How to Choose a Pencil

The choice of pencil can be very personal, especially if you write or draw a lot. Knowing why you need the pencil and what separates different pencils will help.


  1. Image titled Analyse Literature in an Essay Step 2
    Consider how you use pencils.
    • What do you do with your pencil? Do you write? Do homework? The daily crossword? Do you also draw or sketch?
    • Do you press heavily or lightly when you write or draw?
    • Do you prefer a fine line or a bold one?
    • Do you tend to lose, loan out, chew, or mistreat your pencils, or do they get stored safely in a cup or pouch?
    • Do you carry your pencil in a pocket or purse where a sharp point could do damage?
    • Do you wear the erasers down to a stump or tend to lose eraser caps? Do you erase very little, so that the eraser dries up?
  2. Image titled Develop a Questionnaire for Research Step 3
    Notice what you like and don't like about the pencils you already have around. Perhaps one is comfortable to hold and another drags along the page.
  3. Image titled Choose a Pencil Step 3
    Decide between a mechanical pencil and a traditional pencil.
    • Mechanical pencils don't need sharpening, but they do need a supply of the right size lead. Generally, the last half-inch (1cm) or so of a lead is not usable.
    • Mechanical pencils can achieve a finer and more consistent line if you are doing technical drawing or small or fine writing.
    • The length of a mechanical pencil stays the same, no matter how much you write with it.
    • Mechanical pencils typically cost more, especially for good quality, non-disposable ones. On the other hand, many allow lead and erasers to be replaced, meaning that you can use one pencil for much longer.
    • Standard pencils are generally inexpensive and the line width can vary more, both with angle and with how blunt you allow the pencil to get.
    • You may prefer standard pencils for their low cost, availability, and simplicity. You may also prefer them for their feel.
    • If you write hard, then go with a standard pencil, because a mechanical pencil lead is fragile and breaks easily.
  4. Image titled Choose a Pencil Step 4
    Decide on a lead diameter for a mechanical pencil.
    • If you are a heavy-handed writer who presses hard, try a 0.9mm pencil. 0.9mm pencils are usually darker because they are about twice as thick as regular lead.
    • Pick a 0.5mm if you like to write lighter and easier. 0.5mm pencils have more precision so you can write in tiny places and it can still be legible.
    • If you are in between, buy a 0.7mm pencil. 0.7mm pencils have a good medium lead size.
    • Other sizes are available for artists and drafters, but larger leads may need to be sharpened even though they are in a mechanical pencil and finer leads may be very delicate.
    • In general, larger diameter leads give more flexibility when you are sharpening the lead, a technique used in drafting and sketching.
  5. Image titled Choose a Pencil Step 5
    Write in comfort. Look for a pencil with a large, padded grip, such as the Pilot Dr. Grip 0.5mm. It has a cramp-resistant grip for long essays.
  6. Image titled Choose a Pencil Step 6
    Choose a lead hardness for standard or mechanical pencils. Lead hardness can be confusing, because it is measured on two different scales and is not especially well standardized. Here are the basics.
    • The usual medium hardness is called HB. This corresponds to a #2 pencil. If the pencil or the lead is not labeled, there's a good chance this is the hardness.
    • If you're not sure what hardness you want, go for HB or #2.
    • Many automated test-grading machines require HB or #2 pencils. If you will be filling in bubbles on a test, choose this hardness.
    • The softest leads make the darkest lines. The hardest leads make the lightest lines. If you are drawing, you might outline with a harder lead, then darken and shade with a softer lead.
    • If you will be shaping the lead, softer leads are easier and faster to shape but also lose their crisp edges more quickly, with the opposite effect for harder leads.
    • Hardness runs from 9B (softest) to 9H (hardest). Numbered hardness values may be listed in the U.S. Here is the sequence.[1]

  7. Image titled Ask Survey Questions Step 5
    Look for other features according to your needs.
    • Does it have a built-in eraser? Is there a little cap to lose?
    • On a mechanical pencil, does it advance by clicking the side or the top, or by some other means, such as twisting?
    • How sturdy is the construction of the pencil?
    • Does it have a comfortable, soft grip?
    • How much does the pencil cost?
  8. Image titled Make the Last Days of School Go by Fast Step 9
    Use colored pencils to color objects on paper, to outline and color coordinate various items, or just to use on coloring books.
    • If you're serious about art, visit an art store and get artists' color pencils. They are more costly, but you may find that they give a stronger color and that a wider range of color is available in quality artists' pencils.
    • Another type of color pencil is the highlighting pencil. It has fallen out of favor with the introduction of marker style highlighters, but you may still find it in a good stationery store.
  9. Image titled Choose a Pencil Step 9
    Consider special-purpose pencils if you have demanding or specialized applications.
    • Charcoal pencils are used by some artists. Like charcoal, they give a deep black. Unlike straight charcoal, they write a bit more smoothly and have the form of a plain pencil. These come in various hardnesses. Charcoal also comes in stick form.
    • Carbon pencils have yet a different character than graphite or clay. Carbon also comes in varying hardnesses and can be obtained in stick form.
    • A grease pencil can be used for temporarily marking glossy surfaces, such as ceramic and smooth plastic. Construction pencils are designed for rough duty, such as marking lines on wood to prepare for cuts.


  • If at all possible, try the pencil you think you want before you buy it. If you can find a stationery shop that sells pencils loose in bins or has display models that you can try, go down the row and try a variety of them. Notice what is comfortable, what writes smoothly, and so on.
  • Comfortable pencils are great for drawing and writing big essays because it will keep your hand from cramping.
  • Try a variety of pencils and see which ones you like.
  • Remember that separate erasers exist, so if the pencil is just right but doesn't have an eraser or doesn't have your preferred eraser, consider carrying a separate eraser.
  • Thinner lead pencils are good for filling in small blanks because they have more precision.
  • If you take a bunch of pencils and some elastic bands you can build some pretty neat multi-tip pencils
  • There's not really any lead in pencils. The material in pencils is graphite, a form of carbon. It's often called lead because it was previously called plumbago or black lead and not well understood until later. [2]


  • Getting good quality mechanical pencils can get expensive.
  • Careful when buying mechanical pencils, some are really cheap and break very easily.
  • Use a comfortable pencil and pace yourself while writing or drawing. Otherwise, your hand could cramp.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencil of your choice
  • coloring supplies
  • paper or something to write on

Sources and Citations

  2. Drawing Realistic Textures in Pencil, J.D. Hillberry, 1999, page 11.

Article Info

Categories: Writing Implements