As an architecture student, we remember feeling overwhelmed when first introduced to the vast and extensive drawing equipment available for designers. Which pencils are good for drawing? Which ones are good for rendering? What kind of pencils are best for architects and designers? What should you keep in mind while purchasing pencils? Initially, we thought the pencils one used didn’t make a difference, but over time we have realized that while the right tools can’t make for a better design, they can help make your work a lot easier and improve the quality of drawings drastically.  Below is a comprehensive list of pencils for architects and designers. From the different kinds of pencils to which ones suit your purposes, this is a place to start your journey of experimentation into which pencils work for you. 

Which grade should I use?

H– H stands for ‘hard’. These pencils make lighter lines that are less likely to smudge, generally used for technical drawings, drafting, guidelines, and lightly drawn sketches that can be painted over easily. The high quantity of clay in them can make them a little scratchy, especially as you move up the scale. So a 9H is the hardest, while H is a little smoother and darker. 

  F – These are fine point pencils that are sharp and good for drawing lines. These lines are darker than H grade pencils and do not smudge. 

HB– This is an ideal all-purpose pencil. It is for drawing, writing, and even shading to an extent. It contains more graphite than H pencils, but not as much as B grade pencils hence falling right in the middle of the scale.

B– B refers to the blackness or the graphite content of a pencil. The leads B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B and 6B get softer as the numbers increase and are great for shading, toning and blending. The higher grades feel almost like charcoal pencils as they give an artistic, brush-like texture to drawings and sketches. 

EE– These contain a mix of graphite and charcoal, making them suitable for very dark shading and tonal modelling. They also smudge easily and leave a dark mark on the page. 

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Pencil grades_©

What are Mechanical pencils? 

Mechanical pencils come with a replaceable lead that does not need sharpening. They can be refilled with different grade leads as required through a push or click mechanism found within the pen. This makes them reusable and convenient to travel with, as one doesn’t need to carry a large variety of pencils. While they have several advantages, I found it uncomfortable to adjust to when I first started.  Once I got used to it, I found it difficult to switch back to wooden pencils. Mechanical pencils have several advantages over wooden pencils- they provide more consistent line widths, do not need sharpening and don’t change shape and balance as they are used. However, wooden pencils provide a better grip, and beginners should get comfortable with that first before switching to mechanical pencils, as they are better practice for your hand to move freely. 

Five Essential Pencils and Pencil Sets for Designers 

  1. Staedtler Mars Lumograph Drawing Pencil for Design and Drafting – Pack of 12
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Staedtler Mars Lumograph Drawing Pencil for Design and Drafting – Pack of 12_©

These pencils are a versatile collection, ideal for professional artists and graphic designers. From sketching to highly detailed rendering, this set has a wide range of grey tones and gives a metallic lustre to the page. The lead is break-resistant, and the wood is of good quality, so it is a worthy investment for designers and architects. If you have to choose one set, this one is recommended for its adaptability. 

  1. Tombow Mono Drawing Pencil, Assorted Degrees, Graphite 
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Tombow Mono Drawing Pencil, Assorted Degrees, Graphite_©

This set is excellent for those inclined toward more artistic drawings. The lead is made from high-density graphite and the cedar wood provides a firm grip to the user. Pencils range from 6H to 6B and are ideal for blending, shading, toning and detailing. 

  1. Staedtler Mars 780 Technical Mechanical Pencil, 2mm. 780BK

This is a technical drawing pencil that most architects and designers are familiar with. Along with Mars Rotary Action Lead Pointer and Tub for sharpening the lead, this pencil is great for drafting, technical drawings, sketches and can even be used for shading. The leads are replaceable, of course, so it is also reusable and retractable, a handy tool to carry without risk of tip breaking.

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Staedtler Mars 780 Technical Mechanical Pencil, 2mm. 780BK Graphite_©

4. Cretacolor Monolith Woodless Graphite Pencils Set of 11

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Cretacolor Monolith Woodless Graphite Pencils Set of 11_©

These are a set of water-soluble graphite, which creates diverse textures when used with water. Available in grades ranging from HB to 6B, these are shading pencils- woodless with a thick lacquer coating. While the price is a little higher, these are a good investment for fine art, large scale work and high quality, velvety finishes. 

  1. Caran d’Ache Graphite Line
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Caran d’Ache Graphite Line_©

This set contains the most extensive variety of pencils-5 GRAFWOOD graphite pencils (9B – 4H), three water-soluble TECHNALO pencils (2B, B, HB), 6 GRAFCUBE sticks, a sharpener, a blending stump, a double pencil sharpener and a TECHNIK rubber. It is a complete set of all the equipment one needs to get started and try out different pencils and styles. 

What Should I Look for in a Pencil? 

While the above list contains a wide collection of pencils and grades, you don’t need to buy all of them. This is simply a guide to get started, and most sets contain all the essential pencils to experiment with. Everyone has a different approach and style, so take some time to figure out what works for you. Most importantly, having a wide range of pencils is always helpful for architects and designers. Knowledge about the equipment you use will give you confidence and help you make beautiful drawings more effortlessly. 


Zoeanna is an architecture student, currently pursuing her bachelor of architecture. In her free time, she can be found curled up in a corner with a cup of coffee and a good book. She loves travelling, sketching, doing yoga, daydreaming and exploring new ideas through writing.