Pencils Leads and Pens

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Pencils are one of the most basic and primary drawing tools of the professional designer. There are three basic types of pencils available to a designer for producing quality drawings (Figure 2-2). The selection is a matter of preference and the particular level of performance needed by the user.

Wood-Cased Pencil

The oldest manufactured pencil is of wood with a lead encased inside. It is seldom used for repetitive work in today's office, yet is still a reliable tool for occasional use for convenience and when

Figure 2-2 The three types of pencils available for designers are the wood-cased pencil, the traditional leadholder, and the fine-line mechanical pencil.

Figure 2-2 The three types of pencils available for designers are the wood-cased pencil, the traditional leadholder, and the fine-line mechanical pencil.

Hard Touching Pencil Art

Table 2-2 Pencil-lead Weights*

Hard pencil leads are used for drawings, light layouts, and drawings requiring a high degree of accuracy.

These leads are used for sketching, architectural line work, lettering and general purposes.

Soft leads are used for sketching, rendering, and graphical accents.

*The gradations can vary with different brands and types of drawing media. When in doubt, try a sample or test first.

pencil line control is needed. To expose the lead, the wood shell is cut away by a draftsman's pencil sharpener. However, the sharpener only cuts the wood and does not touch the lead. To "point" the lead, the designer can use a lead pointer, which forms the lead into a conical point. If a wedge point is desired, rubbing the lead on sandpaper can form it. Wood-cased pencils come in a variety of different lead weights, ranging from 9H (extremely hard) to 6B (extremely soft). These leads are explained later in this chapter.

Traditional Leadholder

This type of mechanical pencil is made of metal or plastic, with special individual leads inserted in a permanent holder. Different lead weights may be inserted to produce a variety of sharp line weights. Pencil leads are graded from 9H (hard) to F (firm) to 6B (black). Beginners should sharpen the point frequently for a clear, sharp line until they develop the ability to rotate the pencil while drawing to wear the point more evenly. The lead is sharpened by rubbing and rotating on sandpaper, on regular paper, or in a special mechanical lead pointer. When using sandpaper to sharpen the lead, it should be slanted at a low angle to achieve a good taper and point.

Fine-Line Mechanical Pencil

This type of mechanical pencil does not require sharpening and is loaded with multiple leads of the same diameter and hardness. The pencil generally is made to hold 0.3, 0.5, 0.7, or 0.9 mm diameter lead. The size of the lead determines the line width. This type of pencil is also generally rotated while drawing, and capable of producing consistently sharp, clean lines. Like the traditional lead-holder, the mechanical pencil offers the convenience of a steady supply of lead, as the leads are inserted in the bottom of the holder and pushed out the tip by pressing a button on the end of the pencil. It is the most widely used pencil in today's schools and offices for sketching, note-taking, and even drafting.


A variety of leads are available for both wood and mechanical pencils. Leads used on tracing paper and drafting paper are composed of graphite. Leads range in grades from 9H (extremely hard) to 6B (extremely soft). (See Table 2-2.) The softer the lead, the darker the image or line it will produce. For most drafting work, where clean, crisp lines are necessary, H and 2H leads are used. For sketching, softer leads are better, such as F and HB. Very soft leads, such as the B grades, are best for pencil renderings and shadowing work. For light, preliminary layout work, 3H and 4H leads are best.

Generally, the more "tooth" or roughness a paper has, the harder the lead should be. Also, the harder the drawing surface, the softer the lead will feel. If you are in high humidity conditions, the apparent hardness of the lead tends to increase.

As noted before, there are also special plastic-leaded pencils available for drawing on plastic drafting film. These plastic leads are available in five grades of hardness, ranging from E1 (soft) to E5 (super hard). They are water-resistant and bond well to the plastic film. A vinyl eraser is also available for use with these special leads.


Some designers prefer ink and use a technical fountain pen (Figure 2-3), as it is capable of precise line width. It can be used for both freehand and drafted ink drawings. As with drafting pencils, pens are available in a variety of forms and price ranges. However, most technical drawing pens consist of a tubular point, which has an ink-flow-regulating wire inside it. The size of the tubular point is what determines the finished width. Standard widths of ink lines are measured according to a line-width code, such as .30/00, which means the line width is .30 mm or the American standard size of 00. Metric widths range from .13 to 2.0 mm, while the American standard widths range from 000000 to 6. These sizes correspond to line-width designations developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and are coordinated with metric sizes. For a starter pen set, a good range of point sizes would be 3x0 (.25 mm), 2x0 (.3 mm), 1 (.45 mm), and 3 (.80 mm). Technical pens that produce the same line widths are also available with felt tips. These are less costly, however their felt tips tend to wear out faster than the metal tips.

An advantage to using ink, especially on plastic drafting film, is that it will last several years longer than pencil, will not smudge, and will produce excellent reproductions. When using technical pens, remember to keep points screwed in securely to prevent the ink from clogging. Always replace the cap firmly after each use to

Pen And Ink Figure Drawings
Figure 2-3 Technical fountain pens and ink refill.

Figure 2-4 The T-square and the parallel bar are used to create straight lines, whether they are horizontal or vertical.

Construction Drawings Architecture

Figure 2-5 An arm-track drafting machine can produce horizontal, vertical, and angular lines.

keep the ink from drying, and store the pens with their points up when not in use.

Use a good waterproof black drawing ink. Good nonclogging ink that is specially made for use in fountain and technical pens is the best choice.

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    Which types of pencils are used for interior designs?
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