Pencils – Which Ones to Use for Different Tasks

Pencils – Which Ones to Use for Different Tasks

Whether you are an experienced sketch artist, a writer, a teacher or a student, you will need to use a pencil at some point. There are numerous pencil types on the market and choosing the right one for your task at hand may seem like a daunting task.

“To start with the basics, designations like 4H, 2H, 2B, 4B, etc are just indicators of how hard the pencil lead is. The spectrum is usually read from B to H, such as 9B, 8B, 7B, 6b, 5B, 4B, 3B, 2B, 1B, HB, 1H, 2H, 3H, etc. The further down from 9B to 9H you go, the harder the lead gets. OK, so B's are soft, and H's are hard. But how and when should I use each? This is where the question gets a little bit tricky, as there are many different reasons you might choose one hardness over another. Generally speaking, harder leads are used for roughing out your drawings. When you're just laying down a sketch or outline for a drawing, harder lead goes down much lighter (depending on how high the number of H) and is easier to erase afterwards. Harder leads can also be used if very soft shading is needed in spots. Softer leads can be used for "inking" drawings or darkening the final lines to a more finished state. B pencils are functionally the exact opposite of H pencils in that they go down on paper very dark and are typically much harder to erase. The softest leads (anything past 6B), can achieve a darkness comparable to drawing with charcoal.”

Different Types of Pencils – Which Ones to Use for Different Tasks

“As a relatively old tool for writing, pencils have developed in time and different types of pencils were invented for different uses.

Graphite pencils Standard everyday pencils with a core of clay and graphite of clay and graphite and a casing of wood. They have many levels of darkness, which are achieved with different ratios of graphite and clay, and a variety of uses.

Solid graphite pencils (or woodless pencils) Similar to standard graphite pencils but without wood casing. They are used for drawing, allow for covering of large areas and also have many levels of darkness.

Charcoal pencils

Pencils shaped like sticks and made of charcoal and used in art. They are black (and darker than graphite pencils) but there are also sepia toned and white.

Carbon pencils

Pencils made of a mixture of clay and lamp black (a black pigment). Their darkness changes with mixing with charcoal or graphite. They are still darker than pencils but smoother than charcoal pencils.

Coloured pencils, or pencil crayons

Pencils with wax-based cores that have pigments mixed in them with additives, and binding agents. Core is wooden as with standard graphite pencils. They are used in fine art but also by children because they are easy to use and don’t leave a mess.

Grease pencils

Pencil made of wax core and, most often, with paper casing. Some rarer grease pencils have a wooden casing. They can write on almost every surface and it rarely scratches the surface it is used on.

Watercolour pencils

A subtype of coloured pencils. They are made of a material whose mark can be dissolved in water. They are used with standard watercolours to leave sharp lines between colours and to make gradients when dissolved with water.

Carpenter's pencils

Pencils made of strong graphite and in an oval body. They are designed to be durable, not to break easily and not to roll off the desk.

Copying pencils (or indelible pencils)

Pencils whose core has dye that can write as a normal pencil. But, when water is added to the mark that is left on the paper it dissolves and can be copied to the other paper by pressing. They were popular in 19th century.

Erasable colour pencils

Like their name says: colour pencils that can be erased (unlike wax-based coloured pencils). They are used for sketching and in animation.

Non-reproducing (or “non-photo blue pencils”)

Pencil that cannot be copied by photocopying machines. Today it is used for drawing the sketches that will later be scanned and when turned to grayscale - blue from the pencil will disappear.

Stenographer's pencil

Very reliable pencil with lead that is break proof.

Golf pencil

Short standard pencil that is used for marking the score in golf.

Mechanical pencils

Pencils which use mechanism to push lead through a hole at the end. They use special leads that have precise diameter for the pencil they use and can be of different darkness like standard graphite pencils can. They are used for writing and technical drawing.

Pop a Point Pencils

Pencils that have many short pencil tips housed in a cartridge-style plastic holder. They are not sharpened but when one piece is dull it is removed from the front and pushed in the rear of the pencil, pushing all the pieces and the new, sharp one appears at the front.

Plastic pencils

Invented by Harold Grossman in late 1960s. They are made by co-extrusion of plasticized graphite mix and wood-composite core made of ABS plastic, wood flour, and aluminium stearate. They are flexible and can be bended without breaking.”

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