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Best drawing pencils 2024: Create stunning artwork from £5.49

Best pencils for drawing header - A sketch of a man's face

Doodle up a masterpiece with the best pencils for drawing

Whether you’re an avid doodler, an art student or a professional artist, you’re going to want the best drawing pencils to nurture your creative prowess. But what should you be looking for? Our buying guide will detail features to look out for, while our mini-reviews of several of the best artists’ pencils on the market will help you draw your own conclusions.

No two pencils are alike and there’s a massive market to navigate, but one thing’s for sure, there’s something for everyone. No matter your level of expertise, our buying guide will give you a wide variety of great drawing pencils to choose from. We’ll answer all the questions you might have on the different types of pencil and what you should be looking for when picking them.

Best drawing pencils: At a glance

Best pencils for professionalsFaber Castell 26 Pitt Graphite Set (~£47)Check price at Amazon
Best pencils for beginnersDaler-Rowney Simply Sketching Pencils Set of 12 (~£5.49)Check price at Amazon
Best pencils for varietyDerwent Graphic Pencil Set of 24 (~£23)Check price at Amazon

How to choose the best drawing pencils for you

What do the ratings on pencils mean?

The letters and numbers on the lower body of a pencil are called grades, and typically follow the HB Graphite Scale, from 9H to 9B

best pencils for drawing Pencil hardness on a white backgroundEach combination explains which lead you’re using. ‘H’ stands for hardness, ‘B’ represents blackness and a single ‘F’ rated pencil denotes firmness. It’s a hard pencil that retains a sharp point for finer details.

Graphite pencil cores are a combination of graphite and clay filler, with the ratio varying to create different shades. Graphite provides a slightly reflective and metallic pigmentation, so a higher percentage equals a darker and softer pencil, and vice versa.

Any pencils with a high ‘B’ grade (3B to 9B) can build the illusion of depth and shadows, preferable for realism and 3D imagery. Pencils below 2H are brilliant for rough sketches as the light graphite won’t show beneath other mediums. They’re also used for technical drawings as the lack of smudging allows for a more detailed image.

The most commonly used pencil is the HB, a versatile, median lead. The H – B range are good introductory pencils for those looking to dabble in drawing and learn the basics, but it’s important to note that grades are individual to the company that produces the pencils, and there’s no set standard:Best pencils for drawing graphite scale on a white background

What paper can pencils be used on?

Paper is measured in grams per square metre (gsm), where the higher the gsm, the thicker the sheet. Cartridge paper, 90 – 100gsm, is the most commonly used weight for printers, whereas watercolour is 300gsm, its thicker disposition prevents oversaturation. We would recommend using 160gsm drawing paper or above, as it has a higher tolerance for layering and rubbing out graphite without the threat of tearing.

If you’re looking for good quality paper, we would suggest alkali or acid-free. The polymeric acidity in wood causes degradation and yellowing in cheap paper, but this is neutralised in the aforementioned sheets. This helps preserve artwork, offering longer permanence and a whiter appearance for a cleaner finish.

READ NEXT: Best colouring pencils

What erasers should I use?

Eraser pencils are brilliant for rubbing out small details; however, be wary that graphite collects on the tip and will carry over to other parts of your drawing if not cleaned. The same can be said for electric erasers, but replaceable heads mitigate this. Rubber or gum erasers are capable of removing larger areas with a less infringing carry over of graphite.

Kneadable erasers are a great choice. They can be moulded into your desired shape, and don’t leave rubbery crumbs on the page. The downside, conversely, is that they dry out if not constantly used, so if you’re an infrequent artist, other erasers are more suitable.

Am I better buying drawing pencils individually or as part of a set?

For novices, buying a set alleviates the confusion of figuring out what you need, and will oftentimes tell you what skill level the pencils are intended for. If you’ve bought a set that comes with dedicated apparatus, it’s best to stick with what’s provided. If not, it’s recommended you buy an eraser or sharpener produced by the same brand as the pencils you intend to use.

Buying pencils tends to be expensive individually, but if you’re consistently using certain ones, it gives you the freedom to pick and choose what you need.

How much should I spend?

When looking at the individual cost of pencils, buying a set can be a definite bargain, with some pencils priced at 50p or lower. If you want to elevate your artistry you can expect to pay a little more, but on this list, the more expensive pencils are still decently priced.

How we test pencils

These pencils have been put through their paces to ensure that they’re fairly and comprehensively tested. Much like a science experiment we have the paper, sharpener and eraser as our control variables; we have one artist conducting the test to ensure consistency throughout the testing.

We’ve assessed graphite quality and shading capabilities of each individual pencil through swatches, and durability through capacity to withstand increasing pressure and sharpening without snapping. We’ve also tested the blendability via a blending stump, and the ergonomics, observing weight, grip and handling enveloped within the aesthetic of the set.

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The best drawing pencils you can buy in 2024

1. Faber Castell 26 Pitt Graphite Set: Best drawing pencils for professionals

Price when reviewed: £47 | Check price at Amazon

best pencils for drawing Faber Castell PITT on a white backgroundDeriving from the pencils that Vincent Van Gogh insisted on using exclusively, this Faber Castell set is an incredible assortment if you’re looking to take your drawings to the next level. Including three types of pencil and graphite crayons of exceptional quality and range (2H – 9B), and a trio of erasers to choose from for efficient erasing, it’s got it all.

The pencils are very durable and act accordingly to substantial pressure, sharpness and angling for the smallest of detailing. No breakage was experienced while drawing. They blend well in an easily controllable way and are comfortable to grip, with an ergonomic design in the form of a hexagonal body.

The packaging is aesthetically pleasing, as is its matching interior, and while it’s more expensive than most sets, for such outstanding merit it could reasonably be called a bargain. The pencils and accompanying tools work with great efficacy, making this Faber Castell 26 Pitt Graphite Set a stand out choice for professionals.

Key details – Pencils: 7x Castell 9,000 pencils, 3x Castell 9,000 jumbo pencils, 3x Graphite Aquarelle pencils, 3x Pitt Graphite Pure 2,900 pencils, 3x Pitt graphite crayons; Erasers: 1x Perfection Eraser pencil, 1x plastic eraser, 1x Kneadable art eraser

2. Daler-Rowney Simply Sketching Pencils Set of 12: Best drawing pencils for beginners

Price when reviewed: £5.49 | Check price at Amazonbest pencils for drawing Daler Rowney Simply on a white background

If you’ve always been drawn to the idea of sketching, but weren’t sure where to start, these pencils are a must-have. A versatile option with a 4H to 8B assortment, they’re incredibly easy to rub out with little residue left behind, and effectively blend for details and texture.

The graphite goes down smoothly on the page with an obvious distinction depending on applied pressure. However, while the pencils are quite durable, they’re prone to breaking under heavier force compared to high-end alternatives. But, to compensate, they sharpen extremely well.

This set doesn’t come with additional tools, however you can upgrade to the Daler-Rowney Simply Sketching Pencils, 40 Piece Technique Set for an extra £7.34. Nevertheless, at an affordable price that doesn’t break the bank, these unassumingly reliable pencils are arguably the best pencils for anyone starting an artistic endeavour.

Key details – Pencils: x12 (4H, 2H, H, F, HB, B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B, 8B)

3. Derwent Graphic Pencil Set of 24: Best drawing pencils for variety

Price when reviewed: £23 | Check price at Amazon

best pencils for drawing Derwent 34202 on a white backgroundThis elegant 24 piece set caters to every artistic level from a subtly crisp 9H to a creamy and soft 9B. The packaging feels a bit cheap compared to the aforementioned Faber Castell set, but is of no detriment to its contents.

The pencils themselves are very lightweight and comfortable to hold, with double of the more popular 4B, 2B and 2H pencils for those who draw more frequently. Disappointingly, the softer leads are easily breakable when sharpening, but they have a beautiful texture and versatility and produce a matt finish.

This Derwent Graphic Pencil set comes to less than £1 per pencil; it’s a real bargain and a worthwhile investment. It takes some practice to reach the range’s full potential and figure out the nuances of such a large set, but if you’ve got the patience, you can create some stunning detailed works. The best balance between quality and affordability.

Key details – Pencils: x24 (9B – 9H)

4. Caran D’Ache Graphite Line Box of 15 Hardness Degrees Pencils: Best premium drawing pencils

Price when reviewed: £47 | Check price at Amazonbest pencils for drawing Caran Dache on a white backgroundIt’s obvious that great care and attention to detail has gone into making these pencils, they’re premium quality with a professional look and feel. Made from cedar wood carved into a hexagonal body for good grip, and varnished in varying shades to match the hardness degree for easy identification.

There’s a range of lead diameters, from 2.1 – 3.6mm to minimise the breakage of softer leads and maximise the sharpness of harder ones. Good for all uses, from uniform shading of large areas to detailed scientific illustrations. The graphite is of a silky texture; there’s a small amount of residue left behind, but that’s to be expected from pure graphite.

As the only downside of this set is its lack of accessories, we used it alongside the Caran D’Ache Multi-Techniques Sketching Set. To purchase the Box of 15 Hardness Degrees, a luxury tin of the same name that has everything, would set you back a whopping £290. But for those looking to make a career from their artistry, this is a worthy set.

Key details – Pencils: x15 (9B – 4H)

5. Cass Art Drawing Pencil Set of 6: Best budget drawing pencils

Price when reviewed: £3.95 | Check price at Cass Artbest pencils for drawing Cass Art on a white background

The range of pencils in this set may not be as varied as in previously reviewed options, but casual artists with a penchant for doodling or less detailed drawings would be well suited to these pencils. They sharpen well, are easy to erase and come in a sliding eco carton for simple yet effective storage.

The graphite is better for line work rather than shading, and blending tends to result in a patchy looking finish. However, what lacks in smoothness is made up for in texture, and this set is great for adding character to a drawing. Additionally, these pencils are comfortable to hold and last a good amount of time before sharpening is necessary.

Cass art recommends this set for professionals but we would argue that they’re a more beginner – intermediate level option. Regardless, for budget-wary artists or those looking to restock an existing collection, these pencils are an affordable and decent quality set.

Key details – Pencils: x6 (HB, B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 6B)

Check price at Cass Art

6. Winsor & Newton Studio Collection Soft Graphite Pencil Tin Set of 12: Best all round drawing pencils

Price when reviewed: £11 | Check price at Amazonbest pencils for drawing Windsor and Newton on a white backgroundSince 1841 when they received a royal warrant, Winsor and Newton have been a stellar choice. From pointillism to photorealism, these pencils deliver all round quality. Presented in a sleek, metal, travel tin, they’re stylish and perfectly suited to both newcomers intending to put pencil to paper for the first time and professionals constructing a masterpiece.

The soft core is made with high quality binders and resists breakage well, making the leads easy to sharpen and easily shapeable with a sandpaper pointer. Our only complaint is that the circular body makes for a less ergonomic grip, but it’s only noticeable when working with the pencils for a longer period.

Otherwise, these pencils have the capability to mould to all forms of drawing, with graphite that blends beautifully and produces crisp, rich lines. For anyone overwhelmed with the vast options this medium has to offer, this essential set is most likely to fulfil your needs.

Key details – Pencils: x12 (H, F, HB, B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8B, 9B)

7. Conté à Paris Graphite Pencil set of 12: Best drawing pencils for sketching

Price when reviewed: £15 | Check price at Amazon

This set of Conté à Paris pencils is perfect for hobbyists looking to sketch up a storm, with 12 pencils in a beautifully designed compact tin. They’re handy for every phase of sketching, with the 3H pencil good for basic outlines, and the 6B is brilliant for those final touches, while the median leads brings the drawing to life.

The pencils are extremely smudge resistant but by the same token, are a firmer, more textured graphite, so we wouldn’t recommend them for blending work. However, they’re generously pigmented, with a very distinguishable difference between leads, and sharpen to an extremely fine point, ideal for line work.

The cylindrical body isn’t ergonomically designed, but for shorter periods of sketching, is perfectly comfortable. If you’re looking for a simplistic set that does exactly what it says on the tin, this is an inexpensive and worthy choice.

Key details – Pencils: x12 (3H, 2H, H, HB, HB, B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B)

8. Drawlish Sketching Pencils Set of 8: Best drawing pencils for kids

Price when reviewed: £3.97 | Check price at Amazonbest pencils for drawing Drawlish on white backgroundSearching for a pencil set for kids on a low budget? Look no further than the Drawlish sketching set. It’s a great choice, excelling in both areas without compromising on quality. They serve as an ideal solution for younger generations who are serious about putting their imagination on paper.

While not the set for an accomplished artist, they’re smartly presented pencils with a hexagonal grip for optimal comfort. And while they’re durable, they’re not break resistant as Drawlish claims. The pencil selection is as comprehensive as necessary without being overwhelming; graphite is of a good quality and goes down as well on the paper as it erases.

This set doesn’t pretend to be more than it is. It’s great for the standard that kids and emerging artists would be looking for, and when taking into account value for money and age demographic, we can’t find fault with these pencils.

Key details – Pencils: 4H, 2H, HB, B, 2B, 4B, 6B, 8B

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