15 Different Types Of Pencils

types of pencils

Pencils have been around for centuries and they have come a long way since their beginning. Nowadays, there are numerous types of pencils for different uses, from writing to drawing and colouring. Have you ever wondered how many types of pencils are there? In this article, we are going to explore all the different types of pencils available, including drawing pencils, coloured pencils, and many more. Whether you’re an artist, a student, or just someone who loves to write and draw, this will help you discover all the different types of pencils and their uses.

How Many Different Types of Pencils Are There?

The pencils are classified based on different criteria. The criteria used to classify the pencils are

  • Classification Based on Marking Material
  • Classification Based on Usage

Classification Based on Marking Material

The making material or lead of a pencil can be made up of different materials. Depending on the type of material used for writing material or the lead of a pencil, they are divided into the following eight categories.

  • Graphite Pencils
  • Solid Graphite Pencils
  • Liquid Graphite Pencils
  • Charcoal Pencils
  • Carbon Pencils
  • Coloured Pencils (or Crayons)
  • Grease Pencils
  • Watercolour Pencils

1. Graphite Pencils

Graphite pencils are pencils made from graphite. Graphite is a crystalline form of the element carbon. The lead or writing material of graphite pencils is made up of two powdery components – graphite and clay. The more graphite it has, the softer and darker you can draw with it. The more clay it has, the lighter and harder the pencil is. 

how many types of pencils are there

Note: Graphite is derived from a Greek word called graphene which means writing so it’s because graphite was primarily used initially for making pencils that’s how it got its name. It is an aloe trope of carbon which is greyish in colour and opaque. Graphite is formed when carbon is subjected to the intense heat and pressure of the earth’s crust and upper mantle. Graphite has the same chemical composition as a diamond, which is also pure carbon. It is the different molecular structure that gives each of they are almost opposite characteristics. 

how many types of pencils are there

The grading of graphite pencils ranges from 9H, 8H, etc to 1H, and H. It then moves into HB and then B1, B2, etc towards B9.  B9 is the softest and darkest. 9H is the lightest and hardest graphite pencil. Sometimes you can find an F pencil which is a slightly harder version of HB, meaning you can sharpen it to an even finer point.

Note: The degree of hardness of a pencil is denoted by ‘H’ and the degree of blackness of a pencil is denoted by ‘B’.

2. Solid Graphite Pencils

Solid graphite(or woodless graphite) pencils are drawing pencils made of pure, smooth graphite in a convenient pencil shape and size. These woodless graphite pencils are perfect for creating broad strokes and crisp edges. They can also produce thin lines and render details as you draw or sketch.

how many types of pencils are there

The grading of solid graphite pencils also ranges from 9H, 8H, etc to 1H, and H. It then moves into HB and then B1, B2, etc towards B9.  B9 is the softest and darkest. 9H is the lightest and hardest solid graphite pencil. 

3. Liquid Graphite Pencils

Liquid  Graphite Pencil is a pencil that allows you to create authentic graphite pencil effects and pencil sketches using a liquid. There are different shades of liquid graphite pencils. One of the most popular is Derivan liquid pencils. Derivan provides us with six different shades: red, blue, yellow, grey3, and grey9. They can be easily thinned with water. The liquid graphite pencils can be applied with a brush, nib, or other art tools.

how many types of pencils are there

4. Charcoal Pencils

Charcoal pencils are made by putting compressed charcoal (so charcoal powder and a gum or wax binder) into a wooden jacket or very occasionally into a paper jacket similar to a grease pencil. The most common wood used for the jacket of a charcoal pencil is cedar. This development for charcoal makes it perfect for producing fine, clean, and crisp drawings that you could produce with graphite pencils but with the added benefit that you can produce very deep black matte areas and shades that do not have a shine.

how many types of pencils are there

An advantage of charcoal pencils over other charcoal forms is there is a much lower chance of breakage and they are easy to sharpen to a point, for the paper wrapped version you peel away rather than sharpen but you can use a sand block to shape the tip. Both types of charcoal pencils allow you to use charcoal pencils to make tiny, considered, and accurate drawings with a lot of control and potential for minute detail.

They are found in the same variety of hardnesses as compressed charcoal ranging from extra soft to hard, also referred to as 6B to HB.

Note: Charcoal is an organic carbon compound. Charcoal is produced by the incomplete combustion of plant and animal products. Charcoal is widely used in outdoor cooking. Charcoal is generally obtained from the burning of plant parts like wood, peat, bones, and cellulose. It is a highly porous microcrystalline structure. It is also known as impure graphite form. When charcoal is obtained from coal, it is called activated coal.

5. Carbon Pencils

Carbon pencils are usually made of a mixture of clay and lamp black but are sometimes blended with charcoal or graphite depending on the darkness and manufacturer. They produce a deeper black than graphite pencils but are smoother than charcoal.

how many types of pencils are there

6. Coloured Pencils (or Crayons)

Coloured pencils(or crayons) are pencils that have a core of colored pigment and a protective casing made of wood. While standard pencils have a core of graphite and clay, the core of most coloured pencils is made of wax, pigments, additives, and binding agents. Other colored pencils are oil-based, water-soluble and some are even mechanical.

how many types of pencils are there

There are different types of coloured pencils depending on their intended use. Artist-grade pencils have higher concentrations of high-quality pigments than student-grade colored pencils. They also have measured and defined characteristics like “lightfastness” ( the ability of a pigment to retain its original color appearance under exposure to light i.e. resistance to UV rays in sunlight), core durability, break, and water resistance.

7. Grease Pencils

The grease pencil(or chinagraph pencil), is a writing implement made of hardened colored wax and is useful for marking on hard, glossy non-porous surfaces. This pencil is usually made from non-toxic opaque wax such as paraffin, beeswax, ceresin, carnauba, or spermaceti wax that is similar to a crayon. Marks made of grease pencils are resistant to moisture and can usually be removed by rubbing the marked surface with a paper towel.

how many types of pencils are there

Grease pencils are available in several forms. The outer casing may be made of wood and sharpened with a knife or pencil sharpener. Other types are covered in paper and sharpened by pulling a string to peel off the paper, needing no additional tools to remain functional. 

8. Watercolour Pencils

Watercolour pencils are coloured pencils that are made with a water-soluble pigment. When you combine them with water, the pigment activates and spreads on your canvas for a look that is similar to what you would get if you were using watercolour paint and a brush but with finer lines.

how many types of pencils are there

One of the biggest benefits of painting with watercolor pencils is that you get the control of drawing with a pencil with the finished look of brushed-on watercolor paint. For this reason, they’re incredibly useful for doing fine detail work, either in place of or in addition to paint. They can also be a helpful transitional tool for artists who normally draw but want to experiment with translucency and layered pigments.

Classification Based on Usage

Pencils are not only used for writing or drawing. They are also used in carpentry, makeup, etc. Based on their use, the pencils are divided into the following seven categories. 

  • Carpentry Pencils
  • Copying or Indelible Pencils
  • Eyeliner Pencils
  • Erasable Colouring Pencils
  • Non-Reproduction Pencils(or Non-Photo Blue Pencils)
  • Stenography Pencils
  • Golf Pencils

1. Carpentry Pencils

Carpentry pencils have flat sides with rectangular or elliptical cross-sections for three main reasons. First to keep it from rolling off the work surface, second to allow for a wider and thicker lead, and third to make it easier to grip, especially with work gloves.

how many types of pencils are there

A carpenter’s job involves cutting, shaping, and installing materials in the construction of buildings and other structures. To ensure that everything is cut to its precise length and shape, carpenters do a lot of measuring, calculating, and marking. Using a carpentry pencil, they mark wood and other materials so they would know where to cut according to the proper measurements. 

2. Copying or Indelible Pencils

Copying(or indelible) pencils are pencils whose lead contains a dye. The lead is fabricated by adding a dry water-soluble permanent dye to powdered graphite before binding the mixture with clay. 

how many types of pencils are there

These pencils were originally marketed for copying documents, especially for making permanent copies of a permanent original. This was achieved by creating a hand-written document using a copying pencil, laying a moist tissue paper over the document, and pressing it down with a mechanical press. The water-soluble dye in the writing would be transferred in its mirror image to the tissue paper, which could then be read in verso by holding it up to a light source.

The most commonly used dye was aniline, which produced a stain that was bright purple, mauve, or some colour in between, depending upon the manufacturer. 

Note: Aniline dye is a substance used to colour fabric, leather, and wood. Like many technological breakthroughs, it was an accidental discovery. Mauvine, the first aniline dye, was discovered by 18-year-old William Henry Perkin. He was trying to create a synthetic version of the anti-malaria drug quinine on a challenge given by his professor in 1856. These dyes are considered synthetic organic compounds, carbon-based chemical that is altered by another substance, or synthesized. They come in a variety of colors and are known for their clarity.

3. Eyeliner Pencils

An eyeliner pencil is a makeup product designed to line the eye. Eyeliner pencils resemble colour pencils. There are many types of eyeliner pencils, including retractable eyeliner pencils or wood or plastic pencils you sharpen. Unlike copying pencils, eyeliner pencils contain non-toxic dyes and makeup. Several brands are available in the market that produces several types of eyeliners.

how many types of pencils are there

4. Erasable Colouring Pencils

Erasable colouring pencils are pencils that have been made specifically to allow users to erase the colour after a mistake, leaving them with a clean white page and allowing them to try again. The main difference between a ‘conventional’ pencil and an erasable pencil is the amount of pigment in the lead. The pigment is the bit that gives the pencil its color. By upping that amount of graphite and binders in a pencil lead, and reducing the amount of pigment, manufacturers can make colored pencils easier to erase.

how many types of pencils are there

5. Non-Reproduction Pencils(or Non-Photo Blue Pencils)

Non-reproduction(or non-photo blue or non-repro blue) is a particular shade of blue pencils used by artists and graphic designers that somehow doesn’t show up on graphic arts camera film. It can also be easily scanned out of images with graphic editing software. This means that sketch lines or notes don’t have to be erased before an image is photographed and sent to be printed. 

how many types of pencils are there

6. Stenography Pencils

Stenographer’s pencils (or steno pencils) are expected to be very reliable, and their lead is breakproof. Nevertheless, sometimes steno pencils are sharpened at both ends to enhance reliability. They are round to avoid pressure pain during long texts.

how many types of pencils are there

Standard steno pencils are graded using the ‘H’ and ‘B’ notations, with an HB Pencil being a regular writing pencil, a 2H being harder and a 2B being softer, with the full scale running from 6H to 6B. 

7. Golf Pencils

Golf pencils(short pencils, mini pencils, or hotel pencils) are used in golf to keep score. These are pre-sharpened pencils along with an eraser. It’s called a golf pencil because of this specific use, although it is frequently used for other purposes as well. 

how many types of pencils are there

Opposed to the pencils that have been shortened due to excessive use and sharpening, the golf pencil is intentionally produced in a small size.

These specialist pencils for golf can be found in a variety of shapes e.g. round, triangular, hexagonal, with/without eraser, and with the option of choosing between the type of wood used in the production of the pencil. An interesting feature is that golf pencils can also be customized through a lacquered cap or a ring.


What are the different types of pencils?

The pencils are of different types based on the writing material and utility.
1. Different types of pencils based on writing material are Graphite Pencils, Solid Graphite Pencils, Liquid Graphite Pencils, Charcoal Pencils, Carbon Pencils, Coloured Pencils (or Crayons), Grease Pencils, and Watercolour Pencils.
2. Different types of pencils based on utility materials are Carpentry Pencils, Copying or Indelible Pencils, Eyeliner Pencils, Erasable Colouring Pencils, Non-Reproduction Pencils(or Non-Photo Blue Pencils), Stenography Pencils, and Golf Pencils.

Why is it called a lead pencil?

Graphite pencils are called lead pencils because the time when pencils were invented, people thought graphite was a form of lead; hence the name given to pencils.

What is the lead of a pencil made of?

The lead of common pencils is made of graphite. But there are many other types of pencils whose lead is made of other different materials.

What does ‘HB’ means in a pencil?

‘HB’ stands for degrees of hardness and degree of blackness in a pencil. The degree of hardness of a pencil is denoted by ‘H’ and the degree of blackness of a pencil is denoted by ‘B’.


In conclusion, pencils are more complex than you might think! From different types of lead hardness to various colours and shapes, there are many types of pencils out there to meet all of your creative and writing needs. We hope you enjoyed learning about the many types of pencils available in the market today. Don’t forget to experiment with different types of pencils to find the ones that work best for you!