Graphite Drawing Pencils
The same graphite that's used in "normal" pencils is the same graphite used in artist quality pencils. The only difference is the type and quantity of filler that's mixed with the graphite to create different degrees of hardness.
The softest grade of pencil is a 9b and the hardest is a 9h. The most common pencil 'writing' pencil is usually an HB (in the middle of the scale.)
Artist's pencils do vary in quality. Some companies don't do a very good job at mixing in the filler and this leaves hard grains of the stuff mixed in with the softer graphite. It's possible to actually tear the surface of the paper with one of these poorly made pencils because the invisible filler grains are hard and sharp and you never know where one is going to pop out.
I've used many brand of pencils over the years and I'm sorry to say that the quality of them all comes and goes! I'm currently using Straedtler 2mm Drawing Leads held in a mechanical pencil holder and Derwent wooden pencils.
Fortunately, pencils aren't expensive and they last for quite a while. I suggest that you buy a range of grades (4b, 2b, b, 2h, 4h) of the same brand. If you do come across one that's "grainy," sharpen past that spot to see if the rest of the pencil's lead is usable. If not, throw it away.
Drawing Pencil Grades
|Extremely hard - 7H to 9H
|Very hard - 4H to 6H
|Hard - 3H to 4H
|Medium hard - H to 2H
|Medium - HB to F
|Medium Soft - B to 2B
|Soft - 3B to 4B
|Very soft - 4B to 6B
|Extremely soft - 7B to 9B
Kneaded Eraser - A very soft eraser than you can form into shapes with your fingers. You can roll this eraser into a point, pinch it into a wedge, roll it into a ball, or make it into any shape you need.
I use this type of eraser most of all and I use it for so many things that I don't know where to start, so I'll mention the one thing they're are not good for.
Kneaded erasers are not good for completely erasing an area. In areas where I need to erase completely (that have a lot of dark graphite applied to them) I use a kneaded eraser first to lift as much graphite as possible. Then I use a stiffer eraser to finish erasing completely.
You can actually push very dark graphite farther into the paper by trying to erase it quickly and with a lot of pressure. When that happens, it's impossible to completely remove the graphite. To avoid that, always lift as much graphite as possible with a kneaded eraser first.
Stick Eraser - These erasers are made of a plastic or vinyl type of material. They usually come in a plastic holder and you can expose more eraser by clicking the top of the holder. This type of eraser can be cut into different shapes very easily. A wedge shape can be used to erase thin lines if you draw it across the paper using the long edge of the wedge shape. A pointed shape can be used to create delicate detail and erase tiny highlights.
Battery Powered Eraser - A small nib eraser fits in the end of the eraser body and spins when you press a button. You can spin the tip of the nib on an emery board and sharpen it down to an extremely fine point.
You can use these erasers to "draw" into graphite hatching to create interesting effects and fine details.
Faber Castell Perfection Eraser (aka typewriter eraser?)
Is this the replacement for the good ol' typewriter eraser that some of us had hoped for. The two pack has a pink eraser core and the one with the bush has a white eraser. The kind with the brush seem to be harder to find. This image link takes you to the two pack at Blicks.
There are mixed reviews of this eraser out there, but from reading the complaints it sounds like they come very close to the originals.
By that I mean that the things people who've never used them complain about are the things we who have used them loved about them best! For instance, the hard porous eraser material erases differently than normal erasers, but you can use that odd texture to lift graphite in tight areas and then use it to blend and reshape the area you're working in.
In other words, you have to spend some time learning these erasers can do, and then you have to finesse them into doing it. They're not meant to be like every other eraser on the market. You gotta learn how to love 'em!
(Update - Sept. 2009 -This type of eraser is not currently made, but two art supply manufacturers are looking into resurrecting it. More info will be posted here as soon as I get it.)
A hard eraser in a wooden pencil type of case with a nylon brush on top. You can sharpen these in a hand held pencil sharpener to a fine point. You can also easily shape the tip with a razor blade.
This eraser acts a little differently than the other type of stick eraser. The eraser material is more porous and fills with graphite quickly and this can be used to your advantage in circumstances where you want lift out subtle details in dark areas. The brush on top is handy for flicking the eraser crumbs off the drawing too.
Blending tools for drawing, how to use them and tips about how to make them work better.
Stump - A double pointed paper stick made of paper pulp that come in many sizes. Gently rub them across hatching to blend graphite.
The pointed end gets a little fuzzy as you use it and that helps the blending process. You can also use an emery board to sharpen the point or make it any shape you want.
You can use a clean stump to "lift" graphite in a very subtle way by tapping the clean tip quickly against the hatching. As the stump gets dirty, swirl the tip in a kneaded eraser to clean it.
Tortillon - A pointed blender shaped like a stump but made of rolled paper. Because they are made of rolled paper, they have a harder surface and don't blend graphite as well as stumps do.
Brushes - All sizes are useful but the small flat straight or angled type work best for delicate blending. They can be made even more useful trimming the bristles back to about an eight of an inch long. That makes the bristles a little more stiff and easier to control. A large flat brush is very good for blending larger areas.
Specialty brushes - You can find round brushes with short thick bristles made specifically for blending pastels. These are really great for blending graphite too. They rub the graphite into the paper evenly and quickly.
The "shader" with the black bristles in this image is the most useful to me.
You can find similar brush's that are made for stenciling and decorative painting that are usually less expensive. Look for stiff bristles. Stiff bristles "push" the graphite around and blend it better than soft bristles do.
Chamois Cloth - A very thin and soft suede-like piece of leather. You can use this to blend large areas of graphite. You can also use it to lift graphite out of an area of that has become too dark.
To get more control over the cloth, fold it and use the point of a corner to lightly dab or stroke an area until it lightens.
The images on this page were kindly provided by
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