Are you in a rush? No problem! Here is our best pick:
- Professionally graded artist pencils in a range of values allow you to draw it all from highlights to mid-tones and shadows
Graphite Pencils Are Used By Everyone!
What is the most basic thing an artist needs and, probably, his best friend? That’s right: a good graphite pencil. It’s even better if there’s a good set of them, in different lead grades, to allow your every idea to come to life in the most beautiful way possible.
Graphite pencils are the most versatile art supplies used by almost everyone.
They are used for sketches, (no matter if you will leave them like that or turn them into finished colored drawings), for underdrawing, for complete graphic works, for so-called penciling of comics and graphic novels, for fine arts, for lettering and calligraphy and many other things.
Every kind of pencil, from cheapest to the most expensive, can give you a decent result, so it’s fair to say that the “best” ultimate set of pencils doesn’t exist. When you choose them, it’s all up to your personal feelings and preferences. There are also no strict rules on what kind of lead you should or should not use for certain kind of activity.
There are recommendations to make your work more efficient, but rules are definitely made to be broken, especially in the arts field, and if your drawing style requires using your supplies differently – go for it!
Qualities Of Graphite Pencils and The HB Scale
There are a few things you should know about the particular qualities of graphite pencils.
Unlike colored pencils, that are made of pigment and wax, graphite ones are made of – that’s right – graphite and clay. And proportions of these ingredients define the hardness or softness of the pencil lead. The scale used for it worldwide is the HB scale, where H goes for harder leads and B goes for softer.
H pencils are hard to smudge (and erase), they give lighter and thinner lines, but can scratch the paper easily. B pencils are exactly the opposite: they give you dark and smooth lines, almost as soft as butter, and are easy to both smudge and erase. HB pencils are right in the middle of it and are the most popular among non-artistic folks (because they are dark and smudge-less enough to write with).
A good, high-quality pencil should be also easy to sharpen, and durable enough to carry around without breaking the lead in multiple places.
As it was said above, it’s not the price or brand that matters, it’s the quality and your personal feelings about using the particular pencil or a set of them.
With that, let’s move on to our list of some good and well-known (or not) examples to give you a hint of what you might want.
This is a good solid set to introduce you (or someone else) to professional serious sketching/fine art and try out all of the various pieces included so you would know what you like best.
The set has regular pencils in different grades, a few woodless pencils and a few water-soluble pencils, as well as erasers, a sharpener and a sanding board.
All pencils in the set are made of high-quality graphite and can satisfy not only a beginner, but also professional artists.
The set may not last long if you really love using it, but you can always separately buy some more of the materials you liked most. Or even all of them.
If you want a wide variety of good-quality sketching pencils with different hardness/softness levels for a very attractive price – here they are.
This pencil set is perfect for both kids and adult artists, the graphite leads are smooth, sturdy and easily blended if needed.
This particular set features twelve pencils on scale from 6H to 10B, that gives you complete freedom to express yourself. Draw light strokes for sketches or deep, dark shadows – whatever you wish.
The pencils are easy to erase, their leads won’t break while you are drawing, and they never scratch or spoil any kind of paper (even the hardest ones of their leads).
Faber-Castell is a worldwide well-known brand of high-quality art supplies, and this set is not an exception.
It contains six pencils with different leads from 2H to 6B, two erasers and a sharpener, so you basically don’t need to buy anything else in addition to it.
This gives you a big variety to experiment with and test them out on different papers (and maybe even other surfaces) to find out your personal preferences.
The pencils are easy to sharpen to a fine sharp point, easy to erase without the ugly smudging that annoys the hell out of every artist, they are pretty durable and feel nice in your hand.
This set consists of 12 various pencils from 6B to 4H, which is quite versatile and “in the middle”.
But if you prefer harder or softer leads in your drawings, you can choose a different set (they offer 4, 12 and 24), that consists of a broader range of hard- or soft-leaded pencils that will fit your artistic concept the best way.
They can help you put every idea to life whenever you feel inspired, with professional quality and comfort.
Their leads are sturdy enough, easy to sharpen, and their long-lasting sharp point will help you carefully work through the smallest details.
The hard pencils use 2.2 mm core for thinner, sharper lines, and softer ones use 3.5 mm core so that your lines would be smooth and thick.
Only first-class materials and manufacturing processes are what makes Staedtler a legendary and long-living brand among art supplies.
This set is perfect for almost everything: sketching, hatching, drawing, writing; and it’s suitable even for the most demanding professional artists and designers.
Twelve pencils from 6B to 4H are unbelievably break-resistant, which makes them great for the most detailed works with the smallest parts.
They are cleanly erased without smudging, easily sharpened (and stay sharp for quite a while) because of their super-bonded leads and leave consistent pleasant lines at any hardness level.
They are great for both beginners and professionals due to their wide lead range.
You can buy an assorted set of twelve different pencils from 4H to 6B if you want to test them out, or sets of separate pencils with certain lead type if you know for sure what do you want.
They are strong and don’t break easily every time you try to draw, and the lines they leave are surprisingly smooth even with hardest leads.
The variety of them is enough for you to make both technical drawings and soft, shadowy sketches, and you won’t feel limited in your possibilities in any way while using these pencils.
Erasing is also pretty easy, so basically there’s nothing that can go wrong with these ones.
Being woodless, these pencils can be a pretty interesting experience.
They are a little heavier than regular wooden ones, and that would give your hand a pleasant feeling.
While they might not be the best option for drawing small details because of their hardness (or is it better to say softness?), nothing can compare to them in shading and thick, buttery-soft lines.
This set also includes one water-soluble pencil, a sharpener, an eraser and a pencil holder (extender) with cap.
They tend to be erased and smudged more easily than wooden pencils, which makes them even better for those who search for softness and darkness in their drawing style.
Tombow, a Japanese manufacturer, is pretty well-known for their extra-refined and extremely high-density pencils, which means they are very easily and evenly sharpened and their points stay this way for a longer amount of time.
The graphite core is encased in premium-quality cedar wood, which is not only convenient, but gives a freshly sharpened pencil this wonderful, inspiring, esthetic wooden smell. Exactly the one smell that is loved by almost every artist.
The lead is perfectly centered inside the casing, which prevents it from breaking.
Their dark and smudge-proof lines seem to be almost ink-like, which makes this set a perfect choice for those who work with tracing and linework a lot.
Prismacolor produce a big variety of pencils with different lead types.
This particular set consists of twelve 2B pencils that are as smooth as velvet, dark, almost charcoal-style, and easily laid on any kind of paper.
The lead point can break when too much pressure is applied, but that is easily solved with a nice sharpener.
The lines that it leaves are easy to erase and blend, exactly how it should be with a high-quality soft pencil.
You can use them for almost everything, from quick sketching to drawing huge detailed works with intensely dark and deep shadows, and with these pencils your art will look absolutely outstanding.
Dainayw 24 Sketching Pencils Set
This set features an extremely wide range of different lead types, from 14B to 9H, which makes it suitable for any kind of work on any type of paper.
This can be perfect for beginners to try lots of things and find out about their preferences, as well as for professional artists to take their shading and sketching to a whole new level.
They give you a smooth feeling when you use them, they are easily sharpened to the finest point to give you perfect control over the tiniest details,
and their hexagonal shape is nice to hold and prevents them from falling off surfaces and breaking.
Overall, as we have mentioned above, there is no “perfect” or “best” pencil among all of them. Your choice should be defined only by your personal preferences, based on experience.
The best way to find this out is to buy several different sets and test them, and only after that you will decide, which pencil you liked best: its brand, its hardness or softness and the way it feels in your hand.
A good choice of art supplies that feel right for you would always make your art even better than it could be.
Author: Anna Martsynkevich
Anna is an artist, poet and musician who lives in Minsk, Belarus. She loves food, cats, gigs and esoteric stuff. She posts the things she does on Instagram and sometimes appears on FB.