Pencil Mania – Part 1 ; Selecting the right pencils for your Art

Ever gone to an Art store and wondered ‘To buy or not to buy’ that is the question! And if you go with your kids, they will want to buy everything they can see on that shelf. Hehe..it happens with all of us. However it is not practical to stock so much. Also, it may end up being a waste of money or material. We all want to buy tons of Art Supplies especially when the display is so attractive. So then how to keep both your art appetite and your pocket happy at the same time? Knowing your Art Materials might help make an informed decision and select a product suitable for you.

This time I’m doing an article on the different Pencils you can use for your Art. I will cover all the type of Pencils available in the market and their use. I do not endorse any brand and hence will not mention any names, just how to make your selection based on your understanding of the product. This is not a product review but a know your Art Materials post. Based on my experience of using these, I will share a few special tips too!

Graphite Pencils: Graphite or Lead encased in a cover of plastic, paper or wood. The lead is used for drawing or writing. We all know that right! These are available in different grades depending on the hardness or softness of the lead. Here in India, we use an HB pencil most often for writing. The Pencils I use for drawing and shading or sketching are 2B, 4B and 6B. ‘B’ stands for blackness while ‘H’ stands for hardness. The pencil grades meter will show this. Higher the number, darker the pencil finish, softer the lead better for shading and smudging. You could go for the ready set or buy only selected ones as per your requirement. I prefer buying single pieces because I don’t use the other grades, so for me it is a waste to buy the entire set. Further if I use up a lead faster than the other, I keep more of those. I buy more of 2B pencils and maybe just one 6B pencil. You could do the math and in all probability it will even turn out more economical also. Just these three pencils is enough at the beginners level and even on a professional level. Once you take up pencil shading commercially or professionally you may want to invest in a complete set of any good brand suitable to your use.

Coloured Pencils: Coloured Pencils are made of a Pigment (colour) and a binding agent that binds this coloured powder. There are three types of coloured pencils based on the material they are made up of – wax based, oil-based and water-soluble. A pencil that has vibrant colour, a soft but strong lead that presses the colour well on to the paper but does not break easily while making bold strokes is considered as good quality coloured pencil. These are generally bought in a set. More the number of shades, more fun for an artist to colour the picture. 24 or 48 colours is considered a large variety but you even get up to 150 shades in a box for professionals. It is a one time investment because one box can last you for years unless you misplace a few shades. Rarely can one run out of a shade because they used it all up.

Waxed based coloured pencils have a soft lead and are slightly difficult to blend as compared to the others. I prefer oil-based coloured pencils – the lead is soft but sturdy, remains sharp, doesn’t dry out fast, pigments are nice, layering and blending can be done easily. Actually even for crayons I prefer Oil Pastels. So actually it is like the same family and works well if you use different mediums in the same Artwork. Wax based coloured pencils are less expensive than the others.

Water Soluble or Watercolour Pencils or Aquarelle Pencils : As the name suggests are water based. They can be used dry or wet. The dry version gives a lighter colour but once you use water over it, it gives an almost watercolour like finish. Once you paint something, you use a plain water brush over it and blend the strokes. Washable with water or removable, you can use these to shade or highlight in your watercolour paintings. We even get water soluble ink pens or watercolour brush pens. This combination works for those who do watercolour paintings.

We cannot use a water based colour on an oil based colour or a wax based colour. However we can use a wax based or oil based colour on a water based colour. Many people use wax based and oil based interchangeably. An important point to note here is that all three types are not manufactured by all brands. This is their point of differentiation. It means a difference in price, quality and finish. Reading up a little about the brand and which type of pencils they offer will surely help in making your selection.

Further like all Art materials even Coloured Pencils are available in two categories :-

1) Artist Quality 2) Student Quality

Most brands offer both. An Artist Quality will have better colour quality meaning more pigment less binder and will be more expensive than the student quality. So check the label and buy as per your usage. I generally prefer buying Artist Quality even if it lesser number of shades. For a school going child you may want to buy Student quality just in case the child misplaces or breaks them. The price difference can be substantial at times.

Many people feel coloured pencils are for children. That isn’t true. Adult Colouring is trending. It is a stress buster and many Adults are taking to colouring these days. Adult colouring means the colouring pages will have pictures with details or smaller colouring blocks as compared to colouring books for children which have pictures with a larger colouring blocks. There are ample colouring pages and books available in the market. Sometimes they are free. It is a good way to pass time while travelling too!

I will share about other Art Pencils – Charcoal, Pastels, Woodless Pencils in my next post. Have an Arty Weekend!

Published by #artistniralimehta

Nirali is an Artist doing Art and Illustrations both hand drawn as well as digital. She is a trained professional with good work experience in her field. She masters various art styles and has shops on Etsy, Redbubble, Society6 all three by the same name ‘NMartworks’

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