Graphite Pencil Degrees of Hardness Explained

Graphite Degrees of Hardness

Your graphite pencil lead guide!

As the world’s largest pencil manufacturer, Faber-Castell has developed an expertise in graphite pencils through 260 years of history and experience. Our high-quality graphite pencils consist of a mixture of graphite and clay and are currently available in 19 degrees of hardness. The degree of graphite hardness is determined by the mix ratio of the graphite and clay, the greater the graphite the softer the lead and the more clay the harder the lead.

Historical pencil production sketch

With 19 degrees of hardness to choose from there is a graphite pencil for every type of artist. The right degree of hardness to use depends on the heaviness of the artist’s hand, the paper being used, and the type of art desired to be created. An artist with a heavy hand might prefer softer leads to balance their pressure whereas an artist with a lighter drawing hand may prefer relatively hard lead qualities.  The surface of an artist’s paper acts as a rasp, shaving off extremely fine particles of the lead as it writes. The rougher the paper, the more lead particles are worn off. In general, rough or hard paper requires a harder quality of lead and smooth or soft paper a softer quality lead.

Graphite Pencil Degrees of Hardness Scale Explained:

The Faber-Castell hardness scale to which pencils are manufactured has remained unchanged since 1910 signifying levels of hardness through letters and numbers. Graphite pencils are classified as either soft black (B), hard (H), hard black (HB), and firm (F). The degree of soft black, hard, hard black, and firm are then further classified by numbers, the higher the number the higher the intensity.

The 19 degrees of graphite pencil hardness are: 14B, 12B, 10B, 8B, 7B, 6B, 5B, 4B, 3B, 2B, B, HB, F, H, 2H, 3H, 4H, 5H, and 6H. Graphite pencils with hardness degrees of 3B to 8B are ideal for artistic, pictorial drawing with their very soft to extra soft, very black graphite. Graphite pencils H, F, HB, B, and 2B are ideal for drawing and writing with our B (soft black) pencil being equivalent to the traditional No. 2 pencil. Lastly, graphite pencils with hardness degrees varying from 2H to 6H are ideal for technical drawing.

Pitt Graphite Matte Degrees of Hardness:

Pitt Graphite Matte degrees of hardness

Pitt Graphite Matte pencils, a newer line of graphite, introduced 10B, 12B, and 14B degrees of lead to our collection. Softer and darker than the rest, these degrees of graphite are matte black. The 14B matte graphite is the first of its kind. 

Faber-Castell Graphite Pencils:

Castell 9000 Graphite Pencils with sketch

The Castell 9000 and the Castell 9000 Jumbo are the ideal expressive, artistic medium, not just for professionals but also for hobbyists. Castell 9000 Graphite Pencils are available in all 16 degrees of hardness: 8B, 7B, 6B, 5B, 4B, 3B, 2B, B, HB, F, H, 2H, 3H, 4H, 5H, and 6H. Castell 9000 Jumbo is available in 5 soft degrees: HB, 2B, 4B, 6B, and 8B.

Shop Castell 9000

Pitt Graphite Matte pencils and sketch of horse

Pitt Graphite Matte Pencils provide an ultra-matte graphite laydown for reduced reflection on paper. Dedicated to bringing deep dark glare-free graphite to your artwork, Faber-Castell created the world’s first 14th degree of matte lead hardness; dark, soft, matte lead. The creation of lead hardness 14 B brings to life a new dimension of monochrome drawing. Pitt Graphite Matte is available in eight degrees of hardness: HB, 2B, 4B, 6B, 8B, 12B, 14B.

Shop Pitt Graphite Matte Pencils

Graphite Aquarelle Pencil with sketch

Graphite Aquarelle pencils are water-soluble pencils ideal for preliminary sketches for watercolor drawings and for complete watercolor techniques in graphite. Graphite Aquarelle is available in 5 degrees of hardness: HB, 2B, 4B, 6B, and 8B.

Shop Graphite Aquarelle

Pitt Graphite pencil, crayon, and sketch

Pitt Graphite Pure Pencils are made of finely milled graphite for smooth laydown. They blend easily and are suitable for expressive shading of large areas. Pitt Graphite Pure Pencils are available in 4 degrees of hardness: HB, 3B, 6B, and 9B.

Pitt Graphite Crayons are great for very large sketches, large-scale work and frottage techniques thanks to their rich intense graphite laydown. Graphite Crayons are available in 4 degrees of hardness: 2B, 4B, 6B, and 9B.

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Goldfaber Graphite Color Pencils and sketch

Goldfaber Graphite Pencils are versatile graphite pencils for drawing and sketching and are available in 8 degrees of hardness: 4H, 2H, H, HB, 2B, 4B, and 6B.

 Shop Goldfaber Graphite Pencils

 Grip 2001 Graphite Pencil and fashion sketch

Grip EcoPencils have patented softgrip zones with raised black dots for secure, non-slip grip. Grip EcoPencils are perfect for writing and are available in 4 degrees of hardness: B, 2H, HB, 2B.

Shop Grip EcoPencils

Shop our entire selection of graphite pencils, here!


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