WHAT GRADE PENCILS SHOULD I BUY FOR DRAWING?
The choice of what pencils to choose can be confusing, you may wonder, why does the price vary so much?, what are the benefits of one brand from another? Well hopefully, this guide will give you a better understanding of where to start and give you a more consice understanding of the best equipment to use for your drawing, whether your new to the world of sketching or a happy hobbyist.
BEGINNER TO THE WORLD OF SKETCHING, WHAT IS A GREAT STARTER SET?
Even a brief look around at the types of pencil sets available, there’s a baffling amount on offer, some highlighting different quality and finishes, some offering more control, and great detailing. I would reccommend for beginners, a set that gives a little bit of everything. A good range of hard pencils to do the light sketching, when laying down your linework such as H & HB grades, through to the softer range for good contrast and darker tone such as 8B & 9B. So a set that runs from H through to 9b would be ideal to give a good cross section of pencils for tone, firmness and contrast. In terms of which brand to choose, I would personally recommend brands such as Derwent, Faber-Castell and Caran d’Ache, these brands offer a great quality pencil at a very good price, perfect for for beginners.
UNDERSTANDING PENCIL GRADES
HB being a standard pencil we have all heard of, but what do the pencil grades refer to? ‘H’ as in a 9H pencil, stands for hardness. In the same way the ‘B’ in a 9B pencil stands for blackness. So in the middle is HB, both hard and black but neutral in contrast as it has no number grade.
H grades pencils run from ‘H’ through to ‘9H’, ‘9H’ being the hardest pencil, with the most clay in its lead. Whether it be ‘H’ or ‘9B’ all pencil grades refer to the hardnesss and texture level offered. H pencils offer a very light marking on paper, with very little smudging. I personally like to use a H pencil to do my basic sketch outlines or to do very subtle shading tones, as it leaves very little graphite on the paper and responds very well with smudge sticks to give a very even shading, perfect for subtle portrait sketching. As mentioned, in a ‘B’ grade pencil the ‘B’ refers to the blackness, with the number defining the intensity, 9B being the blackest and also the softest. This is another quality of B pencils, the softness of the lead. A ‘B’ grade pencil will blend and smudge a lot easier than a ‘H’ grade pencil and also be very easily erased, due to the high level of graphite in the lead.
Another Grade not yet mentioned is ‘F’ grade pencils, as ‘B’ grade pencils stand for blackness, ‘F’ grade pencils stand for fine. This grade of pencil will produce both dark and light tones, but without any extremes, so in sketching probably good for mid-tone sketching. They are also quite hard in the quality of the lead and will stay sharp a lot longer than ‘B’ & ‘H’ grade pencils. So now you have more of an idea what each pencil offers in relation to their qualities, it may help you select more accurately for each aspect of your drawing.
SO TO CONCLUDE
‘H’ Leads are very good for preliminary outlines and sketches. They are also good when you need a clean defined line in drawing or technical drawing, but do be cautious, as you move up the grades ie 5H, these can become scratchy and carve into the paper more than softer leads, so go easy.
‘B’ Leads are the perfect grade for creating texture and dark areas, anywhere a broader tonal range is needed. For example hair on portraiture, as they will blend smoothly and also be erased easily to capture hightlights and great contrast
‘F’ leads aren’t really my first choice or readily used in any of my drawings, they are more suited to technical drawing and writing, so more fitting to people required a very hard lead with very little smudging.
SO WHAT IS A HB PENCIL GRADE USED FOR I HEAR YOU ASK?
‘HB’ falls in the middle of these grades, ideal for use in schools and colleges, where pencils are used for drawing and writing, a good middle of the road pencils for everyday tasks.
SO WHAT QUALITIES SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN A PENCIL?
When I look at choosing a pencil brands, I look for a smooth consistent tone, one that flows easily. You will find cheaper pencil brands have a grainy uneven flow when drawing with them, almost a scratchy effect. This is really off -putting when trying to achieve a nice consistency to your drawing. As well, some cheaper pencils can often have hard bits of graphite randomly throughout the lead, which may suddenly occur.
EVER HEARD OF A CLUTCH OR MECHANICAL PENCIL?
These are one of my favourite kinds of pencil, they give amazing precision, dont require sharpening and the leads are available i n every grade. These are also often referred to as mechnical pencils, as they project the lead out when pressing the end of the pencil body. I have 4 clutch pencils, each one containing a different grade lead, the detail and control you get from this type of pencil is extreme. Perfect to achieve acute levels of details and extra fine lines. The only downside to a clutch or mechanical pencil is the leads are quite delicate, as they are so fine, they can break easily of you have too much exposed out of the tip of your pencil. The leads are available in various thicknesses, from 0.25 up to 0.75, my preference is a 0.25, as I find this gives the greatest level of detail. These type of pencil are favoured by artists working to achieve extreme realism in their artwork, such as hyperrealism and photorealism. A personal favourite mechanical pencil of mine is the Pentel mechanical pencil, heavy and built extremely well.