Hello and welcome! 

In this quick tip tutorial, we are going to take a closer look at the Pencil Tool in Affinity Designer. The Pencil Tool allows you to create freehand vector drawings that have a more organic feel than those created with the other shape building tools. 

Unlike regular, freehand raster drawings, when you’re done, you’re left with flexible nodes that can be adjusted to get the precise look you’re aiming for. 

I’ll be using the iPad version of the app, however the concepts are the same for the desktop version so you can still follow along.


Where is the Pencil Tool?

First things first, where is the Pencil tool? On both the desktop and iPad versions of the app, it is represented by… you guessed it… a pencil icon, which can be found in the tool bar at the side of both apps.

Can't find the Pencil Tool?

On the desktop version of the app, and don't see the toolbar, head to View > Show Toolbar.
On the iPad version, click the "?" at the bottom of the screen for icon labels!

How Does the Pencil Tool Work?

As you draw, nodes are added to your canvas, creating your freehand shape. You can create your drawing as a stroke, fill or both. (we’ll take a closer look at that in a bit…)

The shapes you create with the Pencil tool can easily be adjusted with the Node Tool. There are also several different settings within the tool itself that will assist in creating your shapes as you go.  Before we get in to those, let’s take a closer look at the basics of how to get started with the Pencil tool.

Creating a Stroke, Fill or Both with the Pencil Tool

As mentioned above, when using the Pencil tool, you can create a stroke only, a fill only or a combination of both.

To create a stroke only, choose your color in the Color Studio, make sure the fill is turned off, and set your stroke width. (you can do this in both the Stroke Studio and the contextual menu at the bottom)

To create a fill only, make sure your fill is off (or flip your stroke to your fill as in the video below)

In the contextual menu, make sure that “Use Fill,” is selected and draw your shape.

To create both a stroke and a fill, make sure your color is selected for both your stroke and your fill. Also, make sure “Use Fill,” is on and create your shape.

The Contextual Menu

Let’s head to the bottom of the screen and take a closer look at the contextual menu, which allows us to dial in further adjustments to the Pencil tool for additional help when creating shapes.

First things first, whenever you’re looking at a contextual menu in an Affinity iPad app, check to see if there is a carrot to the right of the menu. This means there are other parts to the menu that are hidden for space. Click the carrot and you will scroll through the additional menu parts. 

Here’s a break down of the adjustments you can make in the contextual menu:

Sculpt Mode

When using a fill and Sculpt Mode, you can sculpt away areas of your shape, or build on them, between nodes. You can use this to create cutouts on leaves, the feathers on a bird, and any number of other shapes where you want to cut, or sculpt, away parts of the shape. 

Want to know more about how to use the Sculpt Mode? Check out my class, “Affinity Designer | Using the Pencil Tool, Sculpt Mode & Masks,” where I show you how to use all three to make beautiful floral typography.

Width & Stroke

In addition to using the Stroke and Color Studios to set your stroke color and size, you can also do this in the contextual menu at the bottom. 


The Controller allows you to set the pressure sensitivity of the tool. 

Setting it to “Pressure,” means it will be controlled by actual pressure, using your Apple Pencil or a pressure sensitive stylus.

If you don’t have a pressure sensitive stylus, or Apple Pencil, you can also use “Velocity,” so that the pressure is based on the speed of your movement.

Setting this to “None,” means you will have no pressure sensitivity at all.

Use Fill and Fill Color

We already touched on Use Fill above, just make sure this is clicked on if you want to draw a filled shape. You can also use Fill Color to change the color of your shape here rather than going up to the Color Studio.


The Stabilizer will give you the option of smoothing the lines you create with the Pencil Tool. If you are like me, and don’t have a To find it, click the carrot at the right of the contextual menu. 

You have two options with the stabilizer: Rope and Window

Both allow you to smooth the curves of your stroke, however the rope stabilizer, which, as the name implies, leads your stroke around by a lead, will also allow you to create sharp corners when dragging the stroke at a longer length.

My Top 5 Tips for Using the Pencil tool

Sculpt Mode isn't just for sculpting away... you can also add to your shape.

Want to learn more about how to use all the tools in Affinity Designer for iPad?

Check out my full length Skillshare class, “A Beginner Guide to Affinity Designer | Textured Florals on the iPad,” where I will walk you through the entire interface and show you how all of the tools work. Best of all, we will use many of those tools to create beautiful, textured floral illustrations. What you learn in class will give you the basics you need to tackle any project in Affinity Designer.

Not a Skillshare member? Come join me and you will receive your first month free to explore unlimited classes, not just from me, but thousands of teachers on tons of different subjects. Head to my profile to sign up here.

Thanks for joining me here on my blog! Look for more quick tip tutorials coming soon, not just in the Affinity Suite but Procreate, the Adobe Suite and much more!


About Tracey

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