Beginners Guide - Introduction to Drawing Pencils

By: Michael M T

Beginners Guide - Introduction to Drawing Pencils

When you are just starting out in art, the amount of choices in materials can be daunting. This is especially true when it comes to choosing drawing pencils.

Problems with Cheap Drawing Pencils

For some it may seem silly to worry about what kind of drawing pencils to use but there are very real reasons why it is important to choose the right tools for the job. Take for instance the normal #2 yellow pencil with the pink eraser that I am sure everyone is very familiar with. These pencils are generally not of a high enough quality where you would want to use them for creating artwork. The reason for this stems from the poor quality of lead used inside the pencil. This lead tends to break more easily and is usually mixed with an inferior binder to that of artist grade pencils.

The same holds true for colored pencils. Very cheap brands normally are made out of worse material than their artist grade counterparts and the results can be even more noticeable than in graphite pencils. Because colored pencils are partly wax, your creations tend to develop a light white film as your picture ages. This can be even more pronounced in cheap colored pencils because the mix of wax to pigment is much higher than it is in artist grade colored pencils.

Types of lead

With graphite pencils it is important to understand all the different types of pencils there are out there. In the US, there are two scales that are used to convey a pencils hardness and darkness, or blackness.

The first scale is rarer and mostly used for lower grade pencils and you almost always see just one kind of pencil. That system is a number system that goes from one to four with one being the darkest and softest and four being the lightest and hardest. The number #2 pencil that is used in schools all over the country is on this scale, it is harder than a one and darker than a three or four pencil.

The second scale and the one used for all artist grade pencils is an HB, Hard-Black scale. Normally this scale goes from H9, very hard and very light, to B9, very black and very soft. On this scale the #2 pencil would be an HB. The way that this variation in value and hardness is achieved is through the mix of clay and graphite used to create the lead. The more clay, the harder and lighter a pencil becomes. The more graphite, the softer and blacker the lead becomes. As an artist this range of values is very useful in allowing you express the subtlest of details or really pushing a sense of darkness.

With colored pencils there isn't a scale. Because of this you needn't worry about different values instead you will have to focus on mixing colors. The theory behind color mixing is beyond the scope of this article but there are many wonderful books written on the topic if one wishes to investigate further.

Conclusion

In providing this overview, hopefully some light has been shed on what you should look out for in choosing drawing pencils. Also now that you understand how different pencils are classified, you will be able to understand the difference between a #2, an H3, and a B8 drawing pencil. Now all that is left for you to do is to dive in and start creating!

About the Author:
Michael wrote for his page on Hubpages.com, but his articles are no longer available at the original link.


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