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9 Drawing Pencils and Erasers Reviewed From Mechanical to 8B

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Drawing pencils and erasers are two of the most important tools that an artist will need whether they are drawing, sketching to just making guidelines. There are many different types of drawing pencils and erasers available to you, but they all serve a specific purpose and can be used to create different effects. This article will show you 9 of the most common types of drawing pencils with samples and descriptions about how each one is used as well as how various erasers work on each one.

If you are a serious artist, do not use the erasers that come stuck at the top of your pencil. There is one single alternative that you should be using and it will not break the bank. The Kneadable eraser. This will work with any pencil type.

Erasers

Erasers come in a few varieties . These include drawing, soft drawing and kneaded erasers. I only use kneaded erasers as I am never happy with the results of the other types of erasers.

Kneaded Erasers – these are the ones I would recommend as they can be used a number of ways including by simply taking off bits to use on other areas where you have made mistakes or changed your mind about what you want to draw.

Kneaded erasers are like soft putty, they can be molded into various shapes and rolled into a point. The softer materials help make smudges less noticeable unlike harder rubber clumped together from cheap brands.

These harder erasers are also better suited as ink erasers and they can rip apart a piece of paper and ruin it if you are unlucky.

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Now the rougher the paper the easier it will be to erase pencils. You will see that smoother paper will most likely smudge the pencil and also leave a groove of the pencil in the paper. But what type of pencil will a kneadable eraser erase cleanly? All of them.

Pencil and graphite are straightforward and uncomplicated mediums. They’re also lightweight and portable, simple to use, and come in a wide range of designs that may be used to make a broad range of lines and marks as I’ll illustrate below.

Drawing pencils can be smudged, blended, scraped, erased, worked softly or worked hard and that is why they are ideal for all types of drawings from painting studies and planning, portraits, fan art, sketches to life drawings and still life drawings.

Pencils come in all shapes and sizes which lend them to different uses.

Wooden Pencils

The majority of pencils we use are ordinary wooden pencils. They are simply sticks containing graphite (commonly referred to as lead) encased in wood such as cedar. The hardness of the pencil lead is written on each one, with H being hardest and B being blacker (softer).

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Pencil grades from 9B Darkest and Softest to 9H Lightest and Hardest
Pencil grades from 9B Darkest and Softest to 9H Lightest and Hardest

Mechanical Pencils

Mechanical pencils contain a small, replaceable piece of graphite. As the pencil is used, more lead can be pushed through to extend further. These are ideal for drawing at length as you won’t need to carry around another sharpener or eraser!

The thickness of the graphite or lead in a mechanical pencils is roughly always the same, about 0.5mm, 0.7mm and 0.9mm which to the naked eye is almost the same size. Some are as thick as 2mm.

I would say 90% of mechanical pencils are 0.5mm and almost all are HB graphites which are the Goldilocks of graphites – not to hard, not too soft, but just right for most people.

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Graphite Sticks

The graphite stick is a thick, thin, or wide tool for drawing. It can make broad strokes or thin lines. It does not come encased in wood and cannot be used in a mechanical pencil. They are just a stick of graphite in various hardness and softness.

Whether you are using a mechanical pencil, graphite stick or wooden pencil you will have access to some version of H (hard graphite) to B (soft graphite) leads and these will produce a similar type of line which I will describe below.

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Lines by Pencil Type – by Softest to Hardest

Different kinds of pencils make different kinds of lines and marks on paper. And you will see that the same pencils will make a different kind of line on different types of paper! I have also used the same kneadable eraser to show you how it looks when erased.

Note: I used a Prismacolor kneaded rubber eraser for all the tests below.

Charcoal Pencil (Softest)

You may not have been expecting charcoal pencils on my sample of drawing pencils and erasers but I wanted to show you what these look like compared to graphite pencils.

The softness of charcoal pencils comes close to a 9B pencil, in that it is very soft, easily smoothed by hand and provides a beautifully dark line.

Perfect for: drawing shadows, enforcing shadow lines or dark outlines. Also good for underdrawing for oil paintings.

Harder to erase, gets blunt fast.

As you can see below, charcoal blends well and has a distinctive dark line and color.

Cross hatching lines are slightly blurred and smudged.

Erasing charcoal with most types of erasers leaves a lot of charcoal residue (see extreme right).

Charcoal Pencil
Charcoal Pencil

8B Pencil (Softest)

This drawing pencil is very soft and provides a dark, smooth line. It can be rubbed out by hand quite easily but it’s not as easy as with charcoal or graphite pencils – they will smudge more than this drawing grade lead.

Perfect for: drawing sketches in light washes, block-in drawings of the figure.

Harder to erase, gets blunt fast.

As you can see below, 8B blends well similarly to Charcoal it has a distinctive dark line and color.

Cross hatching lines are clear and very dark.

Erasing 8B pencil with most types of erasers leaves a lot of graphite residue, even more than charcoal (see extreme right).

8B Pencil
8B Pencil

6B Pencil (Softer)

This drawing pencil is also very soft but not as dark as the 8B. 6B drawing pencils are slightly darker, smoother and crisper than the HB. The line created by this drawing grade is not as dark or intense as it can be achieved with other drawing tools such as charcoal or graphite pencils.

Perfect for: sketches in light washes, block-in drawings of the figure.

Harder to erase, gets blunt fast.

As you can see below, 6B blends really well compared to charcoal and 8B pencils. It now has a more distinctive graphite gray color rather than a black tone.

Cross hatching shows clearly defined lines.

Erasing 6B pencil with most types of erasers leaves some graphite residue (see extreme right).

6B Pencil
6B Pencil

4B Pencil (Softer)

This drawing pencil is slightly less dark than the drawing pencils previously mentioned. The line created by this drawing grade is less dark and intense than it can be achieved with charcoal or graphite drawing tools.

Perfect for: sketches in light washes, block-in drawings of the figure.

Harder to erase, gets blunt fast.

As you can see below, 4B blends really well similarly to 6B pencils. It also has a more distinctive graphite gray color rather than a black tone.

Cross hatching shows clearly defined lines.

Erasing 4B pencil with most types of erasers leaves some graphite residue but not as much as a 6B (see extreme right).

4B Pencil
4B Pencil

2B Pencil (Soft)

This drawing pencil is slightly less dark than the 8B and 6B drawing pencils previously mentioned. The line created by this drawing grade is less dark and intense than it can be achieved with charcoal or graphite drawing tools.

Perfect for: sketches in light washes, block-in drawings of the figure.

Hard to erase, gets blunt easy.

As you can see below, 2B blends really well similarly to 4B pencils. It also has a distinctive graphite gray color rather than a black tone. The gray tone is starting to get a little lighter.

Cross hatching shows clearly defined lines.

Erasing 2B pencil with most types of erasers leaves a little graphite residue (see extreme right – almost clear).

2B Pencil
2B Pencil

B Pencil (Less Soft)

B grade pencils are drawing instruments with a hardness between HB and B. The line created by the drawing pencil grade is less dark and intense than the other higher grade B pencils.

Perfect for: sketches in light washes, block-in drawings of the figure.

Not too hard to erase, gets blunt easy.

As you can see below, B blends really well similarly to 2B pencils. It also has a darkish gray tone that is a little lighter.

Cross hatching shows clearly defined lines.

Erasing a B pencil with most types of erasers leaves a little graphite residue (see extreme right, hardly any residue visible).

B Pencil
B Pencil

HB Pencil (the Goldilocks pencil)

Fine drawing pencils with a hardness between B and H. This drawing grade is the most commonly used by artists, because it enables both very precise work combined with delicate washes.

Perfect for: fine drawing in pen & ink, watercolor or graphite; preparing layouts of final drawings; drawing on toned paper.

Easy to erase, gets blunt easy.

As you can see below, HB blends really well compared to all the B grade pencils. The blending is quite smooth. It also has a lighter graphite gray color rather than a black tone.

Cross hatching shows clearly defined lines.

Erasing HB pencil with most types of erasers leaves hardly any graphite residue (see extreme right).

HB Pencil
HB Pencil

Mechanical Pencil (with HB lead)

Mechanical pencils with an HB lead are the drawing instruments most often used by technical artists. The mechanism is easy to use and doesn’t need sharpening, but it does require a steady hand when drawing fine lines because there is no grip for your fingers to stabilize against unless you purchase a model with an inbuilt grip.

Perfect for: drawing in ink or pencil on paper that isn’t too absorbent; creating rough layouts of drawings.

Easy to erase, never gets blunt, lead never breaks while drawing.

As you can see below, a Mechanical 0.5mm HB blends really well compared to all the wooden HB grade pencil. The blending is super smooth as the point is small and consistent. It also has a lighter graphite gray color tone.

Cross hatching shows clearly defined lines, probably the best line work of all the pencils.

Erasing a Mechanical 0.5mm HB pencil with most types of erasers leaves almost no graphite residue (see extreme right).

Mechanical Pencil
Mechanical 0.5mm HB Pencil

2H Pencil (Hard and Light)

You can also get harder pencils such as 4H, 6H all the way to 9H (the lightest you can get)

2H pencils are also quite popular, being harder than HB drawing pencils but not as hard as the ones ranging from 4H to 9H which are so hard and feint that they are quite hard to see.

Perfect for: drawing on paper that is smooth and hard; creating rough layouts of drawings or sketches. I use them to create guidelines or sketch lines when working on a pencil portrait. They are easy to erase and leave little lines behind afterwards.

Very easy to erase, does not blunt easy. Harder pencils take longer to get blunt but they can snap the tips easily.

As you can see below, a 2H blends really well compared to all the other pencils due to the graphite being hard and I was able to apply more pressure and work using finer lines into the paper. The blending is super smooth as the point is hard and the point is consistently sharp. It also has a very light graphite gray color tone.

Cross hatching shows clearly defined but light lines, these are perfect for light under drawings for watercolors or sketches that need light and fine pencil work.

Erasing a 2H pencil with most types of erasers leaves almost no graphite residue (see extreme right).

2H Pencil
2H Pencil

9 Lines Drawing Pencils and Erasers Make From Mechanical to 8B – Wrap up!

I hope you enjoyed reading 9 Drawing Pencils and Erasers Reviewed From Mechanical to 8B. If you would like to see more drawing materials and drawing tools please let me know what types of drawing pencils, erasers or other drawing supplies I should write about next.

What is your favorite type of drawing pencil? When do you use a harder rubber eraser instead of a softer one? Let us know!

I have included a composite image of all the pencils we have looked at so that you can compare the drawing pencils and eraser quality for each.

drawing pencils and eraser marks
Composite of all drawing pencils and eraser marks (on the right)

Sources

Image by Lynn Greyling from Pixabay 

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