Friday, May 2nd, 2014

How do you test a pencil?


Rhodia Paper Pencil Test

I prefer hexagon shaped pencils sans eraser. I like the wood to sharpen cleanly and a lead that is slow to blunt for writing, I want the lead to erase cleanly with minimal effort. 

For writing, I like an HB, B or 2B depending on the make of the pencil. Light sketching? 2H. I’m happy with a 2B for drawing & doodling. If I want dark, soft & smudgy, I use something in the range of 6B-9B. Overall, I prefer a certain amount of smooth regardless of the grade.

I think that the best way for me to test a pencil isn’t a side by side chart like the one above but to actually spend time writing and drawing with a variety of pencils on a variety of papers. (any old excuse to keep buying more art/writing supplies) The ones that don’t make the cut are banished to a coffee can in my studio for other people to use.

What particular features are important to you when selecting a wooden pencil for writing, drawing or doodling? What is your preferred method to compare one brand against another?

(#2 pencils are typically graded HB.) 

2 thoughts on “How do you test a pencil?

  1. Like you I tend to just buy different brands. The ones I really I get more; the meh ones I use up and forget; the ones I really don’t like go in my give-to -students bag for exam invigilating.
    Dark and smooth are what I look for in a writing pencil. I do a lot of writing. Grades are not truly standardised among manufacturers. Staedtler pencils are softer than darker than Faber Castell and Japanese brands are dark and smooth.
    B or 2B suit me for writing although I use a 4B or even a 6B for crosswords in newspapers or paperbacks.
    I use a whole range for drawing. Really hard pencils like 4 or 6H are good for using over very soft ones to smooth out an area of shading and for those barely there shadows on skin. For sketches soft pencils with thick cores are fast but not very precise. Lots of really fast Xs make convincing foliage and a soft pencil used with varying pressure can make anything from ripples in water to rough edges on roof tiles.

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