Best Pencils For Sketching

Best Pencils For Sketching

20/09/2021 Off By Alina Novikova

Sketching pencils are an essential part of any artist’s kit. Even if you only draw to work out a composition for your painting, you’ll still need to use good-quality materials. But with the huge choice of drawing pencils on the market, it can be hard to narrow down the options.

Read on to discover how to pick a pencil to fulfil your artistic needs.

What are the best pencils for beginners?

Most artists use more than one type of pencil and it’s a good idea to have a range of options available. There is simply not just one best pencil for drawing, and beginners should start by buying a selection of different grades.

A lot of brands sell sets containing different grades of pencil. With these at your disposal, you can work out what one suits your style and see what you can achieve with the various leads.

What do pencils grades mean?

Most people have heard of an HB pencil, but few know what the ‘HB’ actually refers to – and most other pencils are graded with both a letter and a number. These grades refer to the hardness and texture of the lead.

H stands for hard: an H grade pencil has more clay in its lead, and it will make a lighter, finer line. The higher the corresponding number, the lighter the lead. So, a 9H pencil is the hardest and lightest pencil, and more like a chisel. H leads do not smudge easily.
B stands for blackness: a B grade pencil has more graphite and will make a bolder, darker line. The higher the corresponding number, the softer and darker the lead. So, a 9B pencil is the softest and blackest available. B leads smudge easily but is readily erased.

 

What pencil grade should use?

Once you know what the grades refer to, it’s easier to pick the best pencils for sketching or whatever type of drawing you plan to create.

  • H leads: as H leads are very smudge resistant and give cleaner lines, they are good for outlines, technical drawings and light sketches. One disadvantage is that hard leads tend to be scratchy, especially as you move up the scale.
  • B leads: as B leads smudge easily and are readily erased, they’re suited for pencil drawings as artists can take advantage of the brush-like expressions. You’ll need them to create texture and tonal range.
  • F leads: these leads are ideal for drawing fine details and writing.

What should look for in a pencil?

Consistency and smoothness are important. Some cheap pencils have a grainy quality to them, which, while you’re drawing, can result in suddenly hitting a hard bit that doesn’t give the same line as the rest of the lead.

 

What is a clutch pencil?

A clutch pencil – also known as a propelling pencil or a mechanical pencil – is a pencil with a mechanically expendable lead that can be replaced.

The leads come in almost the same range as normal pencils, and they do not need sharpening. This means the body of the pencil stays the same size over time as the lead is used up. Many mechanical pencils provide lines of constant thickness so are often used for technical drawing, but many fine artists use them to draw too. The disadvantage is that the leads tend to break easily.

What paper should use for sketching?

For detailed work, smooth paper or even Bristol Board is the best option. But if you’re creating expressive, tonal work, paper with a ‘tooth’ such as Cartridge paper is recommended.

Top 5 pencils for sketching:

Here are the pick of the five best pencils for sketching, whatever your area of expertise or budget.

1. Lyra Rembrandt Art Design

These drawing pencils offer a constant degree of hardness throughout the entire lead, which is also break-resistant, offering accuracy, precision and neatness. This sketching set is comprised of 12 graphite pencils of assorted hardness – from 6B to 4H – making it ideal for both artists wanting to draw freely and illustrators in need of precision lines. It’s a great set for experimenting with, not to mention being fantastic value for money.

 

2. Derwent Graphic

One of the world’s first large graphite deposits was discovered in the Cumbrian valley of Borrowdale, which might explain why The Cumberland Pencil Company has been a key player since it began in 1832. Derwent Pencils are sold individually, as well as in sets, which means that artists can literally get to grips with the single pencil best suited to their needs. Unlike the equally useful round-barrelled Sketching range, the Graphic pencils range from 9H to 9B and have a hexagonal shape for better grip.

 

3. Pitt Monochrome Graphite

Faber family has been making pencils since the 18th century and even Van Gogh apparently once talked excitedly about them. The Pitt Monochrome Graphite range, also known as the Castell 9000, spans 16 grades of hardness, with the softest B pencil leads an extra 0.8mm thick to help avoid breakages. This particular set includes four pure graphite pencils, making it a sophisticated option for the more accomplished draughtsman on the go.

 

4. Mars Lumograph

Staedtler has an excellent reputation for its pencils and the Lumograph series is no exception. These sketching pencils boast break-resistant lead, thanks to a barrel of selected cedar wood that is protected with a water-based lacquer. Sets of 6, 12 and 24 offer a range of hard and soft grades, so you can expand as your style gets more sophisticated or precise.

 

5. Caran d’Ache Graphite Line

This is probably the most deluxe box of sketching equipment you could wish for. The exterior is smooth and sleek, yet inside it is all about substance. With a range of graphite (from hard 4H to super-soft 8B) for sketching work, plus charcoal, blenders for the shading and even a sharpener, this is a traditional set of exceptional quality.

 

Pencil Grading Scale

Once you know what type of artwork you need the pencil for, you need to understand the different grades of graphite pencils. Even though often referred to as lead in pencils, there is actually no component of lead used in them. Whereas coloured pencils are made with wax and pigment, graphite pencils are a mixture of graphite and clay. The combination of these two components allows for smooth strokes, but graphite pencils will give different lines depending on how much clay is present. Generally, the more clay in the pencil, the harder the pencil – and lighter the stroke – will be.

Once you understand the type of lines you can expect from your pencils, it’s easy to mix and match to put together a graphite pencil set that will cover your needs as an artist.