The Three Pencil Technique In Drawing

The Three Pencil Technique In Drawing
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There are some drawing techniques less known to the general public, of which little is said. Yet some of these have been very successful in the past, especially in the flourishing artistic period from the 15th to the 16th century.

In this article, we want to talk about the three pencils technique, a drawing technique used to realize studies, preparatory sketches of pictures or paintings.

What is the three pencil technique?

With the technical name of the three pencils, or in French, “trios crayons” technique, we refer to a particular drawing technique where essentially three pencils of three different colors are used: sanguine, charcoal, and white chalk. The actual process involves using these colors in pastels (chalks) or pencils, as it developed and became famous around the 15th century when the pencils still had no shape they are today!

To simplify, we can say that using charcoal, and we draw the baselines and the shadows. Then, with confidence, we will add details and work on the warm tones, while with the white pencil, we will define the light points and cool drawing ideas.

What tools do you need for this technique?

The fundamental tools for the three pencil technique are four. On the one hand, we have the pencils, which, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, are of three different types: sanguine, charcoal, and white chalk pencil. On the other hand, the sanguine pencil has been one of the most popular tools for drawing since ancient times. Think, for example, of Leonardo’s famous self-portrait. It is hematite reduced to a powder and then kneaded to create a lead or sticks for drawing.

The typical reddish color makes it recognizable and perfect for the definition of the subject in a less marked way and the work on halftones. The charcoal pencil will be our black stroke. Some artists have sometimes been replaced with the silver tip, but the charcoal also offers the possibility of being shaded without problems. So we’re going to use it for defining lines and adding cool shadows and tones.

The chalk pencil is a white pencil with dusty and brittle lead-like chalk. It is mainly used in the final part of the Drawing to define the highlights and the lighter areas.

On the other hand, we have paper, the protagonist of every Drawing. We prefer to use a form with a medium-toned color, therefore gray, bluish, natural brown, or beige. The color of the sheet will be an integral part of the design we are going to create, so the use of entirely white paper is generally not recommended.

Two concepts to keep in mind

Although the drawings made with the three pencils technique are beautiful and full of character, they are often preparatory studies or sketches for a painting.

For this reason, there are two basic concepts to keep in mind when working with this technique.

Decompose the work into three colors

Working with only three pencils and three tones, the required exercise will be to break down our subject into three levels. Then, we will define some of the fundamental characteristics in each layer: line and shadows, halftones, and highlights. This approach is very similar to what is done when working with oil painting, making an underpainting.

Create a study for the pictorial rendering

The decomposition of the subject into the three basic tones will allow us to carry out a qualitative study of the composition as a whole, to understand if our issue is well balanced, and to play in advance by working on what is most important in a specific type of painting, that is, the lights and shadows.

An example of a drawing made with this technique

Thanks to the collaboration of the talented. We will show you how to make a drawing with the three pencils technique. As you can see, Valeria has decided to define the main subject using the optimistic, also working on the halftones. Then, with the charcoal pencil, he reinforced some areas, working on cold tones and shadows.


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