Graphite pencils – numbering grades explained simply

For a long time a pencil was a pencil. That was, until I got down to the nitty-gritty of the two pencil systems HB and F.  Here is the simple explaination of the differences and grading systems:

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Graphite pencils are used for a wide range of artistic and writing purposes. They are available in a variety of different grades or hardness levels. Hardness or softness of a graphite pencil is typically indicated by a number, which is known as the pencil’s “lead” number.

Graphite pencils – HB system

There are two main systems for numbering graphite pencils: the HB system and the F system. The HB system, which stands for “hard black,” is the most widely used system and is used for general-purpose pencils. The HB scale ranges from 9H (the hardest and lightest in color) to 9B (the softest and darkest in color). Pencils with higher numbers are softer and produce darker, thicker lines, while pencils with lower numbers are harder and produce lighter, finer lines.

Graphite pencils – F system

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The F system, which stands for “fine,” is used for more specialized pencils and is typically used by artists. The F scale ranges from 6H (the hardest and lightest in color) to 6B (the softest and darkest in color). Like the HB scale, pencils with higher numbers are softer and produce darker lines. Pencils with lower numbers are harder and produce lighter lines.

Graphite pencils – hardness and softess

It’s important to note that the hardness or softness of a pencil is subjective and can vary from brand to brand. Some pencils may be labeled as HB, but they may actually be softer or harder than other HB pencils. It’s always a good idea to test out a few different pencils to find the one that works best for your needs.

In conclusion, the main difference between the HB and F systems for numbering graphite pencils is the range of the scale and the intended use of the pencils. The HB system is used for general-purpose pencils and ranges from 9H to 9B, while the F system is used for specialized pencils and ranges from 6H to 6B. The higher the number, the softer and darker the pencil, while the lower the number, the harder and lighter the pencil.