The Best Graphite Pencils

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced artist, graphite pencils will be one of the essentials you need in your kit.

Used for technical drawing, illustrations and sketching, a good quality set of pencils with a varied range of hard (H) and soft (b) leads can be all you need to create a striking, professional-quality piece of work.

Graphite pencils are less brittle than old-fashioned lead and also more hard-wearing, which makes them a little longer lasting. Used in classrooms, offices, studios and in the home, this type of pencil is now the most popular among serious artists and beginners alike.

To help you choose we have put together this guide to the best graphite pencils on the market.

What type of Graphite Pencils are there?

At one end of the scale, pencils with harder inner cores will be graded with a number, followed by H. The higher the number, the harder the material.

Used for fine lines and technical drawing, this type of pencil produces a lighter shade on the paper, the core is quite hard wearing and requires sharpening less than softer leads.

At the other end of the spectrum, softer graphite pencils are used for shading, darker lines and texture work. Marked with a number followed by the letter B, this type of pencil is used in everyday settings such as classrooms and offices (HB) and also by art students and professionals.

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Our Picks for the Best Graphite Pencils

Castle Art Supplies Graphite Drawing Pencils

  • Additional materials, including pastels and charcoal
  • Convenient carrying case with zip
  • Money-Back Guarantee

Including 12 pencils of varying degrees of hardness and softness, this collection has practically everything you need for technical drawing, sketching or illustrating. In addition to the 12 core graphite pencils, this kit also comes with 3 charcoals and 4 pastels and a range of other accessories.

Though extras such as the sharpeners and sandpaper block aren’t always necessary, their inclusion here makes this package feel very complete, especially as a gift set or upgrade for an aspiring professional.

Transporting your materials is easy with this set as the manufacturers have included a popup case that zips up conveniently for neat and tidy storage.

This could be a good feature for artists on the move, too. With the added bonus of Castle Art’s money-back guarantee, there’s very little to criticize about this package. Although this may be a little too much for very young artists or those on a smaller budget, it could be a fantastic gift for a student, adult or professional.

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Wonyered 40PCS Professional Art Sketching Pencils Set

  • Clean eraser, blending sticks and case included
  • Essential hard and soft graphite pencils
  • A range of additional materials including pastels

Next on the list is another very comprehensive, 40 piece set that includes blending stumps, willow sticks and a mixture of charcoal and pastel pencils.

There’s a huge range of possibilities in terms of the work you could create with this kind of collection, whether you are sketching landscapes outdoors or life drawing in a class, the diverse selection of hard and soft graphite pencils means you have everything need.

Pastels don’t appeal to everybody, but for students who want to experiment with color they are a welcome addition to this package.

The manufacturers are clearly confident in the build quality of their product as like most of the entries on our list, they offer a money back guarantee as standard.

Constructed from materials that leave clean, sharp lines or soft, blended shading without smudging or dullness. Pre-sharpened and featuring a non-slip grip for ease of use when holding for longer periods of time, though they are competitively priced, this collection of materials appears to be aimed towards the professional end of the market.

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Faber-Castell 9000 Pencils

  • Excellent quality and trusted brand
  • Break-resistant leads
  • Green outer coating

Castell are a well-known brand and pride themselves on the quality of their leads, which are made from finely ground graphite and clay.

Made to be as smooth and satisfying as possible to use when drawing, writing or sketching, this essential selection of 12 hard and soft leaded graphite pencils offers the aspiring artist or seasoned professional with reliable quality. Including break resistant leads and a durable, hardened outer material, this set is made to be used.

The pencils themselves have a varnished, green finish that sets them apart from anything else you will find on the market.

Though very reasonably priced, this package feels like a premium quality product from both the construction of the materials to the presentation of the case.

The German company has been making pencils for more than 100 years, so they clearly take pride in their product.

Though there aren’t any additional extras with this case, rubbers and other basics like pencil sharpeners can be picked up fairly cheaply.

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Tombow MONO Drawing Pencils

  • Professional quality product
  • Clay-free graphite leads
  • Cedar wood outer for easy sharpening

Though less well known than Faber, Tombow manufacture good quality office, arts and crafts supplies so this mono graphite drawing pencil combo pack is presented and packaged in a way that will appeal to the style-conscious professional as well as the beginner who wants to work with a top quality selection of materials.

Tombow design their products to last a lifetime so you can expect slow wearing leads made from high-quality sources. Designed to be extra strong and featuring a better than average point strength while sharp, these pencils are resilient enough to be used in the classroom, the studio or the office.

Having manufactured pencils, stationery and art materials for more than 100 years, this company are quite meticulous when it comes to the crafting and finish of their product.

The black lacquer finish is professional looking and is also said to reduce fatigue over long periods of use. Comprised of cedar wood with a high density, clay free, graphite core, the collection includes hard and soft leads that range from 6H to 6B. Your work should be free from imperfections and smudging as a lot of work has gone into perfecting the quality of the leads used here.

Though some more experienced artists or those with very particular needs may find the selection a little restrictive, it is more than adequate for most every day uses.

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Clear Professional Art Kit – Sketching & Drawing Set

  • Comprehensive collection with extras
  • Life time money back guarantee
  • Complimentary E-Book

Clear are a lesser known brand but dedicate themselves to producing high-quality materials for budding and professional artists alike. This set contains a wide variety of graphite pencils as well as a few additional extras that make this package great value for money. This could be a great gift idea but would also be suitable for those who would like a good selection of high standard pencils for sketching, technical drawing and office use.

Included in this package are 12 good quality H and B graded pencils that will be more than adequate for most artists, though those who require a very wide selection of H grades may find this a little basic.

The great thing about this set is the myriad of additional extras included. There are two pencil sharpeners, 3 charcoal pencils, 3 graphite sticks and 3 charcoal sticks as well as blending stumps, a vinyl eraser and a sandpaper tool for fine-tuning pencil points.

The manufacturers are clearly confident of the quality of their product as alongside their free, downloadable ebook on how to get started with simple sketching, they also offer a lifetime money back guarantee. So although there may be one or two better-known brands out there, this package has very few downsides and would be ideal for anybody who needs a professional quality selection of graphite pencils with a great range of extras.

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Magicfly Drawing Pencil Sketch Set

  • Fantastic selection of extra materials
  • Zipper case for easy storage
  • Non-toxic and suitable for children

If you are looking for a more comprehensive collection of drawing and sketching materials that includes both graphite and charcoal pencils, this collection will be ideal for you.

Including 12 soft, medium and hard graded graphite pencils and a selection of pastels and charcoals, this set also comes with a kneaded eraser, two hole pencil sharpener and a sketchbook.

There is also an ultra soft graphite pencil for applying extra detail. The materials are presented in a handy, zipper case for easy transportation and they are also non toxic, which means they are suitable for children.

Unlike some graphite pencil kits, this collection comes pre-sharpened, so you can use them straight out of the box.

Whether you plan to sketch a portrait, a landscape or a still life, this portable and very well appointed set has everything you need. Though those looking for just the basics may find the inclusion of things like a pencil knife a little bit too much, those who like to have a good selection of materials and resources to hand when creating their art will find this product to be great value.

Manba Sketching and Drawing Pencils Set

  • Great value for money
  • Light and weather resistant
  • Additional extras included

This package contains a selection of B and H graded graphite pencils so whether you need softer leads for darker shading or harder leads, strong, solid line, you will be able to get the results you want.

The graphite used within these pencils is resistant to light exposure and weather damage which means it is hard wearing and long lasting.

It is also non-toxic so can be used in classrooms or as a gift for young children. Lypumso have included several extras along with the core graphite pencils so you will have everything you need to get started.

As a relatively cheap alternative to some of the bigger name brands, this is a good value collection that has enjoyed mostly positive reviews, so if you are looking to save a little bit of money but still want a good selection of pencils and extras like sharpeners, erasers and graphite sticks, this could be a package worth considering.

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What to consider when buying Graphite Pencils

When buying a set of graphite pencils, you will need to consider how they will be used so you can get the best value for money.

The quality of the material used and the way the pencils are manufactured will determine their price range and although there are some incredibly well-crafted products on the market, beginners and those looking to save money will be able to pick up a decent set for a reasonable price.

Which pencils you need will depend on what they will be used for. If you are planning to sketch still life scenes or do any portrait work, you may want to consider a selection that includes both hard and soft pencils, similarly, if you are doing any kind of technical drawing, a selection that includes several harder graphite leads would be potentially useful.

Richard Hammond

I am the founder of 9Mousai and am deeply interested in creativity and what inspires it. My main passions are writing, film and music but I have huge respect for all the arts. I'm also an animal lover and have a little cat called Winston and enjoy the occasional whiskey or two...

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