Beginner's Guide to Pencils - Pencil Grades

Written By Caitlin Elgin - June 24 2016


Connie Kampas
January 19 2020

Are Straedler pencils the best and if I can’t afford what would you suggest…… your information is very helpful. Thank you for your time.

December 21 2019

Two grades I’ve caught yet unfamiliar with “HH” & “EE”. . .
What do they denote?!!. . .

September 27 2019

Good and useful information to me,thankq

August 17 2019

Going through a box of stuff recently, I found a couple K4 and K5 pencils. Where do these fit in? I can find plenty of charts and explanations for H, B, and even N, but no K. Can anyone help?

June 13 2019

This was really helpful for my essay in school

Geoff Campbell
June 06 2019

Find these pencils at an art store. Just as entertaining as a hardware store 😂

May 19 2019

BOB ;-P if u no wat i mean ;-P

LOVE your pencils!

February 14 2019

I love your store! Visited your store in Lower east Manhattan but you have moved to Brooklyn now! want to order on line! Love your pencils.

February 07 2019

After a little more reading a #3 is a h and a #2.5 is a F.

February 07 2019

I’m pretty sure that a #3 is a “H” I have a box of Dixon #3’s and they are labeled H, unless they use some different scale.

January 04 2019

I found a pencil in a library a while back, and I always wondered why there was no grade on it. It was only by looking here that the little ‘F’ at the end of it IS the grade, and that ‘F’ was a grade at all! Cheers!

December 16 2018

I have just bought a graphite sketching set (to use with the Querkies colouring book). thanks for the hints and tips. they were very useful. I am from the UK Wales in fact) that.s why the spelling is different,

November 25 2018

So is it not true that an F pencil sharpens to a finer point? Never really thought about it but that’s what I was taught, back when the internet was just on dial up computers and not the palm of our hands lol

House of Rhoades
November 14 2018

Very informative with clear and concice to the point, information. Drawing parallels between the two kinds of pencil choices, that is European and American; hardness variations for different uses in business, artistic and personal applications. Thank you too, for a lesson on the wonders of these magnificent, under appreciated tools.

October 05 2018

Thanks for sharing the information !

August 16 2018

Was looking for information on which grade pencils would be consumed more for sketching.

Thank you.

Incidentally came across

which talks about EE and EB pencils.

Judy Tattersfield
July 23 2018

Article very interesting, thankyou.
I have two very old pencils (30 years old) Staedtler Mars-Lumograph – one marked “100 EE” the other marked “100 EB”.
Any ideas, please.

July 20 2018

Been using pencils maybe for last 15 years, from middle school to college graduate.

Generally speaking, the more H there is, the (fainter/lighter and slimmer the writing will be, the pencil lead lasts longer) due to the increased hardness; more B means blacker/heavier, and most of the time thicker in diameter the writing, and pencil lead wears faster.

I do daily writing and homework with pencils and my personal recommendation goes from #2(HB), to 4B.
If using 0.5mm, and write on pure white paper, I would say
HB is among the least(leftmost in chart) you want because any lighter than that might be hard to be read;
2B is a good mid point considering lead wearing speed(if you write a lot like me, using up one lead and go to another can be very frequent, meaning there will be a lot of small unusable part of lead you have to deal with), readability/depth of shade, overall cleaning;
4B might be the highest(rightmost in chart) you want to go if used for mainly writing, it is fairly deep in shade, lead wears very fast, and can be messy if got wiped accidentally, and might leave some powder if you press hard like me due to its reduced hardness.

Hope this helps you with your choice.


Aamir Kabir
June 19 2018

Irrespective of production process of two entirely different types of pencils (wood and polymer), I am to interested to know how polymer and wooden pencils are perceived by consumer.

Is there any case study comparing the two product(s) ?

March 22 2018

Is it the greater the number, the darker it will be for B pencils?

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