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If your artistic expression involves drawing, doodling, sketching, hatching, shading, stenciling, or tracing, you need a high-quality writing utensil. We're talking about a pencil, of course. Though drawing pencils are relatively straightforward, they come in a wide range of styles and colors, not to mention various lead types.
From fine-tipped and mechanical to colored and graphite, there are options out there for all skill levels and every budget. To help you narrow down your choices, we pored over tons of options from several art suppliers and rounded up our top picks.
These are the best drawing pencils you can buy online.
Best Overall: Staedtler Mars Lumograph Art Drawing Pencils
For a premium-quality, no-nonsense pencil, we recommend Staedtler's Mars Lumograph. This German-made drawing utensil comes in packs of six or 12, though you can also buy singles from certain retailers. It has super-bonded lead, which wears evenly and is notably easy to sharpen. The versatile design is ideal for drawing, hatching, sketching, and writing.
When you buy a pack, you'll get a handy storage tin, and each pencil will have a different hardness level, ranging from very soft (8B) to extra-hard (6H). These drawing pencils have ultra-sharp break-resistant tips—even the softest option is surprisingly sturdy. And while they don't have erasers on the ends, the lead erases effortlessly with a standard eraser.
Best with Erasers: Palomino Blackwing 602 Matte Extra-Firm Graphite Pencils
If you like pencils with built-in erasers, you'll appreciate Blackwing 602 Mattes. A unique flat eraser is connected to the end of each easy-to-grip hexagonal pencil. But that's not all these cult-favorite utensils have going for them.
The extra-firm Japanese graphite lead is made of a special mixture of clay and wax for the perfect balance of strength and smoothness. Each pencil has a durable cedar casing finished with multiple layers of lacquer, making them easy to sharpen and comfortable to use.
Best Mechanical: MozArt Supplies Mechanical Pencil Set
For those who like the convenience of mechanical pencils, we recommend this set from MozArt Supplies. It comes with four drawing pencils, each with a different tip size (0.3, 0.5, 0.7, and 0.9 millimeters). You'll also get a lead refill pack for each size, plus four eraser refills.
The lead in these pencils is great for various applications, from sketching and hatching to writing and illustrating. With an always-sharp, consistently thick tip, a non-slip grip, and a lightweight feel, these pencils are great to use, no matter what the project. While you won't get a variety of graphite hardnesses in this kit, you will get different thicknesses to help with line weight.
Best Graphite: Cretacolor Fine Art Graphite Pencils
Cretacolor Fine Art Graphite Pencils are a go-to for hatching and sketching. The superior-quality lead is made by grinding various types of graphite together, then mixing it with a high-grade ceramic clay.
This unique concoction makes the tips extra sturdy, and hard cedar casing makes them easy to sharpen. You can buy these pre-sharpened drawing pencils individually to choose the exact hardness you're looking for or get a variety pack of six or 12, which come in tin carrying boxes.
Best Colored: Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils 72 Pack
Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils are a great choice if you're looking for the best colored pencils for drawing. This 72-pack comes with a wide array of richly saturated colors—from terracotta to cool grey to parrot green and everything in between. We also like that they come in a convenient tin box.
The soft lead and semi-thick tips are easy to sharpen and resist cracking. The pencils apply smoothly and evenly, making them ideal for shading, shadowing, blending, and free sketching.
Best for Sketching: Royal & Langnickel RART-200 Essentials Sketching Artist Set
Royal & Langnickel has been making top-tier art supplies for more than half a century, and you can rest assured the brand's drawing pencils are up to par. The Essentials Artist Set is chock full of carefully curated tools for sketching, doodling, and free-hand drawing.
You'll get eight standard graphite pencils of varying softness, one woodless graphite pencil, three charcoal pencils, three charcoal sticks, three sketching sticks, two types of erasers, and a sharpener.
Best for Beginners: Norberg & Linden Drawing Set 19 Piece Drawing and Sketch Kit
The 19 Piece Drawing and Sketch Kit from Norberg & Linden is perfect for beginners. With eight standard graphite pencils, an ultra-soft woodless graphite pencil, three charcoal pencils, two charcoal sticks, two sharpeners, two erasers, and a sketch pad, you'll have everything you need to get started.
You can try out various leads and utensil styles to see what you like best while you explore the world of drawing. The spiral-bound sketchbook is just 6 x 9 inches, making it a good portable option to take with you wherever you go.
Best Set: Castle Arts 40 Piece Premium Quality Drawing Set
This 40-piece drawing set from Castle Arts pulls out all the stops. It comes with several different graphite pencils, pastel pencils in varying shades, and charcoal pencils, plus charcoal, graphite, and willow sticks.
You'll also get blending tools, multiple sharpeners, a couple types of erasers, a sandpaper block, and a pencil extender, plus a zip-up carrying case with a place for each piece. The set is great for intermediate and established artists, though ambitious beginners might love it too.
For premium-quality, dependable, and versatile drawing utensils, you can't go wrong with Staedtler Mars Lumograph. These German-made pencils contain super-bonded lead, which wears evenly and resists breaking (view at Amazon). However, for those who like a built-in eraser, we recommend Palomino Blackwing 602 Graphite Pencils. Aside from high-quality flat erasers on the ends, they're made with extra-firm yet incredibly smooth Japanese graphite lead (view at Amazon).
What to Look for in Drawing Pencils
There are a few different types of drawing pencils. You've got graphite pencils, which have a special kind of lead made of ground graphite (crystalline carbon) and clay. Most graphite pencils don't have attached erasers, but you can find high-quality options that do.
Then there are mechanical drawing pencils, which usually come with graphite lead. With the mechanical variety, you can count on a consistent, always-sharp tip, whereas standard pencils need to be sharpened. Both types of drawing pencils come in varying tip sizes.
Another thing to consider is firmness. The lead in drawing pencils ranges from very soft to extra-hard. You can buy them individually based on your preference or how dark of a line you need to draw, but sets often come with a variety of options.
With high-quality drawing pencils, softness doesn't equate to flimsiness. You can usually count on even the softest leads to be sturdy and resistant to breaking. The difference has more to do with the effect they create. Softer pencils make darker marks, whereas firm pencils will produce lighter lines.
Most drawing pencils have relatively dark charcoal-colored lead. However, there are also options in varying shades of gray and pearly white, as well as lead that's a bit closer to black.
And then there are colored pencils, which usually come in sets consisting of a broad range of hues. Colored pencils can be used for drawing and sketching. But since the lead is typically a little softer, they're better for shading, shadowing, and coloring in illustrations.
How do you hold a drawing pencil?
Hold the drawing pencil between your thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers—similar to how you hold a pen or regular pencil, only at a slightly different angle. When drawing or sketching, your outer two knuckles (on your pinky and ring finger) should graze the paper. Unlike writing, your elbow and arm will lead most of the movements.
How do you sharpen a drawing pencil?
Drawing pencils can be sharpened with pencil sharpeners, but you'll want to use one specifically designed for drawing pencils. Often called a "long-point pencil sharpener," the tool is designed to minimize breakage when sharpening graphite lead. Some options allow you to customize the point. You can also use sandpaper to reshape softer lead pencils when they become blunt.
What type of paper should I use with drawing pencils?
You can use any type of paper with drawing pencils—even printer paper. However, you'll probably want to use heavier, firmer paper for detailed drawings, illustrations, and hatching. And if you're looking to do some expressive sketching, slightly rough and fibrous paper is best.
Why Trust The Spruce Crafts?
Theresa Holland has been writing for The Spruce since 2019. She's always loved arts and crafts and has a deep appreciation for high-quality writing utensils. You can check out more of her work on MyDomaine.