June 11, 2018 2 min read

Graphite pencils are a versatile tool for expressing yourself and getting creative. They are also handy for planning and writing as you can quickly erase and make changes on the fly.

Choosing the right grade for your graphite pencil will help you to capture the moment or thought appropriately.

Pencil's are produced with a mixture of clay and graphite and the different ratios create different results. When it comes to grading pencils there are two common systems, European and American. The most common pencils you will find at our store are all graded in European sizes.

The European grading system uses both numbers and letters.


B grade pencils have a soft lead and

H grade pencils have a hard lead with

HB being the most common grade that falls in the middle.

H grade pencils are harder, lighter in colour and less likely to smudge so are ideal for doing intricate work like outlines and small details as well writing as they produce sharp lines.

B grade pencils are softer and darker in colour making them great for drawing and shading. They produce a wider line than are easier to smudge to create different effects.

- HB grade pencils are the standard size that strikes a great balance and are commonly used for both writing and sketching.


The numbers are used to further differentiate just how hard or soft a pencil is. For example a8B is softer than a6B, and a4H is harder than a2H.

Check out this pencil grade guide showing Viking Pencils different grades.


Just like pens, different pencil makers pencils will vary. A HB by Viking may differ slightly from a Midori HB pencil but the grades are a good guide to follow when choosing your next pencil.

The American pencil grading system uses numbers from 4 to 1. 4 is the hardest pencil with 1 being the softest. Traditionally the American number 2 is equivalent to the HB pencil.

Experimenting with different pencil grades together can create an extra dimension to your art so enjoy expressing yourself and bring out the pencils for your next project.



Browse our range of pencils here.