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Which Pencils are Used for Shading?

Graphic pencils on white paper.

When you are sketching, you may be at the point where you are ready to shade your artwork. However, you might not have the proper pencil in hand to do so. 

Beginners and experienced artists alike may have issues with shading, and it may be directly from their tools. The proper pencil used for sketching is a soft graphite pencil. These pencils will be in the grade B range. 

Each pencil has a grade with specifics belonging to the grade. In the world of sketching a shading, many details go on when it comes down to picking the right pencil. 

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What pencil grades are best for shading?

Professional Drawing Sketching Pencils Set, 24 Pieces Art Pencils 14B, 12B, 10B, 9B, 8B, 7B, 6B, 5B, 4B, 3B, 2B, B, HB, F, H - 9H, Graphite Shading Pencils for Beginners & Pro Artists

There are many different types of pencil grades. Each grade is dependent on how soft and hard the lead and graphite are in the pencil. 

The following grades are: 

  • H-grade. An H-grade pencil is a lighter and finer grade, as the ‘H’ stands for hardness. The lines created are thin and can create precise detail. The higher number in the grade means the harder the lead will be. The H-grade pencils do not smudge easily as they are more chiseled and fine. An H-grade pencil will not be best for shading as the lines may be too fine. 
  • B-grade. The B-grade pencil has more soft graphite to create dark strokes as the ‘B’ stands for blackness. The higher the number corresponding with the grade, the softer and darker the lead will be. The B-grade pencils smudge easily, which will make them perfect for shading, and are the most commonly used for it.  
  • F-grade. An F-grade pencil produces a chiseled thin line as the ‘F’ means fine point. The F-grade pencil should be avoided when shading, as they will not create a shade at all. 
  • HB-grade. An HB-grade pencil sits directly between the H-grade and the B-grade scale. It is the most commonly found pencil and does a good job of shading. However, it is not as soft as a B-grade pencil. 
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Once you know what each grade of pencil means, it is easier to know what will work best for the shading you are trying to create. A soft B-grade pencil will work best for light to medium shading and will allow for soft strokes for shading. 

A 2B-grade pencil creates medium to dark shading. This grade of pencil will allow you to create a range of tones from light to dark depending on how heavy your hand is on the tool. Experimenting with the pencil is best, so you can see if the darkness works well for your sketch. 

Mid-range pencils within the B-grade are very common among artists. The mid-range allows you to control what tones the shading ends up being. The darker the shading is, is completely dependent on your weight on the pencil. 

However, if you want a darker tone within your sketch, you may need to venture out from the mid-range B-grades. 

What grades work best for darker shading?

Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2B Graphite Art Drawing Pencil, Medium Soft, Break-Resistant Bonded Lead, 12 Pack, 100-2B (100-2B VE)

If the mid-range B-grade pencils are not shading dark enough, you may find your 2B-grade pencil not being of use to you. These are the drawbacks of a lighter or mid-range B-grade pencil, as they do not allow you to intensely shade a certain sketch. 

When it comes to darker shading, a 4B-grade will work well. It is soft and can create a layer of shade quickly. It also takes a while to go blunt. 

A 6B-grade pencil works well for very dark areas of your sketch. It is very soft and will go blunt quite quickly. Since it is so soft, it can be very fuzzy and will look grainy. When it comes to details, it is difficult to use. 

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Do you need to consider sheen when shading?

Woman sketching on white canvas.

When you shade a sketch quite dark, it can come through very heavy and shiny. This is what may be called burnished graphite. As the graphite of the pencil has covered your sketch. 

Harder pencils are mixed with clay, so the luster of graphite is missing. Softer pencils like the B-grade pencils are filled with graphite that will luster your sketch. 

When you are picking out your pencils for shading, experiment and find out which types of pencils produce the best shade with less shine. 

How to get rid of shading glare?

Woman sketching and shading a vase.

When you are shading and the luster is not leaving. It is best to find a solution. B-grade pencils are bound to leave a glare that reflects light. This process can be quite frustrating and may ruin your sketch. 

The heavier your hand is or the more pressure you apply, you burnish the graphite. Burnishing graphite is a similar process to polishing a metal. This is what creates the shine you see in your sketch.

To avoid the glare in the first place, use smooth paper that is easy to darken. The smoother the paper, the less pressure you have to apply when it comes to shading. However, if you are using textured paper you will find yourself applying more pressure creating lustered graphite within your sketch. 

However, if it is too late and your sketch is shiny, it may be difficult to reverse. You can use a matte fixative spray that can get rid of the glare. This solution may not fix the luster of your sketch. It is best to avoid the issue by checking how much you will be shading and the paper you are using for your process.

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