With so many brands of graphite pencils for professional and amateur artists, how do you know what the best drawing pencils are for you with so many to choose from?
Whether you are a professional fine artist, architect, illustrator, or aspiring young artist, a high-quality graphite pencil is essential to the outcome of your finished drawing or sketch.
Becoming familiar with products like soft leads, hard leads, mechanical pencils, woodless pencils, graphite sticks, etc., will help you purchase the best pencils for your crafting project. As you can see, there are many options to consider, and If you are like most artists, you will probably use several popular brands for your compositions. Every graphite pencil brand has different qualities best suited for specific jobs like drawing fine lines, creating darker values, or drawing fine details.
If you just purchased a sketch pad and are wondering what a good pencil to start with, don’t worry. We have you covered. In this post, we will explain the difference between soft pencils and harder pencils and a list of our favorite pencil sets so you don’t have to waste money on a pencil that will be collecting dust in a drawer.
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase by clicking on an affiliate link, Nevue Fine Art Marketing may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Affiliate relationships include, but are not limited to, Bluehost, Tailwind, Skimlinks, SareASale and StudioPress. To learn more visit Affiliate Link Disclosure Policy
What Are Pencil Grades
Graphite grading scales measure the hardness of a pencil’s graphite core.
The letter “H” indicates a hard pencil.
The harder the graphite core is, the lighter the line will be on your drawing surface.
The higher the number is, the harder the graphite core will be.
The lower the number is, the softer the graphite will be.
So if you are looking for lighter marks that are easier to ease with a kneaded eraser, you will want to use an H8 or H6 pencil. There are also 9H pencils, but most drawings will not require that hard of a lead.
Different Pencil Grades
Standard “H” pencils:
- H8 (lightest pencil)
Tip If you press down too hard with a hard pencil, you will increase the odds of damaging your drawing surface.
Always use a light touch when drawing with “H” grade pencils. You can make the area darker by drawing over the lines with the same grade.
“B” indicates the darkness of a pencil’s mark.
The higher the number is, the softer the lead will be.
The softer the lead, the darker the mark will be on your drawing surface.
If you are looking for extreme dark values, you will want to use a B8 pencil. The problem you might encounter is that the softer the lead is, the more difficult it is to keep a fine point, making it nearly impossible to draw thin lines. For rough sketches, a 2B pencil will work fine.
Standard “B” pencils
You can also purchase an HB grade. This grade is in the middle of the “H” and “B” grades.
Most high-quality pencil sets come in a full range of grades. However, some sets do not have a full range, and if you like the quality of a particular brand, you might have to purchase harder or softer grades individually.
Best Drawing Pencils For Professional Artists
A good quality pencil is required for a realistic drawing. You want to feel confident that it will create a consistent mark every time you put the pencil on the paper.
Here is a list of pencils most professional artists have in their studio.
Tombow Mono graphite pencils are superior and well-known by professional artists and illustrators. Each pencil is made with high-density graphite encased in premium hard cedar wood. The lead is break-resistant and smearproof, which will have you drawing the perfect line every time.
If you are looking for a premium-quality pencil that produces a jet black line, the Staedtler Mars Lumograph Black Drawing Pencils are what you are looking for. These pencils have a high carbon portion that produces jet black marks that ordinary pencils can not achieve. The pencil set of 6 includes 2 -4B pencils, 2 – 2B pencils, and a 6B and 8B pencils.
Caran d’Ache gets its graphite from some of the deepest mines to get the best carbon available. The premium graphite allows artists to achieve all of the shades on the grayscale. The set of 15 ranges from 9B to 2H. If you like to draw photorealistic drawings, the Caran d”Ache pencil set will have all of the grades you need to create soft value changes.
Lyra has consistent values with different grades. This is a set of twelve with a vast range of hard and soft grades with break-resistant lead.
Prismacolor Ebony pencils are one of Blicks’ top sellers and have been artists’ go-to pencils for a long time. The satiny-smooth lead is perfect for drawing and sketching. Sets come in a set of 2 or a set of 12.
Derwent pencils are high-quality pencils and have been a top favorite by many artists. They come in a wide range of grades, making them a perfect choice for all drawing projects.
Woodless Graphite Pencil
Woodless graphite pencils are perfect for covering large areas in less time. Experienced artists love the versatility woodless pencils offer. Whether working on detailed drawings or shading a background with broad strokes, the woodless pencil sets below are a perfect addition to their art set.
- Koh-I-Noor Progresso Woodless Graphite Pencils
- Caran d’Ache Grafstone Woodless Graphire Pencils
- Cretacolor Aqua Monolith Woodless Watercolor Pencils
- Cretacolor Monolith Woodless Pencils
Are you looking for the best mechanical pencil? In the past mechanical pencils were used by illustrators but are now common pencils for sketching and drawing. They are the perfect pencil for drawing sharp, crisp lines. The negative side is that there is not a lot of different grades the choose from.
Here are some of the top-selling mechanical pencils.
- Pentel Sharp Mechanical Pencil
- Koh-I-Noor Mephisto Profi Mechanical Pencil
- Pentel Automatic Mechanical Pencil
- Tikky by Rotring Mechanical Pencil
Final Thoughts On The Best Drawing Pencils
Whether you are looking to purchase sketching pencils, wooden pencils, or mechanical pencils for realistic pencil drawings, the best art pencils for you are a personal choice. The pencils mentioned above are high quality and perfect for any skill level.