Types of pencils used for Drawing, Sketching and Shading

Whether you’re an architect or someone who draws from a profession or hobby, there’s no way you can go about without a pencil. It’s a must-have item. But there are so many types of pencils used for drawing, sketching, and shading. Something with such a basic mechanism yet with so many forms gets hard to choose without having the core knowledge of it.

In this guide, we’ll talk about the basics of pencils as well as talk about which pencil to choose for the different drawing needs. Once you have the proper idea about these, you’ll find yourself having a much easier time choosing the right pencil for your task.

Why learn about pencils and their differences?

Why would you even care about learning about differences in pencil types? All look kinda the same, so should work the same, right? Sadly, that’s a wrongly held notion.

If you’ve checked into the pencil section in a shop, have you noticed there are literally dozens and dozens of types of pencils out there? There are variations of mechanical, charcoal, graphite, colored, and what not! Surely, for a beginner, choosing one becomes a tough choice.

Suppose you’re a beginner and have no ideas about pencils. So you choose a random one from the shelf, thinking it’ll do the job. You’re not wrong, neither you’re right with your decision. Why? Because although it may not give you the best results, it could help you get done with your task on a minimal level.

But do you want that? Are making mediocre drawings, designs sufficient for you? No. You need the right pencil color darkness as well as the softness of the graphite. Without the knowledge about pencils, finding the right one out is not going to make sense or be easy. So we have to learn.

Types of Pencils for different tasks

Let’s learn about the types of pencils used for drawing, sketching, shading, and technical drawing.

1. Types of pencils used for sketching and shading

Types of pencils used for sketching and shading

Most people start sketching and shading with regular writing pencils. They’re good but don’t have many variations like the sketching pencils do. Let’s talk about some pencils types you can use for shading and sketching works –


Charcoal pencils aren’t so popular. They’re very messy and hard to maintain their shades on paper. But there’s a group of people who know how to steer through their ways with this pencil and they seem to enjoy working with these.

Smudging and messing up shading is an art form liked by many. But since not everyone can handle the maintenance of these pencils, they’re not as popular as the other pencil types.


Graphite is the most commonly used pencil in all types of drawing projects. Be it shading, sketching, or a simple drawing, a graphite variation can easily find its place there.

But why does graphite have this level of popularity? There are two reasons: first, it is cheap. Very cheap. The cost of production materials makes graphite pencils quite affordable for everyone. And the other reason is availability. You’re highly unlikely not to find a graphite pencil in a stationary, even if you don’t find other pencils there. Graphite is everywhere.

For both of these facts, the pencils have made themselves accessible for beginner sketchers and experts alike.

Although HB graphite pencils are most common, they’re not the only graphite type out there. There are quite a few graphite types.

You’ll notice markings on a graphite pencil with numbers such as 9B, 8H, F, and so on. What do they even mean?

When the letter ‘H’ is written, it means the pencil is hard. As in H stands for hardness. It’s not the best choice for sketching or shading. In H pencils, the graphite and clay mixture is balanced in a way that incorporates more clay and less graphite. It results in a pencil lead that’s tough and can stay sharp for long times.

H pencils are good for writing though. The color isn’t dark and since the lead is hard, you don’t need to sharpen it as much.

H pencils come with H to 9H levels. The higher the number, the harder the lead.

On the other hand, ‘B’ marking means the pencil is soft and has a bold color. Even if you lightly rub a B pencil on paper, you’ll be able to create dark lines. Unlike H ones, these don’t make indentations or markings on the paper. These are good choices for shading and sketching. Also, the markings are easily erasable.

Similar to H pencils, these also do come with B to 9B levels. But with a difference. Here, the higher the number is, the softer and bolder the lead is.

2. Types of pencils used for drawing

Types of pencils used for drawing

You can use the same pencils we mentioned in the previous point. The pencils used to shade can be used to draw as well. In shading works, you could be done with some soft graphite pencils only. But drawing is different and you’re going to need some H-level pencils as well as F-level pencils at times.

3. Types of pencils used in technical drawing

Types of pencils used in technical drawing

For technical drawings such as architectural or engineering designs, it’s common to use an F-level graphite pencil. It has the right blackness that suits technical artwork and the graphite doesn’t create bold lines nor it creates messy smudges on the paper.

F-level pencils create a very sharp, thin line and that’s usually necessary for technical drawings. H-level pencils can be used here as well. Both F and H levels have hard lead and similar properties. They’re both popular in technical design.

Final Words

The only time you’re going to have a deep understanding of pencils for various uses is after you start using them in different drawing and shading works. To start with, don’t go willy-nilly while you purchase pencils to start your drawing journey. Choose some shades and stick to those. Once you get better, you can start incorporating more pencils into your collection. Buy a shade of pencil and use it for a few days. This way, you’ll understand the blackness of each with much depth. Getting a whole set just because it’s cheap to buy this way might not be the best choice.