Art Supplies: The Ultimate Guide to Different Pencil Types for Drawing

Creating any kind of artwork is a rewarding and fulfilling experience. You get to express yourself and bring your imagination to life, using various mediums and tools. Each movement of your hand and every stroke of the pencil can add depth and meaning to your artwork.

Naturally, having the right tools and supplies at hand is the main ingredient for creating a masterpiece. When it comes to drawing, using pigmented and easily blendable art pencil sets can help you turn your ideas into reality. You can use different options depending on your preferences and the techniques you want to achieve.

Graphite Pencils

art pencil
Source: Pexels

For many artists, these tools are an indispensable part of their work. A graphite art pencil is important for quickly keeping records of ideas and building up compositions.

Similar to diamond, graphite is a form of carbon. The core of a graphite pencil is a combination of two powdered ingredients, graphite and clay. By changing the ratios of clay and graphite in the mixture, manufacturers can change the amount of graphite. More graphite results in a softer core and darker tones. On the other hand, more clay means that the core will be harder and lighter in colour.

Graphite options come in different grades ranging from 9B to 9H, which describe the tone of the line that each one will make. The B stands for blackness and the H stands for hard. The latter versions contain more clay so they produce lighter marks because they leave less graphite on the paper. 

On the other hand, pencils in the B class are softer and leave much more graphite on the surface. The marks are darker as a result. For both types, the higher the number, the blacker or harder they are. Next up, HB models come right in the middle of the scale. They contain a 50:50 mixture of clay and graphite and can be used for both writing and sketching.

Using the right art pencils depends on the effect that you want to achieve. For instance, for deep, dark shading and blending you can use soft black models. If you’re looking to create precise lines for sketching and drafting, you can use harder H-grade versions. Additionally, you can experiment and play around with the different grades in your set to find what suits you best.

Charcoal Pencils

art pencil
Source: Pexels

Similar to graphite options, charcoal models have a carbon base but they have some notable differences. One of their most obvious distinctions is their finish. Graphite is slightly shiny and reflective, while charcoal provides a rich, matte black finish. 

Their textures also differ significantly. Generally speaking, charcoal is significantly more crumbly, scratchy, and dusty. Because of its irregular texture, charcoal can feel like it snags or scratches on paper. On the other hand, the application of graphite is a lot smoother, which makes it more appealing to novices.

Charcoal models leave marks that are not as sharp and firm as those made using graphite. This makes them a great tool for loose, expressive drawings. Since it’s less accurate, it promotes spontaneity and facilitates the rapid construction of designs. But this medium is an excellent means of creating a spectrum of colours, from deep black to light grey. Usually, the marks you make at the pressure spot are very dark. Your marks will become lighter and more powdered as you release the pressure.

One of the downsides of charcoal pencils is that they’re far messier than graphite options. They generate more dust and are hard to erase if errors are made while sketching.  If you’re just beginning your drawing journey, you might find charcoal options more challenging.

Coloured Pencils  

art pencil
Source: Pexels

Coloured art pencils can open a world of creativity for artists at any level. They can enhance your work in many ways. For instance, by blending and layering different colours on top of each other, you can create a wide range of rich, vibrant hues and smooth transitions between colours.

In contrast to graphite and charcoal pencils, the core of coloured options is wax or oil-based and contains varied amounts of pigments, additives, and binding agents. Coloured varieties with a wax basis are softer and more effective in blending, layering, and covering paper than those with an oil-based core. However, since wax-based ones are delicate, they’re more prone to break while oil-based coloured options have a harder core. This leads to less breakage and longer-lasting use.

While graphite pencils come in various hardnesses to give more depth and realism while sketching, that’s not the case with coloured ones. In general, manufacturers use the same hardness for all their products. You can create varied weights by adjusting the sharpness and the amount of pressure you apply. However, they may still lack the depth that graphite models give.

If you want the best of both worlds, you can opt for coloured graphite pencils. These come in soft or hard grades – the latter produces detailed features and lines, whereas the soft variety normally produces rich, expressive marks.