Best Graphite Pencils for Drawing and Sketching

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Best Graphite Pencils Review Photo

Graphite drawing pencils are a must-have in any artist’s toolkit. Whether you are a crafty hobbyist or a textile artist, you need the right pencil to bring out the tone, versatility in line, and the right intensity. 

After going through different types of graphite pencils, grades, and ranges of pencils available, I found the best graphite art pencil for drawing set to be the Faber-Castell 26 Piece Graphite Set.

Apart from being versatile in that you can sketch, draw, and paint with them, this set works for beginner and advanced art lovers. Its extensive range of pencils in varying grades comes in handy for any creative artist and is considered some of the best drawing pencils to own.

However, as an artist, you may have different drawing needs. For example, if you are creating a sketch for painting all you would need is an HB pencil as you only need a basic outline and composition. See my example on how to draw a Fairy from a reference photo where I used the HB pencil to get my outline. You may need to experiment with a couple of pencils to find the right one.

Of course, you will need a pencil sharpener so be sure to read my review on some of the best pencil sharpeners for all your sharpening needs including colored pencils, or just go for some mechanical pencils which do not have to be sharpened and can be bought in all the different grades as regular drawing pencils.

Read on to discover more about some of the best graphite art pencils for drawing and sketching. We also give you some timely tips on what to look for in some of the best drawing pencils.

Our Choices for the Best Brand of Graphite Pencils

  1. Best for Professionals – Faber-Castel Pitt Graphite Pencils
  2. Best for Beginners – H & B Sketching Pencils Set
  3. Best for Artists – Faber-Castell 9000 Graphite Pencils
  4. Best for Art Students – Derwent Graphic Drawing Pencils
  5. Best Portable Set – Castle Art Supplies Graphite Pencils
  6. Best for Sketching – Prismacolor Premier Graphite Pencils
  7. Best for Budget – Amazon Basics Art Pencil Kit
  8. Best for Drawing – LYRA Rembrandt Art Pencils
  9. Best Woodless – Koh-I-Noor Progresso Woodless Pencils
  10. Best Water Soluble – Faber-Castell Graphite Aquarelle Pencils

Top 10 Fine Art Graphite Pencils Round up Reviews

There are many types of graphite pencils on the market and it can be somewhat overwhelming to choose the best pencil for drawing, writing, and shading. Just keep in mind that each brand of graphite drawing pencil will make the pencil a little different from the other.

The reviews below are only a guide to help you quickly determine the best art pencil for your specific needs.

As an affiliate, I make commissions on these products if you make a purchase from the merchant which helps support the content of this site.

1. Faber-Castell Pitt Graphite Pencils


  • Versatile can be used for drawing, sketching, and painting
  • It consists of different grades of graphite pencils and crayons
  • Ideal for beginners and advanced artists
  • It has a tin to keep everything organized


  • Some people felt that the pencils were quite thin and tiring to use for a long time

The Faber-Castell 26 Piece Pitt Graphite Tin Set is our top pick and one of the best sets for professionals.

Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced artist, the set will help with your drawing and sketching needs. Furthermore, you can use it for painting, a feature you won’t find in most graphite pencils.

The 26-piece set is versatile, thanks to its extensive range of pencils in different grades. You can create various effects depending on the grade of hardness and the pressure you apply. Additionally, you can use the PITT graphite crayons to work on large sketches.  

You also get a plastic eraser, a kneadable art eraser, a dual sharpener, a paintbrush, and a sandpaper block with this set.

2. Lyra Rembrandt Art Design Pencils


  • Perfect for drawing, sketching, and designing
  • Has assorted degrees of hardness
  • High breaking strength
  • Easy on the hand
  • Blends and layers well


  • It doesn’t give a bright white effect when erased.

Are you looking to specialize in your shading/sketching skills? You should check out the Lyra Rembrandt Art Design Pencils.

Apart from sketching, you can use these graphite pencils for drawing and designing. With the set of 12 assorted degrees, you’re sure to find a pencil perfect for every project.

Other outstanding features include water resistance and lightfastness.

Artists find this set convenient as they lay down on paper quickly, which means you don’t need to apply excess pressure while layering and blending. 

Although Lyra has a variety of colors, the cap on the pencils will not always be accurate. You’ll need to create a value chart before using this set.

3. Prismacolor Premier Graphite Drawing Pencil set

Prismacolor Premiere Graphite Sketch pencil set of 12


  • Smooth application that doesn’t scratch the paper
  • Erases easily and sharpens to a fine point
  • A wide range of soft and hard graphite pencils
  • Durable and doesn’t break easily


  • Some users found the pencils slightly grainy.

The Primscalor Premier Graphite Drawing Pencil set features seven graphite pencils in a turquoise lacquer. 

These pencils range from 6H-4B, with water-soluble and woodless options, perfect for advanced artists, architects, and other professionals.

Most users love how these pencils are great for broad shading and smooth application. These pencils sharpen to a fine point and won’t scratch your paper. In addition, the cores don’t crack or break easily.

4. Faber-Castell 9000 Graphite Sketch Pencil Set

Faber Castell 9000 Graphite Pencil Art set


  • It leaves a smooth finish
  • Erases cleanly and sharpens easily
  • Different levels of graphite hardness
  • Delivers a nice matte finish


  • Higher price

Faber-Castell is a renowned brand in the art supplies industry, and the 9000 Graphite Art Pencil Set promises to deliver beyond expectations.

Both artists and designers appreciate the set’s even transitions, smooth lead, and consistent wood casing. In addition, you don’t have to worry about any scratchy effect as the harder pencils have finely ground graphite and clay. These pencils also leave a matte finish, which is rare in most pencil brands.

What’s more, if any of the 12 pencils wear down, you can purchase another pencil in any hardness.

Although the Faber-Castell 9000 Graphite Pencils are expensive, they erase clean and provide a smooth, matte finish.

5. Koh-I-Noor Progresso Woodless Graphite Pencil Set

Koh-I-Noor Woodless Graphite Pencil Set of 12


  • Suitable for drawing, sketching, drafting, and more
  • Comfortable to use for extended periods
  • The set has four different soft grades
  • It’s smooth on paper


  • Some users felt that the pencil was too fragile

The Koh-I-Noor Woodless Graphite Pencil Set consists of a 7.33mm diameter of pure pigment without any wood barrel.

Apart from being affordable, the pencils have different graphite ranges. You get HB, 2B, 4B, and 6B colors. Unlike other standard wood-cased pencils, the Progresso set has a solid feel in hand and is comfortable to use for an extended period.

You can use the set for drawing, sketching, hatching, writing, and more. Moreover, the pencils are pre-sharpened.

6. Faber-Castell Aquarelle Graphite Pencils

Faber Castell Aquarelle Graphite Pencil Set of 5 with Brush


  • You can use it for watercolor drawings, sketches, and mixed media
  • SV bonded to reduce breakages
  • It doesn’t leave a shiny look like most graphite pencils
  • It comes in five degrees of hardness
  • Provides smooth application


  • Some users felt that the pencils were chunkier compared to regular graphite pencils

If you’re looking for a quality water-soluble graphite pencil set, you should check out the Faber-Castell 5 Piece set. 

You’ll find a set that includes HB, 2B, 4B, 6B, and 8B. When blended with water, previous users found that the 8B pencil left a darker shade compared to other graphite pencils.

Another fantastic feature is that they don’t leave that grainy feel on paper. You also get solid coverage whether you’re dealing with watercolor drawings, sketches, and mixed media.

The Faber-Castell graphite pencils are SV bonded to reduce breakages.

7. H&B Sketching Pencils


  • Durable and easy to use
  • Versatile set with varying degrees of hardness
  • Smooth application and easy to erase
  • Perfect for beginner and intermediate artists
  • It comes in a portable art travel kit


  • Some users found the plastic that wraps the colored pastels to be thin

The H&B Sketching Pencil Set is a complete set for any drawing enthusiast. It consists of 40 art accessories, with pencil lengtheners, pencil sharpeners, sketching pencils, charcoal pencils, and other accessories.

You’ll find this set easy to use due to its smooth application. Its lead is firm and doesn’t break easily. 

H & B pencils are non-toxic and eco-friendly as they are made of wood and crude. Most users found this pencil’s paint lines smooth, and you can erase the marks easily without leaving ugly marks.

If you like carrying your pencils around, you’ll love this set as it comes in a portable kit that you can take anywhere.

8. Amazon Basics Sketch and Drawing Art Pencil


  • Affordable drawing kit for all skill levels
  • You can use the set to sketch and draw
  • Lightweight and handles well for fine lines
  • Quality and durable construction


  • Some users found the sharpeners blunt the lead

The Amazon Basics Sketch and Drawing Art Pencil set are some of the best budget options available.

Designed for artists of all skill levels, the Amazon Basics Kit consists of 17 pieces: six graphite pencils, three charcoal pencils, four compressed sketch sticks, an eraser, a blender stick, and a dual-barrel sharpener, and a kneaded eraser.

You can mix different drawing techniques and create dynamic works of art with this kit. Furthermore, these graphite drawing pencils are lightweight for fine lines.

9. Castle Art Supplies Graphite Drawing Pencils


  • A practical design that allows easy access to the pencils
  • A wide range of pencils for drawing, sketching, and shading
  • Portable
  • Smooth and easy application
  • Ideal for professional artists


  • Single pencils may be unavailable

Castle Arts is a reputable brand for art supplies, and the 40-piece set doesn’t disappoint. 

The kit has graphite pencils that range from 5H-6B, which gives you a range of options to choose from, depending on your drawing needs. Other supplies include a rubber blender, blending stumps, charcoal, and pastel pencils.

One unique feature of a dual-barrel sharpener: six this set is the thoughtful and creative design. In addition, there’s a tutorial included for beginners.

10. Derwent Graphic Drawing Pencils

Derwent Graphic Graphite pencil Set of 12


  • Easy to hold for long hours
  • Simple to sharpen and erases easily
  • It comes with a variety ranging from hard grades to softer grades
  • Vegan friendly


  • Some users found some pencil grades to have a scratchy feel
  • Softer grade pencils can easily break when dropped

A good drawing starts with the best graphite pencil, and the Derwent Medium Graphic Drawing Pencils promise this and more.

Apart from being affordable, the set has a professional feel and gives you a full range of grades to choose from. In addition, the art pencils are comfortable and sturdy to work with for an extended period. 

What’s more, the set is designed to sharpen to a fine point and erase without leaving stubborn marks.

A set contains 12 quality graphite pencils, ranging from a sturdy/soft 9B to a hard/scratch-free 9H. 

Choose The Best Graphite Pencils Comprehensive Buyer’s Guide

Graphite pencils, woodless graphite pencils, and graphite sticks in a tray

Quality artwork demands the right art materials. Graphite drawing pencils are fantastic for all your drawing and sketching needs. Of course, you can draw and sketch with colored pencils as well so for your convenience you can see some of the best-colored pencils or best pastel pencils on their corresponding review pages.

Nonetheless, there are plenty of options to choose from once you enter a store. This detailed guide explains what a graphite pencil is and contains pointers on selecting the best graphite pencils for drawing and sketching

Graphite pencils are versatile and vary depending on the shade and the intensity you’re looking for. Here are some factors to have in mind when comparing the different pencils available.

Understanding the Graphite Grading Scale

Have you ever come across a pencil-written HB or 2B? Most drawing pencils will have letters and numbers that represent the different pencil grades or lead grades out there.

Well, graphite drawing pencils have a grading scale that shows the hardness of a pencil’s graphite with a number or letter, also known as the HB scale.

H stands for hardness, and B indicates blackness. You may also come across some pencils with the letter F, which shows that the pencil sharpens to a fine point.

A soft pencil has a higher number next to the B, while a harder one will be next to the H. The maximum level for both softness and hardness is 10.

If you’re planning to sketch before painting, you need a medium-textured HB. 

Drafters and architects mostly use the H and F pencil range to deliver finely detailed and controlled drawings and find these to be the best pencils for drawing. Many of these grades can be found in mechanical pencils lead which is great for a more technical drawing style.

Graphite pencil gray scale example

Also, note that two HB pencils from different brands won’t have the same effect. That’s because each manufacturer has various internal standards for graphite hardness. So you may need to experiment with varying brands of pencils to find one that works for you.

The best grades to start with include the HB, 2B, 6B, and 9B. These pencils will allow you to get the work done faster and effectively. In addition, some HB pencils are softer and darker. That makes them ideal for drawing smooth lines and sketching, especially for beginners.

There are also colored graphite pencils that are water-soluble and act very similar to watercolor pencils.

Compare the Different Shapes for the best Fit and Comfort

You’re going to hold the drawing pencils for hours. It’s essential to get a pencil that feels good.

Most artists prefer a hexagonal shape in their drawing pencils as they are firm and don’t slip off easily. However, drafters may use triangular-shaped pencils due to their ergonomic nature. The best pencil should glide nicely over the paper without unnecessary strain but the mechanical pencil has become more popular in these fields.

There are also woodless graphite drawing pencils that are solid graphite that is dipped in a latex or plastic coating which is smooth and may cause the pencil to become slick with extended periods of use. This makes them an excellent set of art pencils for sketching.


As a beginner, half of your drawing time is spent erasing. You may need to erase sketch marks when drawing outlines and shapes without smudge marks on the paper. Get a graphite pencil that is easier to erase and doesn’t leave ugly marks afterward.

The Amount of Pressure You Place on the Pencil: Hardness or Softness

No two artists’ pencils are similar. You may find one that naturally produces lighter marks, while others apply heavy pressure on the pencil.

If you’re one of those who use too much pressure, you’ll need a darker pencil like the 4B. However, if you are an easy-going artist and like to draw and sketch lightly, you’ll need a darker pencil like the 8B

Choose a Graphite Pencil From a Reputable Brand

Graphite pencils differ in quality, which is why you need to choose a pencil from a renowned brand. The majority of artists drawing pencils out there are wooden pencils but other barrel types do exist.

Some of these brands include Staedtler, Derwent, Prismacolor, Faber-Castell, among others.

Nonetheless, don’t be too stuck on a particular brand. Other options provide a broad range of lesser-known brands. Experiment with different pencils until you find one that meets your drawing needs. 

Sometimes you may have to use a mix of pencils from various brands. 

You’ll appreciate the different qualities, and you can interchange them, depending on your preferences.

Cost of the Pencils

You may be tempted to go for the cheapest pencils available as a beginner, but you may end up frustrated with the low quality. 

Instead, opt for the best quality pencils you can afford. You’d rather buy a few quality drawing pencils than have two sets of cheap pencils that you may never use. Generally, a mechanical pencil may cost more but will outlast the wooden pencils.

Even the higher-priced pencils can be quite affordable as even the best graphite drawing pencils can usually be bought for under 20 dollars

The Texture of the Paper

A paper’s surface will also determine the graphite pencil you get. Papers with a smoother surface work well with harder pencils. Heavy-textured papers will be receptive to soft to softer pencils.

Refined drawings need a layered approach, which means you may need to use a few soft and hard pencils. However, you may only need one pencil for quick sketches to get the best range of value which can be smoother paper.


Some pencil brands have sets that include other accessories like sharpeners, erasers, blenders, and extenders. 

Having these accessories makes your work easier as you don’t have to buy them separately. Compare the different options around and pick a set with accessories that you’ll use often.

Q&A: Common Questions About Art Pencils

Hopefully, these recently asked questions surrounding art pencils and sketch pencils will give you the answers you need.

Is the number 2 pencil the same as 2b?

According to the U.S. numbering system, any HB grade about the middle of the scale is equivalent to a number 2 pencil. That means that a number 2 pencil is equivalent to an HB pencil.

Which Pencil is most common for sketching?

Most artists prefer using the HB pencil for sketching. Lighter 2H-4H pencils are ideal for preliminary sketches that act as a guide for illustration.

Should I blend with my Fingers?

Blending with your fingers can save time, but you may end up smudging your work accidentally or adding dirt to your drawing if your fingers are not clean. Experts recommend using a blending stump as it offers you precise control to blend the finest details.

Are graphite pencils safe?

Graphite pencils are safe and don’t pose any health risks. Most pencils are a blend of graphite and clay, which is non-toxic.

What I Think the Best Graphite Pencil For Drawing And Shading Is

A quality graphite pencil can make the difference between constant wrist pain and a relaxing drawing or sketching session. The list above has some of the best graphite drawing pencil types with varying hardness. Sometimes you’ll have to experiment with different graphite pencils to find one that meets your drawing needs,

After going through multiple reviews and feedback from previous users, we found the Faber-Castell 26 Pitt Graphite Tin Set to be the best. Apart from its affordable price, you can also use this set for all your sketching, drawing, and painting needs. It is perfect for all drawing skill levels and comes with a tin to keep all your graphite pencils and crayons organized.