Pencil Basics: Explaining Graphite Grading Scale

If you are a beginner in sketching, one of the terms you’ll encounter when searching a pencil to buy is graphite grading scale.


There are many different types of pencils in the market. Among these options, a graphite type of pencil is the standard and most common tool for sketching. It is primarily composed of two components, namely, graphite and clay. These materials vary in percentage in every pencil. Some of this tool has a higher level of graphite and lesser clay, and vice versa. So, is there a significant effect on how a pencil works?

The first thing you need to check when buying a standard graphite pencil is to determine the amount of clay and graphite grading of the item. These materials can affect the smoothness, texture, and tone of the pencil when you draw on a paper. You have to choose the right option to achieve the results you desire.

Choosing the Right Amount of Clay

It is easy and simple to determine the composition of a pencil. When a sketching tool like this produces soft and lighter strokes, then it is harder and contains more amount of clay. Therefore, a drawing medium with softer and lesser clay tend to create deeper and darker strokes.

Take into account that the amount of clay can affect how clean and smooth the strokes would appear on the paper. It does not mean a harder pencil is better than the softer version; both are significant depending on the art you are making.

Using Graphite Grading Scale

It is paramount to identify the grading scale of a graphite pencil. It tells you the correct pencil to use for specific sketches. There are two ways to measure the hardness of a pencil’s graphite core. Here it is.

#1 Numerical Scale                 

As the name suggests, this method utilizes numerical symbols to determine the hardness and softness of a graphite pencil. When you buy a sketching pencil, notice the numbers printed such as 2, 3, 4, and 5. It usually starts at 2 and ends at 9. The higher the number indicates the harder the core of a pencil. As you have read from above, a harder pencil leaves a lighter and softer mark on the paper.

On the other hand, this sketching medium with lower number has a softer core and has lower proportions of clay. Inasmuch, it produces thicker and darker strokes, unlike the former.

 #2 HB Scaling

Take note that some pencil has numbers and beside it is a letter either H or B. Now this leads you to the second method of pencil grading called HB graphite scale.

Most pencil manufacturers use this labelling to identify the hardness and softness of a pencil. The letter H indicates the pencil is hard. Meanwhile, the letter B shows the graphite of the sketching medium is softer. Also, you’ll see some pencils with F marking. It tells you that the item sharpens into a fine point.

Consequently, if a pencil is marked 6B, then expect it to be softer and has darker strokes compared to a 3H which is lighter.

The above info is some basics you need to know about pencils. But if you still need additional details, you can go to the Great On Draft Designs.