Often for many aspiring artists, professional art materials may seem to not only be confusing, but also cost much more than your average art supplies. While there is nothing wrong with using more affordable options of materials to create art, it is occasionally worth investing in a few good tools for yourself. 

Pencils as The Basic

Pencils are some of the most basic writing/drawing tools that we know. In its simplest form, pencils are basically formed by sandwiching a graphite core between two pieces of wood to protect the user’s hand from staining. Most pencil cores are made of graphite with a clay binder. These traditional pencils usually leave greyish black marks that can easily be erased with an eraser.

However, it is relatively resistant to moisture, UV-rays, and natural aging. Hence, pencils, when used on the right surfaces, are wonderful tools for creating pieces of art that will last. From a simple base sketching to a full blown graphite drawing, there is a pencil out there that can help you achieve the finishing that you want.

Grades of Hardness

Pencils come in different grades of hardness. In the European grading system for lead hardness, a combination of letters and numbers are used. B indicated soft leads with higher content of graphite. The softness of the lead and the darkness of the marks produced by the lead increases along with the corresponding numbers. On the opposite end of the spectrum, H leads indicates leads with a higher clay content, hence resulting in increasing lightness as you ascend the scale.

H Leads

H leads tend to be very resistant to smudges and allows the user to achieve clean lines. This characteristic of the H lead makes them useful for drawing outlines, technical drawings, light-sketches, and even as a base for watercolour paintings. For left-handed artists, H pencils are an advantage to avoid smudging. However, H leads are quite hard, hence they tend to result in scratchiness as you move up the scale.

F & HB Leads

F and HB are in the middle of the lead grade spectrum. These grades are usually used as school writing instruments due to their clarity and minimal smudging. 

B Leads

With a high graphite content, B leads are wonderful for both writing and drawing. Their easily smudged characteristics are ideal for doing shadings, but are also easily erasable. In higher grades of the B leads, they are perfect for artists to create brush-like expressions with their soft, almost fluid texture. Higher grades of B leads have beautiful softness, gliding over smooth paper like butter. In traditional animation, animators favoured 10B pencils on animator paper to express concise, quick, heavy lines, sans friction.  

Texture of the Paper Surface

Certainly, the types of paper you use will influence the outcome of the pencils. With heavier, or more correctly — toothy paper, will result in clearer lines. The textured surface of the paper will allow the graphite to adhere more effectively to the surface. The more toothy a paper is, the rougher the texture of its surface, and will maximise the grip of any medium on the paper.

Coloured Pencils

Unlike their graphite counterparts, colour pencils are either wax or oil based. They contain varying proportions of pigments, additives, and binding agents. Some pencil makers have also produced watercolour pencils and pastels, where their leads are soluble in water. 

From maker to maker, coloured pencils vary greatly in their usability and quality. Some indicators of a brand’s quality are the concentration and lightfastness of the pigments, softness of the lead, durability of the pencil itself, and of course, their market price. However, throughout the century, colour pencils have been considered more of a school stationary than a professional art tool. In actuality, colour pencils are a more affordable, cleaner, and simpler medium to learn and work with. 

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