Best Drawing Pencils for Artists

A pencil is a fundamental tool in art. Many prefer and use it, from children just getting introduced to doodling to advanced painters working on their sketches. Even other types of artists, like sculptors, architects, and fashion designers, need pencils to express their ideas.

Pencils are lovely because they are accessible, affordable, and simple to use. These drawing tools create beautiful results, but at the same time, you can erase any mistakes easily. It is a dynamic yet convenient artistic instrument with a lot of potential.

Different types of Painting

Credit: Fluid Painting

A high-quality pencil may be crucial for your artistic expression. In this article, we will look at the various types of pencils. We will also examine the top drawing pencil brands you should choose based on your drawing, sketching, or painting needs.

Exploring Different Types of Drawing Pencils

Drawing pencils are available in different hardness grades, sizes, and colors. These different pencils can also be classified based on the material used or the purpose. So exploring these diverse options to find the best drawing pencils in the market is imperative.

1. Charcoal Pencils

A charcoal pencil is a carbon-based option that creates thick, rich, dark lines on paper. However, it can be smudgy, brittle, and crumbly, so it may not be the best option for thin, precise strokes. On the other hand, this does make it suitable for shading contrasts and blending large areas with smooth strokes.

charcoal pencil by camlin

Credit: Camlin

Charcoal was a popular option in the past, not only among classicists like da Vinci and Michelangelo but also the cave painters of ancient times. You can make matte layers with it and create different shadow effects. Since it can get quite messy, you will need a fixative to keep the charcoal in place.

Charcoal comes in pencil forms in hard and soft grades. It is also available as compressed charcoal sticks or uncompressed ‘willow’ charcoal sticks. You can get charcoal in powdered form as well.

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2. Graphite Pencils

Graphite or “lead” pencils are the most commonly used for everyday writing and drawing by the average person. Even though it is made of graphite and enclosed in wood, the material was mistaken for lead when it was initially discovered. Now, this familiar carbon-based pencil also has some clay in it, which determines the pencil's intensity and hardness.

Graphite or “lead” pencils

Credit: Ken Bromley Art Supplies

If more clay is in the mixture and less graphite, the pencil would be harder but lighter. The pencil will be softer but darker if there is less clay and more graphite. This is graded on an HB scale, where the ‘H’ indicates the pencil’s hardness and the ‘B’ suggests its blackness.

Based on this, the 9H pencil would be the hardest and lightest, while a 9B pencil would be the softest and darkest. A midpoint on the scale would be a standard HB pencil or an ‘F’ grade pencil which is more common among professional artists or architects, just like the ‘H’ grade ones. An F pencil is for fine marks that can be dark or light, so it is also suitable for writing.

You can also find two other subcategories of graphite pencils:

a. Solid Graphite Pencils

These are graphite pencils without the wood covering and are often called “woodless” pencils. This implies that the pencil tip is semi-thick and can shade broad regions fast, especially to create different effects. You can find them in the same HB scale as normal graphite pencils.

Woodless or Solid graphite pencil

Credit: Moonlove

b. Liquid Graphite Pencils

A liquid graphite pencil often takes the form of a ballpoint pen and works like one, too. Otherwise, you can use liquid graphite using a brush or pen nib. Since these are found in multiple colors, artists almost use them as paint to make pencil sketches or pencil effects.

liquid graphite pencil

Credit: Derivan

3. Coloring Pencils

Coloring or colored pencils, as the name suggests, are available in many colors rather than the grey or black of regular graphite pencils. They are composed of a wax or oil base with other pigments, additives, or binding agents. These are made of pastels or chalk rather than graphite, so it takes some trial and error to find a brand with the softness and hardness you prefer.

Coloring or colored pencils by faber castell

Credit: Faber Castell

Many find coloring pencils useful, safe, and versatile, from children who use them in coloring books to architects who draw plans with them. Even in typical graphite drawings, you can use a white colored pencil to lighten the shadows. They are often the choice for most artists to create detailed doodles and vibrant graphics.

4. Watercolor

Watercolor pencils, although colorful, are different from colored ones. They are soluble in water, so after creating a picture with watercolor pencils, you can simply apply water on top to dilute it. This action creates a watercolor effect through a wash of color.

A watercolor drawing

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You can use a damp watercolor brush to spread the water after creating art with “The Water-Soluble Pencil”. You can even blend colors and design effects. On the other hand, you can also refrain from activating the watercolors and instead use the dry pigment to get solid and sharp colors.

5. Mechanical Pencils

Mechanical pencils provide similar effects to ordinary graphite pencils but are built with a metal or plastic casing instead of wood. It works like a ballpoint pen that you can click at the back to push the nip through a hole at the tip. It is also eco-conscious and convenient as you can replace the graphite sticks and hold it easily due to its metal grip.

These are a great choice since the sharp point will always remain thus, so they can produce thin, refined lines on paper. Hence, they are suitable for writing and light sketching. You can always get thicker leads to draw thicker lines, ranging from 0.3mm to 0.7mm in different hardness and darkness.

Mechanical pencils

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There are two kinds of mechanical pencils based on how they function. In a propelling pencil, an inward system pushes the graphite out of the pencil. In a clutch pencil, the lead is released from where it is held after the button is depressed.

Top Picks: Best Pencil Sets for Artists

Now let’s examine the pencil options most suitable for drawing, sketching, and painting. There is no strict rule that you must use a particular pencil for each of these activities. But, the following recommendations might be the most appropriate to achieve superior results.

Best Pencil Sets for Sketching

Sketching is different from drawing in that it is the more informal and casual preliminary step to it. It may be done loosely on any random piece of paper to create rough drafts. They are usually smaller, quicker, less detailed, and require less tools.

Different shades of Pencils

Credit: Art Lounge

If an artist is sketching the outline before doing the detailed drawing, they often use pencils that can give thin, easily- erasable, lighter marks. These are typically hard and light H pencils. So, we will be looking at such pencils in this list:

1. Derwent Professional Sketching Pencils, Set of 24

Derwent is one of the best brands for your drawing and sketching needs. This set includes 3 pencils explicitly dedicated to sketching, along with a few charcoal, graphite, and drawing pencils. The $50 collection comes stored in a sturdy tin made of metal, with a pencil sharpener and eraser as well.

Derwent Sketching Collection

Credit: Derwent via Amazon

2. Royal & Langnickel RART-200 Essentials Sketching Pencil Set

This brand is a one-stop destination for all the sketching art supplies you desire, even as a beginner. Royal & Langnickel has led the market for over 50 years, making premium quality pencils. This Essential Artist set contains 21 items, including 4H to 6B pencils and two kinds of erasers.

Royal and Langnickel Sketching set

Credit: Royal and Langnickel via Amazon

Out of these are eight wood-enclosed graphite pencils, three charcoal pencils, one woodless graphite pencil, three charcoal sticks, three sketching sticks, and a sharpener. This is a perfect standard pencil set for doodling, free-hand drawing, and sketching. The only drawback is that the pencils are a little hard to sharpen, but it is still a steal at just $8.

3. OLLY X-Big Jumbo-sized 2B Graphite Pencils with Storage Tub

These vibrant green jumbo pencils are suitable for casual doodling since they aren’t made for precision. The Jolly X-Big Jumbo pencils have a thick 6.5mm core made of 2B graphite encased in firm, sustainably grown wood. Made in Austria with premium European materials, these pencils are strong, smooth, and lasting.

Jolly X-Big Jumbo- Sized 2B Graphite Pencils

Credit: Jolly via Amazon

These pencils are bulky yet fun to use and most suitable for loose sketching, especially for young artists and those with special needs. You can find the set at $50 for 35 pencils that come in a storage stub. The cores are glued tightly to the casings for durability, and the wood is preservative-free.

4. MozArt Mechanical Pencil Set

Use the smooth, smudge-free texture the MozArt Mechanical pen creates for writing as well as for your rough drafts and doodled sketches. Since it is a mechanical drawing pencil, you can refill the lead, which you need not sharpen. It is lightweight, compact, convenient, fatigue-free, and easy to hold with a non-slip grip.

MozArt Mechanical Pencil Set

Credit: MozArt via Amazon

This pencil is an equally great option for beginners to etch light lines on paper or for professional architects and engineers to draw blueprints and diagrams. The brand offers four different tip sizes for these HB pencils, 0.3mm, 0.5mm, 0.7mm, and 0.9mm. When you first purchase the set, you get 30 refills for the lead and 4 for the erasers.

When you click the back of the mechanical pencil, the lead will come out smoothly, although, at times, it may get stuck inside or break easily. However, the Japanese technology behind it aims to reduce such issues and improve artist satisfaction. Choosing a MozArt pencil for sketching and drafting illustrations will give you great value for money, as many artists consider it the best mechanical drawing pencil.

5. Blackwing Natural Pencils, Premium Box of 12

Blackwing pencils have been known to stay true to their motto of letting one write or draw with “Half the Pressure, Twice the Speed.” The company has a rich history and a cult following, with many famous artists, cartoonists, authors, and musicians enjoying their products. This renowned brand makes high-quality materials in four primary pencil grades, Matte, Pearl, Natural, and the classic 602.

Blackwing Natural Pencils

Credit: Blackwing via Amazon

The $30 ‘Natural’ set is the hardest and lightest of these pencils, similar to an H or HB grade. Hence these Blackwing Natural Pencils, with their super solid graphite cores, are appropriate for writing and sketching fine, thin lines. It is ideal for informal illustrations, notes, and calligraphy, where we must draw light but extra-firm marks.

The design of the pencil includes its famous rectangular eraser held in a ferrule that lets you replace or lengthen it. A Californian incense-cedar wooden barrel with a soft matte exterior encloses the Japanese graphite. Moreover, you do not need to sharpen the pencil excessively. Blackwing donates a part of the sales to fund education in the arts.

Best Pencil Sets for Drawing

Drawing is the more detailed, serious, and complete version of sketching. It takes more time and equipment to draft the finer details and shading, especially when using a reference image to create a pencil drawing. These bigger drawings also need premium, better-quality paper and resources.

Different shades of Pencils

Credit: Art Lounge

Since it involves a lot of shading and detailing, pencils ideally need to be darker for drawing. Hence, softer B-grade pencils are perfect for drawing. In the following list, let’s explore the best pencils for drawing available in the market:

1. WHSmith Pure Graphite Pencils

The WHSmith Pure Graphite pencil set, priced at just $9, contains six pencils from HB grade to 9B in a metal tin. These include HB, 2B, 4B, 6B, 8B, and 9B pencils, so they are dark and soft pencils for drawing.

Therefore, they blend easily on paper and are suitable for shading and creating detailed drawings. A woodless pure graphite pencil works best to give you deep, wide, and broad strokes.

WHSmith Pure Graphite Pencils

Credit: WHSmith

This dynamic drawing pencil kit is appropriate for creating a soft but realistic image using a wide tonal range. You can shade a lot of contrasts and make smooth transitions using these drawing pencils.

2. Tombow Mono Drawing Pencil Set

Another set of the best drawing pencils is the Tombow Mono range. It includes 6 dark pencils graded from 2H to 6B. This set of luxurious Japanese pencils also comes with a round Mono Zero eraser. The drawing pencil set need not be sharpened often, but when required, they sharpen easily.
It has a smear-proof high-density graphite that won’t break easily, but at the same time, it is blendable, soft, and smooth. Artists say the darker Tombow Mono drawing pencils flow like ink, so linework artists prefer this option.

Tombow Mono Drawing Pencil Set

Credit: Tombow via Amazon

More specifically, the collection, costing around $11, includes 2H, HB, B, 2B, 4B, and 6B drawing pencils. Many consider these professional quality tools made with extra-refined graphite the best drawing pencils. Although these premium, strong, and durable drawing pencils are appealing, the only drawback is that they don’t come in a tin, tub, or box for storage.

3. Staedtler Mars Lumography Pencil Set

This drawing pencil collection is very popular among artists, as Staedtler is one of the best drawing pencil brands from where to get art supplies. The German brand packs these drawing pencils in a portable metal tin and overall offers good value for money, as it costs only around $16. Many artists consider these to be the best drawing pencils.
Staedtler Mars is a set with 12 good pencils ranging from 4H to 6B grades, so there is good diversity in their darkness and hardness. The cedar wood casing of each drawing pencil includes a water-based lacquer.

Staedtler Mars Lumography Pencil Set

Credit: Staedtler via Amazon

With such a range of pencils, the Staedtler Mars set is perfect for expert graphic designers as well as beginners who want to experiment with different levels and styles of drawing. Since these drawing pencils have a higher carbon content, they result in a matte finish on paper.

You can use these break-proof, durable, and well-bonded graphite drawing instruments to sketch, blend or write clearly on paper and matte drafting film without a scratchy feeling. The only issue with this drawing pencil set is that it doesn't come with an eraser or a pencil sharpener. But the pencils in the Staedtler Mars set are guaranteed to be easy to erase and sharpen.

4. Winsor & Newton 490010 Precision Pencil Set

This Winsor and Newton collection includes a mix of 3 graphite pencils, a sepia pencil, a Pierre noir pencil, and 2 charcoal pencils, of which one is white. The graphite pencils are between 2B and 6B, making them dark, soft, and ideal for shading and blending.
The drawing pencil set comes in a convenient metal tin with an eraser, a paper blending stump, and a pencil sharpener. This set has a diverse assortment of drawing pencil types and colors. So, you can let your creativity run wild using these pencils for drawing.

It also comes with all the required drawing equipment and is perfect for those just starting with detailed drawings. You can use these soft drawing pencils for dark tones, shadows, and smooth gradients, especially in still-life realism.

Winsor & Newton 490010 Precision Pencil Set

Credit: Windsor and Newton via Amazon

The Winsor & Newton Studio Collection Sketching Pencils is a similar set with 10 pencils, both graphite (2B - 8B) and charcoal. An impressive feature is that its points and cores are held together with superior-quality binding and are firm and break-resistant even under pressure.

These drawing pencils are good for capturing more minor details as well. It is enclosed in cedar wood which is sustainably harvested, aromatic, and can be sharpened effortlessly. Since these drawing pencils are adaptable and responsive, they can be used for multiple purposes.

5. Norberg & Linden Drawing Set, 19 Piece Drawing and Sketch Kit

This all-in-one collection is ideal for beginners since it comprises a comprehensive range of art items that help them test their skills. There are 8 premium-quality pencils in grades 2H, H, F, HB, 2B, 4B, 6B, and 8B and an additional extra-soft specialist woodless pencil that is just pure graphite.

There are also 3 charcoal pencils, a soft, medium, and dark one each, a soft charcoal stick and a medium stick. It also comes with a metal sharpener, a sketch pad, two erasers (including a kneaded one), and a black sharpener for carbon brushes. At $23, you get a good deal if you buy this drawing set.

Norberg & Linden Drawing Set

Credit: Norberg & Linden via Amazon

Since the drawing pencil kit is made for artists by artists, the brand had their interests at heart when manufacturing the best drawing pencils. Explore the different drawing pencils in the collection to experiment with styles, techniques, and approaches to drawing. Draw spontaneously, especially since the sketchbook is only 6 x 9 inches with 100 pages, so you can easily carry it everywhere.

Best Pencil Sets for Painting

Although pencils aren’t typically used for painting, watercolor ones are a good option for beginners. They give you more control over filling the pigments within the lines of your drawing. It is also a hassle-and-mess-free way to create an instant painting.

You can also create a vibrant piece of art using standard colored pencils. If you want dense, thick shades on paper rather than diluted streaks with a watercolor effect, colored pencils are a great choice.

Let’s look at the best colored pencils and watercolor pencil option out there:

1. Derwent Academy Coloring Pencils and Graphic Pencils Set

This colossal art kit has everything you need for your creative journey, such as 30 high-quality drawing pencils and more. Apart from 6 graphite drawing pencils, it contains 12 coloring pencils, 12 watercolor pencils, a paintbrush, an eraser, a pencil sharpener, a drawing pad, and a project book. You also get colored pencil barrels that fit average pencil sharpeners.

With this one purchase, beginners who are confused about what materials to buy can get all they need. It is suitable for young, budding artists who want to delve into different art styles as well. The project book even includes some pointers and guidelines to inspire new artists, but it would be an equally appropriate gift for more advanced artists.

Derwent Academy Coloring Pencils and Graphic Pencils Set

Credit: Derwent via Amazon

At $37, the 6B to 5H pencils and other accessories come stored well in a beautiful wooden box for storage and display. These pencils are suitable for painting because the watercolor and coloring pencils can create different effects. For example, you can do layering, blending, mixing, etc., to craft stunning pencil portraits and other artwork.

Use the Derwent sketching pads and papers for the best results, as this trusted brand recommends. You will discover that the pencils form smooth and even marks on the sheets. As a result, your movements can flow quickly with the ebb of your imagination and let you sketch the bigger picture as well as the minute details.

2. Cretacolor 72 Aqua Monolith Metal Tin Set

This is an excellent set of pencils for watercolor painting, vouched for by popular artists like Lauren Beck. At $130, you get 72 woodless aquarelle watercolor pencils, although there are smaller collections you can choose from. It has a wide range of assorted colors with pigments held together by water-soluble binders.

Cretacolor 72 Aqua Monolith Metal Tin Set

Credit: Cretacolor

You can decide whether you want to use the set as standard colored pencils or dilute the dry pigments by dipping the pencils in water to dissolve and spread them. The pencils have an exquisite woodless design and are enveloped in a light layer of lacquer.

With rich and thick pigments, the pencils allow you to change the angles and pressure to achieve different textures. You can create fine details and cover broad regions with this watercolor pencil set. This sheer, versatile collection comes in a tin box for storage.

3. Faber-Castel 110060 Polychromos Colored Pencil Set In Metal Tin

Faber-Castel is a known household brand for many ordinary people, and it is an equally popular name amongst expert artists. This set of 60 colored pencils, costing $84, comes in a metal tin that can be taken anywhere for drawing, even outdoors.

Faber-Castel 110060 Polychromos Colored Pencil Set In Metal Tin

Credit: Faber-Castel

These Polychromos pencils, although a bit expensive, can be used as regular colored pencils or to create watercolor paintings. Famous artists like Krusch have expressed their fondness for the collection, saying that the price is justified and these are even good for professional illustrations.

This is because the pencils are solid, crack-resistant, and durable compared to the other options in the market. You can get these acid-free pencils in packs of 12, 24, 36, etc. as well. The vibrant colors allow you to place light and thin or strong and thick strokes on paper.

2. Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils 72 Pack

With an extensive range of bright and lively colors, these are a great choice of colored pencils. You get 72 diverse and saturated shades in protective tin packaging that is also portable. You get shades like Parrot Green, Poppy Red, Cool Grey, Sunburst Yellow, Terracotta, and more, especially if you go for a pack of 132.

Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils 72 Pack

Credit: Prismacolor

The soft lead cores and thick tips of the pencils, combined with the robust wood casing, make them break-proof and firm. You can be guaranteed an ultra-smooth and even color laydown, so these highly-pigmented pencils are perfect for blending and creating textures.

You can use them for casual doodling just as much as for shading or shadowing. Artists of any experience can use these premium, long-lasting, water-proof colored pencils. These lightfast pencils are made in the USA and are suitable for commercial purposes as well.

Conclusion

These are some of the best sketching, drawing, coloring and other pencils available in the market. You can easily find these collections on Amazon or other digital merchants, so invest in a suitable one today to begin your artist journey. Equipped with good-quality art supplies, you can enable your creative vision to come to fruition.