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Are 2B Pencils Good for Drawing? (Best Pencils for Drawing)

the tip of a 2b pencil

Most pencils that are sold in stores are actually 2b pencils. Since 2b pencils are the most popular you may be wondering “are 2b pencils good for drawing?”.

This is the most common pencil grade and it’s often used for drawing and/or writing. It creates lines dark enough for you to see but not so dark that it’s difficult to erase.

2b pencils are good for drawing, sketching, and light shading.

It’s the perfect grade for anything, be it sketching or writing a quick note. For artists, 2b pencils are utilized more often as sketch pencils as they create hard yet easy-to-erase lines. They can even be used for shading, although, if you want a darker shade, you’re going to have to layer on top of it as well as add a bit more pressure.

All in all, 2b is a versatile pencil grade that can be used for almost anything, including drawing.

Table of Contents

    Are 2b Pencils Good for Drawing?

    sharpened pencils lined up on a wooden surface

    Yes, 2b pencils are good for drawing. The lines they make are dark enough to be seen but not difficult to erase, making them perfect for initial sketches.

    You can find 2b pencils almost anywhere. In school, in offices, in your art studio, or even on your dad’s worktable. It’s an all-around everyday type of pencil where it can be used for anything.

    This is because 2b pencils create hard and crisp lines that are easy to see but not difficult to erase. For artists, 2b pencils are used for initial sketches and even light shading.

    Initial sketches need pencils where you can draw and see your creation, but also be able to erase it once you’re ready for the final outline. 2b pencils are good for that. It’s the middle ground of all of the pencil shades, from 9H to 9B.

    Artists also use 2b for some shading, however, do note that it will not be as dark as you want it to be so you’re probably going to have to add a couple of layers on top of the shade. This may ruin your paper, especially if you’re using a thin type of paper. I suggest only using 2b for some light shading but using a different and darker grade (like 5b-7b) for shading dark areas.

    Is 2B or HB Better for Drawing?

    Although 2b and HB are awfully similar, personally, I think 2b is better for drawing than HB. HB is a little lighter than 2b however it’s still dark enough to be seen.

    Just like 2b, HB is the perfect pencil for things like initial sketches. But because it’s a bit lighter, its marks can be easier to erase than 2b. That said, people prefer 2b more because it’s a lot softer on paper than HB is (HB stands for ‘Hard Black’).

    It doesn’t offer as much versatility as 2b, which can function as a sketching pencil, final outline pencil, and even a shading pencil.

    If you’re not all too familiar with the different pencil grades, have a look at our other article here: What Are the Best Pencils for Drawing? (Top 5 Recommendations)

    What Are 2b Pencils Used For In Drawing?

    the ends of a pencil on a notebook

    2b pencils can be used for:

    • Sketching
    • Marking (creating specific points on your drawing to guide you with proportion and perspective)
    • Outlining
    • Light shading

    As you can see, 2b has a lot of uses. Although some pencil grades would definitely be a lot better at some of those things than 2b, when you can only carry one pencil, 2b is the right pick.

    It’s basically a jack of all trades. Because its marks are easy to erase, 2b pencils can be used for sketching and marking. Because it’s hard enough to be able to create dark lines, it’s also good for outline and shading. If Goldilocks had to pick a pencil, she’d pick 2b.

    Of course, that’s not to say 2b is the right pencil for any type of drawing. When shading dark shadows, pencil grades that are between 5b to 8b will definitely look a lot better than 2b. Pencils from the H range of the spectrum will also be a lot easier to erase for initial sketching or marking than 2b.

    But when in doubt, pick a 2b pencil. If you’re wondering which pencil to bring with you everywhere along with your sketchbook, 2b is the right choice.

    Is 2b Good for Shading?

    2b pencils are good for shading but not that good.

    Different pencils have different areas where they shine. 2b shines when it comes to sketching, however, it falls under mediocre when it comes to dark shading. (It’s good for light shading though!)

    For you to have a really dark shade when using 2b, you’re gonna have to add layers. First, color out the area you want to shade, then once that’s done, add on top of it to make it darker. You do this until you’re satisfied with the shade, which, from my experience, I would never be. Especially for professional portraits.

    Adding multiple layers on top of one specific area in your paper can sometimes bend your paper, especially if it’s thin. It also goes without saying that, no matter how many layers you add, eventually it’s going to be as dark as it is and won’t go any further. So if you find that you’ve already shaded an area 5 times yet it’s still not dark, that probably means that’s as dark as it will go.

    This is why it’s good to have different pencil grades. The best pencil grade for dark shading is around 5b to 7b.

    That said, 2b can be great at light shading or creating midtones! Because it’s just between light and dark, 2b is at the perfect range to create midtones, which is the gray area between the lightest and darkest part of your drawing.

    If you don’t know anything about shading or midtones, have a quick look at this video:

    How to use tone-basic shading

    Is a 2B Pencil Hard or Soft?

    the tip of a pencil on a dark backdrop

    2b falls under the ‘B’ range of the pencil grade spectrum, but it’s not so far ahead of the ‘H’ range. This means 2b is in between hard and soft.

    In pencils, ‘H’ means hard. The graphites in these pencils were designed to leave less graphite on the paper which is why pencils in this range produce light marks. At the top of this scale is 9H, which is has the hardest graphite and therefore produces the lightest marks.

    On the other hand, we have ‘B’, which stands for ‘Black’ or ‘Blackness’. Pencils on this end of the spectrum have softer graphite which clings onto paper a lot easier than hard graphite. The marks these pencils make are dark and the further you go along the spectrum, the darker the pencil marks. The darkest grade is 9b.

    2b is on the ‘B’ side of the spectrum. This means its graphite is soft and create dark marks. However, it is near to HB or H pencils, meaning it’s also much lighter and a bit harder than the other pencils down the B spectrum.

    In general, 2b is a mixture between hard and soft.

    What Do the Numbers Mean On Pencils?

    The numbers on the pencil represents how hard or soft the pencil is. If the number is followed by an H, that means its pencil marks will be light. The higher the number goes up, the lighter the pencil marks get.

    Similar to if the number was followed by a B, it would mean the pencil marks will be dark. The higher the number next to the letter is, the darker the marks will get.

    The lightest grade is the 9H pencil and the darkest grade is the 9B pencil. They both sit on opposite sides of the spectrum.

    Currently, there’s about 20 pencil grades out there (that I know of), starting with 2 and ending with 9. There’s also the H and the B, which can be considered as number 1 as each grade starts with them. There’s also HB and F which stands for Hard Black and Firm.

    What Do The Letters Mean on Pencils?

    a bunch of pencils in boxes

    The letters on the pencil represents pencil grades. Pencil grades refer to how hard or soft the graphite on the pencil is. The harder the graphite, the lighter the marks it produces. The softer, the darker.

    Pencil grades begin with H pencils. H stands for ‘Hardness’ which means the pencils on this spectrum are hard. Because it is hard, it leaves less graphite on the paper and creates light lines that are easy to erase. Pencils on the H spectrum are: 9H (the lightest one), 8H, 7H, 6H, 5H, 4H, 3H, 2H, and H.

    The pencils on the B side of the spectrum are the opposite. Their graphites are much softer. ‘B’ means blackness which means pencils on this side create dark lines. The pencils on the B spectrum are: 9b (the darkest one), 8b, 7b, 6b, 5b, 4b, 3b, 2b, and B.

    Between these two pencil grades sits HB and F. HB stands for Hard Black and F stands for Firmness. These pencils are in between hard and soft. They can produce dark lines that are easy to see but also easy to erase.

    If you’re wondering what best to use these grades for, have a look at this table:

    PurposePencil Grades
    Light marks/Fine details9H, 8H, 7H, 6H
    Initial sketches5H, 4H, 3H, 2H
    SketchesH, HB, F, 2B
    Soft Shading  3B, 4B, 5B
    Dark Shading6B, 7B, 8B, 9B
    Pencil grades and what they’re best used for

    What Should You Use: H Pencils vs B Pencils?

    Each pencil grade has their own purpose and there’s no point in trying to ‘pick a side’.

    If you’re looking to create small light marks of fine details, you can opt to go for the lighter pencils from 9H to 6H. These pencils are far too light for any sketching however, they’re perfect for creating light marks or fine details.

    For initial sketches, pencils ranging from 5H to 2H are good. For final sketches, any pick from H to 2b will do you justice. Although, as I said earlier, when in doubt, pick a 2b pencil. If you don’t want to constantly switch pencils just for sketching, you can use a 2b pencil for both initial and final sketches! If you want something lighter, an HB or a B pencil will do you good too.

    Now onto shading, you can pick any pencil from 3b to 5b for soft and light shading and any pencil from 6b to 8b for dark shading. Keep in mind the darkness of a pencil’s marks is also affected by the pressure you apply on the pencil, so if you’re using a 5b for light shading, try not apply too much pressure.

    If you’re looking for a basic guide to shading, have a look at our other article here: Why is Shading So Difficult?

    Now you may be wondering, ‘Do I really need all these pencils to create a good drawing?’, the answer is no. You do not need every pencil grade to create a good drawing. You only a couple from each grade. When shopping for pencils, get a couple of light pencils and dark ones. You don’t need to get each and every grade.

    You can also go for sets which usually includes 12 pencils of a variety of shades. It also depends on what you usually draw when picking pencils.

    For me, I only carry around three pencil grades: 2b, 5b, and 6b. This is because I tend to just sketch. I don’t need any light pencils for initial sketches because I go straight into a final sketch, and I also don’t need a really dark pencil as I don’t normally do heavy shading.

    If you’re one for fine details and heavy shading then you should choose a different set of grades based off of that.

    What Are the Best Pencils For Drawing and Sketching?

    two gray pencils on a yellow surface

    The best pencil grade for drawing and sketching is the 2b pencil. As I’ve mentioned before, 2b is like the jack of all trades in pencils. However, if you want a darker outline for your drawings, a 4b pencil or 5b pencil would be better.

    For best pencil brand, I talked about it in more detail in my other article here but for a brief summary, our top picks for pencil brands are:

    • Staedtler Mars Lumograph Art Drawing Pencils
    • Faber-Castell 9000 Graphite Sketch Pencil
    • Koh-I-Noor Toison d’Or Graphite Pencil
    • Prismacolor Premier Graphite Pencils
    • Castle Art Supplies 12 Piece Graphite Drawing Pencils

    They come in sets which means you don’t have to buy each grade individually. They’re proven to be sturdy and won’t easily break when you sharpen them.

    That said, they don’t come with all the grades and some of them only has a limited amount of pencils for a certain grade, so be sure to do your research (or read our article first!) and figure out how you want to use these pencils before buying them.

    I hope this article helped! Thanks for reading!

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