Beginners Guide: Realistic Pencil Drawing

Updated: 19 Mar 2019

Pen vs pencil drawing

Pencil drawing is monochromatic, meaning that it has a single hue, but with different brightness values.

The key factors for realistic pencil drawing are:

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Precision Drawing

Each object or figure has distinct characteristics and a unique form. Therefore, in order to produce a realistic result, the craft of drawing must be precise.

For right-handed painters, it is recommended to begin drawing from the upper left part of the painting and gradually move to the lower right.

For left-handed painters, it is recommended to start at the upper right part of the painting.

In this way, the palm can rest on the blank surface of the drawing-paper and not smear what has already been drawn.

Pencil drawing from left to right Drawing from left to right

When using a table lamp:

For right-handed painters, it is recommended that the lighting be placed on the left side so that the palm will not block the source of light.

For left-handed painters, lighting will be placed on the right side.


In order to avoid smearing the drawing or transfer body oils or sweat to the drawing-paper, it is advisable to place a blank sheet of paper under the drawing hand, so that the palm is not placed on the drawing-paper.

Pencil drawing of a wildebeest Pencil drawing of a wildebeest

It is important to firstly draw the basic shapes and to check they are in proportion and perspective, and only then to deal with the details and texture.

Important to remember:

Each realistic pencil drawing is a unique challenge.

For the next example, the mink's head seemed challenging, so I decided to start with it, thereby drawing from right to left, even though I am right-handed.

Initial sketch:

Initisal sketch of a mink

Drawing the head first:

Drawing the head of the mink

Finishing the pencil drawing:

Realistic pencil drawing of a mink Realistic pencil drawing of a mink

Brightness Values

Brightness values or values are how light or dark any area of the painting is.

Brightness values ​​play a crucial role in creating the illusion of depth and three-dimensional forms on a two-dimensional surface.

The amount of pressure applied with a pencil determines the brightness value. More pressure will create a darker value and less pressure will create a lighter value.

In addition, it is recommended to use a number of drawing pencils with different darkness levels for different brightness values.

Sharp pencils are suitable for small details. For smooth transitions, sometimes, it is useful to use non-sharp pencils.

For recommended pencil brands and other related supplies and equipment, visit Pencil Drawing Supply Review.

For ANYBODY who is serious about realistic pencil drawing, the first steps should be training on transitions between values, meaning from dark to light and light to dark:

Gradual transition in brightness values Gradual transition in brightness values

Observation is the key to identifying the brightness values ​​of any object or image.

Each part of the drawing should be examined to see if it is darker or lighter than the object you are trying to draw and then corrected accordingly.

In addition, it is important to pay attention to the range and variety between the darkest areas and the brightest:

In other words, there should be enough contrast between dark and bright parts of the drawing in order for it to look rich and intense.


As opposed to comics drawing that is characterized by contour lines, which surround the figure, in realistic painting, by drawing with a pencil or in any other way, there are no lines at all.

The edge of an object is where its shape or surface ends. It can end in a sharp way or in a soft way but it is not a line.

Some objects, like fur or cloth, will have soft edges while other objects, like rocks or furniture will have hard edges.

Edges vs outlines in pencil drawing Edges vs outlines


When drawing with a pencil, it is important to pay attention to the brightness values ​​(how dark or light each area is) and edges (how each area or surface ends, either with a soft edge or a hard edge).

Attention should also be paid to transitions.

On a certain surface, areas, which are closer to the light source, will be lighter and areas farther away from the light source will be darker, meaning the surface will have a gradual transition in values.

Therefore, it is important to see the brightness values of a particular surface compared to other surfaces but also the transitions of values ​​within the surface itself.

Pencil drawing example:

A portrait pencil drawing Portrait pencil drawing, Sharon

Pen Drawing

While there are no lines in nature or in realistic pencil drawing, pen drawing is characterized by drawing lines.

A pen drawing of a tree Drawing using lines

It is recommended to use a technical pen for drawing.

For recommended technical pen brands, visit: Technical Pens Review.

A pen has a fixed brightness value!

The way to create the illusion of different brightness values ​​when drawing with a pen is to create more lines in the same area for a darker value and fewer lines for a lighter value.

Tree drawing with a pen Brightness values using lines


Since all materials are made of atoms and molecules, they will never be one hundred percent smooth.

Light travel in waves, therefore shadows will not be completely sharp.

For those reasons, there are no lines in nature!

It is all about transitions in brightness values and different types of edges when it comes to drawing with a pencil.

That said, in art, it is possible to create realistic looking drawings, using only lines, by creating the illusion of transitions, brightness values and edges.

For an in-depth article about drawing and painting realism, visit The 8 Key Factors for Painting Realism.

To understand and add depth when drawing, visit 15 Proven Ways to Create the Illusion of Depth.

For more art and craft classes, check out CreativeLive.