Home-Study and Studio Art Instruction for Children and Adults-Teacher Training

Courses of Study

New Masters™ System Sample Learning Materials

Worksheet PH1

Step 1

The Four Pencil Positions

On this worksheet you will learn the 4 basic pencil positions (where on the shaft the pencil is held) and their specific applications in the drawing process. You will practice holding the pencil in the 4 basic positions and drawing sketch-patterns from each position in the practice areas provided. You will use the back-and-forth stroke pattern.


1. Finish reading this instruction guide

2. Watch the video until the first position’s demonstration is finished and
pause the video.

3. Practice drawing stroke patterns of progressively longer strokes from that position.

4. Repeat this procedure for the remaining three positions.


In the detail position, the pencil is held anywhere from just behind the cone to about an inch back. It is used for small details and subtle changes in line shape. In this position, the fingers are placed just behind the sharpened area of the pencil with some of the painted area visible to the eye when the hand is in position to draw. If the pencil is held closer to the point than this, the hand begins to obstruct the line of vision.


In the drawing position, the pencil is held with the fingers anywhere from an inch behind the cone to the point where the eraser is just able to rest on top of the hand at the “V “ point. It is used in the mid and latter stages of line drawing just prior to detail and fine shaping work. It is used in the shading process for middle tones and darker values. The actual location of the fingers within the drawing position range is determined by the amount of pressure required for the drawing task. The more pressure required, the closer the pencil is held to the point; the less pressure required (when subtlety and delicacy of touch is necessary), the further from the point it is held.


In the sketch position, the fingers are positioned near the back end of the pencil, far enough back so that the eraser end is floating in the “O” shaped space formed by the curved thumb and forefinger of the drawing hand. It is distinguished from the other positions by its absence of leverage. One cannot push down with any force because there is no counter-force on the other end. It is used in the early and middle stages of sketching and shading. During the early stages of your drawing, you will be using a series of quick, light, widely scattered strokes to tentatively locate and “rough-in” the lines and shapes. The sketch position takes away any possible leverage the hand might have that would enable it to apply undue pressure to the paper. It also reduces the hand’s control of the path of the pencil, thus making approximation easier to execute. The result is a lighter, wider pattern — which is used during the early stages of drawing when the positions of the lines are tentatively established using wide, light, imprecise patterns. You will learn more about sketching in the lessons to come.


The contact-sketch position is a variation of the sketch position where, instead of floating in the “O” space, the back end of the pencil (the eraser end) is in light contact with the fleshy part of the hand opposite the large knuckle at the base of the forefinger. This position provides more stability and control than the sketch position by limiting the movement of the back of the pencil. But its main advantage is that it allows for instantaneous adjustments of pencil-point pressure on the paper without having to change the physical position of the fingers on the pencil. One need only move the fingers slightly inward or outward to increase or decrease the pencil’s pressure against the hand.

Begin your practice by holding the pencil so that the eraser is only slightly touching the hand. You will find yourself almost immediately in much better control of the path of the pencil stroke and find it much easier to maintain a very light touch. W hen practicing the contact sketch position, in addition to varying the length of the stroke, do a series of strokes that vary in their pressure – with each stroke slightly darker than the last.


ractice until you get a feel for the positions and are comfortable using them to draw stroke patterns. The actual mastery of these positions will come with their continued use in drawing.


New Masters private lessons are available for children ages six and up or for anyone who prefers private lesson over classroom instruction. (Age exceptions will be made based on the parent’s conception of their child’s maturity and capability.)

 For more information call 1-800-210-1220 or e-mail Gordon school of art at: gordon@newmasters.com.