8 best pencils for designers and artists

Whatever your design discipline, here are the best pencils you can buy.

Whether you're creating a rough draft of an illustration, learning how to draw, or sketching out a mockup before hitting the wireframe tools, you'll need to know what the best pencils are. Fortunately, a solid, reliable set of pencils is not the most expensive item in the designer's toolkit so you can afford to try out a few different brands in your search for the best pencil.

Here we've gathered together our selection of the eight best pencils to get you started – then why not pair up your choice with one of these designer notebooks to die for?

01. Caran D'ache Graphite Line gift box

We're talking the Bugatti Veyron of pencils here, basically

No, you haven't misread that price. And yes, that's the correct picture. The Caran D'ache Graphite Line gift box really does come with fewer than 20 pencils, plus graphite sticks and accessories, at a price that would make even George Osborne blink, but what you're paying for here is top-quality graphite.

The Graphite Line has been carefully developed and perfected in the Geneva workshops of Caran d’Ache to explore all the different shades of black and deliver thick and thin lines, gradation, flat-wash, blurring and watercolour effects. It's insanely expensive, but we suspect that once you've tried it, you won't want to use anything else. 

02. BIC Conté colouring pencils

If colour is your thing, you can't go wrong with this beautiful set of colouring pencils from Conte

If colour is your thing, you can't go wrong with this beautiful set of colouring pencils from BIC Conté. These high-quality art instruments have a wood-free, synthetic resin design, which make them completely splinter free should they break.

But this is definitely not a case of style over substance, these pencils also boast a 3.2 mm pigment-based lead, providing smooth, even and consistent coverage for artists of any age.

03. Lyra Rembrandt Art Design Graphite Pencil Set

This little set's good for all your shading needs

For a much more reasonable price, this set of hexagonal design pencils from Lyra is the ideal way to unleash your shading skills. The full Rembrandt Art Design set covers 17 grades from 9B to 6H, and this box features a good, representative sample, enabling you to really get creative with your shading. 

Each pencil is encased in pure cedar wood and packs an ultra-fine graphite lead that's also suitable for more rigid technical drawing techniques.

04. Rotring Rapid Pro Drafting Pencil

Best pencils Rotring Rapid Pro Drafting Pencil

Rotring drafting pencil is firmly for the pros

This beautiful, metal drafting pencil is truly one of the best pencils for pros. It features a hexagonal body and a circular cross-hatch metal grip. The cushion point mechanism allows the sliding sleeve to give slightly under pressure to reduce lead breakage while writing. The pencil includes a clip and eraser under the cap. A fantastic mechanical pencil suited for layouts and typography.

05. Faber-Castell Grip 2011 Pencil

Best pencils Faber Castell Grip Mechanical Pencil

Faber-Castell mechanical pencil's raised rubber dots give superb grip and therefore precision

The Faber-Castell Grip Mechanical Pencil has won several design awards and has become deservedly popular. This wonderful pencil feels second-nature thanks to the perfect-sized triangular barrel covered in raised rubber dots, which allow for a firm and comfortable grip. Furthermore, the pencil comes with a handy extra-long twisting eraser and 0.7mm HB lead.

06. Derwent

Best pencils Derwent pencils

Derwent pencils are perfect for sketching

The Cumberland Pencil Company has been making some of the best pencils around since 1832, and it shows in the quality of its Derwent brand. These pencils, which are sold individually, make smooth, easy lines on the paper, making them ideal for bold line drawings and free style sketches.

07. Albrecht Dürer Watercolor Pencil

Best pencils Albrecht D uuml rer watercolor pencils

Albrecht Dürer pencils are made using high-quality materials

This set is named after the famous German artist Albrecht Dürer. These are very carefully made using only the highest quality materials, including vibrant pigments and a unique binder medium, and they offer over 100 years of fade resistance.

These pencils are perfect for both drawing and painting techniques. They come in tins of 12, 24, 60, and a full range of 120 watercolour pencils, and are ideal for any artist.

08. Prismacolor Premier Coloured Pencil

Best pencils Prismacolor

Prismacolor's thick leads resist breakage so you can really go for it!

This pencil set is suited for students and entry level artists. Soft, thick cores create a smooth colour laydown for superior blending and shading. A true art medium with thick, soft leads containing brilliant permanent pigments that are smooth, water-resistant and lightfast.

Colours are easily blended on all art surfaces to form an infinite variety of hues and shades. Their thick leads resist breakage so you may get as dramatic as you dare.

And have you considered…?

Graphite powder

Graphite powder is a creative alternative to the trusty pencil

As an alternative to using a pencil for sketching and illustration, have you considered using graphite powder? The Cretacolor Charcoal Powder ($17.72/£9.45) is made using a special deep-firing method to produce a dense, rich charcoal. Develop large-scale drawings or mix with water and a binding agent for additional tonal effects.

The graphite powder produces luminous light and dark shades of grey, it slides easily, smudges, blends, and rubs off like chalk. Fixative must be used on the final artwork and is suitable for wet or dry techniques on paper or canvas. Artist Kelvin Okafor is an avid user of the product, and his portfolio of drawings is spectacular.

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