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Updated: Nov 18, 2020

History of Graphite

Types of graphite and pencils according to their marking material:

Coloured or graded Graphite Pencils

These are the most common types of art and drafting pencils, and are encased in wood. They are made of a mixture of clay and graphite and their darkness varies from light grey to dark grey almost black. Their slim composition allows for the smoothest strokes and loads of layering.

Graphite Sticks

Rectangular blocks of pure graphite. No casing and found in small sicks or in large blocks. Used for covering large areas.

Graphite Chunk

A big assed chunk of pure graphite. Mesmerizing to look at but for the most part fairly unmanageable.

Graphite Powder

As the name says, graphite that is powdered. Superb for larger drawings and multimedia pieces. Can also be brushed on using rubbing alcohol.

Charcoal Pencils

Made of charcoal and provide fuller blacks than graphite pencils, but tend to smudge easily and are more abrasive than graphite. Graded from soft to hard with sepia-toned and white pencils are also available for duotone techniques.

Carbon Pencils

Generally 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 fuller black than graphite pencils, but are smoother than charcoal. Just about every ad man from the forties and fifties used them on stipple paper.

Coloured Pencils, or Pencil Crayons

These have wax-like cores with pigment and other fillers and encased in wood. These also come in a woodless variety for better coverage. Multiple colours are often blended together.

Grease Pencils

They write on virtually any surface (including glass, plastic, metal and photographs). The most commonly found grease pencils are encased in paper (Berol and Sanford Peel-off), but they can also be encased in wood (Staedtler Omnichrom).

Watercolour Pencils

These are pigmented lead with a water soluble binder added. The pencils can be used by themselves for sharp, bold lines. Strokes made by the pencil can also be saturated with water and spread with brushes.

Types of Pencils according to their use:

Carpenter's Pencils

These are pencils that have two main properties: their shape prevents them from rolling, and their graphite is bold. They don't sharpen well which is why they are used for large rough sketches. The oldest surviving pencil is a German carpenter's pencil dating from the 17th Century and now in the Faber-Castell collection.

Copying Pencils

These are graphite pencils with an added dye that creates an indelible mark. They were invented in the late 19th century for press copying and as a practical substitute for fountain pens. Their markings are often visually indistinguishable from those of standard graphite pencils, but when moistened their markings dissolve into a coloured ink, which is then pressed into another piece of paper. They posed significant health risks. They were widely used until the mid 20th century when ball pens slowly replaced them. In Italy their use is still mandated by law for voting paper ballots in elections and referenda.

Erasable Colour Pencils

Unlike wax-based coloured pencils, these can be easily erased. Their main use is in sketching, where the objective is to create an outline using the same colour that other media (such as wax pencils, or watercolour paints) would fill or when the objective is to scan the colour sketch. Some animators prefer erasable colour pencils as opposed to graphite pencils because they don't smudge as easily, and the different colours allow for better separation of objects in the sketch. Copy-editors find them useful too, as their markings stand out more than graphite but can be erased. My grade ten english teacher used to grade in these pencils making it easy to make to make a "D" into a "B" on my way home....sorry mom....

Non-reproducing or non-photo blue Pencils

Make marks that are not reproduced by photocopiers (Sanford's Copy-not or Staedtler's Mars Non-photo) or by whiteprint copiers (Staedtler's Mars Non-Print)

Stenographer's Pencil

Also known as a steno pencil. These pencils are expected to be very reliable, and their lead is break proof. Nevertheless sometimes steno pencils are sharpened at both ends to enhance reliability. They are round to avoid pressure pain during long texts. I think the Ipad has put this pencil in the retirement home.

Golf Pencil Golf pencils are usually short (a common length is 9 cm) and very cheap. They are also known as library pencils,  or as bowling pencils. These are super easy to steal.....I think that's why they put out so many.

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