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!
Don’t forget, you can also grab my 5 Drawing Tools Checklist, which I keep in my password-protected resource library – see last section of this post for the form to access.
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.
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Different Drawing Pencil Types ✏️
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. The pencils I had fell into one of these categories.
Mechanical – These are the kind of pencils that have very fine leads that you refill periodically. They produce very thin lines and are mostly used in drafting and architectural work. I always had a few that I enjoyed using since I didn’t have to worry about sharpening them.
I used to call them my “clicker pencils” since you replenish the working point by clicking the top when it gets dull. You want to use light pressure when you work, as the leads are a tad more fragile, although good quality leads are not as likely to snap on you.
Graphites – These kinds of pencils have smooth, rich leads, more so than you find with the kind of pencils you may have used for schoolwork.
Charcoals – These have heavy dark leads in them and produce strong dark values. They also produce a more “matte” look. Because of their tendency to smudge, I use them more sparingly.
Drawing Pencil Grading System
Have you noticed that most all pencils – drawing as well as those for academia – have a letter combination on them and wondered what that means? (I remember I used to have these cute Hello Kitty pencils that had an “HB” on them… )
These letters represent a metric scale for determining a pencil lead’s qualities.H, F and B are used to determine hardness and darkness of the lead. The “H” represents hardness, and the “B” represents “blackness”. “F” stands for “fine” and represents a narrow point.
The chart below will give you an idea of the range of lead qualities: They are ranked from least to most hard and least to most black.
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 – just a handful will do 🙂 Now to look at some of my favorite and most well rated brands!
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.
Mechanical Drawing Pencil Set by MoZart
I have a set of mechanical “clicker” pencils with 0.7 mm lead. I use these for drumming up some quick blueprints of something I want to make later on (just used them today as a matter of fact) I really like them except for the fact that when the leads are used up there is no option to refill it.
I sure hate the idea of tossing something out instead of just replacing one particular thing, don’t you? So I went to scout for a good set that did have the advantage of being able to refill. Check this set out here – there are not only 4 pencils in the set, there are also 4 different sizes of leads, one for each pencil – 0.3, 0.5, 0.7 and 0.9 mm so you can diversify with your sketching since you have different sizes at your disposal! It also comes in plastic (more lightweight) and metal (which may cost a little more but are going to be sturdier no doubt.)
General’s Charcoal Pencil Set
You may want to consider including a few charcoal pencils into your repertoire 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 the middle set of pencils by Generals and they are very popular with artists, whether hobbyists or pros. This particular 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 dark color paper from time to time.
Also included is an eraser and sharpener, and a sanding tool which is good to smooth off the exposed wood part of the pencil blade after sharpening.
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!
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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!