More graphite makes for a softer lead, and more clay makes for harder lead. This article is intended to explain what those odd little codes actually mean. Sign In For simple sketching, the HB pencil is probably the most popular, with artists also favoring the H and the B pencils. There is an extra grade used by some manufacturers, between HB and H - an F grade, for 'Firm'. In the same way as with the B ratings, the numbers go as far as 9H, but few people need anything that hard. The best way to discover which pencil is best for which situation is to experiment with them. To increase the hardness, other metals are added to lead to form a lead alloy. Hard lead. The great thing about professional pencil sets is they allow you to try out all the leads in different ways within your own drawing. Harder leads than HB get H ratings. Legend: Pb – lead Sn – tin Sb – antimony As – arsenic BHN – Brinell Hardness number Not even Lyman, one of the most foremost authorities on bullet casting, can agree. Because you get more graphite, your mark will be darker and it doesn’t take very much pressure to create very dark lines. Pencils usually have some letters and numbers on them - HB, 2B, 4H, or even just numbers - 2, 2 ½, etc. The higher numbered B pencils can accomplish a range of dark values for adding shadows and contrast within a drawing. Otherwise, check the standard types first - many pens use one of those. You can also find sets of colored pencils, too. Pencils usually have some letters and numbers on them - HB, 2B, 4H, or even just numbers - 2, 2 ½, etc. % Tin. This category proceeds from the center to the right, getting darker as the numbers progress. To use an example, one of the hardest substances on earth, diamond, is rated 10 on the Mohs scale, while plastic and pencil lead, for instance, are on the other end of the scale, with a hardness grade of 1. You'll also have to buy more lead or another pencil sooner - great for us, but maybe not so good for you ;). While the softer B pencils (6B and up) are generally considered the best for shading, there's no reason to discount the harder H pencils, since everyone applies pressure to their pencils differently. Looking for a refill for a pen we sell? Adding tin will make lead slightly harder, but a lot of tin must be added to significantly increase the hardness, and this has two adverse effects. Many artist love it for its ability to be smeared or smudged in a way that graphite can’t. To make it easier to understand, let’s start at the center of the scale. 4) will be softer than a 3H pencil, and so on. Pencil lead is made of a mixture of graphite and clay. All you really need is a pencil and a piece of paper. The first thing that’s important to know is that the hardness of the lead is divided into two categories—H and B. H stands for hard and B stands for blackness. Some even come with micro-perforated pages that you can easily tear out after completion for displaying or sharing with others. Here in Europe and the UK, we have one system for both art pencils and office pencils. For all practical purposes, pure lead can't be hardened. And, although the common #2 pencil we’ve all used in school is sufficient to make great drawings, if you want to create the most realistic and nuanced drawings you can, then it’s important to use pencils in a variety of lead hardnesses. The letter ‘B’ indicates the blackness of a pencil’s mark (soft lead). The letter ‘H’ indicates a hard lead. It takes a lot of pressure to make a darker line with pencils in the H category. The first pencil in this category is the one next to the HB, and is considered the number one B pencil. Professional sets aren’t limited to graphite pencils. It is considered the number one H pencil but is designated as simply H, without a number. The middle ground is referred to as HB. Now that you understand the importance of knowing about pencil lead hardness, you’re ready to get started. The BHN of the bullet interacts with the pressure generated by the burning powder. Drawing Pencil Set with Everything You Need. In this article, you’ll discover the huge impact that can be made when using pencils in different lead hardnesses. For art and drawing pencils, Americans use the same system. An 2H pencil (corresponding to No. Look for the pen first, and then check the 'Refills & Spares' tab for links to the right refills.