Monday, March 30, 2009

Staedtler Mars Lumograph drawing tin of 12 graphite pencils

While the readily available regular No. 2 or HB pencils are fine for general drawing purposes allowing artists to create a few different tones simply by varying the hand pressure applied to the same pencil tip, a set of drawing pencils of a few different graphite hardness grades can be pretty useful for more efficient drawing and shading of grayscale graphite drawings. The harder H pencils are best suited for drafting and technical drawings since they keep their sharp points longer, and the softer B pencils tend to be preferred by artists for sketching and drawing since they glide more quickly and smoothly on the paper surfaces.
The Staedtler Mars Lumograph Drawing-sketching tin set of 12 pencils, ranging from 2H to 8B, is one of the easiest to find in the drafting sections of local office supplies stores while Derwent Graphic pencils is the brand commonly found in Arts & Crafts stores. The comparison chart below shows the different range of tones that can be rendered with each pencil grade using the same drawing pressure.
This Staedtler set is a fair set of pre-sharpened drawing pencils. Despite the card label claim that their "quality lead will not crumble or create dust", this new set started a bit messy with some stray graphite powder on the pencil tips and the inside holding tray. Fresh out of a new tin box, the softer B grade pencils initially left rather dry marks and felt a tad scratchy on the paper like charcoal pencils tend to do. They also smudged easily, crumbled, and left a few loose graphite particles on the paper surface. Fixing might be required when using the softest grades (6B-8B). Their performance did improved once re-sharpened, for they glided fairly smoothly on the paper afterwards. The softest 8B lead point was still prone to breaking a little with my regular hand drawing pressure.
The 2H pencil has a rather scratchy feel on the paper while H through 4B pencils are reasonably smooth and neat with no crumbling. The softer leads are suitable for quickly laying down shadows and felt even smoother on the paper after a first sharpening with a Faber Castell 3-Way Sharpener. For preliminary drawings and construction lines, start with the H, F, or HB pencils. The F lead has the hardness of an H lead with the darkness of an HB lead, so it retains its sharp point longer while producing fairly nice dark lines. Satisfactory results can be obtained starting with any of these middle grade pencils and then gradually moving to the softer grades to render contour shapes and shadows while keeping in mind the support characteristics and the handling limitations of the pencils in the extremes of the grade scale: the softest B leads tend to smudge and are more difficult to erase on rougher papers while the hardest H leads sharp points might scratch and dig into thinner delicate papers. For a skillful demonstration and a few how-to-draw tips with the Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencils check out this short video from architect Doug Patt.
Graphite grade scales are not consistent among different brands, for example these Caran D'Ache Grafwood and Technalo pencil sample swatches tend to be lighter than the same grades in other brands. These graphite leads are very uniform and free of rough spots or defects within their cores, so they feel incredibly smooth on this Xerox 67# Ivory vellum cover support. They are very strong and clean to use, for they absolutely do not crumble under normal drawing pressure. They are both premium graphite lead lines made in Switzerland that are typically only available through online vendors and specialty stores.

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