Finding Your Stroke – A Guide to Choosing the Best Drawing Pencil Kit for Your Style

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Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned pro, having the right drawing tools makes all the difference in bringing your artistic visions to life. But walking down the art supply aisle can be overwhelming, with so many brands, materials, sizes, and features to consider. How do you know which drawing pencil kit is the best fit for your needs?

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about choosing your ideal set of sketching and drawing pencils. We’ll explore the key factors like budget, included accessories, and performance on different techniques. Most importantly, we’ll recommend the top 5 drawing pencil kits tailored to students, hobbyists, intermediate artists, and professionals.

With the right set of pencils and know-how to use them, you can finally stop worrying about your materials and focus on improving your skills. So grab a blank sheet of paper, and let’s get started building your drawing pencil arsenal!

What to Look for in a Quality Drawing Pencil Kit

Before diving into specific product recommendations, it’s important to understand the factors that make up a great drawing pencil kit. Taking the time to consider these elements will ensure you choose a set tailored to your artistic goals and experience level. Here are the key considerations for any drawing pencil purchase:

Hardness Scale

The hardness of a pencil refers to how much or little graphite it contains. Softer pencils lay down darker, bolder strokes. While harder pencils create lighter lines best suited for initial sketching and detail work. A good drawing kit will provide a range of hardnesses ideal for most drawing techniques.

Pencil hardness is designated by a letter scale ranging from soft B grades to hard H grades. Most kits include several selections like 2B, 4B, 6B, HB, H, 2H, etc. Heavier blackness indicates a softer lead, while “H” denotes harder, lighter strokes.

For shading and bold strokes, reach for softer B pencils. Harder H pencils are ideal for clean lines and intricate details.

Woodcase vs. Mechanical Pencils

Traditional woodcase pencils require frequent sharpening to keep their tips fresh and precise. But they allow for organic, sweeping strokes and tonal blending.

Mechanical pencils use thin, consistent graphite leads, avoiding constant sharpening. However, the fine lead tips can feel less expressive for shading, and are prone to breaking under pressure.

For most artists, having both available provides the best of both worlds. Woodcase pencils lend themselves to freeflowing creativity. While mechanical pencils enable technical accuracy.

Set Size

Drawing kits are available in set sizes ranging from pocket-sized packs of 3-4 pencils, up to jumbo sets with 50+ pencil options. Smaller sets around 12 pieces provide an essential selection of graphite grades and hardness levels.

Larger sets allow you to dive deep into a wide spectrum of graphite tones. But may also contain redundancy. Consider your experience level and current supplies when deciding how expansive you need your new pencil set to be.

Packaged Sets vs. Open Stock

Most major art brands sell pre-packaged pencil sets encompassing a balanced selection of graphite grades. This provides great value and convenience for students and budding artists.

Advanced drawers may prefer to curate their toolkit by purchasing individual pencils as needed for greater personalization. Building up your supplies à la carte allows you to zero in on your most reached-for pencil grades.

Drawing Paper Quality

Don’t overlook the importance of good drawing paper! A quality paper surface enables pencils to glide smoothly across the page. It also prevents tearing or damage from erasing.

Look for acid-free paper in textures like smooth Bristol, soft charcoal papers, and medium grain drawing sheets. The tooth and weight of the paper impacts how pencils deposit their pigment.

Now that we’ve covered the key considerations for choosing drawing pencils, let’s explore some top-rated kits tailored to artists of all skill levels…

Top Drawing Pencil Kit Picks for Every Budget

With so many products on the market, it can be a challenge to determine which drawing pencil set is right for your needs. To make it easy, we’ve highlighted the best drawing pencil kits across four experience levels and price points.

Best for Beginners: Staedtler Noris Club Hobby Drawing Set (24 count)

Just starting on your artistic journey? You can’t go wrong with Staedtler’s budget-friendly Noris Club set. These high-quality German-made pencils represent an outstanding value for new artists.

The set includes 24 woodcase drawing pencils covering all the essential graphite grades. From 6B softness perfect for rich darks, down to HB and 2H hardness ideal for first outlines and sketches. The hexagonal barrels provide a comfortable, easy to control grip.

At around $10, this set delivers professional-level quality and versatility perfect for honing basic drawing skills. The ample 24 pencil selection allows you to play with a range of tones without constantly resharpening. But the set still remains compact for easy storage and portability.

If you’re a student looking for a starter set, or a casual drawer wanting to upgrade from number 2 pencils, Staedtler’s Noris Clubs won’t disappoint. The smooth graphite formulation erases cleanly even from heavy shading. All at an unbeatable value that can’t be matched.

Step-Up Pick: Derwent Studio Drawing Pencil Set (12 count)

Ready to upgrade from a starter set? The Derwent Studio line offers a versatile, mid-priced option perfect for advancing your drawing techniques.

Available in a range of sizes from 6 to 24 pencils, the 12-piece set hits the sweet spot for coverage and portability. It delivers a selection of popular graphite grades spanning 8B to 4H, while leaving out unnecessary filler pencils.

The break-resistant cedar wood barrels have a hexagonal shape to prevent rolling off tables. And they sharpen easily to fine, precise points. With a smoother graphite formulation, these pencils are ideal for detailed sketches, value studies, portraits, and more.

Priced around $25, the Derwent Studio set sits in that nice middle ground between budget picks and professional-grade supplies. The smarter pencil selection gives you diversity without overload. Making this set a great next step for adult learners, high school students, and hobbyists looking to improve their skills.

Unique Pick: Prismacolor Col-Erase Pencils (12 count)

Want even more versatility from your pencils? Prismacolor’s innovative Col-Erase line features erasable colored pencil cores encased in soft rubber stoppers.

The rubber eraser caps allow you to remove and modify the colored marks. Letting you experiment and revise your way to the perfect sketch or underdrawing.

The pigmented leads lay down vibrant strokes with excellent blendability. And they erase cleanly even from heavy applications. With 12 rich hues like vermillion red, sky blue, canary yellow, black, grey, and more, the possibilities are endless.

Although not a traditional graphite set, this $16 pencil kit enables freedom and creativity perfect for quick studies. The laydown is smooth and easy to control. And the erasability makes them ideal for preliminary composition sketches and changeable illustrations. Definitely a unique option worth trying!

Best for Professionals: General’s Kimberly Graphite Drawing Pencil Set (24 count)

For artists ready to invest in high-performance tools, General’s Kimberly set has you covered. This deluxe 24-piece collection combines a wide spectrum of premium graphite pencils with drawing essentials.

The centerpiece is an expansive selection of cedar wood pencils spanning 6B through 9H hardness. The hand-dipped graphite leads feature a firm, dense consistency ideal for smoothness and precision. A selection of charcoal pencils, blending stumps, and a kneaded eraser round out the toolkit.

Stored in an attractive hinged box, this $50 set makes the perfect gift for yourself or a fellow artist. The versatility suits detailed technical drawings, expressive figure studies, shaded compositions and beyond. Any pencil medium fan is sure to be impressed by the Kimberly collection.

Premium Pick: Caran D’Ache Luminance Colored Pencil Set (24 count)

For artists and illustrators seeking the very best, Caran D’Ache’s Luminance line represents the gold standard of colored pencil quality.

The buttery smooth, vividly pigmented leads set the bar for lightfastness and layering ability. Unique to Luminance, the coloring agents make up 70% of the core, allowing unparalleled saturation. And the soft, ultra-blendable formulation enables seamless gradients not possible with standard pencils.

Presented in a Swiss wood & metal case, this 24-shade set provides a prized possession for the virtuoso drawer. At $270, the Luminance collection comes with a luxury price tag. But for fine artists and gallery showpieces, the results are incomparable.

Mastering Pencil Drawing Techniques

Now that you’re set up with quality drawing pencils, let’s go over some key techniques for making the most of your new sketching tools:

  • Shading – Build up values gradually by layering soft pencil strokes and blending with stumps. Use harder pencils for initial coverage, then darker B pencils for depth.
  • Hatching – Create tonal variation and textures using parallel or crosshatched pencil strokes in a linear pattern.
  • Blending – Soften and gradient your shading by gently brushing a blending stump, tissue, or cotton swab across pencil areas.
  • Burnishing – Produce glossy, saturated tones by applying heavy pressure while shading. Try on smooth Bristol paper.
  • Lifting – Lighten shaded areas by gently erasing or lifting graphite away with kneaded putty erasers.
  • Drawing Hair – Use sharp, fast strokes following the direction of growth to capture realistic hair textures.
  • Drawing Eyes – Add multiple, layered pencil strokes to portray glossy eye shapes, reflections and details.

Be sure to experiment with a range of pencil pressures and angles. And don’t worry about perfection – just enjoy the process as you practice bringing your vision to life on paper!

Storing and Maintaining Drawing Pencils

To keep your drawing pencils in peak performing condition, proper storage and care is essential. Here are some tips:

  • Store pencils tip-up in cases or trays to avoid breakage. Rolled storage containers are ideal for portability.
  • Wrap soft pencil tips in tissue, foam, or specialty point guards when traveling. The graphite core is fragile!
  • Sharpen pencils frequently using quality sharpeners. Single and electric sharpeners produce the best points.
  • Clean pencil shavings from sharpeners often to maintain blade sharpness and smooth performance.
  • Replace broken leads in mechanical pencils promptly to prevent damage to the pencil mechanism.
  • Organize sets and individuals in compartmentalized boxes, trays, or bags for easy access.
  • Investing in high-quality art materials is worthwhile, but always take care to use them respectfully!

Drawing Pencil FAQs

Still have questions about choosing and caring for drawing pencils? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

How do I sharpen pencils correctly?

  • Use a single blade pencil sharpener and hold the pencil still during sharpening. Rotate uniformly for an even point. Avoid mechanical or serrated sharpeners which damage the wood.

What pencil hardness should I start with?

  • HB is a nicely balanced midpoint hardness perfect for general sketching for beginners. Softer grades like 2B-4B are ideal once you are comfortable.

Should I use woodcase or mechanical pencils?

  • Try both and see what feels best! Woodcase pencils provide organic, flowing strokes. Mechanicals give more precise, technical results. Many artists enjoy the strengths of both.

How many pencils come in a typical set?

  • Starter sets tend to include 6-12 pencils covering the basic hardness spectrum. Larger sets of 24+ are preferred by advanced students and professionals.

What does high-quality drawing paper contain?

  • Quality papers are acid-free, with archival properties for longevity. Textured surfaces enable grabbing pencil strokes. Popular types are smooth Bristol, vellum, and medium grain.

How can I blend pencil shading smoothly?

  • Try using a colorless blender pencil, chamois cloth, soft bristle brush, or tortillion to softly feather the transitions between shaded areas.

What is the best way to erase pencil marks?

  • Kneaded rubber erasers lift graphite effectively without damaging paper. Plastic eraser shields allow erasing fine areas. Avoid abrasive erasers.

Should I store pencils tip up or tip down?

  • Tip up is best to avoid lead breakage and keep the points intact. If transporting, wrap the tips for extra protection.

Achieving Artistic Success with Drawing Pencils

As you set out on your drawing journey, don’t be overwhelmed by all the brands and options. Start with a small, affordable set from a trusted brand to learn the basics. Then expand your collection as your abilities grow.

Above all, know that having quality art materials does not automatically make you a more skilled artist. Success comes through regular practice and a passion for the artmaking process. Creativity can flourish with the simplest of materials in the right hands.

But equipping yourself with drawing pencils suited to your needs will eliminate frustrating obstacles. Allowing you to focus on improving your technique and finding satisfaction in the work.

Here’s to filling sketchbooks full of life, paying attention to the world’s beauty, and always continuing to learn as an artist. May your newly equipped pencil case provide endless inspiration as you develop your unique creative voice!

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