Drawing Pencils Comparison Chart

The best drawing pencilsLooking for the best graphite drawing pencils to suit your needs? There are a lot of options out there and it can be overwhelming (and time consuming) to learn the differences between each brand on your your own. The pencil that you use for your drawings can have a huge impact on the result, so you’ll want to be sure to use a pencil that matches your style, your budget, and your “mark”.

There are plenty of brands that aren’t covered on the comparison chart below, but the ones that are included are either some of the most popular choices or the best choices (in my opinion).

If there is a brand that you feel should be included simply contact me and let me know.

Graphite Pencil Comparison Chart

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What is considered in this chart?


All of the brands of drawing pencils are not very expensive and should be within the reach of just about anyone. You may be tempted to go for the cheapest brand, but for just a few dollars more, you can really get a much higher quality. This isn’t true for other forms of art media, but for graphite pencils, I recommend spending those few dollars – it makes a big difference in the quality that you’ll get.

Graphite Range

Graphite is available in a range of softness. Softer pencils make a darker mark since more of the material can be spread over the surface. Harder pencils make lighter marks. 9H pencils are very hard and very light, while 9B pencils are very soft and make much darker marks. (More on graphite grades can be found here.)  Different manufacturers offer different ranges of graphite.

The broadest range of grades available can be found in the General’s Kimberly Series which range from 9H-9XXB.

Qualities of The Pencil

A quality drawing pencil will have several characteristics, in my opinion. Here is what is considered…

  1. Quality graphite core
  2. Sharpens consistently (without splintering or breakage)
  3. Consistent mark across different grades
  4. Easy to grip

Of course, the ease of grip is purely subjective, but I have found that the Derwent pencils are by far the most comfortable.

My Recommendations

If you are looking to purchase a set of graphite pencils that feature several different grades, my suggestion is to go with the Derwent Graphic Pencils. They are high quality pencils that are easy to grip and are by far, my favorite. You’ll find a consistent mark across all of the grades and sharpening is a breeze.

You’ll also be happy with the Staedtler Lumograph Graphite Drawing Pencils. These pencils are of the highest quality, but the range is limited. In nearly all circumstances, you will not be using all of those pencils anyway. The grip is bit slick in my opinion, but that is really the only drawback.

If you are a beginner and you’re not quite ready to spend those few extra bucks, then I would suggest the Kimberly drawing pencils. These aren’t the highest quality pencils, but they are still fairly good, featuring the broadest range of graphite.

As far as single pencils go, my absolute favorite is the General’s Layout Pencil. I use this pencil in almost every graphite drawing that I create. The darks cannot be beat and the tip stays sharp for a long period of time. While this pencil can be used on its own for sketching, for more finished drawings it’s best used as an “enhancer” to make the values dark and less shiny.

I hope that this comparison helps you make a decision on what drawing pencils you should purchase. Remember, it is always a personal decision when it comes to choosing your art materials, but hopefully this comparison helps you make a more informed purchase.

Check out the graphite drawing tutorials.

*I receive compensation for products purchased through this site.

Lesson Discussion

  1. Really frank and useful observations. This is what we beginners need; I.e., the General layout pencil! I will order about 6 of them.

  2. Now I remember why I keep coming back to your site when I am looking for straight forward info. Thanks

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