Friday, September 3, 2010

Selecting a Graphite Pencil Brand and Grade for Sketching

Demo video 1. Trying out different graphite pencils on regular Georgia Pacific 20 lb Copy paper: Mitsubishi Hi-Uni 10B, Paper Mate Classic No. 2 HB, and Derwent Graphic H pencil.
Quick comparison of the marks drawn with H,10B, and HB pencils. With its higher clay content, the Derwent Graphic H pencil produced the lightest marks in this example. Harder H pencils were traditionally used for drafting purposes (in the days before AutoCAD), since they produce light clean lines that are fairly smudge resistant. They also retain their sharp points longer requiring less frequent sharpening. They are also a good choice for carefully rendered drawings where you build your shapes and shadow gradually. When working with harder pencils, it is advisable to pick thicker strong papers to avoid ripping your drawing surface with their sharp tips. For my style of speed sketching, I find many brands too dry and scratchy for my taste. Thus I seldom use anything harder than a 2H pencil.
Demo video 2 using a Stad One Push holder and a Mitsubishi Hi-Uni 10B pencil. Sketching with a very soft B pencil, you can produce very dark marks quickly. Its drawbacks are that the lines are susceptible to smudging and that the pencil tips tend to get blunt rather quickly.
The Mitsubishi Hi-Uni 10B pencil might be the softest graphite pencil in my collection. Its high graphite content makes for a very sleek well-lubricated pencil point that allows for the quick lay down of rich dark tones while speed sketching.
Demo Video 3 comparing relative darkness of 3 pencils. Graphite grade scales are not consistent and do tend to vary between different brands. Thus the Tombow Mono 100 2H pencil laid down darker marks than the Derwent Graphic H pencil. The Paper Mate Classic No. 2 HB pencil was the darkest of the three in the picture above.
Comparison chart between Mitsubishi Hi-Uni and Derwent Graphic pencils. In general I prefer the darker marks and smooth feeling of a 2B or 3B Hi-Uni as my single choice for a sketching pencil. Yet nothing beats experimenting on your own with different pencil brands, graphite grades, and types of paper to figure out what actually works best for you. IMO part of the fun of being an artist is to play with as many different options as possible to discover your favorite tools. Though please remember that drawing and practicing often with whatever tools you have readily available to you is more important.

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