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The Best Pencils For Artists (Drawing, Sketching, Shading)

There are many kinds of pencils that artists can use for general drawing and figure drawing!

Some artists prefer to use graphite pencils for drawing; others use colored pencils. Personally, I like to sketch with colored red pencils. But for years, I only used graphite.

In the beginning it can be very hard to choose the best pencils for drawing.

But I’m here to tell you exactly which pencils professional artists use and what I recommend!

My Recommended Pencils and Colored Pencils, the best you can get for a good price. - by Don Corgi

So let’s go over the list and get you some amazing art supplies for drawing and sketching.

Faber Castell 9000 Sketch Pencil SetBest Graphite PencilsClick For The Best Price On Amazon
Nicpro 6PCS Art Mechanical Pencils SetBest Mechanical PencilsClick For The Best Price On Amazon
Caran d’Ache FancolorBest Colored PencilsClick For The Best Price On Amazon
Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils, Portrait SetBest Portrait Drawing PencilsClick For The Best Price On Amazon
Faber-Castel Pitt Pastel PencilsBest Pastel PencilsClick For The Best Price On Amazon

Best Graphite Pencils

From all the graphite pencils that I’ve tested, these are the ones that gave me the better quality drawing possible.

The Faber Castell 9000 Sketch Pencil Sets (check them out on Amazon) are “regular” graphite pencils, that come in a nice pencil set.

They have a great touch, and the way the graphite lays on the paper surface is amazing!

And most important, I love their durability.

This pack of pencils come with a wide assortment of different hardness on the leads, from 2H all the way to 8B. And this is essential when you’re starting to learn drawing.

I highly recommend getting this pencil set for figure drawing.

My Recommendation of Graphite Pencils, check out this Set!

If you’ve taken drawing classes before, you already know that teachers always ask either for specific lead hardness. Or, this happens more at school, teachers will ask for a pencil case like this, with a wide range of lead hardness.

This is mostly so you can try all the options, know what they’re for, experiment and see what you like to work.

Softer pencils tend to create smoother and darker lines, which makes them ideal for shading and creating deep textures!

While harder pencils (which have a higher clay binder content and less graphite) create lighter and crisper lines, perfect for detailing and technical drawings.

This way, you can mix and match soft pencils with harder pencils at will!

And once you found your favorites, you can just buy those ones later on.

Best Mechanical Pencils

For a mechanical pencil, I recommend getting the Nicpro 6PCS Art Mechanical Pencils Set.

This set of mechanical pencils is amazing as a choice for beginner artists, especially if you want to try different sizes!

They are very portable and versatile for drawing.

If you want to sketch quickly without worrying about having to use a pencil sharpener every now and then, mechanical pencils are a great choice for you!

They have a very comfortable grip, include 3 graphite lead holders (hardness of 2B, HB and 2H) and even have 3 different erasers included in the pack!

This is a GREAT set of mechanical pencils (and more), that you should consider getting and even gifting an artist friend.

Best Colored Pencils

For colored pencils, my choice is the Caran d’Ache Fancolor series.

They have a pack of 40 colors for a really great price. A bigger case for colored pencils is always more advantageous if you do a lot of watercolor or coloring in general.

With 40 pencils, you have a lot of options for colors and tones, which opens up more space for experimentation and combinations.

The colors are very vibrant, not only for coloring, but if you want to do some watercolors, they won’t lose their vibrancy.

Just color up your drawing and then use a brush and some water to dilute it.

This is a very nice way to start using some watercolors, especially if you feel too intimidated to jump right into the brush, water, and paint.

Have some fun with multi-use Colored Pencils! For Drawing and Watercoloring

In short, this set is perfect for mixed media and watercolor and for a beginner at coloring and painting!

These colored pencils also have a very nice weight to them!

Since they are water-soluble, they might wear out faster, but with good use to them, they will last you for a long time. For the same reason, they can be easier to erase, if need to, than a regular colored pencil.

With a proper eraser, like a Kneaded one, you can almost completely erase your lines (something will always stay behind but easily masked!).

The pencils are also very sturdy and sharpen very cleanly without leaving much residue.

Best Portrait Drawing Pencils For Skin Tones

If you’re looking for the best pencils for artists that do portrait drawing, I recommend checking out the Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils, Portrait Set.

With these 24 (!) different colored pencils, you’ll be able to draw every skin tone from light to dark by mix and matching all the different tones.

They offer a very well-curated selection of colors, ideal for drawing portraits!

Not only that, but Prismacolor is one of the best brands of pencils for artists, giving a lot of quality and versatility to your artwork.

So if you’re looking for a dedicated tool for drawing portraits, get this set!

Best Pastel Pencils

The best Pastel Pencils are, once again, by Faber-Castel!

These Pastel Pencils in a metal tin are simply amazing. They are a nice medium softness pastel, so they can be used in many ways!

For reference, artists tend to use soft pastels for more blended artwork, and hard pastel pencils for detailed and precise work. This set is a nice in-between.

The Faber Castel set comes in a metal case that keeps the pencil set organized and protected, perfect for transportation!

If you want to try new artistic techniques or a GREAT set of pastel pencils, this pencil set is ideal for you.

Tips For Maintaining Your Pencils For A Long Time

Now that you might have decided on which are the best drawing pencils for artists, or best overall for you, it’s time to maintain them!

So here are a couple of tips for maintaining and caring for your pencils.

  1. Use a good pencil sharpener: invest in a high-quality sharpener that is specifically made for the types of pencil that you’re using! This will provide a very precise sharpening that prevents you from accidentally breaking the pencil core. I recommend the Faber-Castell Grip Trio Pencil Sharpener which is a 3-in-1 artist pencil sharpener!
  2. Store and organize your pencils in a dry area: Moisture will damage your pencils in the long term and reduce their lifespan! It’s very important to store them in a dry area, especially in a pencil case or organizer. This will protect them from humidity!
  3. Clean your drawing pencils properly: With time, pencils will get dirty with dust and graphite residue. To clean them, gently wipe them with a clean cloth or a specialized cleaning pad. Don’t use water as this might damage your pencil!
  4. Know when to replace your pencils: Even though drawing pencils tend to last a long while, they have a finite lifespan. With use, the graphite core will wear down, making your lines much less precise. Consider replacing your pencil when you find it hard to hold comfortably! This will also prevent some hand and wrist pain for you.

And that’s it for the tips!

This way, you can extend the lifespan of your pencil and maintain a pleasurable drawing experience.

What Makes A Great Drawing Pencil?

You’ve seen me going about lead hardness quite a few times already.

When getting a pencil case, you have pencils going from 4H to 6B, for example.

What do these number and letters mean? The hardness.

Pencils that are in the H range are harder. The lead is very hard, and these pencils are more suitable for simple sketching, line art, and technical drawings, and they should be used very lightly.

The B range leaves darker tones and is also smoother, which means they are perfect for shading.

When looking for a pencil to draw with, you might want to look for a grade suitable for what you need. The reason why a pencil case is so useful is that most of the time, you probably will want a mix of harder and smoother pencils for your drawings.

Features to Look For when Choosing Pencils, pay attention to these!

Another feature you want to look for is the weight and size of the pencils.

For example, my hands tend to hurt when drawing for too long. But, if I use a thicker pencil than usual, I don’t close my hand around it as much, nor am I so tense. So for me, a heavier, thicker pencil works better.

Try out your pencils and see what works best for you.

The same goes for colored pencils. Even though colored pencils are not graded like the graphite ones. You’ll notice some differences between types and brands.

For example, water-soluble pencils will feel way smoother and easier to shade with than regular colored pencils.

Once again, if you’re just starting to learn and have no experience, a pencil set with a good pencil range will help you better to understand them and how to use them until you figure out what you prefer to work with!

What Are The Different Types Of Pencils?

There are several different types of pencils available for artists. Each one depends on what use you’re looking to have out of them.

The different types of pencils are graphite pencils, colored pencils, mechanical pencils, and charcoal pencils.

  • Graphite pencils are the most versatile and common, you can find a grading system from HB, 2B, 4B and so on, with various levels of hardness and darkness!
  • Colored pencils are great with all the different pigments for adding rich colors to your artwork.
  • Mechanical pencils give artists precision and are very convenient since you can easily replace leads! You also won’t need to sharpen these as often as the other pencils.

Finally, charcoal pencils are perfect for adding textured effects and blending artwork. They can become very messy to use, though!

What Are The Best Drawing Pencil Brands?

In general, the best drawing pencil brands are Faber-Castell, Derwent, Staedtler, and Koh-I-Noor.

There are many more that have great quality, but these ones use premium materials that provide the artists with precision and smoothness at a great price!

If you’re looking for high quality drawing pencils, you can’t go wrong with either of these drawing pencil brands. They’ve existed for many years and have no signs of disappearing any time soon!

And that’s it for this article on the best drawing pencils for artists! I hope I helped you find the best drawing pencils for you, or that you’ve gotten a nice drawing set to use.

If you’re looking for a nice sketchbook to use these pencils on, be sure to check my article on the Best Sketchbooks For Every Artist here!

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