What Types of Pencils There Are

Regular pencils, even though they have the same color, can show different shades of grey. Some of them make semi-transparent lines, others are saturated and thick. The brightness of your drawing depends not only on how hard you press on the pencil but also on how soft or hard the pencil is.

5-Minute Crafts has learned more about the markings on pencils and we’re going to tell you what the letters “H” and “B” on them mean.

What the letters “H” and “B” on pencils mean

The types of graphite used in a pencil are marked with “H” and “B.”

  • H means hard, so the graphite in this pencil is hard. It leaves less graphite on paper and makes thinner lines.
  • B means black, so the graphite in your pencil is soft. The lines are darker and softer, so more graphite ends up on the paper and it’s easier to remove.

The combination of letters and numbers

You need to memorize just one simple rule: the higher the H number on the pencil, the harder the graphite is, the higher the B number, the softer it is.

So, a 2H pencil is harder than an H pencil but softer than a 5H pencil. A 3B pencil is softer than 2B but harder than 4B.

An HB pencil is one of the most popular types. It contains quite a hard graphite but it can also make quite dark lines if you press it hard enough.

Hardness and softness pencil guide

  • 8B is the darkest and the softest pencil. It leaves thick grey lines on paper. It’s great for drawing and doing sketches.
  • 7B is a pencil that also gives a deep grey color. It is easy to draw with and it’s good for drawings.
  • 6B is a bit less soft but it can still make a clear black line. It’s good for portraits and making realistic-looking textures (fur, fabric, and leather).
  • 5B makes thinner lines than those with higher B numbers.
  • 4B is a pencil that makes lighter lines than the previous ones. It’s good for drawing and sketching.
  • 3B can make lines not only of dark but also light colors. In drawings, it can be used to make transitions from lighter areas to darker ones.
  • 2B is a pencil that can make a semi-dark line and give a good range of shades — from light to dark tones. It is often used for shading.
  • is a soft pencil that is also good for sketches and drawings.
  • HB has hard graphite that still gives a black line. It might be too hard for drawing.
  • is a pencil with hard graphite that makes very thin lines on paper. It is great for drafts.
  • 2H is a hard pencil that is good for any technical work that has to do with lines. It’s good for making drawings when you need lighter colors.
  • 3H is a pencil that makes a very light line. It is good for creating thin light lines.
  • 4H is a pencil that can make great shades and sketches.
  • 5H is a pencil that can make very thin lines that will still look quite dark if you press on it hard enough. It’s great for sketches if you need the image to be sharp.
  • 6H can be used for drafting, writing, and drawing. It makes very clear and dark lines.
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