I’ve love graphite pencils. Even the yellow #2 in grade school made a fine tool (as the margins of all my assignments attested to!). These days, however, I like a certain feel when I work and look as the result.
Let’s be frank, half of what I love about making art are the tools. I love to try them all, but I keep coming back to certain ones. Here are my favorite graphite pencils.
If I could only have one pencil, it would be the Palamino Blackwing. This pencil has replaced all of my soft graphite pencils, except my Tombow pencils (see below). They are so smooth and dark – what I love about them most is that the lead doesn’t burnish or shine the way most graphite does. They have a nice range of light to dark. Just an absolute pleasure to draw with.
Graph Gear Mechanical Pencil
I love drawing with mechanical pencils and the Pentel Graph Gear 1000 is my favorite. It’s got a bit of weight, so it sits comfortably in my hand. I’m partial to the .5mm lead size, and have two of them – one with HB lead, the other with 2B lead. Currently, my sketching process is to use the Blackwing for blocking in overall shape as well as light and dark shapes, then using the Graph Gear pencils to render detail and finish. Finally I use the Blackwing again to darken any areas that I think need it.
I saw the Tombow graphite pencils at a local craft store and thought I’d give them a try. I had just finished a graphite drawing of a magnolia blossom and the shine in the darkest areas was driving me nuts! Before I discovered Blackwing, these were my go to pencils.
Yes, these burnish a bit but they are supremely better than my other pencils in that department. I don’t use these as frequently as the two above, but I like having Tombows in my pencil box just the same.
I also have Derwent and Faber Castell graphite pencils in my box, but now I use them almost exclusively for underlying drawings in my watercolor pieces or for quick sketches, thumbnails, meditation drawing – anything but finished art pieces. They are fantastic pencils, but I just can’t get beyond the burnished shine that happens the more you work with them.
Also I should mention that paper has a lot to do with the outcome of a drawing. There are so many different textures of paper. I work almost exclusively on paper (drawing and painting). The finish of the paper in combination with the medium is important to get the effect I want. Most of my drawings are done on Strathmore 500 mixed media paper. I love the surface – smooth, vellum finish – and the paper has a bit of cushion.
There are so many terrific tools for graphite drawing, and I encourage you to experiment to find the ones you love. Meanwhile, grab whatever pencil and paper you have and draw!