Pencil Drawing Supply Review
Updated: 08 Oct 2023
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.
- The H value stands for Hardness and indicates how hard and light the pencil is.
- The B value stands for Blackness and indicates how soft and dark the pencil is.
For example, a 3B pencil is darker and softer than a 2B pencil.
The H group is for light values. HB is between light and dark. The B group is for dark levels.
Pencils with high degree of softness tend to break.
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 lighter.
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:
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.
I use the Staedtler for my commission work. They always deliver!
2. Castell 9000
Another top quality choice. Faber-Castell is the largest pencil manufacturer and one of the oldest.
The Castell 9000 are super strong and can be sharpened easily, yet soft enough to be enjoyable and forgiving. Perfect!
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.
They are quite dark, and their precision require a gentle touch. Experienced artists will enjoy these pencils as their main drawing pencils.
*These next pencil brands are all recommended. I use them for specific tasks.
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.
Because they are soft and forgiving, I let my students use them when drawing or sketching realism.
I use them for quick sketching demos:
And sometimes, for realism:
Faber-Castell Grip 2001
These are amazing pencils for sketching. They come with only 5 brightness values (2H, H, HB, B, 2B). Therefore, less ideal 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.
Because they are super comfortable, I use them when I teach, for quick demonstrations:
In addition, when drawing from imagination (like concept art or product design), they are great for initial sketches.
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.
Goldfaber, by Faber-Castell, are smooth and affordable pencils.
They are great for beginners, for both drawing and sketching.
Because they are smooth, dark (soft) levels may break while sharpening.
They are fun to draw with:
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.
I use these pencils for sketching. Not for super accurate realistic drawing.
Professional graphite pencils, though they are a bit darker and harder than other brands.
I use them in a gentle way since they leave noticeable marks.
They arrive unsharpened, and the pencil grade is written lightly, which is hard to see.
I do not recommend them for beginners.
For experienced artists, that can control the pressure while drawing, they can be the main drawing pencils.
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.
Good sketching pencils, but quite soft and in need of constant sharpening.
I use these pencils mainly for sketching, less for realistic drawing (though, my sketches are usually in a realistic style).
To learn how I draw spheres, visit my ball drawing guide.
Lyra Rembrandt Art Design
Good pencils. Dark grades are not as dark as some other brands.
I use Lyra Rembrandt for sketches, less for super realistic drawing.
Pencils with cylindrical body tend to roll on the work surface. A hexagonal pencil is a better choice for that reason.
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.
Mars Black have a high proportion of carbon, and therefore produce a matt result, especially in darker grades.
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.
If you do not like the glossiness of graphite pencils, these are the BEST matt pencils I have tested so far.
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.
Keep in mind:
For me, matt pencils are not as easy to erase, or to smudge smoothly.
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.
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.
If you like drawing trees, you can visit my guide for drawing trees; it has many examples, and step-by-step instructions.
You can use white pencils together with 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.
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.
The advantage of graphite sticks is that they can be used both for details and for covering large areas.
If you want to draw in a realistic style, check out my beginners guide to realistic pencil drawing.
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.
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.
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.
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
Many pencil brands provide a strong, metal case, when buying a set.
I keep these cases for storing my pencils.
Erasers for Pencil 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.
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.
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 eraser debris from the drawing surface.
Any Faber-Castell dust-free eraser is a superb choice.
The 18-71-21 (black) eraser, by Faber-Castell, is my absolute favorite. It has a perfect balance between softness and erasing power.
Another quality option is the Tombow MONO plastic eraser.
It is quite soft, and does not damage the drawing paper.
Soft erasers are delicate and can tear if not used gently.
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.
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.
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.
A better option is the Hardtmuth pencil eraser by Koh I Noor.
Pencil erasers are not easy to sharpen. The best option to sharpen them is with a knife or a pair of scissors.
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).
Drawing (erasing) the highlights with Tombow MONO Zero:
Always pay attention that the eraser is bulging out of its case.
Otherwise, the metal case can scratch your drawing paper.
Pressing hard with this eraser, or erasing continuously in the same area, will damage the paper.
I use a shoe brush for cleaning eraser debris. It has hard bristles, which do not smudge graphite particles.
You can sharpen pencils with a regular pencil sharpener, or an electric sharpener.
A canister sharpener is efficient, clean, and easy to use.
When in need of a sharper tip, I use my trusted Faber-Castell dual sharpener.
Or, my Faber-Castell Grip Trio Pencil Sharpener.
It has a sharpener for regular pencils, jumbo, and colored pencils.
Another way to sharpen pencils is using a knife for a very sharp point.
Sharpening pencils with a knife takes time, creates 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.
Paper for Pencil Drawing
I created a new guide for paper brands and types for drawing. Both for pencil and pen.
You can find it here: review for recommended drawing paper.
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.
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.
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
I use French curve rulers for creating speech balloons when I draw comics.
And, for drawing curves.
Rulers are used for all kind of tasks like creating symbols.
There are rulers with many geometric or unique shapes for special usage.
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.
When a gentle mixing or smoothing is needed, a soft synthetic brush is much better.
In the next example, for a smooth surface, I used a blending stump, a synthetic brush, and sometimes non-sharp pencil.
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 large amount of liquid causes the paper to wrinkle. Once it completely evaporated (usually in one minute), you can spray another layer.
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.
If you are new to perspective drawing, visit my guide on linear perspective drawing.
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.