According to Pencils.com, the average pencil doesn't actually lead, but rather a compound called graphite. It's this silvery-black substance, along with a little clay, that allows a graphite pencil to make the marks on your paper. Although the pencil is quite a common tool for the artist, not all pencils produce the same marks, nor does an artist require a graphite pencil to use graphite to create graphite drawings.
A discussion of the types of graphite art techniques wouldn't be complete without some basic knowledge of graphite pencils. Graphite art pencils come labelled with the letters "H" or "B." This signifies how hard the lead of a pencil is, which gives you an indication of the type of mark that a particular pencil will make compared to another. The graphite pencils labelled with an "H" have harder leads and produce lighter marks. The "B" pencils, which stand for "black," have softer leads, and the ones number 5B or higher can produce marks that are quite dark. One key element in making dramatic graphite drawings is the variations between the lightest lights and the darkest darks. Using pencils with different leads represents one of the simplest but most effective tools you can use to create drama in a drawing using only graphite.
In large drawings, elements like the unbroken line of the skin or bushes in the distance can sometimes be better created with graphite powder instead of pencils. Graphite powder comes in jars in loose form. It allows you to sprinkle graphite powder over large areas of your drawing in less time and effort than it takes to cover the same area with graphite using pencils. Additionally, once you blend the graphite powder with a chamois cloth (piece of soft leather) or tissue, the results are a thin layer of graphite that looks much more uniform than the results garnered from using pencils. To use graphite powder, sprinkle a small amount from the jar onto the area in which you need coverage. Blend the powder with a cloth or tissue.
Shading Stumps and Tortillon
For portrait artists, the shading stump and blending tortillon count as key tools to help them create photorealistic shading in pencil portraits. These items are made from rolled paper with one or both ends coming to a point. You use the side of the pointed ends to blend the shaded areas of graphite to make them appear even smoother. These tools are especially useful for creating realistic skin textures when you're drawing with graphite.
Mixing Graphite and Charcoal
Artist J.D. Hillberry writes that mixing graphite with charcoal creates a reflective quality to drawings. This technique allows you to realistically draw objects like glass or certain kinds of metal. To employ this technique in your drawing, lay down a layer of charcoal with your charcoal pencil. Shade the area using the side of your pencil instead of the point. Once you've shaded the spot in charcoal, go over the area again with a graphite pencil. Shade the area in the same way you did with the charcoal pencil, laying your pencil on its side.
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- "Drawing Realistic Textures in Pencil"; J.D. Hillberry; 1999
- "The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain"; Betty Edwards; 1999
- "Drawing: Space, Form & Expression"; Wayne Enstice & Melody Peters; 1996
- "Keys to Drawing"; Bert Dodson; 1990
- "How to Draw Lifelike Portraits from Photographs"; Lee Hammond; 1995
- Pencils.com: The Unleaded Pencil