EVERY artist starts by choosing their media, be that pencils or brushes, charcoal or watercolours. We each have our favourites. Each tool has its own characteristics and I always say explore your media before settling into any particular project.


 Let’s celebrate the humble pencil; whether your preferred tool is oil, watercolour or pastel, it’s a pretty safe bet to say that most of you would have started your art aspirations using a pencil. Children like pencils because they offer security the chance to rub out ‘mistakes’. Love it or loath it, people have very decided opinions of which type of pencil they prefer using. I remember doing a course with the artist Jack Nimki ;he always uses ‘hard’ pencils. I felt very challenged swapping my usual soft pencil to a hard pencil but in time  I saw the different potential that a hard pencil offers.

So let’s start with the basics.


So here we have the full range of pencil gradings from H indicating hard and giving a crisp clean line which I would describe as almost like carving into the paper. HB is the middle of this range a balance of hard and soft and the pencil most people use if writing. B stands for soft and we can see at once in the B range there is a much greater range of tones. Of course even more tones can be achieved simply be variation in pressure. I always impress upon my students to find out just what range of tones can be achieved with their chosen pencil before they start drawing. It could be said that soft pencils are better suited to the different shading techniques.


Above are the different shading techniques.

Again my advice would be just to experiment and see what works best for you. You may also find that certain techniques are better suited to different drawings. I also impress upon my students the importance of understanding why they are using shading. the answer is to create form and that is a whole other subject matter in itself.