The chisel point simplifies the drawing process; it's self-sharpening, which removes constant sharpening from your workflow; and minimises breaks in your concentration.

Mike shows you how to form the chisel point, on any type of pencil, and how to use it for drawing both soft shading and sharp line... all with the same point!


Understanding pencil lead grades

How to form a chisel point

Using a 2mm clutch pencil to demonstrate, Mike shows you in detail how the versatile chisel point is formed after sharpening your pencil.
Understanding soft and hard pencil grades

Use for line and shading

Switch effortlessly from sharp line to seamless shading, and back to tight detail - all with a simple rotation of your pencil.
Understanding soft and hard pencil grades

Separate detail and tone layers

Using the single point, Mike explains how to break down a drawing into separate layers of detail and three-dimensional form - line and tone... using the same point!
Understanding soft and hard pencil grades

Don't stop to sharpen!

Using a sharp point requires constant sharpening. The point wears quickly and will easily snap. The chisel point last considerably longer and sharpening just entails a quick scrub on waste paper. No breaks in concentration!
Understanding soft and hard pencil grades

Wood-cased demonstrated

Mike demonstrates the chisel point in use on a popular wood-cased pencil, with advice on how to know where the flat face of the point is at all times.

Watch the 2-minute PREVIEW:

The Chisel Point
Duration :
8½ mins
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Mary Hollis
Being a visual learner (what artist isn’t?!) the clear, detailed close up pictures were perfect for understanding how to create and use this technique.


Sharpening your pencil is something we do multiple times a day - or I used to. Let me introduce you to a point that almost takes care of itself.

If you like a super-sharp point I can offer you that, and if you prefer a blunter point I can offer you that too.

The problem with a sharp point is that it doesn't last. It snaps easily, and it wears very quickly. But the point I'm going to show you will last a considerable length of time. And it's very easily replaced.

So, the first thing I do after I've sharpened my pencil, is to tap the point off. Then, holding my pencil at my normal drawing angle, I scrub the point off. That forms a flat on the end.

So, the point I've got is basically this... We have a point that's been blunted by tapping off its tip. You don't have to do that but it makes it easier to wear a flat on it at an angle that matches your normal drawing angle.

So I now have a point that gives me a flat face and a sharp edge. And the sharp edge goes about half the way round the point. If I hold the pencil in its original position - that is, at the same rotation - then I know I've got the flat face against the paper. And a flat face gives me a broad line with soft edges. So, if I'm shading, those soft-edged lines very easily merge into each other. I get much smoother, almost satin-finish, results with almost an absence of line.

But, if I want to suddenly produce a sharp line, perhaps for some detail or just to sharply define an edge, all I've got to do is rotate the pencil and what I've got there is a super-sharp edge - as sharp as your point. Except, the sharp edge goes half the way around the point. So, I can start using one end of that edge and, whenever the edge looks as though its going to wear away, I just turn the pencil. And I can keep that edge going and going and going...

And when it finally begins to wear off, I don't have to stop to sharpen my pencil. I don't want to stop because stopping just interrupts my concentration. All I've got to do is put the pencil back to its original rotation and angle, and scrub the flat face. Every time you use or scrub the flat you automatically sharpen its edge too. So, we just scrub the flat, turn the pencil over, and we've got our lovely sharp edge back.

Of course, in normal use even if I was shading with the flat face that itself sharpens the edge for later use. I tend to sharpen my pencils once in the morning and then, unless the lead itself wears down so it becomes too short, I really don't have stop for the rest of the day. All I've got to do is scrub... got the edge.

Although the rotation of the pencil helps me to understand where the flat face is, I actually don't need to, because after a while you get used to the feel of the flat face skating over the surface. It just glides, it's silky smooth. On the other hand, if I turn it over, I can feel the bite of the edge as it gets deep into the paper. You have to almost pull it through. There's a lovely bit of feedback from this tip.

This tip has another advantage. I often like to divide detail from tonal shaping, so I can concentrate on one without being distracted by the other. For example, I could be using the edge to create layers of hair. Lets say it's coming down the side of the animal and disappearing underneath. All I've got to do is think about the hair itself and how it lays on the body. Then I can turn the pencil over to use its flat face to begin adding the three-dimensional shading on top of the hair. If you do that gently it's quite possible to adjust that top layer with a kneaded eraser or Blu-Tack without affecting the detail layer beneath it.

I like to use clutch pencils - I always have - but the chisel point works just as well with wood-cased pencils. This is a Tombow 2B. I suggest you hold the pencil so you can see the writing on the side, or the grade reference, so you can always return to that rotation and know where the flat face is. So we'll wear a flat... and ... there you go... the point's just snapped off! Well, that's something that this chisel point overcomes.

So, we'll just form a flat on the end. It doesn't need to be huge; it's just an angled flat end on the tip.

That gives me my broad line, which is ideal for shading, because the soft edges merge the lines nicely together. Or I can just turn the pencil over and I've got a super sharp edge, which is going to last so much longer than the average point will.

No more constant sharpening. Suitable for any pencil. And that's THE CHISEL POINT.

© copyright: Mike Sibley 2018

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