How to Draw with a Mechanical Pencil

Updated: 05 Jan 2024

Pencil sketches of a cat and rabbit

A mechanical pencil is a device that can be filled with graphite sticks, which can be extended mechanically.

This tutorial is about how and why to use a mechanical pencil.

I recommend understanding the 4 key factors for drawing realism with pencils, before reading this article.

Disclosure: some links in this article are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you choose to make a purchase.

When, Why & How to Use a Mechanical Pencil


When in need of a small, mobile tool for drawing or sketching, that can be carried anywhere, with no need of any maintenance, a mechanical pencil is one of the top options.

A mechanical pencil does not need to be sharpened.

In addition, the ability to erase, gives it a clear advantage over other sketching tools.

Fox and cat pencil sketches


Besides the ability to take it anywhere, and it being quite durable, a mechanical pencil is great for practice or trying new ideas like compositions or concept art.

It will not produce a fine art drawing (for me) like with graphite wooden pencils, but it is a fast way to draw sketches.

Animal sketches with mechanical pencil

When using a mechanical pencil with a thick graphite stick, it can be used for shading.

Another usage for a mechanical pencil is when drawing in perspective. It works great with rulers.

Kitchen drawn in one point perspective

For learning to draw in perspective, visit my guide on perspective drawing.

Drawings using linear perspective


The steps for sketching with a mechanical pencil are similar to any (realistic) drawing process.

First, define the basic shape or shapes. Pay attention to perspective and proportions.

Then, the key is to be accurate with brightness values. Meaning, to notice how dark or light each part of the reference object is.

When it comes to a single mechanical pencil, pressing hard results in dark brightness values, and pressing gently produces light brightness values:

Cat and shadow sketch with mechanical pencil

The last step is to add details and refine the sketch.

Fox sketch with a mechanical pencil

Which Mechanical Pencil I Use

For this tutorial, I used the Faber-Castell Grip 1347.

Nib size: 0.7 mm

Value grade: B

See on Amazon

Faber-Castell Grip 1347 green mechanical pencil

0.7 mm is not a size for fine details, but it is great for quick sketching.

Keep in mind:

Quality mechanical pencils come with a quality eraser. Since the eraser is small, it is great for creating fine details, like hair.

In this example, I used the eraser to draw the lion's whiskers:

Lion sketch with a mechanical pencil

For a complete list of the equipment I use, read my pencil drawing supply review.

How Long it Takes to Sketch

It depends on the size and amount of details.

Quick sketches, like these, may take from several minutes to an hour:

Monkeys and hamster pencil sketches

When drawing a more detailed study, 2-4 hours is a reasonable time to spend on a sketch:

A pencil sketch of a sheep

To learn how I draw many types of textures, visit my texture drawing guide.

Texture drawing examples

What Else Can You Do with Mechanical Pencils

I usually use a mechanical pencil when I teach.

It is a quick way to show how to draw from life. Make sure to pay attention to foreshortening.

Mechanical pencil sketches of iPhone SE & stick deodorant

Also, for a quick study, or still life sketch from observation.

Pots & kitchen tools sketch with a mechanical pencil

If you are not sure how to compose a still life scene and render it, read my composition-drawing guide.

Any diagram, or representation of a process, is a good subject for mechanical pencil drawing.

In the next example, I used a mechanical pencil to draw a tree with some points on things to pay attention to.

Realistic tree drawing with a mechanical pencil

Drawing trees can be simple. To learn more about it, visit my tree drawing guide.

Technical Pen vs Mechanical Pencil

Rabit sketches with pen and pencil Pen vs Pencil

A mechanical pencil is not the only option when it comes to sketching anywhere.

Another great option is a technical pen.

Advantages of a technical pen:

Disadvantages of a technical pen:

The key to create the illusion of different brightness values with a technical pen, is to draw more lines in the same area for dark values, and fewer lines for light values.

Technical pens can produce nice results. Here is an homage to a drawing from Affliction Clothing:

Pen drawing of a skull with hat

To see which pens I use, visit my technical pens review.

Drawings with pens


It is possible to draw anywhere. All you need is a mechanical pencil and something to draw on.

When I am not at my studio, I usually use my smartphone to look at reference photos to draw.

A mechanical pencil is:

Additional Resources

If you like drawing with pens, visit my tutorial on how to draw flowers with pens.

Flower drawing with colored pens

To understand how to draw with a sense of depth and space, learn how to draw the illusion of depth.

Drawing depth examples

For more drawing tutorials, check out my list of drawing channels on YouTube.