Graphite. Types of graphite pencils

Any person who has ever written, painted or drew with a pencil, is familiar with graphite.  We are accustomed to assume that simple pencils are made of graphite, and we do not think that, in fact, the core of a graphite pencil is made from a mixture of graphite and clay, and is packed in a case, most often wooden. It is the amount of clay that determines the degree of hardness or softness of a pencil.

Graphite is a polymorph of the element carbon.

Its extracted out of various subsurface rocks and its artificial counterparts are made. The raw material for this, for example, can be carbides, which are exposed to high temperatures, or cast iron, which, on the contrary, is gradually cooled to obtain artificial graphite.

The basic ruler of hard pencils is as follows: “H” pencils and “B” pencils.


“H” pencils are solid, and the higher the number (it is placed next to the letter designation, for example: 1H or 2H), the brighter the line. For example, it will be much easier to draw with a 6H pencil than with a 2H pencil. “B” pencils are soft and the higher the number, the darker the lines or strokes it will make. For drawing, commonly used “B” or soft pencils.

The image shows the full range of hardness of graphite pencils, which we have to deal with constantly. “HB” means – hard-soft – and is the middle of the scale.


The blackest (and most expensive) graphite is still devoid of the intensity of blackness; moreover, it, like graphite in general, is characterized by gloss. The drawing executed by graphite (especially hard) shines. Therefore, in some artworks it is replaced by drawing charcoal, which gives intense thick blackness and does not have luster. That is why graphite is suitable only for small, mainly landscape drawings, which are well preserved without fixation (if too soft graphite was not taken for the drawing).

Other forms of graphite for art

Two other forms of graphite that are commonly used in drawing: a woodless pencil and a graphite bar (or sticks).

A woodless pencil (as you can guess) is graphite without a wooden case. It is often sold under the name “graphite rods” (then they will not be varnished). Basically, the slate pencil is round. You need to sharpen woodless pencils with an ordinary sharpener. They are made for technical drawing and drafts, and are usually on the soft side of the hardness scale, most often in HB, 2B, 4B, 6B and 8B. Again, different manufacturers offer different degrees of hardness. With a woodless pencil, it is possible to line both very thin and broad dashes, which are made by the tapered side of the writing tip.

Graphite bars (sticks) are convenient for large images and for quick coverage of large areas. They are also available in varying degrees of hardness, and some manufacturers, like the Caran d’Ache, make them different sizes.

If you want to try graphite pencils but do not know what kind of drawing paper to choose, you can read the information here.

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