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Art for Beginners: Types of Pencils

Pencils have long been a fundamental tool in the world of art, offering unmatched versatility and accessibility to artists of all levels. From the delicate strokes of a sketch to the detailed shadings of a complex drawing, pencils serve as the primary medium through which artists can express their creativity and refine their techniques.

Their simplicity belies their profound impact on the artistic process, allowing for precision, control, and a wide range of artistic effects. Whether used for quick preliminary sketches or intricate, fully-realised compositions, pencils enable artists to capture their visions with immediacy and flexibility.

The humble pencil's role in art is indispensable, providing a direct connection between the artist's hand and their creative imagination.

As a beginner, it's crucial to understand that various pencils are suited for different kinds of artwork. Let's explore the different types of pencils that artists commonly use.

What are the different types of Pencils?


Graphite Pencils

Graphite pencils are one of the most commonly used tools in drawing and sketching, favoured for their versatility and range of tones. They consist of a core made of a mixture of graphite and clay encased in a wooden cylinder.

  • Range: Typically range from 9H (hardest) to 9B (softest)
  • Uses: Great for sketching, shading, and detailed work. Harder pencils (H) produce lighter lines and are ideal for fine details, while softer pencils (B) provide darker lines and are perfect for shading and bold strokes
Graphite pencils blend well, enabling artists to create smooth transitions between different tones. Tools like blending stumps, tissues, or even fingers can be used to achieve seamless gradients.

Product to try:


Staedtler Mars Lumograph Pencils are premium quality, ideal for sketching, drawing and writing. The Staedtler Mars Lumograph Pencil range includes a large selection of different grades of pencils, making them the ideal drawing tool for artists and graphic designers.


Charcoal Pencils

Charcoal pencils are a popular drawing medium among artists due to their ability to create rich, dark lines and dramatic contrasts. They consist of compressed charcoal encased in a wooden cylinder, combining the expressive qualities of traditional charcoal with the precision and control of a pencil.

  • Types: Available in different forms such as compressed charcoal and vine charcoal.
  • Uses: Produce rich, dark lines and are excellent for creating dramatic contrasts and expressive drawings. They are less precise than graphite but great for dynamic sketches and texture.
Charcoal pencils come in various degrees of hardness, similar to graphite pencils, though the range is less extensive. Common designations include soft, medium, and hard, with soft pencils providing the darkest marks and hard pencils allowing for finer, lighter lines.

Product to try:


Great for sketching, the Derwent Charcoal Pencils provide excellent drawing control, ideal for rich, dramatic drawings. Encased in wood which results in less mess, has a round 8mm barrel with a wide 4m core.


Coloured Pencils

Coloured pencils are a versatile and vibrant medium used by artists to create colourful and detailed artwork. They consist of a core made of pigment mixed with a binder, encased in a wooden or plastic barrel. The core's composition varies, giving different types of coloured pencils unique properties.

  • Types: Wax-based, oil-based, and watercolour pencils.
  • Uses: Ideal for adding colour to drawings. Wax-based pencils are common and versatile, oil-based pencils offer smoother blending, and watercolour pencils can be used dry or with water for a paint-like effect.
Coloured pencils are renowned for their ability to blend and layer colours. Artists can create smooth gradients, transitions, and a wide range of hues by applying multiple layers and using blending techniques.

Product to try:


Prismacolor Colour Pencils feature a thick, soft core constructed from the brightest light-resistant pigments. The result? A smooth, rich laydown and vibrant colour saturation - perfect for artists' of all levels.


Mechanical Pencils

Mechanical pencils are a type of pencil that uses a replaceable and extendable lead mechanism, eliminating the need for sharpening. They are designed for precision and convenience, making them a popular choice among artists, writers, and professionals.

  • Range: Available in various lead sizes and hardness.
  • Uses: Provide consistent line widths and are great for detailed technical drawings, fine lines, and precise work. No sharpening is required, making them convenient for continuous use.
Mechanical pencils offer precise and consistent line quality, making them ideal for technical drawings, detailed illustrations, and writing.

Product to try:


The Tombow Mono Graph Mechanical Pencil features a mechanism that allows users to advance lead by shaking the pencil or by pressing the clip down providing convenience user experience while drawing and writing.


Watercolour Pencils

Watercolour pencils are a unique and versatile medium that combines the qualities of traditional coloured pencils with the fluidity of watercolour paints. These pencils contain a water-soluble pigment core, allowing artists to create a wide range of effects, from detailed drawings to watercolour washes.

  • Uses: Can be used both as traditional coloured pencils and with water to create watercolour effects. Versatile for creating both detailed drawings and soft, blended watercolour paintings.
Watercolour pencils offer greater control for detailed work compared to traditional watercolours. Artists can achieve fine lines and intricate details by using the pencils dry, then adding water selectively for softer effects.

Product to try:


Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer Pencils produce brilliant watercolour effects and contain high quality pigments. These colour pencils are easy to blend when wet and permanent when dry.


Understanding the various types of pencils is crucial for artists because it significantly influences their ability to achieve desired effects, maintain technical precision, and control their work. Different pencils, such as graphite, charcoal, coloured, and mechanical, each offer unique textures, tones, and blending properties, which are essential for specific artistic techniques. Knowing which pencil to use ensures compatibility with different surfaces, enhances efficiency, and allows for a broad expressive range. This knowledge helps artists adapt to various styles, make cost-effective material choices, and ensures the longevity and durability of their artwork. For professional artists, this competency is vital for tackling diverse projects and innovating within their medium, ultimately enhancing their creative process and output.

If you're considering beginning your journey into drawing, visit Discount Art N Craft warehouse for a wide selection of art supplies, including pencils, easels, acrylic paint, sketchbooks, and more, all offered at affordable prices every day!