Hand Sketching Principles and Best Practices

Hand sketching is a way of communication; it’s an expression of one’s vision on paper. There is no way to get away from sketching as it is the most natural and purest art form. Unfortunately, people tend to give up on this art form before reaching perfection, even with many advantages. 

We’ve all experienced the pain of staring at a blank page and not knowing where to begin. But with the correct practices, one can enjoy the rewards of this beautiful art form.

Before you start hand sketching, it’s essential to understand that there’s more going on than what meets the eye, and that’s the game-changer. 

We know finding inspiration can be too tricky at times. Don’t worry. This piece of writing has got you covered! You don’t need to be a starving artist to love and pursue hand sketching, just a few principles to follow, and boom! You are good to pursue the journey of becoming a fantastic artist! 

No matter if you’re entering into the incredible world of sketching or simply want to refresh your current sketching skills, these practices will benefit you either way.

So without any further ado, let’s learn these best hand sketching practices.

Learn to get along with your best hand sketching companion: Your Pencil 

Well, it’s not about the size of your pencil. It’s about how you make the best out of it. 

We just can’t go ahead with defining the hand sketching principles without letting you know how the right pencil can be a game-changer for you. One of the most crucial sketching techniques is to use the appropriate pencil to begin your hand sketch. 

How to choose the right pencil for hand sketching?

The hardness of the graphite decides how catchy your sketch is going to be, so choose wisely. 

The graphite hardness is stated on the pencil’s side: ‘B’ pencils are softer, ‘H’ pencils are tougher, and ‘HB’ pencils are somewhere in the middle. So make sure you use the ‘H’ scale in the beginning and give it a perfect finish with the darker ‘B’ scale, and this is what the great artist Tim Von Rueden also suggested.

Sticking to only traditional pencils is boring; combine it with mechanical pencils to create a masterpiece. Now you must be wondering why both? Well, I’ll explain it with the most famous saying by Von Ruede, 

“Mechanical pencils are usually better suited for precision, while traditional pencils are great for laying down large areas of texture.” 

If you want to learn more about Sketching basic, you can find some quick tips here.

Position of your Pencil Matters

The position of your pencil can create different effects and strokes. If you want heavier strokes and more control, make sure you bring your hand closer to the pencil’s end. On the other hand, gripping further up the pencil helps in lighter strokes and less control. 

The essential tripod grip is the most typical approach for holding a pencil, and it’s the same one you’re usually using for writing. With the middle finger, the thumb and forefinger create a triangle supported by the ring finger and pinkie. 

How can we forget the most important thing? Your hand can rest on the paper while doing detailed work. Keep your masterpiece clear of smudges and skin oils by using a spare sheet of paper. 

Also, if you need more significant movement, rest your wrist or elbow against the sketching surface’s edge and utilize it as a pivot.

Keep an Eye on the Range of Lines

The importance of lines in hand sketching is undeniable; it holds more power than you think! A line may appear to be nothing, yet it is much more than that.

Keep trying different ranges of lines while creating your hand sketch because not every line is created equal. Subtle changes in sequence, width, and darkness will result in a dynamic, visually appealing drawing. 

Make sure the line is thicker in the paces where the object has more mass. Alternatively, the line on one side of an object may be narrower to help indicate a light source. Once you learn this trick, nobody can stop you from creating defined lines and having the most aligned sketch. 

Controlling the type of mark you make can be difficult at first.

However, with experience, you’ll be able to generate a range of marks that work together to create a unified image. To try different lines, you have to experiment with different hand positions as well as pencils. 

Experiment with various mark-making techniques

Who knew mark-making could be as important for adults as it is for children? Before you begin with your sketch, make sure you have enough knowledge of different techniques. Making a mark is much more than we can comprehend. It’s a method of creating a personal mark vocabulary that can reference with the middle finger.

All forms of mark-making should be recognized, encouraged, and debated. However, since there is no formula or prescription for this working method, you must build on these techniques and develop your natural working style. An endless number of marks can be made, but our terminology for them is limited: lines, dots, dashes, smudges, and so on.

Some prefer a smoother transition with a thin outline, while others are bold outlines with cross sketching. Whatever your style is, experimenting and figuring out what works best for you to complement and enhance your personal style is all that matters. 

Keep your Edges Under Control 

The design of shapes and their edges produces the best art. What are your opinions? 

The core of excellent art is creating perfect and defined edges, and employing them flawlessly is a trait of an ideal artist. Because the edge and its quality regulate where you see the transition from one shape to another, edges play a significant function with these shapes.

To define object boundaries, Von Rueden employs four different hand sketching techniques: thin, hard, lost, and undefined. And all of these are equally important. Thin and strong edges create solid boundaries. When the object and background values mix, the edge becomes suggested rather than defined, resulting in a lost edge. Keep this in mind, and you’ll learn to control your edges in no time! 

Smudging should be avoided at all costs

Trust me. You’re not the only one with the question, “How to avoid smudge while drawing a hand sketch?” 

It is one of the most frequently asked questions. No one wants a smudged sketch, but somehow we end up with it most times.

Touching the surface of the paper might cause smudging. So the only surefire approach to avoid blurring your drawing is to avoid touching the paper’s surface in the first place. 

Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that if you exercise extreme caution, everything will go smoothly. Instead, just do this experiment: Take an eraser and rub the paper where your hand has been resting to check for damage. You’ll be able to see the findings right away. 

Smudging might be so subtle that you don’t always realize it’s going on. Even the lightest grey will dull the paper’s ‘life,’ so make sure you take the correct measures beforehand. 

Keep your Blending Stick with You 

We understand that a pencil is your best companion while hand sketching, but don’t forget your work is still not perfect without a blending stick. When you want your shading to be less sketchy and more smooth and delicate, you can use a blending stick to achieve that. When creating illusions of texture, such as velvet, a blending stick comes in handy but keep in mind that going too far can make a drawing appear lifeless.

When producing graded highlights in textures like hair, blending sticks certainly be helpful. The artist can then combine the drawing before sharpening it with a pencil line and delete highlights. So don’t forget to keep this valuable tool with you whenever you start with a hand sketch. 


Hand sketching is fun. With these simple hand sketching principles and practices, you can speed up your journey to becoming an artist.


In case you want to showcase your skills on a larger platform, GoSocial has got it covered for you. We’re here to help you reach out to more like-minded artists and be a part of the community. To know more, click here.

Have fun!

To learn more about sketching, explore our Sketching section here. We hope you’ll find something unique.