Pardon me, but do you really know anything about your pencils? How about your paper? I don’t mean to suggest that your drawing tools are not what you think they are, or that some subversive pencils have infiltrated your pencil box and plan to overthrow you or anything like that. I just think it’s a good idea to know your tools so well that you automatically reach for what you need when you need it.
When you know your tools that well, you can focus on other things, like listening to inspiration, finding hidden patterns, or maybe just enjoying the beauty of a simple line. In other words, you’re freer to enjoy all the things that attracted you to drawing in the first place.
This test helps you learn what your pencils can do on a specific paper. (Including that suspicious looking pencil you found on the floor at the back of the closet, in case you’re worrying about it.)
You’ll need 2H, B, and 2B pencils and your current drawing paper.
FYI – Here’s what I used
Strathmore Drawing Paper
I used a small flat pencil tip throughout the test.
I used simple crossed columns for this exercise but if you want to make things more interesting, use any shape you want. The only requirement is that the shaded strips cross each other.
- Draw crisscrossed columns.
- Fill the first three columns with hatching from one pencil grade each. Make a note of what pencil you used for each.
- Use the same pencil tip shape and use the same pressure on the pencil for the entire drawing.
- Do the same with the columns that cross the first set.
If you have trouble getting the paper to accept the crossed over hatching, you probably need to find a paper with a little more “tooth” or grain. You can still use the paper you have, but now you know it’s not perfect for all drawing techniques.
Your results will be different than mine unless we’re using the same pencils, paper, pressure, hatch angle, and etc., so you’ll need to do your own comparisons, but here are a few things I noticed about my own test.
The first thing I saw was the smooth textures that the 2H over hatch made. I could use those textures to draw smooth surfaces, like metal, or water, or shiny ceramic.
Here’s a surprise – The B over hatch hardly had any effect! It made the values a tiny bit darker, and the textures are a little different, but I won’t reach for a B pencil to alter hatching also made with a B pencil while using this paper anymore.
The 2B over hatch made the most stand-out textures of all. I could use those to draw gravel or bark or any hard texture that reflects small bits of light.
And here’s something that will be true to some degree no matter what pencil brand or paper type you’re using. The 2H over the 2B made the darkest value. Any pencil a few degrees harder will darken hatching made with a softer lead. It does that in part by pushing the softer lead into the parts of the grain that it skipped the first time around.
Test Sample File
Make a note of the paper used and file this with your other test samples. If you don’t have a test sample file, you do now.
Here’s the secret to drawing well – draw a lot, experiment, play, test, and follow your own zest for the medium.
And here’s how to keep drawing well – draw a lot, experiment, play, test, follow your own zest for the medium, and don’t ever stop.