Subscribe to Email Updates

How to Draw Penguins with Nobby Pencils

Megan McTavish | May 8, 2017

Featured guest artist Megan McTavish shows us how to draw penguins using easy pencil sketch techniques. Follow along to learn new tips and tricks for drawing with pencil!



Before you begin choose:

  • A reference photo (I use the color photo to make a black & white copy - the B&W image helps me to see the values in a color photo)
  • The type of paper (you want to draw on or have available - the texture of the paper is important to consider)
  • The size (5 x 7" or  8 x 10" - this helps to mat and frame the drawing when it's done)


Step 1: The Sketch

The sketch will be a very light line drawing of your reference photo. These lines are only outlines/guides for your shading. Start by using the Nobby 3mm pencil Hold the pencil as lightly as possible while still maintaining control. Dark lines and values (heavy pressure) are harder to erase, so be sure to keep a light touch to allow for adjustments. 


Step 2: Basic Values

Build up values lightly at first over the whole drawing. This will allow you to place basic shadows, mid-tones and highlights correctly before adding darker values. Notice which values are darker or lighter when compared to the value next to it. Use the white of the paper for your highlights. Regularly erase these areas if you need to. The weight of the applicator automatically added enough pressure, so you don't have to push hard to achieve a visible line.


Step 3: Building Up Values

While shading, make sure to keep the same amount of pressure on the paper as you “fill in” those shadow areas. Scribbling, circular lines or hatching does not create a smooth blended look. Move in one direction, with the same pressure, adding layers to make the area darker. Take your time, filling in shadows takes many layers of controlled strokes to achieve an even tone.


Once all the basic values are placed and shaped the way you want them start adding more layers and pressure over shadowed areas. Carefully outline the edge of the subject, making sure to outline the eye, beak and lighter feathers on the head before filling in that area.


The Nobby 3mm pencil seems well suited to drawing a wide range of visual textures from nature. The pencil does much of the work for you, with its superior lead quality and thickness.


Now to add the darkest tones, switch to the Nobby 6mm pencil (only go over the areas that need to be this dark).

Step 4: Blending

Blending is used to create a smooth looking surface. The paper I used for this drawing was a medium surface with a slightly bumpy texture. Paper texture is more noticeable when using Nobby pencils, which you can use to your advantage to create a variety of textures. If you prefer a smoother look rub the area with a blending tool. 

The long grey tool is a blending stump of wrapped paper (which come in various sizes). The smaller white tool is a make-up Q-tip, which is my all-time favorite blending tool. Using tools like these allows you to blend anything from large flat areas to tiny crevices. I strongly recommend that my students not use their fingers to blend. Fingers leave oil on the paper which makes it harder to manipulate (add or erase) the graphite.


Step 5: Using Blending Tools

Hold the tool like a pencil and rub the areas you want to blend. Applying different pressure allows you to control the amount of blending. I blended all areas within this drawing: the feathers, wings and heads of both penguins. This took away the bumpy texture of the paper to give the penguins' bodies a smoother look. Other blending tools include regular Q-tips, make-up sponges, tissues, paper towels, cotton balls, and rags. I sometimes walk down the cosmetic/make-up aisle of a store to find new tools to blend with.


I was really impressed with the smooth application of the lead and how the heavy and smooth surface of the applicator felt in my hand. Nobby pencils are not only high quality graphite pencils, but they are surprisingly enjoyable to use!

Step 6: The Background

Now that the penguins are done, move on to finishing the background. Start building up the values, blended them and added texture where necessary using the 3mm Nobby pencil. 


Step 7: Finished Drawing


Have fun exploring more pencil art in the Nobby Inspire Section!


Topics: Illustration

Megan McTavish
Megan McTavish on May 8, 2017

Megan first started drawing Disney cartoons and eventually moved on to Anime characters at a very young age. Learning to draw from images inspired her passion for photorealism today. Mainly working with graphite Megan enjoys drawing photorealistic portraits and is currently an Artist-in-Residence at the Studio Channel Islands Art Center in Camarillo, CA.