Using Graphite Pencils - Pencils4Artists

Graphite Pencils & Sticks
Graphite Pencils
includes pencils & solid graphite sticks
What are graphite pencils?
The process of pencil making has stayed the same for many years. The powdered graphite is blended with clay and the resulting paste is extruded into strips and fired. Waxes are then used for smoothness and the result is encased in cedar wood. This means that graphite pencils can feel very different from manufacturer to manufacturer – the amount of wax used changes the feel of the pencil.
A Graphite stick is exactly the same but is not encased in wood, it usually has a plasticized finish to keep your hands clean! These are ideal for larger surface coverage.

The relative proportions of graphite and clay determine the hardness of the lead. The scale goes from H to 9H (getting harder) and B to 9B (getting softer) with middle grades being HB and F. Use hard leads for grey marks and precise lines and soft leads for black smudgy lines.
  • The degree of pencil chosen, the sharpness of the point, the paper used and the pressure applied all changes the nuance of a sketch.
  • Using softer pencils gives more control over the tone and thickness of a line which expresses form and light.
  • This can then be further expressed using shading to build up areas of dark and depth and smudging techniques with erasers or paper stumps to soften and enhance.
  • Erasers, especially fine point detail erasers and eraser pencils, can also be used to add highlights using the paper into darker areas.
  • Cross hatching (criss crossing) is a great way to build up density of tone (the closer the lines the deeper the tone. Build up gradually to avoid making the image too dark or heavy.
  • Use a burnisher pencil to add a little shine to your graphite sketch.
  • All of our suppliers offer a range of graphite pencils, but graphite pencils are not as standard as you may think. The difference in manufacture changes the properties from brand to brand.  IF you aren't sure try a few of the same grade across several different brands, you will soon find which your favourites are!
  • Also there are many variations on the market which harness other techniques to create interesting effects. The Derwent Graphitint is a graphite pencil that when you add water to the sketch releases rich pigments bringing colour to your work instantly.
  • Sticks of pure graphite are also popular as they can be used to cover much larger areas.  We offer these in the Conte Lead Sticks, Cretacolour Monolith and Lyra Titan ranges.
  • Some manufacturers also add a little ink or blacklead to the mix, as in the Derwent Onyx, Conte Carbon, Wolffs Carbon or Lyra Carbon ranges, or use especially soft black pigments, as in the Conte Pierre Noir, to create a very black effect. These tend to be blacker than traditional 9Bs and are great for getting that real depth of shadow.