Beginner's Guide to Pencils - Pencil Grades

Written By Caitlin Elgin - June 24 2016


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?

March 04 2018

Very informative and useful information. The favorite amongst tradesmen is the HB #2 Ticonderoga.

March 01 2018

Hi, this is a super guide, thank you… One little question though. So when a pencil has both a number and a letter (ie. 2HB) is it just combining the American and European gradings? Silly question, I know, but that one little question plagues me.

Ted Crum
February 18 2018

Very useful and entertaining!
A #4 pencil is pretty hard, I’d have put it with the 2H, and #3 with H. That leaves room for 2-1/2 with F.
Also worth mentioning is the relation between degree and lead diameter. Softer pencils have larger leads. They need the size for strength, but also, soft leads can be used to allow a wider line with the same pressure.

November 02 2017

it was very useful! thank you!

October 28 2017

Great guide and graphs. Thanks!

Ron Morley
August 25 2017

where can I buy a 4b, 5b, or 6b pencil ?
the charts were a great help.
Iuse the pencil for drawing on wood- I am a woodcarver.

Sharon Johns
June 29 2017

Thank you from a previously frustrated pencil user!

June 07 2017

Thank you for the enlightening post, complete with the history of the little magic wands!

May 05 2017

Great post to finally understand the two packs I bough spontaneously. Thanks!

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