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Home >> Painting Tools >> Pencil


Pencil is probably the most commonly used medium of expression. It might seem simple but it also happens to be one of the most difficult to master.


Pencil as a medium has overtaken our psyche so successfully that we presume that it has been around for ages. The truth is that pencil is a comparatively new phenomenon. The discovery of graphite and its remarkable marking qualities led people to believe that this quality should be used to the best possible advantage. Initially, the chunks of graphite was wrapped in cloth or hide. In the early to late 17th century, pencils were made by sawing the graphite into thin sheets, which were then encased in wood. A cheaper process was discovered in 1795. The process consisted of powdering the graphite, mixing it with clay, and then firing the mix. Further refinement in the form of wax being added to create softness, were made.

Manufacture of Pencil

Today, pencils are made industrially by mixing finely ground graphite and clay powders, adding water, forming long spaghetti-like strings, and firing them in a kiln. The resulting strings are dipped in oilor molten wax which seeps into the tiny holes of the material, resulting in smoother writing.

A juniper or incense-cedar plank with several long parallel grooves is cut to make something called a slat, and the graphite/clay strings are inserted into the grooves. Another grooved plank is glued on top, and the whole thing is then cut into individual pencils, which are then varnished or painted.

Many pencils, particularly those used by artists, are labelled on the European system using a "degrees" scale from "H" (for hardness) to "B" (for blackness), as well as "F" (for fine point). The standard writing pencil is "HB".

Using Pencil

The usage of pencil is such a common thing that any description of it will be stating the obvious. Most of the time, graphite is slowly layered over an area -darkening a section with multiple layers. Other artists prefer to carefully smudge or blend the pencil to create suitable variations. Another technique is to lift areas of graphite with a kneaded eraser, which can lead to very minute details.

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