing (hence the name Writing Method) but it is also a good method for drawing with a wide range of movements.

    This is done by placing your pencil in between your thumb and index finger and having it rest on your three other fingers (middle, ring, and pinkie). It allows for a tight grip on your pencil. Perfect for drawing fine lines, small details, or shading in small spaces in your drawings.

    With the Tripod Grip, you’ll have more control over your pencil. Because the pressure is applied at the tip of the pencil where it meets your index and thumb, you can also control the thickness of your lines with this method, making it perfect for shading.

    *If you’re new to shading and don’t know how line thickness matters, you can have a look at this other article I wrote: Why is Shading So Difficult?*

    The only problem that I find with this grip is that you’re more likely to smudge your drawing as this method involves resting your wrist on the paper.

    The pencil’s movement depends on your thumb and index, and for your thumb and index to have full control over the pencil, you’re gonna have to put your wrist down.

    If you have sweaty hands or hyperhidrosis, this can be a problem. However, this can be solved by placing a paper on your drawing or learning to draw with the second method I’ll be discussing in a bit.

    To summarize, here are the pros and cons of this method:

    Good for drawing small details or shading in small spacesYou’re more likely to smudge your drawing
    Gives you more control over your drawing 
    Pros and cons of the Writing Method or the Tripod Grip

    2. Extended Writing Grip (Extended Tripod Grip)

    This grip allows more freedom than the Writers Method

    The Extended Writing Grip or the Extended Tripod Grip is a lot similar to the Tripod Grip except, just as its name suggests, you extend the pencil a little more outwards, causing your grip to be around the opposite end of the pencil instead of the tip.

    This grip gives you more freedom than the Tripod Grip and, unlike the first method, it leaves no room for smudges as your wrist no longer rests on the surface of your canvas or sheet of paper. With this method, your hand will be further from the tip of the pencil which also means your wrist or palm will be further from the paper.

    This removes the possibility of smudges!

    However, this method grants freedom but also removes accuracy. With this method, you can make more fluid sketches, but you cannot create fine details as doing that requires precision and for precision to be achieved, control needs to be at the tip of the pencil.

    Because your fingers are further away from the tip of the pencil, you lose control of that area. Another thing with this method is that if you hold the pencil a little too tightly, instead of granting freedom, you are restricting your movements. So instead of fluid sketches, you’re making them stiffer than they would be had you used the Tripod Grip.

    This method can also be exhausting for long periods of time as your wrist no longer has a surface to rest on and the weight of your arm will solely depend on your wrist.

    To summarize, here are the pros and cons of this method:

    Gives you more freedom to move your armIs less accurate with small details
    Allows for more fluid sketchesRestricts your movement if gripped a little too
    Doesn’t smudge your drawing as your hand rarely or
    doesn’t come in contact with your paper
     Exhausting if done for a long time
    Pros and cons of the Extended Writing Grip

    3. Drumstick Method

    The Drumstick Method is perfect for shading.

    This one’s a little rare, but the Drumstick Method is basically when you hold your pencil like you would a drumstick usually in an upright position. This may vary depending on what you’re comfortable with but the general idea is to place your pencil beneath your thumb and let the pencil rest on your four other fingers.

    This one is NOT designed for drawing details or shapes at all but more so on shading or coloring in the shapes of your drawing. This way of holding your pencil will work better if your pencil is sharpened as it will likely be held on its side.

    This method is perfect for shading in large areas of your drawing.

    I personally like to use it on drawing hair or color in shadows of my portrait. The darkness of the shade will depend on the pressure you put on the pencil. If you don’t want your shade to be too dark, hold the pencil lightly and apply little to no pressure to your drawing surface.

    While the method is great for a particular reason, it has many drawbacks. Just like with the Extended Writing Method, if you hold your pencil like this for long periods of time, you’ll easily get tired. Your arms might even feel sore as this grip requires movement from your whole arm (and who says drawing doesn’t count as exercise?) so it’s not ideal for long drawing sessions.

    And similar to the Extended Writing Grip, this method isn’t good for details or small spaces.

    To summarize, here are the pros and cons of this method:

    Good for shading and coloring large areas of your drawingNot good for small details
    Requires your pencil to be long and sharpened
    Not ideal for long drawing sessions
    Pros and cons of the Drumstick Method

    4. Overhand Method

    The Overhand Grip gives you a lot of control over your pencil.

    The Overhand Method or the Overhand Grip is a popular method among artists. This one is good for shading and for fine details.

    The grip involves basically covering the pencil with your hand. Your middle, ring, and pinky wrap around it while your index applies pressure at the tip and your thumb is placed at the bottom of the pencil to stabilize it.

    This grip works best with your pencil laying a little bit on its side, but some people prefer it a different way, which is fine.

    With this grip, you have full control over your pencil because both your index and thumb are near the tip of the pencil. This makes it great for small details. And because it’s on its side, this way of holding the pencil allows you to utilize it for shading large spaces (I highly suggest keeping your pencils well-sharped as blunt leads won’t do as good of a job when it comes to shading.)

    Another great thing about this method is that its movement is not limited to the wrist, making it perfect for sketching as well! And because your hand is over the pencil, your wrist does not rest on the paper, removing the possibility of smudging. This method is just perfect for artists!

    To summarize, here are the pros and cons of this method:

    Good for drawing small detailsNot beginner-friendly (If you’re just starting out
    as an artist, I recommend starting with the Tripod Grip)
    Good for sketching and shading
    Does not smudge
    Pros and cons of the Overhand Method

    5. Underhand Grip

    The Underhand Grip is perfect for light shading.

    The Underhand Grip is a looser and more relaxed version of the Tripod Grip. Just like with the Tripod Grip, you hold it in between your index and thumb, and let it rest on your three other fingers. The difference with this one is you’re supposed to hold it lightly.

    This method is meant for light shading or for the use of charcoal pencils. However, it’s up to you how you choose to use this method.   

    This grip come come in handy for initial sketches, where you just wanna know the basic shapes of your art, as holding your pencil like this means it won’t likely leave a mark on your drawing when you erase it.

    That said, compared to the other grips, this one barely serves any purpose. It’s basically the Tripod Grip if the Tripod Grip was a little sleepy. Nonetheless, it’s a good method for sketches and light shading.

    To summarize, here are the pros and cons of this method:

    Good for initial sketches and light shadingWeak
    Pros and cons of the Underhand Grip

    6. Painter’s Method

    The Painter’s Method is great for quick and light strokes.

    Painter’s Method, as its name suggests, is holding the pencil like you would if you were holding a paintbrush.

    Take your pencil and put it between your thumb and the rest of your fingers. You can choose whether you want to place your fingers near the tip or away from it. By putting your fingers near the tip, you can apply more pressure to the pencil and make bolder strokes, and if you place your fingers away from the tip, you can make light and feather-like strokes.

    Another great thing about the Painter’s Method is that similar to Overhand and Extended Writing Grip, your wrist or palm won’t touch the paper allowing a smudge-free drawing!

    However, with this method, you’re only really able to draw in quick strokes.

    Due to the lack of stability, drawing in a slow manner with the Painter’s Method will produce shaky lines. While that’s great if you’re goal is to sketch a bumpy road, it’s impractical if you want a clean sketch.

    This grip is perfect to pair with shading methods that involve quick strokes like hatching. But if you’re looking to draw an outline, I’m afraid you’re going to have to go with a different way of holding your pencil.

    To summarize, here are the pros and cons of this method:

    Good for making quick strokes Produces shaky lines if used slowly
    Pros and cons of the Painter’s Method

    7. Inverted Method

    The Inverted Method keeps your hand out of the way when you’re drawing.

    The Inverted Method is a bit unique.

    You lay your pencil on your index, middle, ring, and pinky while your thumb holds your pencil down. The pressure is applied by your thumb meanwhile your index, ring, middle, and pinky act as the stabilizer.

    Just as with the Overhand Method, this grip is not beginner friendly, so if you’re a beginner I suggest saving this method for last. But basically, what this method does is keep your hands out of the way so you can see what you’re doing.

    If you’re like me and you like to stick your face so close to your drawing that you can see every microscopic detail, your eyes burning because you haven’t blinked in 20 minutes, then this method probably won’t be that much use to you.

    But if you like to lean back and draw, then this grip might be beneficial to you once you get used to it! With your fingers out of the way, you can now see what lines you’re making and where they’re going. Do note though that in the beginning, when you’re first trying this method out, your lines are going to be a bit shaky. But once you get used to it, it’ll be like you’re drawing using the Tripod Grip.

    Another thing with this method is that for it to produce stable lines or semi-stable lines, you have to put a tight grip on the pencil and apply as much pressure as you can with your thumb. This causes deep marks on your paper, which can be difficult to erase.

    To summarize, here are the pros and cons of this method:

    Keeps your fingers out of the way so you
    can see what you’re doing better
    Not beginner-friendly
    Often produces shaky lines
    Causes deep marks that can be difficult to erase
    Pros and cons of the Inverse Method

    What’s the Best Grip for Drawing on a Tablet?

    Now that you’ve been introduced to the different ways a person can hold a pencil, you’re left wondering whether it’s the same when you’re drawing on a tablet. The answer is yes… and no?

    It doesn’t really matter what medium you use, the way you grip your pencil will affect your drawing in some way. However, with a tablet, it’s a lot more difficult to vary your grips when you’re drawing.

    There’s texture in paper, making it easier for you to stabilize your pencil with grips that have little to no stability. When it comes to the smooth screen of a tablet, your pen will depend solely on your hands and fingers for stability.

    Personally, I don’t think there’s a need to vary your grips when drawing using a tablet. The purpose of these different methods is to help artists create or mimic an effect on paper. It’s easier to shade with the Drumstick Method than it is with the Tripod Grip. It’s easier to create light strokes with the Underhand Grip than it is with the Inverted Method.

    All of these are not needed when drawing with a tablet because there are specific tools that are designed for these effects. How you hold your pencil won’t matter when you can just toggle with the settings on your program.

    How can I work on my grip with a tablet?

    If there’s one tip for drawing on a tablet, it would be to try to hold the pen a bit further away from the tip with a loose grip.

    It is pretty difficult to mimic drawing on a tablet to drawing on paper, but holding the pen with a loose grip and further down the pen is a good option.

    Does It Really Matter How You Hold Your Pencil? – Last Words

    the tip of a pencil

    While the way you grip your pencil doesn’t really speak volumes about your personality, it does speak on what kind of artistic effect you’re trying to achieve.  

    The seven most common ways to hold a pencil are:

    1. Writing Method (tripod method)
    2. Extended Writing Grip
    3. Drumstick Method
    4. Overhand Method
    5. Underhand Grip
    6. Painter’s Method
    7. Inverted Grip

    As I said earlier, these different methods were designed to help artists mimic a certain effect. While those effects can be created with a normal grip alone, these methods help make it easier. So yes, to an extent, it does matter.

    However, that’s not to say if you can’t do these grips, you’re not an artist. Obviously, it depends on the individual. If you’re comfortable with only drawing with one grip, then that’s fine. That doesn’t make you any less of an artist.

    In conclusion, there are many different ways to hold a pencil and they each have their pros and cons. There’s no one “perfect grip”. Each of these methods helps artists achieve a certain drawing style but they also come with drawbacks.

    Draw with what’s most comfortable to you but don’t be afraid to venture out and experiment with different methods. This will help you grow as an artist.   

    Thanks for reading and hope you have a good day!

    Other Related Frequently Asked Questions:

    How Should You Hold a Pencil for Drawing?

    Hold the pencil between your thumb and index, middle, and ring fingers. It should rest against your middle finger while being held between your thumb and index finger.

    Your knuckles of your ring and pinky finger should be resting lighting on the paper and glide across as you draw. You should focus on using your entire arm, forearm, and elbow to move the pencil instead of just your fingers and wrist.

    What Is the Best Pencil Grip for Artists?

    The best pencil grip for artists is usually a combination of the writing (tripod) grip and extended writing grip.

    The writing grip allows you to work on fine details while the extended writing grip can help you work on blocking in larger shapes.

    At What Angle Should You Hold a Pencil to Draw?

    In a traditional writing or tripod grip, you should hold your pencil at about a 45-30 degree angle with it being held between your index finger and thumb while resting on your middle finger.

    What Should I Do if My Hand Hurts When I Draw?

    If your hand hurts when you draw, you’re likely holding the pencil incorrectly and may also be squeezing the pencil too hard or not drawing with your entire arm (and only using your hand/wrist).

    These three are the most common reasons for your hand to hurt when drawing.

    If your hand hurts when drawing, you should consider adjusting your grip, focusing on relaxing your hand, and drawing with your entire arm.

    Beyond that, there are other options like using grip trainers on your pencil or using ergonomic pens/pencils.

    When Should I Use Different Pencil Grips?

    You should consider using different pencil grips if your hand hurts like mentioned above or depending on the scale of your drawing:

    • for larger gesture drawings we recommend using your entire arm and staying very loose and considering and extended writing grip or overhand method.
    • for fine detail you can usually draw with a writing or “tripod” grip

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