View Full Version : artist: how do you hold your pencil?

01-15-2015, 10:13 PM
For years I have always used what is commonly referred to as the tripod grip. And this is the way one would hold a pencil if they were writing. But I know many artist who use an overhand grip, which I could see would work best if you are at an easel. I'd like to get some feedback on this.

01-15-2015, 10:37 PM
It's preference really.

BUT the overhand grip is good for using your whole arm, sweeping strokes etc.
Think large life drawing sketches.

The writing grip uses the wrist more.

Stewart Vernon
01-16-2015, 02:54 AM
I could see overhand if you were working on a large-scale painting... as the tripod grip might slow you down... but even at that it would be for the large strokes only.

I guess whatever you get used to would work for you, though. I have gotten reasonably adept at using the mouse, for example, in a completely unnatural way to sketch things on the computer. In the days before tablets (Wacom for example) were common, you had to adapt to the use of the mouse if you wanted to draw on the computer directly and so I did.

01-16-2015, 04:27 AM
Its true that it depends on individual preference. I really like the traditional way to hold the pencil.


01-16-2015, 04:44 AM
This is the weirdest questions I have seen on these boards to date...

And I hold a pencil in the traditional manner, like the above photo. I don't even know what other way there is to hold it...

01-16-2015, 05:14 AM
I use the overhand grip to be more loose and block shapes when I do layouts and sketches or gesture drawings, then I switch to the traditional grip to do the final pencils. Because of the small size of the panel I think it demands more of a traditional grip to do detailed drawings. That's my approach.

Eliseu Gouveia
01-16-2015, 11:16 AM
Traditional grip.

My sister uses the overhand grip.
I always wanted to try it but it just doesn't feel natural for me.

01-16-2015, 01:54 PM
Traditional. If I want looser/larger strokes I just move from the elbow instead of the wrist. If I was using chalk/charcoal/pastel I'd favor an overhand grip because it gives more flexibility in mark making. Since the pencil has such a small area that makes marks I never saw a benefit to anything other than the traditional writing grip.

01-16-2015, 02:42 PM
Traditional grip.
But sometimes I may use the nose grip or ear grip according the circumstance.

The overhand grip is more for work on vertical canvas with soft pencil lead, pastel or charcoal.

01-16-2015, 02:57 PM
I'd like to see your ear grip drawings, Scribbly! :w00t:

For those confused about terms:

01-16-2015, 05:10 PM
Wow. Well, that makes it way more complicated than it needs to be.

01-16-2015, 06:11 PM
Heh, No shit right. when i try to show my nephew how to sketch I show him the two fingah technique. Place the pencil or brush between the index and middle finger like it's an extension and sketch like that. It's similar to the overhanded tech.

01-16-2015, 06:16 PM
Can't find any sample pics of how I do it.

01-16-2015, 06:32 PM
Wow. Well, that makes it way more complicated than it needs to be.

Not that much.

Overhand grip is for drawing on big strokes covering big surfaces.
Traditional grip or tripod is for drawing on small strokes and working on details.

Overhand grip is good for sketching and traditional grip is good for definition and clean up.
But who really cares? Now, we have Cintiq.

01-16-2015, 10:42 PM
Very cool, thanks for the feedback. I noticed a few professional artist using the overhand technique and thought I might be at a disadvantage but not doing this myself. But I don't think that's the case at all.

Stewart Vernon
01-17-2015, 01:18 AM
I don't want to take this off-topic, but a relevant tangent perhaps from my youth...

I am right-handed, but my parents say there was a time when I went back and forth a bit before settling on right-handed.

Two things I did with scissors (besides running with them) that I've never seen anyone else do:

1. Use left-handed scissors, but in my right hand.
2. Scissors that have the one grip bigger for the other, presumably for putting several fingers through on that side to hold them... I always used that bigger side to hook my thumb inside of it.

I figured since we are discussing creative grips, this wasn't entirely off-topic.

01-21-2015, 11:48 AM
Very cool, thanks for the feedback. I noticed a few professional artist using the overhand technique and thought I might be at a disadvantage but not doing this myself. But I don't think that's the case at all.

It's worth practicing, though. Adding another skill to your tool kit can't be a bad thing, and you may decide you prefer the overhand grip in certain situations. I often use the overhand grip for quickly sketching gesture lines and blocking in dark areas, then switch to tripod grip for rendering and details.

01-21-2015, 03:02 PM
I'm a traditional gripper, but sometimes if I'm sketching or blocking in rough lines I'll loosen up a lot.

Erik Larsen has a pretty interesting way of gripping his pencil. Since he writes, pencils, and inks all his work I'm sure that this helps him loosen up and pencil very quickly and not worry about noodling around so he can get to his inks and get his books out on time. He might grip his tools more traditionally for some lines, but in every photo I've seen of him drawing he hooks his arm and holds it overhand.

https://fbcdn-sphotos-h-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xpf1/v/t1.0-9/10408987_10152512582545272_313572140455115713_n.jp g?oh=a1a9a869896ba8f842f48c7c38123906&oe=556CD178&__gda__=1432505927_c1a70da78794ec152a71604823f92ac 4

01-21-2015, 07:24 PM
Man looks like a cripple.

01-23-2015, 04:44 PM
I happened to spot this at the bookstore the other day:


"13 ways to hold your pencil" :blink:

02-05-2015, 03:47 AM
Ah crap ... 13 ways huh? I guess I better get to practicing.

Yeah, Eric Larsen looks uncomfortable. But Universex259 is right, it really loosens my grip and lets the art flow a bit easier. Not good at all for detailed work, at least not from my experience.

02-05-2015, 04:01 PM
I very rarely use the overhand method. Since I work most of the time digitally, it doesn't work as well overhand, the surface pro I work on doesn't register as accurately at an angle, and it's got the small screen that large sweeping strokes aren't needed. But even when I do work traditionally, because of habit, I still use the traditional grip.

Other note, my 'traditional' grip is certainly not traditional. I put it between my middle and ring finger instead, so there are two fingers resting on top. My parents don't know where I learned to hold my pencil like that, and every time they tried to change it, it never stuck. It also made it so I can hold the pencil all kinds of ways and still write and draw reasonably consistently and comfortably.

Stewart Vernon
02-05-2015, 07:04 PM
Something funny...

In reading and replying in this thread, the notion of holding a pencil overhand to draw seemed completely alien to me...

And then I realized I draw a lot with my mouse in Adobe Illustrator... which I'm essentially pushing with an overhand grip.

So I guess overhand isn't as alien as I thought... I just never thought of myself as actually doing it that way with the mouse. I would never dream of holding a pencil that way, but it essentially would be the same as what I'm doing every day with my mouse.

02-05-2015, 07:45 PM
Emmis that is interesting. I used to hold my pencil differently from when I was writing when I was in elementary school, but a teacher saw me drawing and 'corrected' me. So I guess there's a natural inclination to hold a pencil differently to begin with.

HDMe- I am no good at drawing with a mouse, but I know a few people who are.

Stewart Vernon
02-06-2015, 12:19 AM
The reason I didn't think of it initially... is because a lot of computer drawing is precision work, so I'm using a line or shape tool and then the grip doesn't matter as much as if I were drawing that by hand.

But... I have gotten reasonably good at the mouse sketch, using the mouse with a freehand drawing tool to doodle in the same way that I would a hand-drawn doodle. Sometimes I'm almost as good with the mouse as I would have been by hand.

The advantage on the computer is, I can tweak a faulty curve afterwards whereas by hand I have to erase and try again... but I'm a lot better with the mouse than I ever thought I would be.