Best Drawing Pencils For Beginners (And Some Helpful Tips and Points!)
Welcome to my drawing pencil post! My first experience with drawing classes…Going way back when….I have always loved to draw, but I was a high school freshman when I first got a taste of “professional” level pencil drawing. We learned about “values” all the different gradients from white to black and in between.
I realized that no matter how much you enjoyed it, it took practice to get good, or better! I was exposed to the use of a projector to be able to trace an outline of our subject matter before starting the work. Good times! But…Oh this post is about pencils!
Sorry, I went off into my waxing-nostalgic-about-art-class again, I tend to do that sometimes! Anyway, if you’re like I was and totally green, you’ve come to the right place to learn about the right kind of pencils.
Different Drawing Pencil Types Explained
When I was a drawing student, in addition to paper, I had a few specialty pencils and one of those spongy erasers that you’d use to blot an area to remove some of the color as far as shading went. Whether or not you’ll need an eraser like that, I would encourage it, as they blot rather than rub out paper fiber, which is good.
Later on, I was introduced to graphite and charcoal pencils, which have heavy dark leads in them and produce strong dark values. They do have a tendency to smear, so I used them more sparingly.
What’s With All the Numbers on Pencils Anyway?
Most all pencils – drawing as well as those for academia – have a letter combination on them. It’s usually “HB” or some combination thereof. Have you ever wondered what that means? Well it’s a metric scale for determining a pencil lead’s qualities.
The “H” represents hardness, and the “B” represents “blackness”. I remember I used to have these cute Hello Kitty pencils that always had an “HB” on the side and I never knew what that meant. All I knew is that I could not use them for standardized tests at school!😁
The H and B system is used to determine hardness of lead and darkness – Sometimes you’ll see pencils labeled as “F” which stands for “fine” as in fine point. These are the very skinny pencil leads.
Hope that explanation was helpful? But early on, don’t agonize on that too much. When you’re getting started, you don’t need a gazillion pencils with each one corresponding to all those sizes. A few varying hardness/darkness graphite pencils will work just fine on your behalf!
These Are the Drawing Pencils I Used – And Loved!
I love Eberhard Faber. I think it’s one of the best drawing pencils brand out there. It’s a great brand with top notch art supplies overall, but as far as the pencils go, rich, dark color, I have soft and medium leads, medium is a bit firmer. It’s an excellent series of pencils in nice rich black color, hence the name Design Ebony, only thing is when I was looking them up earlier I didn’t see the name Eberhard Faber (what happened there?)
They’re currently known by the brand Prismacolor. Nevertheless, everything about them is exactly what I say they are. Model name is Jet Black 6325. Awesome quality…the Design Ebony comes in a set of 12 (sorry, no info on whether or not they are different sizes) and really good for shading and capturing mid-range values which you’ll learn to do with practice. The large sized core is resistant to breakage so the end result is a smooth lead that won’t let you down. This set also includes some nice bonuses of a few erasers and sharpeners .
General’s Charcoal Pencil Set
You may want to consider including charcoal pencils into your repertoire as well. Charcoal is good to have on hand if you are trying to gain a more “matte” look which graphite doesn’t handle as well.
They CAN be messy, but you can minimize that with a piece of wax or tracing paper under your forearm over the drawing while working.
I have a set of pencils by Generals and they are very popular with artists, whether hobbyists or pros. The particular middle set includes five black pencils, two black charcoal sticks, a wide stick, a carbon sketch pencil, and a white charcoal stick which is good to have if you use different color paper. Also included is an eraser and sharpener.
Prismacolor Graphite Pencil Set
I’m always happy to include Prismacolor in any lineup, after all they make some really awesome colored pencils that stand up to the rest! Now I want to include this set of drawing pencils which not only includes the pencils in all the sizes that will benefit your creative endeavors, but a specialty eraser, sharpener and sanding tool is included too.
There are also other additional erasers and sharpeners sold a la carte in addition; people really like the “magic gum” eraser, some people like the sharpener and some people do not. But they love the pencils and the set gets very good reviews. An equal number of important “H” and “B” size pencils are included in addition there are a few water soluble pencils that you can dip in a little H20 to include new techniques and shades. Never tried anything like that before but sounds worthwhile!
Some Closing Thoughts…(And My Own Drawings:)
These are two of my drawings from the time I took classes in college. I’m not showing these to brag, but I did want to be able to provide credible info on my tools. I chose the magazine picture with high contrasts for the subject on the left, intentionally as I was encouraged to focus on many tonal values (read: getting a good grade 🙂
The one on the right is a portrait of the famous football star Tom Brady, which has fewer tones in it. (Yep, I probably had a crush on him back then) To create all those different black and white color values, I needed to use different pencil types.
Did this post inspire you to start exploring a new hobby? Great! May your drawing journey be joyful and fun!