The pen is mightier than the sword, but the pencil is more versatile.
Besides being one of the most basic of artistic tools, the pencils is also one of the most versatile. Pencils come in several different types including; Graphite, Colored Graphite, Colored Pencil, Watercolor Pencil, & Ink Pencil. Graphite is the oldest and what most people think of when you say pencil.
The graphite (lead) in art pencils is made from a clay / graphite mix. Manufactures alter the amount of one to the other to vary the “hardness” of the lead. Pencils vary in hardness from 6H (the hardest) to 6B (the softest). Most people use the HB which is right in the middle and most know it as the #2 pencil from school. A 6H pencil will give you a very light line that is easy to erase and is good for doing preliminary sketches. A 6B leaves a very dark line that is easy to blend and is good for dark outlines and shading. Colored Graphic Pencils are also made from a clay / graphite mix but has colored pigments added. They are water soluble and can be manipulated and erased much like ordinary graphite pencils.
Colored Pencils contain no graphite, are not water soluble, and are difficult to erase. Their (lead) is made from a combination of pigments, wax, and other components that vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. This variation gives each manufacturer’s product a distinctive feel and look. Faber-Castell adds vegetable oil to it’s pencil to give a smooth “buttery” feel. On the other end of the spectrum, Derwent Studio Pencils has a harder lead. This lends themselves to more detailed techniques. They all come in student and professional grade. The professional grade has a higher density of pigment. Generally speaking it is better to start with a small professional kit and add on slowly as you become more proficient with the medium.
Water Color Pencils
Water Color Pencils use a water soluble binder instead of wax. This allows them to be manipulated with water, brushes, and other tools much like traditional water color paint.
Ink Pencils are similar to water color pencils but use ink based pigments that tend to make their colors a bit more vibrant. They can be used and manipulated much like water color pencils; however, once dry the colors are fixed and you can work over them without fear of washing out under layers.