The Lightest and Darkest Drawing Pencils-And How To Use Them (2022)

Privacy & Transparency

We and our partners use cookies to Store and/or access information on a device. We and our partners use data for Personalised ads and content, ad and content measurement, audience insights and product development. An example of data being processed may be a unique identifier stored in a cookie. Some of our partners may process your data as a part of their legitimate business interest without asking for consent. To view the purposes they believe they have legitimate interest for, or to object to this data processing use the vendor list link below. The consent submitted will only be used for data processing originating from this website. If you would like to change your settings or withdraw consent at any time, the link to do so is in our privacy policy accessible from our home page.

Vendor List|Privacy Policy

The Lightest and Darkest Drawing Pencils-And How To Use Them (1)

Using the right drawing pencil can make a big difference in how your sketches or drawings turn out. We will talk about the different grades of drawing pencils and how to best use them.

For graphite drawing pencils on the market, the lightest is 6H, while the darkest available is 8B. The higher the number in each grade, the lighter or darker it is. So a 6H will be lighter and harder than a 2H, and a 8B will be much darker and softer than a 2B. F and HB are middle-grade pencils.

Below we go into further detail on each group and how to best use them.

The Range of Drawing Pencils and What They Look Like

6H5H4H3H2HHFHB
B2B3B4B5B6B7B8B
The Lightest and Darkest Drawing Pencils-And How To Use Them (2)

As you can see above, a 6H is a very light pencil and 8B is very dark.

(Video) Understanding Value (Light and Dark) and Drawing Value Scales - Weekly Art Lessons Vol. 03

H-Grade Pencils and How To Use Them

H-grade pencils generally have two uses. The first is for lightly sketching in outlines and working out your proportions or composition before getting into the serious part of the drawing. The second is if you want to limit the value range of your drawing to a higher (lighter) key.

H-grade pencils sharpen very nicely to an extremely fine point and retain that point for longer periods of time. They require less sharpening, which makes them great for detailed work that doesn't require dark values, but they have a slightly abrasive feel due to their higher clay content and work best on smooth paper with little texture. You can use the side of the graphite tip for subtle and high-value (light) shading techniques.

If used with a light hand, H-grade pencil strokes will erase very easily. However, their hardness can easily cause indentations in your paper. This can not only make them difficult to erase but also leaves behind an indentation in your paper even if you are able to remove all the graphite. This may not be all bad if you want to have a more permanent outline that you can shade over, but be certain about those outlines before you press down. And remember, pressing down will dent and possibly even tear the paper.

Another nice thing about H-grade pencils, especially the higher numbers like 3H and above is that they smear or smudge very little. This can be very handy for traveling sketchbooks and keeping your hands clean while drawing. However, the light lines they create may be difficult to see when sketching in bright sunlight or dark areas, and blending is more difficult.

See the types of pencils, charcoal, and paper I use on theDrawing and Sketching Resources Page.

The Lightest and Darkest Drawing Pencils-And How To Use Them (3)

F and HB-Grade Pencils

F and HB pencils are middle of the road and more general use pencils. F tends to still be a tad hard, while HB and B tend to be a nice blend of both worlds. Though they cannot get very dark.

B-Grade Pencils and How to Use Them

While they can also be used for outlines, B-grade pencils are generally used for shading and tonal work. The high-numbered grades have a smooth, velvety feel on the paper and they can make darker gray tones which can border on black. For those who like to work less with outlines and more with tones, B pencils are the optimal choice as their softness will cover the paper more quickly with darker solid tones than will an H-grade pencil.

(Video) The DARK SIDE of Pencils - Darkest Pencils for Drawing - Artist Pencils

B-grade pencils work well on both smooth paper and paper with a slight bit of texture Their soft consistency will not cause the same paper indentations that you get with an H-grade. Strokes applied with little pressure tend to erase easily, but strokes applied with a lot of pressure are very difficult if not impossible to erase.

While B-grade pencils are easy to sharpen, they cannot achieve the same razor-sharp point that you get with an H-grade. Even if you sharpen it to a fine point, that point will almost immediately disappear when you start to use it as the soft graphite wears down quickly. As a result, B-grade pencils require more frequent sharpening.

B-grade pencils are very easy to blend. While this makes them more attractive for tonal work it also makes them messier. If you are going to use them in a carry-along sketchbook, I recommend a hardbound sketchbook as the pages will not rub together as much as a spiral-bound book. But even with a hardbound sketchbook, you will still end up with some smudged sketches. Use a fixative if you really want to preserve your sketches.

The Lightest and Darkest Drawing Pencils-And How To Use Them (4)

Eliminating the Glare in Your Pencil Drawings

One drawback (no pun intended) that can be more apparent with darker B-grade pencils (though it can happen with any grade) is that they can leave a glare or shine which reflects light in a very annoying manner. When you apply the pencil with a very heavy hand or overwork the area, you are actually burnishing the graphite, a similar effect to polishing metal, which gives it a very smooth and shiny effect.

Once this happens, it's very difficult to undo. A matte fixative spray can help eliminate some of the glare, but to avoid this in the first place, make sure you don't overwork the area or apply too much pressure. Using a dark enough pencil in the first place is the best solution. Also, keep in mind that a heavily-textured paper will result in little white areas that are difficult to darken without applying a lot of pressure. The smoother the paper, the easier it is to darken.

The Lightest and Darkest Drawing Pencils-And How To Use Them (5)

Getting Even Darker Drawings

A more recent development has been that of carbon pencils. Instead of using the allotrope of carbon, which is graphite, carbon itself is used which can achieve even darker results than graphite. It also doesn't have that annoying glare that you can get with graphite when heavily applied. Some manufacturers are combining graphite with carbon to achieve even darker-grade pencils all the way up to 14B.

Another way to go is charcoal. This medium, especially compressed charcoal, can get very black and it can be re-worked and layered without any glare. However, charcoal is very messy and is only convenient for a traveling sketchbook if you are able to spray your sketches with fixative as soon as they are completed.

(Video) Pencil Hardness : The Only 4 Pencils You Need To Draw Anything

The Lightest and Darkest Drawing Pencils-And How To Use Them (6)

Which Sketching Pencil Should You Use?

It depends on your style and objectives. If you are doing gesture-type sketches or contour-type drawings where outlines are most important, then an HB or lighter is the way you want to go. You will be able to maintain a nice sharp point for a longer period of time, and the outlines won't be easily smudged away.

If your objective is to capture the effect of light and form, then B or darker would work best. You can use the side of the exposed graphite to quickly cover large areas with wide dark strokes and easily blend those strokes for a smooth transition.

Do I Need to Buy Every Pencil Grade?

No, buying every pencil grade from 9H-9B is not at all necessary. If you are starting out and unsure, you may want to buy an entire set and see what works best for you. Most likely you will find that a few grades will constantly need to be replaced, while others will hardly ever get used. If you are on a budget, I recommend starting with an HB, 4H, and 4B and go from there.

When traveling and quickly sketching on the spot, I tend to default to an HB or B since they can handle almost any scenario in a sufficient manner and they don't get too messy. My primary tool of choice when sketching is a technical pencil with HB graphite. This is very convenient as it doesn't require a pencil sharpener. I'll also bring along a regular B or 2B pencil if I want to do some quick shading.

As with anything, you should really experiment and see what works best for you.

I hope that helps. Please be sure to subscribe and leave your comments below.

Keep Sketching!

(Video) If this pencil works, it will change your life.

Jason Tako is a nationally known fine artist who specializes in western, wildlife, plein air, and Historical Native American subject matter. He spent his learning years sketching the wetlands and wooded areas of rural Minnesota. He has been featured in Plein Air Magazine and Western Art Collector Magazine and he was theFeatured Artistfor the 2020 Southeastern Wildlife Expo. See his work atwww.JasonTako.comand his demonstrations on hisYouTube Channel.

(Video) Understanding PENCIL GRADES - What you NEED to know

FAQs

What is the lightest and darkest pencil? ›

B9 is the softest and darkest. 9H is the lightest and hardest graphite pencil. So a B6 is softer and darker than a B2. An 6H is harder and lighter than a 2H and much harder and lighter than a HB or a B pencil.

What is the lightest drawing pencil? ›

9H pencils are the lightest drawing pencils you can get because they have the hardest lead. That said, 9H pencils can be difficult to see and use. Pencils ranging from 2H to 4B tend to be great choices for sketching as they aren't too hard or too soft.

Which pencil is best for dark drawing? ›

They come in a variety of grades: B pencils have more graphite in them, so they make dark and soft marks, while H pencils have more clay in them, which provides harder and more precise lines. A good drawing set will include a range of grades that transition smoothly from one into the next.

Which pencil is darker 4B or 4H? ›

Harder pencils produce lighter marks since less of the material is released as pressure is applied. Softer pencils make darker marks since more of the material is released. Therefore, a "4H" pencil will produce lighter marks than an "2H" pencil while a "4B" pencil will make darker marks than a "2B" pencil.

How do you choose pencils for drawing? ›

Standard range of drawing and sketching pencils

Pencils that make darker lines (eg: B range) have more graphite, while harder pencils (eg: H range) have more clay. Please don't get confused with carbon pencils, charcoal pencils, water soluble graphite pencils or the vast choice of coloured pencils available.

Is 2B or HB darker? ›

2B and HB are two grades of pencils with different shades. The key difference between 2B and HB pencil is that writing from 2B pencil is darker than that from HB pencil. Moreover, 2B pencils produce very dark lines while HB pencils produce medium line density.

Which is darker H or 2H? ›

Being light in shade, these pencils are easy to erase, which makes it a favorite among the children who use it to improve their 'penmanship' in school. On the other hand, 2H pencils are used for more technical purposes. The 2H pencils have a hard lead, which means they are lighter in shade.

What are the 3 types of pencil? ›

Graphite pencils are classified as either soft black (B), hard (H), hard black (HB), and firm (F). The degree of soft black, hard, hard black, and firm are then further classified by numbers, the higher the number the higher the intensity.

What does F stand for in pencils? ›

The degree of hardness of a pencil is printed on the pencil.

B stands for "black". These pencils are soft. H stands for "hard". HB stands for "hard black", which means "medium hard". F stands for "firm".

Which pencil is darker and softer 2B or 3b or 4B or 6B? ›

The higher the number in front of the B the softer the lead is. So a 6B will be softer (darker) than a 2B. The same goes for lead designated by an H except H leads are hard (light) leads.

What are 4B pencils good for? ›

4B and 6B's are preferred for shading. HB and 2HB's are ideal for writing purposes. B pencils tend to produce more 'shine' than H's. H pencils can stay sharper for longer periods.

Are B or H pencils lighter? ›

H pencils are hard and they leave less graphite on the paper. This means that they are lighter. B pencils are softer and leave more graphite on the paper, meaning they are darker.

What is the most used pencil for drawing? ›

For simple sketching, the HB pencil is probably the most popular, with artists also favoring the H and the B pencils. For preliminary sketches that will be used as a guide for a painting or illustration, the lighter 2H–4H pencils are ideal.

What type of pencil is best for beginners? ›

When you're beginner, you don't want to apply too much pressure. If you feel you also need a separate pencil for outlines or rough lines, you can buy maybe H or HB . A softer (dark) pencil is a bit easy to blend (especially when you apply the graphite gently and then smudge it)

What is a number 1 pencil? ›

Lead pencils are graded on a scale from No. 1 to No. 4 based on how much graphite is inside the core. The #1 pencils are the softest, while the #4 pencils are the hardest. This system was invented by famed author Henry David Thoreau in the 1820s.

How do I get better at shading? ›

To have good pressure control, practice shading from one end of your sketchbook to the other while pressing harder and harder until the values get darker gradually. Another way to practice is to draw a long rectangle and divide it into several squares.

Which shade of pencil is easiest to erase? ›

The pencils that, generally speaking, erase the best are in the 2B, 3B and 4B grades.

Which pencil is best for handwriting? ›

Even though there are darkness and hardness variations among different brands' No. 2 and/or HB pencils, it's widely considered to be the ideal lead grade for writing (and it's required for many standardized tests), making the Golden Bear a perfect choice for elementary school and beyond.

What is 3B pencil used for? ›

Staedtler Tradition 3B Pencils are ideal for general purpose writing and drawing. They have super bonded leads which resist breaking and a hexagonal design for a more comfortable grip. This pencil has a 3B graphite lead. The hexagonal shape is comfortable to hold.

What does 3B pencil mean? ›

A 3B provides both wider, blacker text, and that smoothness that allows the pencil to glide on the page. Darker pencils glide even more – at least most of them; this depends on the brand – but they wear out very quickly, and need to be sharpened every couple of minutes.

What are 2B pencils used for? ›

2b pencils are good for drawing your initial sketches because they are hard enough to create crisp lines that are easy to erase, yet soft enough to create lines that are dark enough to be seen. Any pencils within the 2H to 4B range can be great choices that are just the right hardness for sketches.

What is 5B pencil used for? ›

Grading and classification
Tone and grade designationsApplication examples
5Bfor artistic purposes: sketches studies drafts
4B
3Bfreehand drawing writing (restricted)
2B#0
18 more rows

What does 2B pencil mean? ›

Soft leads are graded using the letter 'B' to designate how 'black' the mark they make is. Numbers are then used to indicate the degree of softness - the higher the number the softer the lead and the blacker the mark. For example, a 2B lead is softer than a B lead and will produce a blacker mark.

What is HB in pencil stand for? ›

The letter “F” is also used to indicate that the pencil sharpens to a fine point. Historically, pencil makers also use combinations of letters — a pencil marked “HB” is hard and black; a pencil marked “HH” is very hard, and a pencil marked “HHBBB” is very hard and really, really black!

What are the different types of drawing pencils and their uses? ›

Types Of Drawing Pencils

Charcoal pencils: Create dark and rough lines, but not as versatile as the other options. Colored pencils: Similar to normal graphite pencils but in color. You can read about colored pencils for artists here. Mechanical pencils: Create sharp lines and do not need to be sharpened.

What does 4H stand for pencil? ›

Today, most pencils using a HB system and lead grades will be designated a number and letter combination. For example, a '4H' is quite a hard pencil but will give a rather dark mark on paper due to the softness of the core.

What's a number 2 pencil? ›

A No. 2 pencil is towards the middle when it comes to the hardness of lead (graphite) and the darkness of the shade. If a pencil has a number higher than 2 it means it has a harder graphite core, a harder point, and a lighter shade. These pencils are often used by engineers or architects.

Is No 2 pencil same as 2B? ›

A No. 2 Pencil in the US is the same as a HB pencil in the rest of the world. 2B is darker, which would make erasing wrong answers difficult. So as long as you have a No.

Is HB or 2B better for drawing? ›

a Pencil graded HB is softer than an H Pencil and still a little harder than a B graded Pencil. HB Pencils are commonly used for writing.
...
GRADECHARACTERUSED FOR
4BSoft– Drawing – Shading – Sketching
3BSoft– Drawing – Shading – Sketching – Writing
2BSoft– Drawing – Shading – Sketching – Writing
16 more rows

Is 2B pencil good for shading? ›

Generally, the B pencil is good for medium to light shading. The 2B is nice for medium to dark shading. You should be able to get a good range of tone (value) out of both, from quite light through a nice dark. Try each on scrap paper to see which suits you best.

Which is the hardest pencil HB HB C 2B D 4B? ›

Historically, pencil makers also use combinations of letters to tell us about the graphite — a pencil marked “HB” is hard and black, a pencil marked “HH” is very hard, and a pencil marked “BBB” is really, really black!

Are H or B pencils easier to erase? ›

Both are pretty much equally easy to erase, especially between HB and 2B. It is much more about the way the mark was made than the lead it was made with that determines how easy it is to lift off. Same goes for very soft and very hard leads.

Which pencil is lighter 2B or 4B? ›

For example, a 4B would be softer than a 2B and a 3H harder than an H.

Which pencil is lighter H or HB? ›

H pencils are hard and they leave less graphite on the paper. This means that they are lighter.

Which pencil is lighter B or HB? ›

The degree of hardness of a pencil is printed on the pencil.

B stands for "black". These pencils are soft. H stands for "hard". HB stands for "hard black", which means "medium hard".

Is there a #1 pencil? ›

Lead pencils are graded on a scale from No. 1 to No. 4 based on how much graphite is inside the core. The #1 pencils are the softest, while the #4 pencils are the hardest.

What is 4B pencil used for? ›

4B and 6B's are preferred for shading. HB and 2HB's are ideal for writing purposes. B pencils tend to produce more 'shine' than H's. H pencils can stay sharper for longer periods.

What is 2B pencil good for? ›

2b pencils are good for drawing your initial sketches because they are hard enough to create crisp lines that are easy to erase, yet soft enough to create lines that are dark enough to be seen. Any pencils within the 2H to 4B range can be great choices that are just the right hardness for sketches.

Is a 2B pencil dark? ›

Soft leads are graded using the letter 'B' to designate how 'black' the mark they make is. Numbers are then used to indicate the degree of softness - the higher the number the softer the lead and the blacker the mark. For example, a 2B lead is softer than a B lead and will produce a blacker mark.

Which is darker HB or 2H? ›

The 2H pencils have a hard lead, which means they are lighter in shade.
...
HB Pencil2H Pencil
AbbreviationThe term “HB” stands for hard and black.The term “2H” stands for hardness of the lead of the pencil.
4 more rows

What is an F pencil used for? ›

What is an F pencil used for? F pencils are optimal tools to use for writing just as HB pencils are. Since the tip of an F pencil is slightly pointier and harder than the tip of an HB pencil, you can also use the F pencil for any kind of precise freehand drawing.

What are number 3 pencils used for? ›

The pencils #3 glide smoothly over paper and have break-resistant number two cores. Their HB (no 3) hardness grading makes them perfect for most types of writing, drawing, and sketching.

Why are B pencils darker? ›

B pencils are composed of softer lead which allows them to leave more graphite on paper. What is this? The B-grade pencils have more graphite than clay contrary to the composition of an H pencil. The B pencil leaves marks that are darker, softer, and bolder.

Videos

1. How to get Darker Values with Pencil
(Jono Dry)
2. How to Shade with PENCIL for BEGINNERS
(RapidFireArt)
3. Guide To Finding The Darkest Pencil Graphite
(Unsharpen)
4. Shading from Dark to Light | Drawing Tutorial | Pencil Demo
(RixCanDoit)
5. HOW to USE GRAPHITE PENCILS | COMPLETE GUIDE for BEGINNERS
(Dragos Pepina Art)
6. How to Eliminate Graphite Shine From Pencil Drawings
(Draw Awesome)

Top Articles

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Msgr. Refugio Daniel

Last Updated: 12/14/2022

Views: 5944

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (74 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Msgr. Refugio Daniel

Birthday: 1999-09-15

Address: 8416 Beatty Center, Derekfort, VA 72092-0500

Phone: +6838967160603

Job: Mining Executive

Hobby: Woodworking, Knitting, Fishing, Coffee roasting, Kayaking, Horseback riding, Kite flying

Introduction: My name is Msgr. Refugio Daniel, I am a fine, precious, encouraging, calm, glamorous, vivacious, friendly person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.