What Do Pencil Numbers Like HB And 2B Mean?


10 Answers

Carolyn Jones Profile
Carolyn Jones answered
Pencils are still one of the most popular mediums for artists. Most of us learn our drawing skills with a pencil and favour them alongside charcoal for sketching.
Pencils are normally made with a small cylinder of graphite and clay surrounded by a wooden casing to grip.

Pencils are all marked on a European system called the degree scale where H is hardest and B is blackest.
Pencils can be marked as;
9H, 8H, 7H, 6H, 5H, 4H,3H,2H, H F,HB, B, 2B, 3B, 4B ,5B ,6B ,7B ,8B ,9B

H pencils have a higher concentrate of clay than graphite, whereas the B pencils have a much lower percentage of clay.
The B pencils make soft, dark marks, whereas the H pencils have a much harder, lighter mark.

The F pencil stands for fine point, which is slightly harder than the HB making it a good writing pencil.
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
Pencils contain graphite & clay, plus some wax (the wax is added for lubrication).  The responses provided above are correct, but the information in the chart reproduced below might be of interest to you.
[The chart is from :
Sousa MC, Buchanan JW. "Observational models of graphite pencils". Computer Graphics Forum 19.1 (2000): 27-49. P. 30.
These values will vary somewhat between manufacturers (NB - Sousa & Buchanan neglect to indicate which manufacturers they contacted).]

"Percentage values of the mass amount of graphite, clay, and wax particles for the entire range of pencil grades based on information received from pencil manufacturers"
pencil # / graphite / clay / wax
9H / 0.41 / 0.53 / 0.05
8H / 0.44 / 0.50 / 0.05
7H / 0.47 / 0.47 / 0.05
6H / 0.50 / 0.45 / 0.05
5H / 0.52 / 0.42 / 0.05
4H / 0.55 / 0.39 / 0.05
3H / 0.58 / 0.36 / 0.05
2H / 0.60 / 0.34 / 0.05
H  / 0.63 / 0.31 / 0.05
F  / 0.66 / 0.28 / 0.05
HB / 0.68 / 0.26 / 0.05
B    / 0.71 / 0.23 / 0.05
2B / 0.74 / 0.20 / 0.05
3B / 0.76 / 0.18 / 0.05
4B / 0.79 / 0.15 / 0.05
5B / 0.82 / 0.12 / 0.05
6B / 0.84 / 0.10 / 0.05
7B / 0.87 / 0.73 (sic.)* / 0.05  [* obviously a typographical error; it should be ~0.7]
8B / 0.90 / 0.04 / 0.05
Nicholas Nawrockyj Profile
The H and B markings on pencils relate to the relative hardness or softness of the graphite used in it. H means hard, B means black. A 6B pencil has extremely soft, dark graphite and a 6H has very hard, pale graphite. HB is the average, mid-scale, type of pencil graphite for general use.

Going from softest to hardest -> 6B 5B 4B 3B 2B HB 2H 3H 4H 5H 6H
sweetboy surendar Profile
A 2B pencil is harder than an HBO pencil, which means you will get a
lighter line from it, and that it will hold it's point longer. This
makes a 2B pecil good for fine detail and/or working in areas of your
drawing that are of a middle value.

The meaning of these letters depends on the context in which they are
However, one of the most common places people see this letters is on a
pencil. The 'lead' in pencils is graded - 7H is generally the hardest
one finds and this grades downwards to 1H and H. Softness is graded
upward from B, 1B, all the way to 7B.

Right in the middle of the spectrum is the everyday pencil which has HBO one it - this stands for Hard Black.
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
Basically h- hard, b-black, f-fine the higher the number, the more it is ie 8b is very dark
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
H B stands for Hard Black.
2B is just a softer version of an H B pencil and therefore it gives a darker colour although the difference is very subtle.
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
H is harder than B and the higher the number the (in the case of H pencils) the harder the lead, and the higher the number (in the case of B pencils) the softer the lead.  A softer lead is better for smudging.

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