Graphite Pencil Drawing for Beginners – A Step-by-Step Tutorial

Graphite, the most common and easy to find art medium has been with us all our lives, artists of all ages and skill levels have used graphite to express their creativity, learn and practice the fundamentals and create beautiful works of art.

However that doesn’t mean drawing with graphite is easy or that everyone can do it effortlessly, as most mediums, graphite has a learning curve that requires some basic understanding of the materials, basic drawing concepts, and techniques used with this medium.

In this tutorial, we’ll cover all the basics, from selecting the best paper and pencils to ensuring you have a solid knowledge of the basic techniques that we’ll then apply in your first step-by-step graphite drawing tutorial.

Let’s get started!

Materials Needed

In order to start drawing, you’re going to need supplies, and while a pencil and a piece of paper can do, knowing the different types that exist and how their different characteristics affect the final outcome will come in handy later on.

Graphite Pencils

Graphite pencils are not all made the same, they come on different grades, which affect how dark they are and how fast they wear out. The best graphite pencils for beginners are the ones near the middle of the grading range, 2H, HB, 2B and 4B are usually the ones you’ll need as a beginner (and through your drawing journey if you learn how to use them properly).


There are different types of paper, and although you can draw on all of them, you have to consider that some are made specifically for other mediums, like acrylics, watercolors and markers. Drawing with graphite is not the same as sketching with it, especially when we talk about realistic drawing. The best weight and texture for graphite drawings are 90 to 160 GSM and medium to smooth paper. This will allow the graphite to set into the paper and will also resist frequent blending and erasing.


Graphite is an easily erasable medium, which makes it easy to work with and very beginner friendly, however not all erasers work the same with graphite. White erasers are the ones we recommend the most since they don’t stain, don’t create a lot of dust and don’t damage the paper. Kneaded erasers are also a must, they are good for playing with values, softening edges and working on details, plus they last a long time and are easy to shape and re-use. Precision erasers are an optional yet nice supply to have for graphite drawing, they are made to precisely erase a small area, great for highlights and small details like fur or skin. Electric erasers are another optional supply, while they’re great to have around they’re not a must and you’ll do great without them especially in the beginning of your journey.

Pencil Sharpener

Having a pencil sharpener or a knife to sharpen your pencil with is another must, since having control over the thickness or dullness of your lines will allow you to use several types of strokes and try different techniques.

A pencil sharpener is best for beginners since it’ll allow you to keep your work area and hands clean while keeping a sharp tip, while a knife will give you more control over the amount and length of graphite exposed, but it’ll be harder to grasp as a beginner.

Graphic Pencils – Basic Concepts You Should Know

Pencil Grades

Graphite pencils are categorized by their “hardness” and “blackness”, and are graded in a scale with letters and numbers according to how “hard” (H) and “black” (B) they are. When you look at a graphite pencil you’ll see some numbers and letters like HB, 2B, 3H, etc. next to the brand name. The middle of the scale is HB, a mix of harness and blackness that is perfectly workable and great for writing, sketching and drawing. H pencils create lighter, finer lines, while B pencils create darker, broader lines.  See this image below for an illustration of the different graphite pencil grades:

Graphite Pencil Grades
Graphite Pencil Grades

Pencil Holding Techniques

When drawing with graphite pencil there are different techniques for holding the pencil.  They generally fall into the following two categories:

  • Standard Grip: Similar to writing, this grip gives you control for detailed work. Hold the pencil between your thumb, index, and middle fingers, letting it rest comfortably near the base of your thumb.
  • Overhand Grip: Holding the pencil overhand, with the shaft lying on the top of the hand, allows for broader strokes and is ideal for shading over large areas. This grip facilitates a range of motion from the elbow and shoulder, rather than just the wrist.

Shading Techniques

  • Hatching: Consists of shading with close parallel lines, building values gradually.
  • Cross Hatching: Just like the hatching shading technique, cross hatching consists of shading with sets of parallel lines at different angles over each other. This creates a denser, more textured area, making it easy to build values with it.
  • Stippling: Stippling uses dots to create values and texture, and while this method is very time-consuming, it produces very interesting textures and effects.
  • Scumbling: This technique uses a scribbling movement to fill areas with texture and shade, perfect for loose, expressive work and quick sketches.
  • Blending: This technique involves applying an even layer of graphite and then using a tool like a blending stump, tissue paper or a cloth to smooth out the graphite into a seamless gradient. 
  • Layering: This technique consists on building up values by applying several layers of graphite in a controlled way.

For more information see our full article on Pencil Shading Techniques for Artists.

How to Draw with Graphite Pencil – A Step-by-Step Tutorial

Below we will be drawing an apple with graphite pencil.  Each step has been laid out for you with

Step 1.- Sketching the Basic Shape

Start by lightly sketching a circle or slightly oval shape with an HB pencil to form the basic outline of the apple. 

Add a smaller curve at the top for the dip near the stem and a similar but subtler one at the bottom where the apple bulges out slightly.

Step 2.- Refining the Outline

Refine the shape of your apple, smoothing out any irregularities in the circle to make it look more natural. Sketch a small cylinder for the stem at the top dip of the apple. 

Erase any unnecessary lines to clean up your sketch.

Step 3.- Applying Base Layers of Shading

Use an HB pencil to lightly shade the entire apple, establishing the base tone. This initial layer should be even and light.

Identify the light source direction to determine where the highlights and shadows will fall.

Step 4.- Developing Shadows and Depth

Deepen the shadows on the side of the apple opposite the light source using a 2B or 4B pencil. Gradually build up the layers to enhance depth.

Apply cross-hatching techniques in the darker areas to enrich the texture.

Step 5.- Highlights and Details

Use a kneaded eraser to lift off graphite and create highlights where the light hits the apple most intensely, usually along the part facing the light source.

Shade the stem using hatching, aligning your pencil strokes with its curve for a more rounded look.

Step 6.- Adding the Shadow

Add a small, detailed shadow beneath the apple to ground it and enhance its three-dimensional appearance.

Step 7.- Final Touches

Smooth out any harsh transitions with a blending stump, being careful not to over-blend to maintain texture and depth, check the contrast and enhance any shadow area that needs it.

And you’re done! We hope you’ve enjoyed our graphite pencil drawing tutorial.  Below are some frequently asked questions about graphite and Artchive’s art tutorials, hopefully you find them helpful.

Frequently Asked Questions About Graphite Drawing

Is there a difference between pencil and graphite?

Yes, a pencil is the tool you use to write, draw and color with, while graphite is the material used for the core of the pencil. There are colored pencils, pastel pencils, graphite pencils and charcoal pencils, while graphite can exist in many forms, like leads, pencils, sticks and powder.

Is Charcoal or Graphite better for drawing?

Charcoal and graphite are both amazing tools for drawing, however if you’re a beginner, graphite is definitively the best choice, as it’s much easier to use, erase and is not as messy as charcoal. If you don’t mind getting messy and are looking for the deepest blacks, then charcoal is the best choice, however keep in mind that charcoal smudges easily and doesn’t work well on any paper so you’ll need a fixative and the right paper to draw with it.

What Paper is Best for Graphite Drawing?

The best paper for graphite drawing is pretty much any paper, you can use printer paper, cardstock, etc. However for very detailed drawings or professional work we recommend Bristol board on the Vellum finish, or Hot Pressed Watercolor paper as it has the thickness and smoothness for highly detailed work and it’s resistent enough to handle erasing and even mixed media techniques.

What Pencils are Best for Graphite Drawing?

There are several brands on the market that offer very high quality graphite pencils, among them the ones we consider the best are the “Staedtler Mars Lumograph” as they have an amazing range, good casing quality and are also reasonably priced. You can check our full guide about the Best Pencils For Drawing and choose the ones that you like the best.

Does Artchive have more Art Tutorials?

Yes! If you would like to see more tutorials from various different art mediums, see our Art Tutorials at Artchive page. 

Does Artchive have more Pencil Tutorials?

Yes! We also has an Art Tutorial on Colored Pencils for Beginners.  We are always creating new tutorials across various art mediums, so please check back often!

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