The Best Pencils for Artists

Whether you’re creating a rough draft of an illustration, learning how to draw, or sketching out a mockup before hitting the wire frame tools, you’ll need to know what the best pencils are to get your work looking great. Fortunately, a solid, reliable set of pencils is not the most expensive item in the designer’s toolkit, so you can afford to try out a few different brands in your search for the best pencil.

Palomino Black Wing Pencils

In the pencil world, Black wing has an impressive pedigree. It developed something of a cult following before being discontinued in 1998. In 2010, Palomino bought the brand, and the result is more than worthy of the Black wing name. There are three main pencil options to choose from: the Black wing (similar to a 5B), Black wing Pearl (4B) and Black wing 602 (3B). The leads have wax added to them, making them super-smooth to use, and create velvety dark marks.

Derwent is well known for making good quality, reliable pencils. Procolour is its latest range of colouring pencils, released in 2017. The pencils themselves feel substantial, with a sturdy circular shaft.

The leads aren’t too waxy or too brittle and have a high pigment level for wonderful gradation of colour, even with a light touch.

Staedtler Karat Aquarell Water Colour Pencils

Staedtler claims to have invented the colouring pencil, so it should know a thing or two. These watercolour pencils come in sets of 12, 24, 36 and 48, they have high-pigment, break-resistant leads and a good quality wooden shaft that sharpens well. Of course you can use them dry, or add water for extra fun.

These are a reliable brand and a great option for beginners or more advanced artists.

Caran D’ache Graphite Line Gift Box

No, you haven’t misread that price. And yes, that’s the correct picture. The Caran D’ache Graphite Line gift box really does come with fewer than 20 pencils, plus graphite sticks and accessories, at a price that would make even Jeff Bezos blink, but what you’re paying for here is top-quality graphite.

The Graphite Line has been carefully developed and perfected in the Geneva workshops of Caran d’Ache to explore all the different shades of black and deliver thick and thin lines, gradation, flat-wash, blurring and watercolour effects. It’s an insanely expensive set of pencil, but we suspect that once you’ve tried it, you won’t want to use anything else.

BIC Conte Colouring Pencils

If colour is your thing, you can’t go wrong with this budget set.

If colour is your thing, you can’t go wrong with this beautiful set of colouring pencils from BIC Conté. These high-quality art instruments have a wood-free, synthetic resin design, which make them completely splinter-free should they break.

But this is definitely not a case of style over substance, as these pencils also boast a 3.2 mm pigment-based lead, providing smooth, even and consistent coverage for artists of any age.

Lyra Rembrandt Art Design Graphite Pencil Set

For a much more reasonable price, this set of hexagonal design pencils from Lyra is the ideal way to unleash your shading skills. The full Rembrandt Art Design set covers 17 grades from 9B to 6H, and this box features a good, representative sample, enabling you to really get creative with your shading.

Each pencil is encased in pure cedar wood and packs an ultra-fine graphite lead that’s also suitable for more rigid technical drawing techniques.

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