Why 2B Pencils are Best for drawing and sketching

But as soon as you start to use them, they feel completely different from your old pencils

That’s probably because your new pencils have different pencil lead

Yes, that black stuff at the center of your pencil is actually important

And if you want to know which pencil to buy, you first need to understand the graphite hardness scale

What is pencil lead made of?

Lead was used in an ancient Roman tool called a stylus, and pencil lead is a result of the association to that idea

Instead, they are filled with a mineral called graphite, which is completely non-toxic and can be adjusted to fit a range of light and dark values

The residents of the town of Borrowdale found bits of the hard, black mineral around a tree that was ideal for making marks

The modern pencil – a combination of graphite and clay in a wooden casing – was developed by French chemist Nicholas Jacques Conté in 1795

Hard pencils are made from a careful mix of graphite and wax additive

These pencils leave very light marks that can be easily erased, as the hard wax prevents much of the graphite from being left behind on the page

Hard leads are also great for fine details like hair and eyelashes

These pencils maintain their points for long periods of time

However, a disadvantage to hard pencils is that you will be unable to achieve rich shadows and contrast in your work

On the flip side, soft pencils come in darker, more “black” shades

These pencils are soft, which means that they leave a lot of graphite behind

They also need to sharpen these pencils much more frequently than hard pencils and will be used up quickly because of this

Be cautious when using softer lead pencils, as you can easily smudge the results

We recommend placing a sheet of paper between your wrist and your illustration as you work if you decide to use a soft pencil lead

In order to get the variation and contrast shown in an impressive pencil drawing, you’ll need a set of pencils with varying hardness

This will allow you to create lighter or darker marks in your illustrations and get the best results possible

For example, if you are sketching on canvas an H pencil works much better than a pencil with soft lead

The Graphite Hardness Scale

Now that you know the advantages and disadvantages of each type of pencil lead, how do you tell the difference between them?

Fortunately, pencil manufacturers have a widely accepted numerical and alphabet scale that helps identify what kind of mark the pencil will leave behind

A note on quality: the higher the quality of the pencil you purchase, the more true it will be to its assigned hardness or numerical scale

Low-quality pencils tend to contain extra additives or impurities, such as an excess of wax filler or minerals from processing

Moreover, there is no universal formula for pencil lead that is consistent between companies, so a 2B pencil from one brand may be slightly darker or lighter than a 2B pencil from a different brand

The HB scale is what determines whether the pencil lead is “hard” (denoted by an “H”) or “black” (denoted by a “B”)

Harder leads, as stated above, contain more wax and leave lighter marks on the paper

With this logic in mind, “HH” leads would be considered “very hard,” and “BB” leads would be considered “very soft” “HB” pencils are middle-of-the-road as they are both hard and black

So nowadays the HB scale uses a number and a letter, where the number shows the hardness or softness

The full hardness scale ranges from 9H (being the hardest) to 9B (being the softest), with “HB” perfectly in the center

There is one last letter designation that you may come across, which is “F” “F” stands for “fine” lead, which is manufactured specifically so that it maintains a fine point

Most people are familiar with the classic #2 pencil, which is an example of the numerical scale of pencil lead

The #2 pencils are generally equivalent to an HB pencil, which means they are not too hard and not too soft

From there, the numbers increase as the pencil lead becomes harder

The most common numerical value range for pencils includes #2, #2-1/2, and #3

Which pencil lead is the darkest?

Soft pencil lead is darker than hard pencil lead

By looking at the HB scale, one can see that 9B pencils are the darkest, and 9H pencils are the least dark

On the numerical scale, the #1 pencil is the darkest pencil lead

Which pencil lead is the softest?

The softest pencil lead is the 9B pencil

If you are using the numerical scale, the softest pencil lead is the #1 pencil

These pencils are manufactured specifically so that it maintains a fine point

In terms of hardness, the F pencil is slightly harder than an HB pencil

The “H” stands for “Hard” and indicates how hard the pencil lead is

The “B” stands for “Black” and indicates how soft and dark the pencil lead is

In this case the 2B would be softer and darker than a B pencil

An HB pencil sits in the center of the graphite hardness scale and can be considered to be of medium hardness

Which pencil lead is best for writing?

The HB pencils are the best for writing, since they are neither too hard nor too soft

Softer pencils such as B or 2B are not recommended for writing since they are easy to smudge

What pencil is best for sketching?

For sketching you want to use a variety of different pencil leads

The HB pencil is a good option to put down some rough and suggestive lines

Softer pencils such as B, 2B, and 3B can be used to add textures, shadows, and tonal range

And harder pencils such as H, 2H, and 3H are great for adding small lines and details

What mechanical pencil lead is number 2?

The number 2 pencil lead from the numerical scale is equivalent to an HB pencil on the HB scale

But keep in mind, that the hardness accuracy of cheap pencils isn’t very high

What pencil lead is the softest and which is the hardest?

All B pencils are classified as soft lead, while all the H pencils are hard lead

All B pencils are classified as soft lead, while all the H pencils are hard lead

The softest pencil lead is 9B and the hardest pencil lead is 9H

On the numerical scale, the softest pencil lead is #1 and the hardest pencil lead is #4

HB pencils, B pencils, and H pencils are all different forms of graphite pencils labeled with letters and numbers with each letter and number signifying different degrees of hardness or softness

The lead in a graphite pencil comprises graphite and clay as its primary components

These two substances are used by pencil makers in various degrees to determine the texture of a graphite pencil

The more graphite in the pencil, the softer the lead will be and produce darker marks

On the other hand, the more clay in the pencil, the harder the lead will be and produce lighter marks

Graphite pencils are labeled with letters and numbers with each letter and number signifying specific effects

The letters H, F, HB, and B are used to represent the texture of a graphite pencil in the grading structure

H is the hardest of all graphite pencil grades while B is the softest

An HB pencil is used in many different ways in drawing because it writes clearly but does not leave much graphite on paper

Also, it does not leave many smears on paper, unlike an outright B pencil

B pencils represent graphite pencils with a softer core

There are different derivations of the B pencils ranging from 1 to 9

The higher the number on a B pencil, the softer and darker the texture will be

As such, 5B is darker and softer than 2B pencil and 8B is darker and softer than 5B

In its composition, a B-grade pencil has more graphite than clay

The marks made with a B pencil are bolder, darker, and softer

The B-grade pencil ranges from 1 to 9

Therefore, 9B which is the highest in the range, is the darkest as well as the softest graphite pencil

Because of its soft texture, the B pencil smudges easily on a drawing surface

A B pencil is used for creating dark marks

Because it is soft, it leaves more graphite on a drawing surface allowing it to produce dark shades

Working with a B pencil does not require much pressure to produce dark marks

The B-grade pencils are softer in texture and produce darker marks with little pressure from the artist

This makes them the ideal pencils for shading and tonal display

When a B pencil comes with higher numbers such as 8B or 9B, you can use it to blend and smudge even more

The letter “H” in an H pencil stands for hard

It represents the hardest range of the graphite pencil

The composition of H-grade pencil features more clay in the lead which makes it harder, lighter, and able to produce cleaner lines

The H pencil ranges from 1H to 9H

An H pencil contains less graphite, is relatively light, and is formed with break-resistant leads

Visual artists use this pencil grade to create thinner lines, light marks, light sketches on a realistic drawing, or lighter grey marks in dark areas

H pencil releases only a tiny amount of graphite because of the hardness of the core

It is the best pencil to produce the lightest lines

You can make your sketches with an H pencil and then use a softer pencil to create darker marks or shades

An H-grade pencil contains more clay in the lead and is used to create finer but also lighter lines

The lead on H pencils does not easily smudge which makes it the ideal pencil for technical drawing

The higher the number appended on it, the harder pencils they are, and the lighter marks they make

Because of its relatively light output, an H pencil is ideal for making light sketches before you start the actual drawing

The biggest challenge an artist would experience with an H pencil is exerting much pressure to make the line darker when the need arises

Other Graphite Pencil Related Posts

The letter “B” on pencils stands for black or blackness

B pencils are composed of softer lead which allows them to leave more graphite on paper

The B-grade pencils have more graphite than clay contrary to the composition of an H pencil

The B pencil leaves marks that are darker, softer, and bolder

Just like the scaling in the H-grade which shows different degrees of hardness, the scaling on a B pencil shows the blackness of the pencil

The higher the appended number on a B pencil, the darker and softer the lead is

A 9B pencil is the highest in the B grade, but it is also the darkest and softest graphite pencil available

The downside is that the lead on the B pencil easily smudges

The lead in an H pencil is tightly compacted and contains more filler resulting in the H pencils releasing a little amount of graphite when in use

Because of its hard texture, it will take much pressure to produce darker marks or darker values with an H pencil

Stemming from the grading structure, H is the hardest of all graphite pencil grades

H pencils do not require frequent sharpening because of their break-resistant cores

They are ideal for creating fine lines and marking fine points because they have harder pencil cores

Today, graphite pencils are differentiated for different degrees of hardness represented by H, B, HB, and F

It also implies that F pencils sharpen to a much finer point

The different pencil grades are used for varying drawing techniques

While an HB pencil is darker and softer than an H pencil, it is at the same time harder and lighter than a B pencil

So, a drawing made with an HB pencil will be a lighter drawing with less blackness

A B pencil is a good graphite pencil that has more blackness and produces darker marks

Practically, B pencils are used to create features such as dark marks, dark shading, dark lines, dark values, and overall darker features in a drawing

On the other hand, an H pencil contains more clay composite than graphite and therefore is the best pencil for creating fine lines or a fine point

If your drawing requires different types of marks, then an H pencil would come in handy for producing lighter lines and values

The HB pencil, which represents Hard Black, falls between softer B pencils and harder H pencils

The HB pencil is more like in the middle of the scale for pencil drawing

There are 9 variations in the B-grade of pencils which range from B to 9B

B pencils are dark and soft and are used to create darker lines and darker shades

The number found in front of the letter shows how soft the pencil in this range is

That is to say, a 4B pencil is softer and darker than a 2B pencil

Since the highest number on the B-grade pencils is 9, it means that 9B is the softest and darkest graphite pencil and they are great pencils for darkest shades

The graphite grading scale is used to determine the hardness of a pencil’s graphite core

The core of the pencil is the lead inside the pencil which comes in various degrees of hardness

The mixture of graphite and clay determines the hardness or lightness of a pencil

The degrees of combination are represented in numeric scale that allows an artist to select the ideal pencil for a good range of tones

The grading scale used to measure the core of a pencil comes in two ways

The Numerical Graphite Scale –

The numeric graphite scale uses numbers such as 1, 2, 3, or 4 to represent how hard a pencil’s core is

This implies that the higher the number marked on a pencil, the harder the pencil’s writing core is

On the other hand, the lower the number marked on a pencil, the softer and darker the writing core is

When a pencil core is made of lower proportions of clay, it becomes softer and produces darker marks

At this point, it could create heavy lines or a darker mark because it is softer and leaves more graphite on the drawing surface

When in use, pencils with softer graphite cores diminish faster and require sharpening more often

Pencil manufacturers use letters to indicate the various degrees of hardness of the lead in a pencil

The letter “H” is used to indicate a hard pencil

“B” is used to indicate the blackness of a pencil, and “F” indicates that a pencil is firm and sharpens to a fine point

When a pencil is marked HB, it means that it is between two extremes of hard and light on the one hand, and dark and soft on the other hand

Pencils with a harder core are lighter while pencils with a softer core produce darker marks

Final Thoughts on the Difference Among HB, B, and H pencils

They are categorized as graphite pencils, but they fall under different pencil grades and come with different degrees of hardness as well as softness

The drawing techniques of the artist will determine their choice of the best pencil to use for their drawing project

It is pointless owning all types of graphite pencils

Pencils that fall on a close range can produce similar effects

For instance, in many cases, pencils in the same range but with different numbers can have almost the same degree of hardness or blackness

A 4B pencil can produce similar dark shades as a 5B pencil; also, they both require frequent sharpening

In the same vein, a 3H pencil can produce fine lines or detailed work similar to that of a 4H pencil

But, a 2H pencil cannot produce the same dark shades or thicker lead attributed to an 8B pencil

The H pencils can all produce thin lines and fine points, while the B pencils can produce dark shade and thick lines

The HB pencil falls between the H-grade and the B-grade

Understanding their differences and uses could guide you to make the best choice of professional-grade pencils

Scroll to Top