Sharp Pencils

A lot of artists I follow online suggest having razor sharp pencils for drawing fur, to get those wonderfully soft thin lines that make fur look realistic. Unfortunately, keeping your pencils super super sharp is a great way to use them up really fast, which adds a lot to your costs. So today I wanted to share my opinion on when you should have sharp pencils, and when not to worry about it too much. 

I draw mostly fur, and there’s definitely stages of my drawing where I want to have the sharpest pencils possible. Usually this is the final stage of the drawing, when I’m putting in the very fine hairs to get that soft fur look. When you’re putting fine details on a drawing, regardless of whether it’s fur or scales or a rock, you always want to have sharp pencils. 

A close up of a portrait showing the fine hairs and my sharp purple pencil I was using to deepen some of the colours

But in the early stages of a drawing, it doesn’t matter quite as much. I usually work in three broad stages: the first is when I just block in shapes using my coloured pencils, and I certainly don’t need to have them sharp for that. I don’t press down hard and it’s basically a rough sketch, though I am careful to still move my pencil in the direction of the fur. During this stage my pencils are usually super blunt, and it really doesn’t make much of a difference. 

The second stage is when I start deepening colours and tones, and it is helpful to have relatively sharp pencils for this one, but I don’t need them razor sharp. I also use a technique called burnishing, where I use a light pencil to blend the colours beneath it and cover all the tooth of the paper. For burnishing I really don’t need that light pencil to be sharp, which is a good thing because burnishing uses up a lot of the pencil! 

In that final stage, like I said before, is when I really need sharp pencils. Adding details and fine hairs absolutely requires a sharp pencil. You are also going to want sharp pencils when you’re adding just a touch of colour – basically anything that requires a fine touch, you’ll want your pencils to be sharp. Still, there are some ways to help conserve your pencils. Keep turning the pencil as you work, to take advantage of sharp edges that develop on the lead as you work. And only sharpen your pencils when you need to! 

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