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The 14 Different Types of Pencils Every Drawing Set Needs

Various kinds of pencils in multi colors along with a sharpener and pencil shavings.

Of all the drawing and writing mediums, are pencils your favorite? Here's all the different types of pencils you need for a complete drawing set.

Have you ever wondered where pencils come from? Or how graphite was really discovered, leading to the development of numerous kinds and types of pencils that are currently available?

If you must know, modern pencils owe a great deal to an ancient writing instrument that belonged to the Romans back called a Stylus. Stylus is basically a thin metal rod that was used by the Scribes to leave a light readable mark on papyrus, which was a form of paper used in those times.

However, the history of the ever-evolving pencils doesn’t stop there.

Then came the widespread use of graphite after a huge graphite deposit was discovered in Borrowdale, England in the 1560s. Graphite started being greatly appreciated for being really dark, darker than lead. However, it proved to be really brittle and soft and required a proper holder for one to be able to contain it.

Initially, graphite sticks were properly wrapped in strings, and later, these graphite sticks were presented in wood-cases, giving birth to the very first wood-cased pencil. Basically, the graphite was inserted in wooden sticks that were hollowed out. So it looked like sticks of graphite were being enclosed within similar-shaped wood cases or coverings.

According to history, the first-ever pencils were mass-produced in Germany in 1662, making it the birthplace of these pencils. Soon enough, companies like Faber-Castell and Steadtler came into existence, forming an active global pencil industry that continued to develop throughout the period of the 19th Century Industrial Revolution.

Ever since the pencil industry began to flourish, different types and kinds of pencils were discovered and were categorized according to their hardness levels and the amount of black color they were able to produce.

They were also split in terms of how light or dark they were, as well as how heavy or light their lead was.

The following are the main categories of pencils that are still being used in modern times.

Types of Pencils Chart

Types of pencils chart

B Pencils

These pencils contain darker lines compared to ‘H’ and ‘F’ however; they are easily erasable without any effort being put in. While some people may use them for note-taking purposes, they are excellent for doodling and sketching, as well.

The darkness of ‘B’ pencils comes from the fact that they are softer, hence, they leave more graphite on paper.

1. 8B

8B pencils against white background.

This type of pencil is extremely dark and comes out as the darkest of grays on paper. It is best used for drawing and sketching purposes since it makes very dark and prominent marks that end up sticking out on a page.

2. 7B

7B pencils on white background.

Almost similar to 8B, this type of pencil is also great for art-related purposes. It gives off a very dark gray shade that sticks to the paper and makes drawings look great on paper.

3. 6B

A blue colored 6B pencil

This pencil is best for those who like to draw, and it is particularly meant for adding dark values to your drawing pieces. This is also a great option for creating portraits where you would want to achieve realistic textures like skin, fur or fabric.

4. 5B

A hand holding a 5B pencil.

This pencil produces a darker mark than the ones after it and is quite softer than a 2B pencil for example. This is because the higher number of B that a pencil is, the softer the pencil will be.

5. 4B

Newly sharpened 4B pencils

The 4B pencil is slightly lighter than the ones before it and is also an excellent choice for sketching and drawing purposes. Anyone with an aptitude for art and drawing will definitely enjoy using this pencil.

6. 3B

Short 3B pencil against pencil shavings.

This pencil is more like a mix of dark and light but is more towards a lighter gray. It is an ideal option for those who like their drawings to contain light values with slight shades of dark gray.

7. 2B

A blue 2B pencil

The 2B pencil is best for medium to dark shading and provides a good range of tone or value from light to a dark shade. It is commonly used for art purposes, especially drawing, shading and sketching.

8. HB

A blue HB pencil

This pencil falls in the exact middle of the pencil lead scale. HB is a significantly hard pencil, making it a reasonably hard pencil even for drawing purposes.

The ‘H’ refers to the hardness of the pencil, and the letter ‘B’ is used to denote the blackness of the particular pencil’s mark.

9. F

A green F pencil on white background.

‘F’ stands for fine point. This pencil, compared to the others is slightly harder. While it is certainly easier than a few to keep sharp, it is way too dark for general and everyday drawing.

H Pencils

In this case, ‘H’ refers to the hardness of the pencil. This is to say that the higher the value of H a pencil has, the harder its lead will be. And the harder the lead is, the lightest the pencil will be.

The ‘H’ pencils are generally very hard, and they are able to hold a tip in place, ensuring extreme precision. They also make light lines that can be erased with great ease and convenience so one can easily use these pencils to design products or write things on paper.

10. 2H

gray 2H pencils

This pencil type is great for any technical work that involves making lines that are easily erasable. This is particularly because 2H contains a very light amount of lead. It is also a great option for those who just begun to draw and wish to add very light shades to their drawing.

11. 3H

yellow 3H pencil

3H is an extremely light shade of gray that leaves a very light imprint on paper. It can be a great choice for sketches where you need to add light shades or slightly fill in the empty spaces with a pencil.

12. 4H

4H pencils with their respective shades.

This is an excellent choice of pencil for light, fine and even shading. It is more towards the gray side and less shiny because of the amount of clay it contains. It is also easier to keep sharp so can be easily used for shading and sketching.

13. 5H

5H pencils with their respective shades.

This type of pencil helps create the darkest and the thinnest of lines, given its hardness levels. This happens because it falls towards the end of the “H” or hardness scale, hence, giving a hard touch. It is a great option particularly for those who are into drawing and sketching and wish to draw dark and think lines.

14. 6H

6H pencils on a pencil case.

This is a top-quality graphite pencil that is primarily designed for the purpose of sketching, writing, and drawing. It is an ideal pencil for artistic and technical applications.

Keeping in mind the hardness rule, it gives maximum hardness with the darkest and thinnest look on paper.

Isn’t it so strange yet fascinating how even something so small like a pencil has such a great history and story behind it?

Now that you know all about pencils, which one will you be using for your drawing and sketching?

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