Call us old-fashioned, but there is a special place for wooden pencils in our pen cases. From the earthy smell of freshly sharpened wood to the smooth feel of its lacquered body, we love using them for drawing, sketching, and everyday writing. There are even times when we reach for them over our mechanical pencils and lead holders.

Artists, students, writers, and designers alike have long relied on the versatility of wooden pencils for their work. Varying lead grades, flexible graphite cores, and erasability are just some of the reasons why people go back to wooden pencils again and again. Follow along as we explore the world of wooden pencils and all that they offer for the discerning artist or writer.

Lead Grade
The word “lead” is a bit of a misnomer, since the core of the pencil is actually made of a mixture of graphite and clay. There are different grades of lead depending its hardness. The harder the lead, the lighter the mark. Different regions use different grading systems, and for the purposes of this article, we’ll be following the European system which uses “H” for hardness and “B” for blackness. The higher the H, the harder the lead. The higher the B, the blacker the lead. HB and F are in the middle of the spectrum, with F being slightly lighter. For more detailed information on lead grades, please see our article on lead grades.

Lead Quality
Not all leads are created equal. Some leads “grip” the paper as you write, while others glide across like butter. The lead’s smudge resistance is another point to consider, especially for left-handed people. Erasability is also important to keep in mind, as we all make mistakes from time to time. We tend to not like the erasers included with pencils, and if you want to see eraser recommendations, you can refer to this article. We used the Uni Boxy Eraser to test the pencils used in this article. For most of these factors, it comes down to personal preference and what you’re using the pencil for.
Pencils come in several different sizes and shapes, including hexagonal, triangular, and round. Some people like triangular pencils because their shape is more intuitive and ergonomic in terms of where fingers are placed, while others are more used to the classic hexagonal shape. Again, it’s a matter of personal preference.
Artists and designers need to have a wide range of lead grades at their disposal. Depending on the lead grade, they can go from light to dark with just a slight change in pressure. Sometimes, a harder grade is needed for more precise sketching. The softer the lead the better it can color and shade effectively. Here are our recommendations for art pencils.

The Faber Castell Grip Pencils come in 3 different lead grades, 2B, B, and HB that run lighter than other pencils with the same grade. Its triangular shape and dotted grip make it easy to hold, and it grips the paper as you write. This would be a great pencil for left-handers since there is little smudging among the three grades. Use this pencil for fine, detailed work since it sharpens beautifully to a thin point and its hardness lends itself to better precision..

These delightfully chunky triangular pencils have a wide barrel, which makes them extremely comfortable to hold. Also available in three lead grades, 6B, 4B, and 2B, these pencils are great for shading and coloring due to its large core and darker lead. They write smoothly, with just a little bit of grip. It is a little difficult to find a sharpener to fit these pencils, not to mention getting them to a sharp point, so we wouldn’t recommend using them for detailed work.

A staple in many an artist’s pencil case, these standard hexagonal Staedtler Mars Lumograph Graphite Pencils provide a nice range of lead grades for you to choose from.The varying lead grades give you the flexibility to use them for sketching, drawing, shading, and even filling in details. The lead is smooth, but with enough of a grip that you have great control, smears only a little bit, and erases beautifully.

We love the sophisticated black lacquer finish of the hexagonal Tombow Mono 100 pencils. Their lead grades come in an even bigger range than the previous Staedtler Mars pencils. Also well-loved by many, these pencils write smoothly with just a slight bite to them. They barely smear, but require a tad more force to erase completely. Like the Staedtler Mars pencils, they are a great choice for any kind of art or design work.

The beautiful Hi-Uni pencils are a dream to draw with. They’re buttery smooth, almost waxy as they glide across the page. They don’t smear and they erase cleanly. Available in an impressive 22 lead grades, from 10B to 10H, they’re perfect for whatever your art need is, be it sketching, drawing, shading, coloring, or putting in those final touches.