The Greatest Pencil Ever Made

15 min read

My biggest issue when it comes to drawing has been to sit down for hours and just, draw. At the 3 hour mark (usually), I feel that I deserve a break and rest for more than an hour. Since I have been drawing for the past week, I figured it would be worth to share the tools I use in this entry.

For those reading this week’s entry and not interested in my tools, just skip this week’s post and join the regular one next week or catch my mini-vlog on the 30th

This week came and passed a little different than usual. I had this freedom to plan my entire day beforehand  and hence, everyday naturally became a good day- because I did only what I wanted. I managed to cycle from Pasir Ris to catch the sunrise at Bedok Reservoir Park with my primary school friends then continued our trip to Marina Bay and back. It was actually the first time meeting them in many years and even writing this post, I get distracted and keep going back to Facebook to look at 10 year old photos. It just feels nostalgic to spend time with them and relive happy moments and memories- especially since I’ve known some of them for more than 15 years now.

I also realised that I should try to document as many parts of my life as I can, now that I am keeping up with this blog. Media like photos or using those running apps to record the distance would really personalise my writing- compared to searching the route on Google maps like this:

Route cycled from Pasir Ris to Marina Bay and back
Selfie by East Coast Park Jetty

But I am on my fourth post and learning new things like this motivates me to keep up with it even more. Not entirely sure how to describe it but with each post, I become more invested in writing and sharing my week. I know I have this blog post to look forward to every week to spill the highlights worth sharing from past seven days- which is nice.

The only challenge was re-learning Final Cut to edit this extremely simple stop motion video. Challenging probably because of me wanting to perfectly create the video like how I imagined it to be in my mind. I wanted everything to align as much as possible and what was an hour’s project eventually became three.

National Gallery, Singapore (In Progress)
Current Progress of National Gallery Drawing

It has been 26 days on this piece and honestly, it looks great and most importantly, I feel great making it. I have been making art for the longest time- I can’t even remember if I was 4 or 5 when I first started but the past few years of making Art (in the IB examinations or just making art because I love it) have given me a fresh outlook on the tools I use to create:

The old saying of how ‘a good craftsman never blames his tools’,

That’s true but a person can be an extraordinary craftsman with the right tools. 

The way I feel right now is that I think I can draw anything I want with any pencil. It would probably turn out pretty nice. But the proper tools give me the difference that matters to me the most right now and give me that professional look. Paper and Pencil.

When choosing paper, some would say I am just drawn to the ARCHES logo embossed on it but there are actual considerations that go through my mind. These include (1) thickness or paper weight, (2) hot-pressed/cold-pressed texture and (3) colour. 

  1. Thickness or Paper weight:
    A thicker paper would naturally be less prone to ink bleeding. I prefer to use at least 200gsm (grams per square meter) for my work just because of its sturdiness. Its weight somehow makes me feel more secure with my work- no accidental tears and less marks from the tape when I remove the masking. In comparison, an everyday printing paper weighs about 80gsm. The only downside: a heavier paper would naturally correlate to a hefty price tag as well. 

  2. Hot-pressed/Cold-pressed texture:
    I use this feature accordingly based on what I will be drawing. A cold-pressed paper has a rough texture that apparently ‘absorbs’ water for Watercolour pieces better. For me, a cold-pressed paper is helpful for pieces with rough texture- the uneven surface accentuating this effect easily. A hot-pressed paper is much smoother and useful for pieces with glossy/shiny surfaces as its smooth texture do not ‘fight’ with each pencil marks.

  3. Colour (White, Off-white or Coloured):
    I usually try to find the whitest sheet of paper available, just because my works take some time to complete and that exposure to the air in that period is enough to make the paper turn off-white upon completion.

I know paper matters most for Watercolour pieces because the paper needs to absorb each stroke well- or at least as much as the artist’s liking. But likewise even for graphite, the right paper can elevate my drawing to an even higher level.

Overhead Shot of my ‘Favourite Pencils’

THE BEST PENCIL EVER: the Castell 9000 by Faber-Castell

I have drawn with many pencils- Steadtler, Derwent, Stabilo and many unnamed brands like the ones you find in those 10-pack boxes. But nothing captures the quality or gives me this professional look better than the Castell 9000. It is just the greatest, each stroke with it just breathes this new life into the artwork. If I could have a pencil for the rest of my life it has got to be a B version of this. 

The variations: 6H, 5H, 4H, 3H, 2H, H, F, HB, B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8B

B refers to Black: how black each line is.
H refers to Hard: how hard each line is.
And the variations that follows.

Now the biggest difference is that a ‘black’ pencil is soft where you compensate how fine the line is (no matter how sharp the pencil) to get the desired shade. A ‘hard’ pencil is more fine and more commonly used for technical drawings. Figured that out a few years thanks to this website. For my drawings, I mainly use a couple of Bs, 5Bs for mid-tones and 7Bs for the darkest areas. But I pair them with the TK-4600 Clutch Pencil by Faber Castell with a 2mm 2H lead, for detailing. 

A little technical for a blog post but it also doubles as my guide next time I can’t remember the exact tools. Surely the tools I use might be unconventional and not its intended purpose upon manufacturing, but these are the tools I’ve grown comfortable with and help me achieve the professional look I desire in each drawing. My biggest takeaway is that everyone has their own set of tools, with the definition of their ‘favourite’ unique to each artist. When I was just starting out, obviously I purchased the ‘favourites’ recommended by other artists. But eventually, be it cost-restraints, accidental purchases or just my own exploration with other tools, I have finally discovered my ‘favourites’ that complement my style best.

I am obviously not getting paid to advertise the brands I mentioned earlier in this post. They just happen to be my favourite and such stories are worth sharing to the wider community.

I actually have a few other stories from this week. I got my first dose for the Moderna vaccination earlier this week and thankfully, the staff jabbed my left arm, so its soreness didn’t affect me drawing with my right. Another one was the season finale of The Blacklist’s Season 8.  Genuinely gutted for Reddington but amazed by how complex the plot was, it was as though it thickened with every minute into the show. Inception’s plot was still the craziest but this one was quite up there. Thought that would be the end before they announced a renewal in September. I guess the producers just can’t get enough. This coming week will be the last one before orientation camps begin, hopefully I get to finish my drawing by then. Just a matter of how bad I want it.

If you’re still here, thanks for reading my fourth blog post.


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