Graphite Pencils

The core of drawing pencils is made with ground graphite and fillers. The type (clay/wax) and percentage of the fillers determines the grade of hardness of a pencil. The “harder” grades (F to 9H) contain more clay filler, and the “softer” grades (HB to 9B) contain more wax filler. I’ve never found two brands of drawing pencils that use the same formula—one brand’s 2H pencil can be the same as another’s 4H. I’ve even found huge variations in consistency between different lots of the same brand, so it’s a good idea to test each new pencil. Drawing pencil grade ranges are as follows:

Extremely Hard: 9H – 7H
Very Hard: 6H – 5H
Hard: 4H – 3H
Medium Hard: 2H – H
Medium: F – HB
Medium Soft: B – 2B
Soft: 3B – 4B
Very Soft: 5B – 6B
Extremely Soft: 7B – 9B

  • Graphite Pencils (1 each), 2B, B, HB, F, H, 2H, 3H, 4H, 5H, 6H, 7H, 8H, 9H | purchase
  • Mechanical Pencils 5mm, 9mm, 2B,B, HB, H, 2H | purchase


[Note: Students will be exploring working with graphite on white paper. You can buy paper in pads and/or on individual sheets.]

Bristol Drawing Pads

Over the years, I have used several different kinds of paper for my graphite drawings and found each one to be unique. The paper that I use most often is Bristol paper. Bristol papers come in a variety of weights and sizes. They come in two surfaces plate (smooth) and vellum (medium). Some Manufactures of Bristol papers are Strathmore, Bienfang, Rising, and Utrecht. You can cut the sheets for variety in shapes and sizes.

Drawing Pads come in either glued, wirebound, or hardbound/softbond called Journals. Select one of the following:

Suggested Paper

  • Aquabee Bristol Vellum
  • Arches Hot Pressed Watercolor Paper
  • Arches Text Wove
  • Arches Platine
  • Rising Bristol 2 ply Vellum/Plate
  • Stonehenge
  • Strathmore 500 Bristol Vellum/Plate
  • Utrecht 2ply Smooth


  • Sketch Board or Foam Board (cut a little larger than paper size) | purchase


  • Binder Clips (small, medium, and large; 2 of each) | purchase
  • Banker Clips (small and large; 2 of each) | purchase
  • Artist Tape (white) | purchase
  • Blending Stumps (small and medium) | purchase
  • Olfa Snap-Off Blade Cutter (small) | purchase
  • Knitting Needle or Straight Skewer | purchase
  • View-finder | purchase
    (or make your own: Make two “L” shapes out of cardboard, about 7”-8” on the leg and 1½” wide. Hold together with binder clips)

Paper Terms Used for Weight and Surface

Drawing Paper

bond, plate: smooth
bristol, vellum, sketch: medium
charcoal, laid, Ingres: coarse
pastel: rough

Stationary Paper

writing: light weight
text: medium weight
cover: heavy weight

Printmaking Paper

plate: smooth surface
vellum: medium surface
kid: rough surface

Watercolor Paper

hot pressed: smooth surface
cold pressed: medium surface
rough: rough surface

These are some paper that work well with graphite, charcoal or chalks:
  • Arches Cover ¨
  • Arches MBM Ingres (Michallet) *
  • Arches Text Laid */ Arches Text Wove
  • Canson Mi Teintes * §
  • Coventry Rag ¨
  • Crane’s Crest Laid */ Crane’s Crest Wove
  • Durotone Butcher, Newsprint, Kraft
  • Fabriano Ingres * §
  • Fabriano Tiziano * §
  • Folio ¨
  • Magnani Annigoni ¨
  • Rives BFK ¨
  • Rives Heavyweight
  • Stonehenge ¨
  • Strathmore Charcoal * §
  • Strathmore Bristol Series 500
  • Strathmore Toned Tan or Gray §
    * coarse surface | ¨ printmaking papers | § available in several colors
You can find these papers at the following stores:
  • Blick/ Utrecht | 1 Bond Street and other locations | 212 533-2444
  • The Art Students League Store | 215 West 57th Street | 212 247-4510
  • New York Central | 62 Third Avenue | 212 473-7705
  • Jerry’s Palette Shop | 111 4th Avenue | 646 678-5474