How to Sharpen a Pencil For Drawing – Read This FIRST
All right..Let’s get into learning how to sharpen a pencil the right ways for drawing! In this post I will be talking about things that work well and those that don’t as much.
Speaking of things, I never was a huge fan of those electric pencil sharpeners. They seemed to eat more pencils than trim them! Ever felt like it is all guesswork over and over again until (crunch) the tip is broken before you know it? Mine is safely stored in the closet at the moment (I may donate it to charity – haven’t decided yet.😁)
Don’t get the wrong idea, I do like them just fine – just not for my art pencils. Manual tools are much much better for sharpening your drawing pencils.
Oh, and if you really want to sharpen your drawing game a little, you can grab my FREE 5 Best Tools checklist from my password protected Resource Library …which you can access at the bottom of this page!
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I used several things when I was last drawing more seriously. One was a pocket knife. Of course, when I was in school I always had to worry about “zero tolerance” so I kept it in a safe place in my dorm room. The single blade worked very well to trim my pencils. The second was an X-acto knife.
Honestly, I was always used to using a conventional sharpener until….I saw Leonardo diCaprio’s character Jack in Titanic who was a vagabond, freespirited artist, and used these special sharpening knives they made back in that era.
Since that movie was the blockbuster hit of the day, and Jack was the biggest heartthrob, I was all monkey see, monkey do!
At the present time I have somehow misplaced my X-acto knife. I have a replacement blade for my “other” knife, a box cutter, in which I have applied some tape to the edge to make it safer to use. I also have 1 utility knife and a wood carving knife I inherited. It does work very well for what I am going to show you.
Now let’s get to work! I will do a demo with both one of my graphite and one charcoal pencil so you can see how it’s done. You can use these techniques for colored pencils, too! Works very well.
This is a charcoal pencil (left image) and as you can see, it’s pretty dull. I take it in my left hand and take the knife in my right and kind of hold it, too, like a pencil. Start a little bit above the area on the pencil where the wooden part meets the colored casing.
You kind of have to start a little further up the pencil to trim a good point. Whenever I just trimmed around the exposed wood part surrounding the lead point, I always got blunt leads.
Make quick strokes at a 30-45 degree angle, going away from you with the knife. Rotate the pencil around clockwise – then continue making strokes in the same way as you trim, alternately turning the pencil as you finish each side.
It might take some practice to get better at it. I was kind of timid at first because I didn’t want to accidentally break the leads.
Sanding the Wood Area
Next step is to smooth down the wooden exposed area. Using some medium-grit sandpaper you can get this part done. I am using the sandstone that came with my General’s pencil set which is what it was intended for.
Gently sand the wooden area and blow away the remaining dust.
If you don’t have a drawing sandstone like this, you could probably get one of those block-shaped thingy’s that are used for mani’s and pedi’s (places like Sally Beauty carry these.) as long as it’s a med-grit it will work well for this too.
Do Conventional Sharpeners Work?
Those little bitty manual sharpeners – I sorta like them, but they’ve got a few disadvantages…for one thing, the blade can get dull and since it’s built in, it’s hard to revive it (I do use uncooked rice to keep my kitchen knife blades sharp – as well as one of those little pumice stone thingys too but that’s another story) Plus the shavings can get scattered everywhere.
I do like this one here that is made of metal with a steel blade. I have the one that came with my pencil set and use it on my graphite pencils. It’s sturdy – only difference is that it has dual openings. Never had a larger pencil to make use of it, though. It seems to do a good job.
But if you’re traveling, yes, these do come in handy – you just have to figure out what to do with those pesky shavings in the meantime.If you struggle with the x-acto knife, or just want to have a backup to finish off what you began, I’d look for a sharpener like this one.
(Just have a sheet of wax paper or similar to hold under so the shavings will drop into it.)
Just remember, practice makes perfect! Don’t forget, you can get my 5 Cool Drawing Tools Checklist to up your game…you can get it by filling out the form below:
Good luck to you, and happy drawing.