Saturday, August 02, 2008

Drawing Tip #15: Keeping Pencils Sharp

Keeping your pencils sharp is key to doing detail work. That can be easier said than done - some pencils (like charcoal) wear down so fast you'll wonder if it's worth it to sharpen at all. Here are a few tips for keeping those pencils pointy:

Graphite pencils:
Usually the electric pencil sharpener is sufficient for these, even the softer leads. But if that 9B is stubborn, try a manual sharpener or a knife (always slice away from your body).

Colored pencils:
I'm sure an electric sharpener would be fine for colored pencils, but I prefer to use the tiny hand sharpener that came with the set. If your pencils have a penchant for breaking (and apparently Prismacolors do), it's better to use a hand sharpener so you can better control the torque you put on the shafts.

Charcoal pencils:
I found out quite early that I cannot use an electric sharpener with charcoal, especially the 6B. I can use a hand sharpener, but it still doesn't get it nice and pointy. The only way I've found that works is to use sandpaper. Sharpen by hand as far as it will go, then drag it backward along fine sandpaper, rotating and dragging again, until it is the desired sharpness. The knife would also work, but charcoal chips easily so just shave very lightly.

Carbon pencils:
My hand sharpener works pretty well with the carbon pencils. If I just can't get that extra pointiness I need, I'll use a knife or sandpaper to hone it.

The added benefit of using sandpaper with charcoal or carbon is that you end up with a pile of charcoal or carbon dust, which is great for picking up with a stump, blending cloth or tissue to apply directly to the drawing.

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