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Finding a Quality Pencil

Writers and artists alike need good writing and drawing supplies, and one of the most basic tools for both is a good pencil.

No, the pencils you get in bulk from office supply stores do not qualify as “good” pencils. They’re cheaply made, which means they’ll break easily or gouge the paper, which can ruin a piece of artwork.

What makes a good pencil?

Quality pencils are made from quality material, from the wood outside to the graphite inside. The wood should be uniform and free of knots. Knots will catch when you’re sharpening your pencil, which can result in the pencil breaking and you having to start all over again with sharpening it. Wood without knots will sharpen much more smoothly and easily.

The lead inside the pencils needs to be a good mix of graphite and clay that has been finely ground and blended for a long period of time, so that the pencil strokes are always smooth and don’t scratch the paper. Imagine being in the midst of a drawing you’ve been working on for hours, only to hit an unblended bit of graphite that messes up your line and scratches the paper.
The lead should also be bonded firmly to the wood. Everybody’s sharpened a pencil, only to take it out and realize that the lead is wiggling inside the wood case. Firm bonding prevents the pencil lead from breaking or from coming out of the wood altogether.

How do you going about choosing a pencil?

A lot of it depends on what you want to do. The type of drawing you’re doing will depend on whether or not you want hard or soft graphite in the pencil. If you want soft lines that are large and easy to make, and you don’t mind spending a lot of time sharpening your pencil or a few smudges, then you can go with a soft lead pencil.

On the other hand, if you’d rather have thinner, more precise lines and don’t want to have to sharpen often, a pencil with hard lead is the way to go. Pencils range in hardness from 9B, which is very soft, to 9H, which is very hard. If you’re not sure what kind of hardness you need, a decent selection of pencils in the middle ranges, about 4H to 6B, should be good to start with.
If you get a chance, test out the pencils before you buy them. You want to make sure you’re getting a pencil that you’re comfortable with using.

If you’re choosing a pencil for writing, most standard pencils with a hardness between 2H and 2B will do just fine.

Get the good stuff

Don’t just grab any old pack of pencils off the shelf to use in your writing or your art. With pencils, you get what you pay for. If you use cheap pencils for your work, it’ll show, no matter how talented you may be. High-quality art and writing supplies will save you a lot of headaches in the future and help the truth of your talents shine through.

Frank Mazza is the president of Kimberley & Co., an authorized Faber-Castell dealer. Faber-Castell has been making art and writing pencils of the highest quality since the 1700s. Get Faber-Castell quality for your art today by visiting

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