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Drawing lessons title image

Pencil Grip Types

Pencil Grip Types

Learn the right Pencil Grip types, Tripod Grip, Extended Grip, Underhand Grip, or Overhand Grip. Draw longer and without any hand pain! This is what you will learn in the article below and not only that, we have added also the best remarks and tips from other artists that will speed up your progress when you have started drawing.

Most people are starting to search for the correct pencil grips after a longer period of time. Mostly because drawing makes them fun, but they start to feel pain in their hands, or they just cannot improve themselves.

This may cause more damage than you can imagine. Some people, and I am not the exception, have started with drawing without proper guidance. This leads me to a lot of bad drawing habits, that are really hard to eliminate. Of course, the worst case is that you feel pain in your hand and you leave drawing completely.

There are more factors and there is also no secret, also you don’t need to be a natural talent. If you start with the basics and don’t skip any of them, you are on a good way to becoming an artist! There are more principles of art you will need to follow …

Now learn how to avoid the common mistakes in pencil grips and completely for free. The guide below will introduce to you the basic pencil grips like Tripod Grip, Extended Grip, Underhand Grip, or Overhand Grip. Now when you know something about the importance of the correct techniques, read something about the benefits, but before you start, for the fastest improvements, we strongly recommend using the professional guidance that can be found here: Draw Like a Master Artist.

Pencil Grip Types image
Drawing lessons on how to hold a pencil, (Image credit: Daria Tumanova)

The Benefits of the RIGHT Pencil Grip Techniques

Do it now and do it right! If you start with the right techniques, then you will enjoy the benefits like:

  • Drawing will look better
  • You can draw longer and without any pain
  • Faster improowing, and better skills
  • Muscle memory will do the work for you
  • Pencils will last longer and stay sharper

And many more … the right pencil grips are really useful, right?

When you Start with WRONG Pencil Grip

Like I have already described, it may do more damage than you expect:

  • Drawing lines will look always same
  • After short time, your hands will have cramps
  • Pencils will broke more often
  • It limits your drawing skills
  • Slower improovements
  • Quitting drawing completly

So, let’s look at a few ways that you can hold your pencil to create different marks in your drawing…

Pencil Grip #1 – Tripod Grip

Yes, it is the way we typically hold a pen when writing. When we take a pencil it is natural to fall under this grip. As many artists don’t want to hold the pencil this way, it is still useful and a lot of them are using it, even if not realizing it. Maybe it comes from muscle memory?

Pencil Grip - Tripod Grip
Pencil Grip – Tripod Grip

The Tripod Grip and Benefits

The movement is simple, it can be described as moving the pencil with either your fingers or your wrist. Because of the close muscle utilization to the tip of the pencil, you gain a perfect level of control, this is used for the precision in details. The side of your palm and your entire forearm should rest on the table, which gives you more control, if you still don’t know how to hold it check this tutorial.

This pencil grip enables you to do also other movements with your arm and even shoulder. This will give you smooth movement and better control, this is useful when drawing detailed areas. This method requires very low pressure on the pencil and rest for your forearm and whole hand.

The Tripod Grip and Disadvantages

Like I have already described, most artists dislike this pencil grip, as it has also disadvantaged. You cannot use it for some drawing techniques as the limited movement and high level of control disallowing you to do the light movements when adding emotions to the drawing. For tight photorealism, this may not be an issue, but it limits you when you want to explore the other styles. Drawing tight little lines could result in bad composition, or incorrect proportion, even if the image is highly-detailed.

There is one more disadvantage, your forearm and hand need to be on the surface, which may lead to smudged drawings, especially when using soft pencils. One solution is to use an artist-leaning bridge or work from one side to another.

The Tripod Grip where to Use?

Especially when you are a beginner, try to avoid using the tripod grip as much as possible, use it only for the details, where is needed absolute precision. If you are using it, rest your hand on the surface and use your arm and shoulder to move the pencil as much as possible. It requires practice and a good foundation which can be achieved only with hard work or by following the professionals, therefore it is good to consider asking the professional or participate in the course.

Pencil Grip # 2 – Stick Grip

Imagine that you are picking some item like a pen with your fingertips. This pencil grip is used a lot when sketching. It is good practice to use it in the early stages of a drawing to have the lines lose and sketchy.

Pencil Grip - The Drumstick Grip
Pencil Grip – The Stick Grip

The Stick Grip and Benefits

This stick grip is not focusing on using the fingers, rather forces you to use your arm and even your shoulder. Therefore it is good to use if, for long, fluid, sweeping strokes, you will feel it in your hand naturally. And something like this cannot be achieved with the tripod grip. Additionally, try to loosen up with your drawing with this technique! To get the pencil to the right angle, you have to lift your palm and arm from the paper, which makes the drawing lose.

Other benefits like tonal drawing, shading, and can be done so easily, because the pencil is held close to parallel with the paper. To produce broad strokes the easiest way use the side of the pencil tip. When you are not touching the paper, there is almost no way to smudge your drawing.

A lot of information? Maybe it is better to try asking the professional, I have used this tutorial: Draw Like a Master Artist.

The Stick Grip and Disadvantages

As to be expected the drawback is limited precision for detailed work. For the beginner, not having the control that the tripod grip offers can be intimidating. Detail work can be accomplished with this grip, but not with the precision of the writing/tripod grip.

Another potential disadvantage is it’s a bit easier to break your pencil lead with this grip, especially if you sharpen your pencil so as to expose a lot of graphite and you work with a heavy hand.

The Stick Grip where to Use?

Use this pencil grip when starting a drawing for the rough outlines which quickly and lightly show the texture of your drawing subject. Another way to use it is for gesture sketches. Start keeping your fingers and thumb suspended and make contact only with the pencil. For moving use your entire.

Pencil Grip #3 – The Brush Grip

This is a similar pencil grip to the stick grip because it forces you to loosen up and your hand remains away from the paper. This has two advantages, it allows the artist to see more of their drawings at once, and it keeps their strokes loose.

Pencil Grip – The Paint Brush Grip
Pencil Grip – The Brush Grip

The Brush Grip and Benefits

If you count all benefits of the stick pencil grip and add the fact, that you are looking at the drawing from a bigger distance, then you got all benefits from this grip. Because it gives you even less control over the pencil, it’s good for light marks. It is always good to not make heavy marks that are difficult to erase. Remember the best online class is available at Draw Like a Master Artist. Same as before, your hand has no contact with the paper, which means no smudge at drawing.

The Brush Grip and Disadvantages

It is easy to answer … the least amount of control among all the grips, also without rest your hand on anything, precise curves are very difficult to make. This pencil grip also forces you to do quick strokes, which makes it difficult to draw slowly if needed. Maybe this is the reason, why it is so popular for painting. Hard to use the side of the pencil that comes with this technique as well, luckily we have other grips like the one below.

Pencil Grip #4 – The Overhand Pencil Grip

When you are looking for something else like the last two types, then maybe this is for you, it is a combination of the stick grip and the brush grip. Pencil points more straight out from your hand, but with the benefit of using the side of your pencil.

Pencil Grip  – Overhand Grip
Pencil Grip – The Overhand Grip

The Overhand Pencil Grip and Benefits

This grip is used for two main things, first, you can cover large areas of the paper by using the side of the pencil. Another is that you can add pressure with your forefinger on the stick and therefore this is the most forceful pencil grip. You can also make broad, loose strokes using the side of your pencil. You have already experience with the previous techniques, so it is good to experiment.

The Overhand Pencil Grip and Disadvantages

Really hard to achieve details and precision, don’t push too much so you don’t need to erase hard lines.

The Overhand Pencil Grip where to Use?

Most exposing pencil grip will take a lot of graphite, make sure you have sharpened the pencil and be prepared to do it more regularly. Apply the graphite with vigorous, rapid strokes and cover the area quickly. While this pencil grip is mostly used for forceful drawing, try also to create fluid lines with control by resting your thumb and fingertips on the paper.

To avoid going sharpening, try to use woodless graphite pencil or woodless charcoal. When sharpened, it is braking less and you have exposed graphite. Another professional tip like this can be found in the ultimate course for beginners and advanced artists. It makes learning faster and more fun!

Pencil Grip #5 – The Underhand Pencil Grip – Inverted

This is a special grip, that is used mostly by painters or calligraphers. It’s used extensively for the lightest touch possible. You will feel in your hand every little movement. It is hard to master but added another variety to your drawing skills.

Pencil Grip – The Inverted Grip
Pencil Grip – The Inverted Grip

Benefits The Underhand Pencil Grip – Inverted

All pencil artists use it mostly for circular movements that are resulting in thin lines. Using your shoulder and arm create large movements, while gently resting the side of your palm on the surface, which gives you the necessary stability and control.

Disadvantages The Underhand Pencil Grip- Inverted

The only use of this pencil grip technique is to create tin lines, it’s not suited for any detailed work.

The Underhand Pencil Grip- Inverted

Play with the pencil and see how you can express yourself. It is mostly used by easel painters, so if you are looking to try it, you may start here to feel it in your hand. Also, you may rest your hand from other grip types. Try to find out if it suits you. There is even more about the pencil grips, for details visit the complete course.

The Ultimate Chance of Beeing Better!

Which pencil grip do you use most?  Are you stuck with a particular approach?  It’s time to take action and start experimenting with different pencil grips. I promise you that by trying out a few of these grips, you’ll start to see some improvement. It may feel a bit strange at first, but with a touch of practice, you’ll start seeing the benefits of using these grips in your drawings.

Now when you have learned how to hold the pencil, you can move to the next important step and learn how to draw the lines in the post below:

The next step in the drawing tutorial after pencil grip.

Thanks to Jason Tako for helping with the pencil tutorials.

Title Image, (Image credit: Ahmad Ossayli)

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