What Are The Different Pencil Grades? 3 Important Things To Know!

In the classroom, students are not the only ones that are graded—pencils are graded too. But not academically, it’s actually their leads that are graded. 

So, what are the different pencil grades? As you might be wonderin’. Today, I’m going to shed some light on this topic and explain their differences and their variety of uses as well. 

pencils with different pencil grades

When you go into the supply store there will be various brands and types of pencils to choose from but all of them will be graded based on their leads. And you might be wondering what those letters and numbers imprinted on the pencils mean.

With different types and different grades of pencils, they are also used for different purposes, some are for professional or artistic use, some for general use in schools and offices, and others used in carpentry or golf showcasing how versatile pencils are. 


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What Are The Different Pencil Grades? 

Regular graphite pencils are graded from soft to hard or dark to light. And you will usually see pencils with H for their hardness and B for their blackness. 

H pencil leads are harder and produce a much lighter shade and this is because they contain more filler and lesser graphite material, while B pencil leads contain more graphite and less filler, making them softer and produce darker lines. 

There are actually 24 pencil grades but most manufacturers only produce 18 pencil grades.

H Grade pencils (10H, 9H, 8H, 7H, 6H, 5H, 4H, 3H, 2H, H) are pencils with hard leads with smudge-proof graphite, the higher the number is the harder the lead will be. They can be great for left-handed people who want to use pencils as they will not leave smudges along the way while they write.

B Grade pencils (B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8B, 9B, and 10B) preferred pencils by artists as extremely smooth to write and draw with. As they have softer leads they have the tendency to smudge more easily, but they can be corrected easily with the use of an eraser. They produce bold and clear lines without much pressure from your hand when writing or drawing. 

F and HB pencils are also known as the middle point in the pencil grade measurement, this is the standard lead grade that is preferably used for writing as it provides enough darkness for clear and bold lines with minimal smudging only. 

And the most popular pencil grade used for school and office purposes is the #2 pencil which is also known as the HB pencil, and you can read what makes them unique here

For professional and artistic use, pencil grades from 2H to 6B are preferred by artists to help them achieve the results they want to see on their art. And F pencils which is a rare type of pencil that has a Fine point with a hard lead that can maintain its point even after some time of use. 

And to put it in simple terms, the higher the number before the H-grade is the harder the pencil is, the same goes with the B-grade, the higher the number will be the softer and darker the pencil will also be.

How to use the different pencil grades

Any type of pencil can be used for different purposes, but it’s best to know which pencil grade is best for a certain type of writing or drawing activity you will do. 

There are really no do’s and don’ts when it comes to using them but for best results, here are some pointers on how you can use the different pencil grades as a writing or drawing instrument. 

pencil used for technical sketches

9H to 5H pencils – these pencils produce light strokes that are best to use for art purposes such as sketching and watercolor painting as its marks will not show up through the paint, that’s how sheer they are, they can be used to create the guide before laying down paint on an artwork.

4H to 2H – Can be used best for technical drawings, these pencils can be used for architectural and product sketches. These pencils do not smudge easily, so all lines and strokes will always stay sharp and clean as well. 

You also don’t need to sharpen them often as they can keep their fine point for a much longer time compared to other pencils. 

H, F, HB, and B – popular pencil grade options that have a multitude of uses whether if it’s for sketching or writing. And of course, the one that stands out the most is the HB pencils, also known as the #2 pencil as they can produce bold and clear lines but do not smudge easily.  


Just take note that the softer the pencil is the faster it will dull and it also needs more frequent sharpening compared to harder leads which can maintain their points for a longer period of time. 

Additionally, you also don’t necessarily need to have all these pencil grades, you just have to experiment and find out which ones work best to serve your writing or artistic needs. 

I hope this article helped you get around pencil grades and it has cleared the clouds in your head, and hopefully, you’ll now be more confident when it comes to choosing which one is the right pencil for you.