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Exercise Worksheet - Pencil Hardness


Check out the Exercise and Download the Practice Sheet HERE.  

Artist: Tim Von Rueden (vonn)

Pencil labels, numbers, and letters can be confusing and overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. This exercise makes it clear what the difference between “B” pencils and “H” pencils is.

Let’s break it down:

  • HB is the center point on the hardness spectrum. What this means: the higher the number, the further from the center point, HB.
  • H stands for the hardness of the pencil. The higher the H-number, the lighter the result.
  • B stands for the “blackness” (or commonly also “softness”) of the pencil. The higher the B-number, the darker the result

How can you remember this? I like to remember that B stands for how “Bold” the result will be: a 9B will have a much bolder and darker result than a 3B pencil.

What does this mean in practice? No matter how hard you push a 6H pencil, you won’t achieve the same result that your 6B pencil will.

Note: if you ever see just a “B” on the pencil, it’s the same thing as “1B” and same for “H” is the same thing as “1H”.

Every now and then, you’ll see a pencil labeled “F”. This means the pencil can be sharpened to a “Fine” point because of the quality of the graphite and it will almost always be an HB in terms of hardness.


I recommend that you use a high number B and H pencils: anything over 5 will work great.

When working on this exercise be sure to choose a subject matter that you feel comfortable drawing. I don’t want you to focus on the realism aspects such as proportions or details! Instead, feel the difference working with each pencil and how each one will leave you with a different end result.

Make sure you are only using one pencil per drawing until you do the final one, in which you can use all 3.

What will you learn? There are advantages and disadvantages to each pencil type. Through isolated experimenting, you’ll be able to see and understand the difference all on your own!

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Chocolatesparerib's avatar
F was always my favourite but i never knew what it meant or why i like it more than the others. well now i know. thanks, great tutorial!
MissJantastic's avatar
What about and HB pencil? And F?
Scantico's avatar
They showcased the HB pencil, look one more time ;)
MissJantastic's avatar
Oops, guess I missed it, sorry! :o Thanks! :) 
Scantico's avatar
No problem friend ;)
Anavertis's avatar
Ohh nice;p I will do it !
GreenAngel5's avatar
Not only is that a cool visual of the pencils at work, this is rather nice reminder to learn from the basics again :clap: Thanks and lovely work :clap:
KrolinaSart's avatar
wow! thanks a lots for this tips! :iconpyongiluplz: 
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