Graphite Pencils: Graphite pencils are those Yellow #2 pencils that are generally purchased in packs and used in school. These types of pencils are usually not recommended for drawing as the small particles within the graphite, or lead, contain reflective particles. These particles can cause your drawing to take on a glare from certain angles or create too much of a silvery, un-realistic look.
These types of pencils are good to use with certain drawing techniques and in various parts of a drawing, though they should not be used for the entire drawing. Areas of a drawing that are recommended for regular graphite pencils are shading the white of an eye, drawing glass, shiny or silvery metals, smooth or shinier fabrics such as silk or satin.
It is important to note that while your “normal” pencils contain graphite, there are also artist quality graphite pencils you can purchase which are better for drawing than your normal pencils would be. The difference is the filler that is mixed with the graphite. The filler and the amount that is used creates varying degrees of hardness. Your common pencil will have a degree of hardness that is in the middle of the scale, while artist pencils will allow you to choose from a wide range of fillers.
Drawing Pencil Grades
Extremely hard – 7H to 9H Very hard – 4H to 6H Hard – 3H to 4H Medium hard – H to 2H Medium – HB to F Medium Soft – B to 2B Soft – 3B to 4B Very soft – 4B to 6B Extremely soft – 7B to 9B
Charcoal Pencils: Drawings done with charcoal pencils will usually appear to have more depth than a drawing with graphite. Charcoal pencils produce deeper, darker lines because the particles within the pencil are irregular and do not reflect light well. If you are new to drawing with charcoal, you may find this challenging at first. Charcoal pencils do not glide along the paper as smoothly as graphite pencils do. Additionally it is easy to smear part of the drawing and for beginners it can be difficult to make fine lines for detailed areas.
These types of pencils are good to use with certain drawing techniques and in various parts of a drawing such as skin tones, wood, fur, bark, eyelashes, shadows, coarse fabrics such as leather, denim or corduroys.
Charcoal Pencils come in many forms. There are charcoal sticks, which can be quite messy but are fun to use because you can use the edge, corner or tip of them. There are charcoal pencils encased in wood, which will allow you a fine point to use for your drawings without being so messy. Like the graphite pencil, there are also various grades of pencils to use.
Carbon Pencils: Carbon pencils are a mixture of charcoal and graphite which produces various degrees of smooth lines and darkness. This type of pencil gives some of the benefits of charcoal while providing the smoothness of graphite without the shine. Additionally, depending on the color of paper you are using carbon pencils can provide almost a sepia colored tone to them. It is important to note however, that carbon pencils can be a very unforgiving medium to work with. Those new to drawing may find they have the most difficulty with these types of drawing tools. These pencils do not have various degrees of tone to them so you will get a very rich, dark black mark with them. Additionally, graphite is pretty easy to erase, charcoal is a little more difficult but can also be erased, but carbon pencils will not erase. You want to be sure of your drawing prior to using carbon.
Overall, if you are a serious drawer or wanting to get into this art form seriously, you should have a good collection of each type of pencil available for your use and read up on the various drawing tips and advice available. Many people make the mistake of thinking that a drawing must be done using one type of pencil only, when some of the best drawings use each type of pencil to produce various effects.