Pencil Drawing Supply Review

Updated: 13 Sep 2022

Graphite pencils for drawing

When starting out, the different types and brands of drawing materials can be confusing.

In this guide, I will explore known (and recommended) types and brands to consider.

Disclosure: some links in this article are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you choose to make a purchase.

Supply & equipment categories:

Drawing Pencils Types

Standard Drawing Pencils

Drawing pencils come in varying brightness values, when HB is the standard value.

For example, a 3B pencil will be darker and softer than a 2B pencil.

Note:

Pencils with high degree of softness tend to break.

Staedtler drawing pencils with H levels Drawing pencils with H levels
Staedtler drawing pencils with B levels Drawing pencils with B levels

The H group is for light values. HB is between light and dark. The B group is for dark levels.

Drawing pencils brightness values

Tip:

Graphite is very soft and has a single brightness value.

The different grades of pencils are different amounts of clay added to the graphite.

Clay makes the pencil harder. Harder means that the pencil lays less graphite particles on a paper sheet, and therefore looks brighter.

You can reach the same brightness values with different grades of pencils by drawing softer, adding pressure, or adding layers to get a darker value.

I recommend to my students these pencil grades: 4H, 2H, HB, 2B and 4B. These are more than enough to have a full range of brightness values.

Here is an example of me drawing (almost) the same brightness value with different pencil grades:

Same brightness value with different pencils

Recommended Drawing Pencils Brands

MY TOP 3 CHOICES:

*My top choices are pencils that I use for ANY type of drawing or sketching.

1. Staedtler Mars Lumograph

Highly recommended, durable, high quality pencils, suitable for ANY task.

The pencil grade is clearly written on ALL sides.

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Staedtler Mars Lumograph drawing pencils Staedtler Mars Lumograph

I use the Staedtler for my commission work. They always deliver!

Drawings with Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencils

2. Castell 9000

Another top quality choice. Faber-Castell is the largest pencil manufacturer and one of the oldest.

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Faber-Castell 9000 drawing pencils Faber-Castell 9000

The Castell 9000 are super strong and can be sharpened easily, yet soft enough to be enjoyable and forgiving. Perfect!

Drawings made with Faber-Castell 9000 pencils

3. Tombow MONO Drawing Pencils

Tombow pencils have a nice balance between precision and softness.

They arrive unsharpened.

They also exist as a set, including the excellent MONO Zero eraser.

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Tombow MONO drawing pencils Tombow MONO Drawing Pencils

They are quite dark, and their precision require a gentle touch. Experienced artists will enjoy these pencils as their main drawing pencils.

Drawings with Tombow MONO pencils

OTHER OPTIONS:

*These next pencil brands are all recommended. I use them for specific tasks.

Mitsu-Bishi Hi-Uni

The Mitsu-Bishi pencils are quite smooth and easy to work with. Great for shading.

Being smooth, they require frequent sharpening in order to draw fine details.

They arrive unsharpened.

Mitsu-Bishi Hi-Uni drawing pencils Mitsu-Bishi Hi-Uni

Because they are soft and forgiving, I let my students use them when drawing or sketching realism.

See on Amazon

I use them for quick sketching demos:

Pencil sketches of a Guinea pig and a hamster

And sometimes, for realism:

Pencil drawings using Mitsu-Bishi Hi Uni

Faber-Castell Grip 2001

These are amazing pencils for sketching. They come with only 5 brightness values (2H, H, HB, B, 2B). Therefore, less idle for realistic drawing.

They are lightweight, with an ergonomic structure and non-slip points. All of these make them great for sketching (and writing) for long periods.

Pencil sketch with Faber-Castell Grip 2001 Faber-Castell Grip 2001

Because they are super comfortable, I use them when I teach, for quick demonstrations:

Soap bottle drawing with Faber-Castell Grip 2001 Sketch demo from direct observation

In addition, when drawing from imagination (like concept art or product design), they are great for initial sketches.

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Sketch for a screwdriver design from imagination

Koh-I-Noor 1900

The "1900" pencils are a fine option for sketching. Their "forgiving" marks will appeal to beginners.

They are smooth and quite on the bright side. I do not like them for photorealism, only for sketching, though I use any pencil for realism.

Koh-I-Noor 1900 drawing pencils Koh-I-Noor 1900
Woman portrait drawing Female portrait with Koh-I-Noor

Goldfaber

Goldfaber, by Faber-Castell, are smooth and affordable pencils.

They are great for beginners, for both drawing and sketching.

Goldfaber pencils by Faber-Castell Goldfaber

Because they are smooth, dark (soft) levels may break while sharpening.

Initial drawing with Goldfaber pencils

They are fun to draw with:

Drawing of Farmtruck from Street Outlaws TV show Farmtruck from "Street Outlaws" TV show

Caran d'Ache Grafwood

Quality pencils yet pricey. Unique barrel color in accordance to the graphite grade.

Their barrel is a bit thicker than regular pencils, and might not fit in some sharpeners.

These pencils are VERY soft and therefore very gentle, and in need of constant sharpening.

Caran d'Ache Grafwood drawing pencils Caran d'Ache Grafwood

I use these pencils for sketching. Not for super accurate realistic drawing.

A drawing with Grafwood pencils

Prismacolor Turquoise

These are a bit darker and harder than other brands.

I use them in a gentle way since they leave noticeable marks.

They arrive unsharpened.

Recommended for artists that can control the pressure while drawing.

Prismacolor Turquoise drawing pencils Prismacolor Turquoise

Staedtler tradition

These pencils are great for drawing and sketching.

Unlike the Staedtler Mars Lumograph, the size is not written on all sides of the pencil, and they are not as smooth.

Staedtler tradition drawing pencils Staedtler tradition

Derwent Graphic

Good drawing pencils, but quite soft and in need of constant sharpening.

Derwent Graphic drawing pencils Derwent Graphic

Lyra Rembrandt Art Design

Good pencils. Dark grades are not as dark as some other brands.

Lyra Rembrandt Art Design pencils Lyra Rembrandt Art Design

Tip:

Pencils with cylindrical body tend to roll on the work surface. A hexagonal pencil is a better choice for that reason.

Matt Pencils

Unlike charcoal, graphite pencils produce shiny results under a certain angle from the light.

Some brands offer matt solutions. It is good in some cases, though I prefer regular graphite pencils.

Staedtler Mars Lumograph Black

These are artist pencils, which are intended for drawing dark brightness values.

Staedtler Mars Lumograph Black drawing pencils Staedtler Mars Lumograph Black

Mars Black have a high proportion of carbon, and therefore produce a matt result, especially in darker grades.

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Shiny result under certain angle Mars Black matt results

Pitt Graphite Matt

I received the Faber-Castell Pitt Graphite Matt on September 2021, for testing and opinion.

They are quite new, and not yet easy to find.

Faber-Castell Pitt Graphite Matt pencils Pitt Graphite Matt

If you do not like the glossiness of graphite pencils, these are the BEST matt pencils I have tested so far.

See on Amazon

Glossiness of Pitt Matt vs Castell 9000 Regular vs. matt

In the above example, you can notice by changing the angle of light, the Pitt Matt stays the same, while regular graphite pencils become shiny.

Unlike other matt solutions, these pencils can produce light values too.

They come in 8 degrees (HB, 2B, 4B, 6B, 8B, 10B, 12B, 14B).

I find them a bit lighter than other brands, especially the HB degree (when used gently), which is perfect for light values.

Realistic pencil drawing of a cat paw Cat Paw with Pitt Graphite Matt

Keep in mind:

For me, matt pencils are not as easy to erase, or to smudge smoothly.

White Pencils

When drawing on a toned paper sheet, white pencils are great for highlights.

My favorite pencils are:

Faber-Castell Pitt Pastel soft.

General's Pastel Chalk 4414 white.

Faber-Castell Polychromos white 101.

White drawing pencils

In addition, you can use a white pencil for drawing on a black (or very dark) paper.

The key is to press and draw more for highlights, and less for shadow areas.

Bonsai tree drawing with white pencil Bonsai tree with Pitt Pastel

If you like drawing trees, you can visit my guide for drawing trees; it has many examples, and step-by-step instructions.

Examples for drawing trees with pens and markers

You can use white pencils together with colored pencils.

Dog portrait drawing with white and colored pencils

Thick Drawing Pencils

Thick pencils (also called Jumbo) have a thicker casing and a thicker graphite bar.

They are used for sketching, shading, or for filling large surfaces.

Less idle for realism or accuracy.

Faber-Castell thick jumbo pencils Faber-Castell Jumbo & regular pencils

Graphite Sticks

A graphite rod or bar is a graphite stick with no wood coating.

Graphite sticks come in many shapes. Cylinder, rectangle-bar, and pencil-shaped, are very common, and are used for filling large areas quickly.

They come in different brightness values.

I prefer a pencil-shape graphite stick, coated with a thin layer of plastic, so I do not get dirty while drawing.

Graphite sticks for drawing Graphite sticks

The advantage of graphite sticks is that they can be used both for details and for covering large areas.

Example:

A drawing of a dog using graphite sticks Dog drawing using graphite sticks

If you want to draw in a realistic style, check out my beginners guide to realistic pencil drawing.

Mechanical Pencil

A mechanical pencil is a pencil that can be filled with graphite sticks, which can be extended mechanically.

There is no need to sharpen mechanical pencils.

Like technical pens for drawing, a mechanical pencil produces lines of uniform thickness and is used, among other things, for technical drawing.

Mechanical pencil by Faber-Castell Mechanical pencil
Graphite sticks for mechanical pencils Graphite sticks for refill

Good to Know:

High quality mechanical pencils come with high quality eraser, which is small and great for details (such as drawing hair, or highlights).

To learn how to use mechanical pencils, visit my article on when, why and how to draw with a mechanical pencil.

Pencil Cases

For me, the best way to carry pencils is using a pencil roll.

My Faber-Castell case holds up to 45 items, and it is beautiful.

See on Amazon

Pencil roll case by Faber-Castell

Another favorite is the Derwent pencil case, which holds up to 30 items.

It is made of thick and strong fabric, yet flexible enough not to damage the sharpened tip of the pencil.

Any roll-up case, from thick canvas, is a good solution

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Derwent case for drawing materials

Many pencil brands provide a strong, metal case, when buying a set.

I keep these cases for storing my pencils.

Drawing pencils sets with cases

Erasers for Pencil Drawing

Recommended erasers for drawing

The advantage of a pencil, unlike other drawing and painting tools, is the ability to erase.

Eraser (also called a rubber) is used for erasing AND drawing.

You can use certain erasers to change the brightness value of a surface, or to create noticeable, bright details and highlights.

Pay attention:

When you hold your drawing paper in order to erase, always erase against your grip.

If you erase toward your grip, the paper sheet will bend, and there is no way to fix it.

Make sure you erase against your grip

Gum Eraser

Gum eraser (also vinyl or plastic) is the standard eraser for erasing mistakes.

This eraser leaves debris behind, and is not intended to produce precise details.

You can use a brush to clean the eraser debris from the drawing surface.

Any Faber-Castell dust-free eraser is a superb choice.

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Faber-Castell dust free erasers for drawing Faber-Castell dust-free

The 18-71-21 (black) eraser, by Faber-Castell, is my absolute favorite. It has a perfect balance between softness and erasing power.

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Faber-Castell pencil erasers 18 71 21 Faber-Castell 18 71 21

Another quality option is the Tombow MONO plastic eraser.

It is quite soft, and does not damage the drawing paper.

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Tombow MONO gum eraser Tombow MONO plastic eraser

A common and affordable eraser is the STAEDTLER Mars plastic.

It is a bit harder than my other erasers, and it gets the job done.

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Staedtler Mars Plastic erasers Staedtler Mars Plastic

Kneaded Eraser

A kneaded eraser collects graphite (or charcoal) particles, by absorption.

This eraser does not wear down, and does not leave residue like a regular eraser.

By gentle friction of the kneaded eraser on a drawing surface or gentle taps, it can increase the brightness value ​​of a particular area.

The kneaded eraser is flexible, and you can make shapes with it, such as a dot or line. The harder the eraser is, the more accurate textures it can create.

I recommend a kneaded eraser for any type of pencil drawing art.

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Kneaded erasers Kneaded erasers

Eraser Pencil

The purpose of erasers in the form of pencils is to enable the creation of small and precise details, or to erase small areas.

That said, these eraser pencils are usually not that effective!

A pencil eraser with a brush is great for cleaning debris from the drawing surface.

Faber-Castell Perfection pencil erasers Pencil erasers

Tombow MONO Zero

This little refillable eraser pen can make all the difference!

The Tombow MONO Zero eraser is superior to any other type of eraser when it comes to creating fine details, especially for drawing hair, or for erasing small areas.

This eraser is a lot like erasers that come with quality mechanical pencils, only much smaller, and therefore more precise.

Once you get used to it, especially when drawing realism, it is hard to do without.

Two tip types to choose from: round and rectangular (I use the round one).

See on Amazon

Tombow mono zero pen eraser Tombow MONO Zero

Drawing (erasing) the highlights with Tombow MONO Zero:

Braid pencil drawing with Tombow MONO Zero Braid with MONO Zero

Note:

Always pay attention that the eraser is bulging out of its case.

Otherwise, the metal case can scratch your drawing paper.

Make sure your eraser is ready for use

Sharpeners

You can sharpen pencils with a regular pencil sharpener, or an electric sharpener.

A canister sharpener is efficient, clean, and easy to use.

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Canister sharpeners by Staedtler Canister sharpeners

When in need of a sharper tip, I use my trusted Faber-Castell dual sharpener.

Faber-Castell dual sharpener for pencils Faber-Castell dual sharpener

Another way to sharpen pencils is using a knife for a very sharp point.

Sharpening pencils with a knife takes time, create dirt, and leaves wood and graphite waste in the work environment. Using a knife can lead to injury.

I am used to sharpening my pencils with a utility knife. For me, it is the best way; it gives me control and accuracy.

Sharpening pencils with NT cutter utility knife NT Cutter utility knife

Paper for Pencil Drawing

There is a wide range of paper for pencil drawing that includes:

A pad of paper is a collection of individual sheets of paper that can be torn off.

The characteristics of paper:

The roughness level of a paper indicates how well it grabs graphite particles.

For quick sketches, I prefer rough paper; for realism, I prefer smooth paper.

Some recommended brands:

Canson

Canson is a French company for the production of quality paper, and other art related products. It was founded in 1557.

Canson 1557 is one of my favorite paper sheets for drawing realism, or any style!

It has a nice texture, which is great for sketching and drawing.

Canson 1557 paper pad, and a window drawing Canson 1557

Canson XL Bristol (yellow) is VERY smooth and extra white. It is another favorite.

I love it for detailed realistic pencil drawing, and for drawing with pen and markers.

Canson XL Bristol paper pad, and two drawings Canson XL Bristol

Canson XL Recycle (green) is quite grainy, and it fits for rough sketches.

Canson XL Recycle paper pad, and a tree drawing Canson XL Recycle

Canson XL Croquis (orange) is quite thin, but it is good for practice.

Canson XL Croquis paper pad, and a drawing of a boy Canson XL Croquis

Sometimes, it is fun to use colored paper sheets.

Tree drawing on a pink paper by Canson Pink paper sheets by Canson

Fabriano

Fabriano is a leading paper manufacturing company. In addition, the company is unique in that it uses renewable energy.

The company is named after the town of Fabriano, located in Italy. Fabriano is one of the first places in Europe to produce quality commercial paper, from the 13th century to the present day.

Ecological recycled paper by Fabriano Eco-recycled paper
Single paper sheets by Fabriano Single paper sheets

Toned paper can add atmosphere to a drawing.

Drawing of braids on Fabriano toned paper

Winsor & Newton

Winsor & Newton is a British company that manufactures art equipment, including paper for drawing and sketching.

A sketchbook is a book with smooth pages, designed for drawing and sketching with pencil, and used by artists as part of the creative process, or for practicing.

Winsor & Newton sketchbook Sketchbook
Winsor & Newton paper sheets pad Paper sheets pad for drawing

Hahnemühle

Hahnemühle is a German paper manufacturing company, and a world leader in the production of paper for inkjet printers. The company is known for the high quality of paper for drawing and sketching.

The Hahnemühle Nostalgie is highly recommended, and another one of my favorites.

A Sketchbook with a spiral allows ripping or cutting a page for an unsuccessful sketch.

Hahnemühle sketchbook for drawing Sketchbook with a spiral
Hahnemühle Nostalgie paper sheets pad Hahnemühle paper pad

Arches

Arches is an established French company (1492), specializing in the production of high quality paper.

Arches paper is made of 100% cotton.

This paper is of a high quality, but also very delicate. Extensive use of an eraser can damage it.

Arches white paper sheets pad White paper pad
Arches Cream paper sheets pad Cream paper pad

Rulers

Rulers have a key role in many drawing styles. They are an important part of a drafter's drawing supplies.

Technical Drawing Rulers

When drawing in linear perspective, a ruler is essential for accuracy.

Regular rulers might cause bleeding with some technical pens. The solution is a ruler with an inking edge.

Inking edge means that at least one side of the ruler is a bit above the drawing surface.

My absolute favorite ruler for drawing in perspective is the Staedtler Mars 563 Aluminium Ruler.

It is of non-slip quality.

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Staedtler Mars 563 Aluminium Ruler Staedtler Mars 563 Aluminium Ruler

Tip:

The Staedtler Mars 563 has a special structure for a firm grip.

I use its structure to hold my pen or pencil when I do other things (like erasing), and I do not want them to roll on the drawing surface.

French Curve

A French curve is a ruler with many curves.

It is used to draw smooth curves, and for fashion design.

These have an inking edge, so they are good for drawing with pens too: See on Amazon

A selection of French curve rulers French curve rulers

I use French curve rulers for creating speech balloons when I draw comics.

Drawing a speech balloon with a French curve Speech balloon with a French curve

And, for drawing curves.

A drawing of a interchange roads in perspective Interchange drawing with French curve

Geometric Rulers

Rulers are used for all kind of tasks like creating symbols.

There are rulers with many geometric or unique shapes for special usage.

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A ruler with geometric shapes A ruler with geometric shapes

Blending Stump

Paper blending stumps for drawing Blending stumps

A blending stump is made of compressed paper and used for mixing or smoothing of charcoal or graphite particles.

It is an excellent tool for smoothing or filling large areas and creating transitions in brightness values.

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Army beret pencil drawing Beret drawing with a blending stump

When a gentle mixing or smoothing is needed, a soft synthetic brush is much better.

Small synthetic brush for softening Synthetic brush for blending

The combination of quality pencils and little use of a soft brush, to draw the face:

Using graphite pencils for portrait drawing Portrait pencil drawing

Fixative

Pencil drawing is laying particles of graphite (or charcoal) on paper.

Fixative is a liquid that you can spray on dry media artworks like pencil, charcoal, or pastel, to preserve it, and prevent smudging.

Fixative is toxic and flammable and should be sprayed in a well-ventilated place, and kept away from the reach of children.

Spray a thin layer. A larger amount of liquid will cause the paper to wrinkle. Once it completely evaporated (usually in one minute), you can spray another layer.

Winsor & Newton fixative Winsor & Newton fixative
Too much fixative cause wrinkles Wrinkles due to fixative

Sometimes, when spraying too much, the paper sheet can bend. You can put it under a book for a while, and it will be straight again with time.

Bent paper sheet because of over spray with fixative Bent paper sheet

If you are new to perspective drawing, visit my guide on linear perspective drawing.

Summary

Pencil drawing is a craft that anybody can learn, and it is a solid basis for any drawing or painting style.

Creating different brightness values is one of the characteristics of pencil drawing. It is advisable to use several drawing pencils with different brightness values.

Kneaded eraser is also used for drawing and not just for erasing. Due to its flexibility, you can shape it in many ways to create different textures and effects.

I recommend using quality drawing-paper. You can spray fixative on a finished drawing, in order to preserve it for future generations.

Where to Go Next?

Now that you have some drawing materials, it is time to start drawing.

The world is three-dimensional, but your drawing paper is two-dimensional!

To create the 3D illusion, I wrote a guide on how to draw the illusion of depth. It includes 15 methods to create depth, and it has MANY examples for you to explore.

In addition, there are many recommended YouTube channels for learning to draw.

*ALL art supplies in this article are owned & used by me.