Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login

:iconjane-beata: More from jane-beata

Featured in Collections

Written Stuff by remanlongtail

Journals by JDS-photo

Journals by ArtByCher

More from DeviantArt


Submitted on
November 7, 2013
Submitted with Writer


18,097 (5 today)
115 (who?)

✿   Pencil, Graphite, Charcoal

It's Artist's Toolbox again! And it wouldn't be right if we skipped an article representing traditional media :) For today's topic I picked Pencil, probably the most traditional of them all. Even if you thought you already knew everything there is to know about pencils, give this article a shot, it might surprise you :eager:! Besides pencils, I will describe Graphite sticks and probably my most favorite drawing tool, Charcoal. Final part of this article is a feature of very helpful Tutorials created by your fellow deviants, don't overlook :) Happy reading!

✎ 1. Pencil

Pencil by Hankins

✿ It is such a common, simple tool, you are probably using one right now. Technically, pencil is writing implement or (since this is Artist's Toolbox) art medium usually constructed of a narrow, solid pigment core inside a protective casing, that protects the user from getting their hands dirty and the core from breaking. Pencil cores are mostly made of graphite mixed with a clay binder, leaving black or grey marks that are quite easy to erase.

✿ Pencil has the potential to draw a line 35 miles long, write an average of 45.000 words, absorb 17 sharpenings, delete its own errors and beat out an infinite number of drum solos. Quite a talent, don't you think?

live pencil by finomaxpictures

▲ Grading and classification

Pencils across the world are graded on the European system using a continuum from "H" (hardness, contains more clay, less graphite) to "B" (blackness, contains more graphite, less clay) as well as "F", a letter arbitrarily chosen to indicate midway between HB and H. The standard drawing pencil is graded HB. The main market for such wide range of grades are artists who are interested in creating a full range of tones from light grey to black. Engineers prefer harder pencils which allow for a greater control in the shape of the lead. This is reflected in the way pencils are packaged and marketed.

▲ Resource & For further reading

Pencil - Wikipedia | The Story of Pencils | 20 Things You Didn't Know About Pencils

Back to Top

✎ 2. Graphite

Graphite stick by Poynter-Jones

✿ As mentioned above, graphite (mixed with clay) constitutes the core of a pencil. In this part of the article, I refer to another drawing tool called graphite stick - this medium looks a bit like pencil, usually it's thicker and has no protective case. Graphite sticks are available in the same range of hardness/blackness as pencils and various sizes. Some contain a protective varnish coat, others not (good tip to keep your hands clean is to cover part of the stick with foil).

✿ Whilst pencils are the tool of choice when we want to express through lines, graphite sticks help us cover large areas of paper quickly. They come in handy when shading and are more versatile than pencils. They can be messy to handle, but are very suitable for tactile, involved mark making in large-scale works and life drawing.

Graphite 7 by drjackas

▲ Resource & For further reading

Graphite - Wikipedia | Before You Buy - Choosing Graphite Pencils | Pencil Myths: The Unleaded Pencil

Back to Top

✎ 3. Charcoal

Amur Leopard - Charcoal by Sunnyfeather

Charcoal was used as a preliminary tool to sketch quickly and was usually painted over by other media, but can also be used a single tool to create a stunning artwork. The worst con would probably be smudging that is not easy to deal with, but final drawing can be preserved by application of fixative. Charcoal allows you to create deep dark tones that graphite never achieves, your drawing won't get "shiny" and reflective - this has everything to do with their chemical composition.

✿ Artists utilize charcoal in three forms - Vine charcoal (created by burning sticks of wood into soft, medium and hard consistencies), Powdered charcoal (often used to tone the drawing or cover large surfaces) and Compressed charcoal (powder mixed with gum binder, compressed into round or square sticks). In the last case, the amount of binder determines the hardness of the stick, this type of charcoal is used in charcoal pencils. 

charcoal face by derekjones

▲ Resource & For further reading

Back to Top


Charcoal and Pastel Tutorial by gabbyd70 Charcoal Eye Tutorial by Zindy Pencil Tutorial by Girl-on-the-Moon

Tutorial:drawing with charcoal by Cynthia-Blair

Pencils Guide by millibayley
Basic Pencil Shading by Snigom

Back to Top

What's your favorite drawing tool? How do you deal with smudging?

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below :heart:


Previous Toolbox articles:

Watercolor equipment - Basic Tools | Watercolor equipment II - Additional Tools

This article and many others was brought to you by :iconprojecteducate:  Still not a watcher? Join us!

Article dedicated to tools & materials written for %projecteducate's Artist's Toolbox week. Traditional art (drawing) topic: Pencil, Graphite and Charcoal.
Feel free to comment and SUGGEST NEXT TOPIC for Artist's Toolbox week (traditional media)!
Add a Comment:

The Artist has requested Critique on this Artwork

Please sign up or login to post a critique.

Kaz-D Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
This is so awesome! Thank you :)
jane-beata Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
My pleasure!
sevenofeleven Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2013
What about mechanical pencils?

Cool topic.
jane-beata Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
Pencil grades apply to mechanical pencils as well, it's just another form of graphite in a case :) Very useful for precise, detailed work, of course - I'm a big fan!

sevenofeleven Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2013
Thanks for the info.
TitaniumGhost Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
wow this makes me want to draw!!!
jane-beata Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
Emberguard Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2013   General Artist
LF ratings (lightfastness) wasn't mentioned here, I think it would be worthwhile having it covered in the topic of pencils as it's an important thing for Professional artists to be aware of when working with pencils. 
jane-beata Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
Lightfastness is usually being talked a lot about when using colored pencils because pigments are used. Graphite pencils as well as graphite sticks have LF rating of 8 (on the scale from 0 to 8, where 0 is very fugitive product and 8 is considered lightfast, permanent). For example, here are ratings for Derwent products:

Pencils, natural graphite, even watersoluble graphitone

Some products, where manufacturer mixes charcoal with pigments, get different ratings, but when you're purchasing artist grade product, usually this information is available on their site (for example tinted charcoal). Compressed charcoal, same as graphite, has LF rating = 8 (Compressed charcoal, Derwent
KaizokuShojo Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2013   Traditional Artist
Yaaaaay, charcoal.  I adore it, and it's one of my specialties. :)
Add a Comment: