Graphite pencils are available in varying degrees of hardness. By progressively increasing hardness, a pencil paints with increasingly clear tone. Hard pencils suffer less wear than soft ones and if not used carefully, they mark the paper when pressing too hard. On the other hand, soft pencils paint with dark tones, wear out quickly and tend to shed particles that pollute the paper if you do not have the precaution of blowing them. The pigment of soft pencils smudge easily, and to erase them it should be used always a very soft rubber and even so always proceed with caution to erase. However, the softness of these pencils makes them more pleasing to the touch at the time of drawing with them.

The hardness of the graphite pencils and the erasers go hand in hand, a hard eraser should be used to erase strokes made with a hard pencil and a soft eraser should be used to erase strokes made with soft pencil. What if we do the opposite? Well, a soft eraser would not be able to completely erase strokes from a hard pencil and a hard eraser would smudge stroke from a soft pen. Be very careful with smudge, for smudged graphite cannot be erased.

To make preliminary sketches, medium drawing pencils (HB) are suitable means. Then, according to the lightness or darkness of the shades that one wish to represent, one will have available some harder pencils (eg H2, H4, H6... being the higher the number the greater the hardness) and some softer pencils (eg B2, B4, B6... being the higher the number the greater the softness) . You do not need many pencils of different hardnesses, since in practice with one HB and one B4 for example, you could make a well contrasted and toned drawing. Do not forget that a soft eraser also helps us to solve the lighter shades, not only it serves to correct our mistakes.

With graphite pencils we can work well in both rough papers and smooth papers, we just must understand the strengths and weaknesses of each type of paper. On a rough paper drawings gain contrast, since the pigment will adhere better, but as the grain is coarse, accuracy is decreased, making it difficult or impossible to represent fine details. In a smooth paper, the opposite thing happens, the pen tends to slip and that decreases the contrast, but you can get a much more accurate drawing.

In the example of the image it has been used a quite rough paper, although less rugged than a Canson.

Finally, I must say that drawings made with pencil graphite should always be protected with some fixative because the pigment has a very poor adherence. If the pigment detaches, drawings lose strength substantially and may become dirty with the very pigment detached.


The pen is actually an interesting drawing tool. I like to use the typical BIC, whose ball always rolls smoothly, making them pleasant to use and ensuring they will not scratch the paper. The only drawback that I find with these BIC pens is the tendency of many of them to lose ink on the tip, which can leave an ugly speck in the drawing if we do not watch carefully. So either turn away the pen and try another one or resign yourself to having to wipe the tip constantly, bearing in mind that a speck of ink can ruin a picture if it happens in an important spot of it.

When the pen is new the strokes that it leaves have a deeper color, but when the pen is half spent it is easier to control the intensity of the strokes, which becomes a more subtle tool that is most unlikely to make a stronger line than it should. When the pen starts to fail in the ink supply, causing the strokes to be broken, it becomes unpredictable and caution is better to stop using it.

As to paper, in my opinion smooth paper is more suitable for drawing with a pen, because the ink adheres well in it and allows for a more accurate drawing. Furthermore, in a smooth paper, the lines that are very soft can be erased or at least diminished with pencil eraser. On a rough paper that could not be possible, because the ink penetrates much more into it.

Drawings made with a pen are usually solved through a lot of juxtaposed strokes that form weaves. The lines are softer and sparse in the lighter areas, and more intense and numerous in the darker areas. Strokes should always be faster, since a slow stroke has an ugly and awkward appearance, without grace or elegance. The mastering of good stroke is achieved with practice, becoming possible to run very fast strokes several centimeters long spaced by just half a millimeter, and yet they look parallel. With strokes of such level the drawing can reach a high visual quality.

Although the ink tends to adhere well in any paper, on a smooth paper it would eventually fade with prolonged friction over time. So I usually sprinkle on my pen-made drawings a little amount of fixative for pencil drawings, but always with great care, because the fixative contains a high percentage of alcohol, which as you know, dissolves the ink. If an ink drawing is sprayed with fixative like a pencil drawing, it simply is destroyed. So you have to let out only a very tiny sprinklig and let the droplets of fixative fall on the drawing by gravity, continuing this process until you consider the paper entirely covered. If you are in doubt about the safety of this procedure, you can test with a drawing of little value or defective... or just avoid it.

~ Next Chapter: Polychromatic Techniques ~


:: Monochromatic techniques

Drawing technique with graphite pencil and monochrome pen.

:: Polychromatic techniques

Drawing technique with colored pencils and colored pens.

:: Mixed media techniques

Colored pencils, markers and pens can be used together in a same drawing to take advantage of the strong points of each one of these techniques.

:: Golden ratio

When designing our drawings, the first task to resolve is composition. The divine proportion (also known as divine section or golden ratio) is a compositive technique in use in the world of art since the Classical Age, because it is considered as the most aesthetical proportion ratio known.


:: Drawing with colored pencils

Drawing process with professional colored pencils.

:: Drawing with biro pen

Drawing process with biro pen.