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Graphite Degrees of Hardness From Faber-Castell

Your graphite pencil lead guide!

As the world’s largest pencil manufacturer, Faber-Castell has developed an expertise in graphite pencils through 260 years of history and experience. Our high-quality graphite pencils consist of a mixture of graphite & clay, and are currently available in 16 degrees of hardness. The degree of graphite hardness is determined by the mix ratio of the graphite and clay:  the greater the graphite content, the softer the lead; the more clay, the harder the lead.

Historical pencil production sketch

With 16 degrees of hardness to choose from there is a graphite pencil for every type of artist. The right degree of hardness to use depends on the heaviness of the artist’s hand, the paper being used, and the type of art being created. An artist with a heavy hand might prefer softer leads to balance their pressure whereas an artist with a lighter drawing hand may prefer relatively hard lead qualities.  The surface of an artist’s paper acts as a rasp, shaving off extremely fine particles of the lead as it writes. The rougher the paper, the more lead particles are worn off. In general, rough or hard paper requires a harder quality of lead and smooth or soft paper a softer quality lead.

The hardness scale to which Faber-Castell pencils are manufactured has remained unchanged since 1910 signifying levels of hardness through letters and numbers. Graphite pencils are classified as either soft black (B), hard (H), hard black (HB), and firm (F). The degree of soft black, hard, hard black, and firm are then further classified by numbers, the higher the number the higher the intensity.

The 16 degrees of graphite pencil hardness are: 8B, 7B, 6B, 5B, 4B, 3B, 2B, B, HB, F, H, 2H, 3H, 4H, 5H, and 6H. Graphite pencils with hardness degrees of 3B to 8B are ideal for artistic, pictorial drawing with their very soft to extra soft, very black graphite. Graphite pencils H, F, HB, B, and 2B are ideal for drawing and writing with our B (soft black) pencil being equivalent to the traditional No. 2 pencil. Lastly, graphite pencils with hardness degrees varying from 2H to 6H are ideal for technical drawing.

Faber-Castell offers a wide variety of graphite pencils for artists and writers to enjoy, each with their own range of lead hardness.

Castell 9000 Graphite Pencils with sketch

The Castell 9000 & Castell 9000 Jumbo are the ideal expressive, artistic medium, not just for professionals but also for hobbyists. Castell 9000 Graphite Pencils are available in all 16 degrees of hardness: 8B, 7B, 6B, 5B, 4B, 3B, 2B, B, HB, F, H, 2H, 3H, 4H, 5H, and 6H. Castell 9000 Jumbo is available in 5 soft degrees: HB, 2B, 4B, 6B, and 8B.

Graphite Aquarelle Pencil with sketch

Graphite Aquarelle pencils are water-soluble pencils ideal for preliminary sketches for watercolor drawings and for complete watercolor techniques in graphite. Graphite Aquarelle is available in 5 degrees of hardness: HB, 2B, 4B, 6B, and 8B.

Pitt Graphite pencil, crayon, and sketch

Pitt Graphite Pure Pencils are made of finely milled graphite for smooth laydown. They blend easily and are suitable for expressive shading of large areas. Pitt Graphite Pure Pencils are available in 4 degrees of hardness: HB, 3B, 6B, and 9B.

Goldfaber Graphite Color Pencils and sketch

Goldfaber Graphite Pencils  are versatile graphite pencils for drawing and sketching and are available in 8 degrees of hardness: 4H, 2H, H, HB, 2B, 4B, and 6B.

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