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Graphite pencils

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Graphite pencils

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  1. Types of graphite pencils
  2. Alternative tools
  3. How to choose a graphite pencil?

Graphite pencils are the most common and well-known artistic tool, familiar to everyone from childhood. They can be used for sketching, drawing and creating complicated graphic works. Pencils are easily put to paper. They leave thin and light or dense and wide traces. Also, they are easily erased by an eraser.

Graphite is a mineral, one of the carbon forms. It is extracted from various rocks, and also its artificial counterparts are synthesized. The raw materials are carbides, exposed to high temperatures, or cast iron, which, on the contrary, is gradually cooled to obtain artificial graphite.

Despite popular opinion, the core of a graphite pencil is not pure graphite, but a mixture of graphite and clay in certain proportions. The characteristics of a particular tool depend on these proportions.

For durability, reliability, and convenience the graphite rod is protected by a strong wooden shell.

Types of graphite pencils

There are two basic hardness scales of a pencil core:

  • Numerical. The higher the number means that the core is harder and its trace on paper is lighter. Soft graphite leaves more saturated marks because it lays down a denser, more intensive layer. Soft pencils fade faster. They also need to be sharpened more often, so they end earlier. Hardness depends on the proportions of clay in the composition.
  • HB. Most brands use a designation «H» for a hard pencil. Also, manufacturers can use «B» to indicate the mark’s blackness. It means that pencil’s graphite core is softer. The letter «F» usually designates the ability of fine sharpens. Earlier pencil makers used to mark pencils with several letters. For example, «HB» means «hard&black», «HH» is like «really very very hard» and «BBB» indicates really black one.

Nowadays both systems are often using together. The number indicates the level of hardness or blackness, like 2B or 3H, etc.

The main point is that there is no universal world standard. Different brands have their own scales. That means that two pencils with the same mark, produced by different companies, would leave different marks on the paper. Two HB-pencils usually are definitely not identical.

Most manufacturers have their particular internal gradation for graphite quality or hardness or blackness. Some points can be local or regional. For example, Japanese HB-pencil is frequently softer and darker than the European one.

Alternative tools

In addition to the usual graphite pencils, there are several other forms of artistic graphite:

  • Non-wood pencil. It is graphite without a wooden shell, also called a graphite core. Such pencils can be varnished or not varnished for convenience. Usually, they are round. For sharpening, an ordinary sharpener is used. Such a tool is good for both drawing and sketching.It is suitable for thin details or large strokes. Often it's softer than pencils.
  • Graphite sticks. They are made in the form of bars and are suitable for wide strokes and even coverage of large areas. They differ in hardness and size.
  • Mechanical pencils. They are suitable for drawing thin lines and fine details. They differ in diameter and hardness, but the choice of options is less. The advantage of mechanical pencils is that they do not need to be sharpened. Furthermore, they are reusable.

How to choose a graphite pencil?

For professional drawing professional pencil sets are best of the best. They are distinguished by high quality and extensive range. In the composition of art pencils, there is no sand or other impurities that impair the layer quality and scratch paper.

Artists often use soft cores, but they are quickly consumed. The best idea is to get a set of pencils of different hardness and blackness. The hard pencil is good for sketches, as well as for light or translucent tones and details, the black one – for tonal spots, the blackest – for intensive color, thick shadows, and voluminous sketches.

Professional pencils are comfier. They have an ergonomic design, optimal thickness and shape, uniform coating and strong the wooden shell. Quality pencils are easily sharpened to the desired thickness and angle.