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A Quick Briefing on Pencil Grades

Have you ever wondered why there are different types of pencils? And no, I am not talking about Ticonderoga or mechanical either. I am referring to the graphite in the pencils. Pencils have different types of graphite that vary in how they write on paper. These different types or grades of graphite follow a scale that many pencil manufacturers around the world use called the HB Graphite scale. All grades on this scale differ in how hard or soft the graphite in the pencil is. Generally, the harder the lead is in a pencil, the lighter the shade of the mark it leaves on paper is. The softer the pencil is…you guessed it; the darker the shade of the mark on paper is. The lead in pencils is made up of two main components; clay and graphite. The HB graphite scale uses the letters H & B to describe the amount of clay and graphite the lead in that pencil contains. Graphite, represented by the letter B, makes the lead very soft, thus making it easier to leave a darker mark on paper. Clay is represented by the letter H and makes lead harder.

Pencils with a grade of 2H and higher are tremendously useful for artists and other people who draw sketches. These pencils leave a light mark on paper making them great for outlines or traces that may need to be later removed or made darker. These harder pencils retain such a fine point making the marks they leave on paper very clear-cut. This can be great when needing to make distinct and precise lines. The higher the number of an H pencil, the more clay it contains compared to graphite. The higher the number of a B pencil, the more graphite it contains compared to clay. A 2B pencil or higher will leave a very bold and dark mark without exerting much force of the pencil on to the paper. These pencils are great for shading as the lead blends more smoothly on paper. The lead is softer and leaves less of a fine mark than H pencils. This also means that the pencil will dull faster compared to the other clay based lead in other pencils. One thing to note with these bolder pencils is that smudging is fairly common with these as more lead comes off on the paper. Now that you’re a pencil grade expert, you are more than capable of choosing what pencil grade to use and when!


CITATION: Lead Grade Swatches. Accessed 28 Aug. 2018.

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