Suppose you have 6B pencil from some reputed brand. You can create various degrees of shades using it. For example, if you use less pressure and hold it at a very low angle (slanted), it will give lighter shades, and if you use normal pressure, it will give darker values.

Now, I want to know if creating lighter shades from a darker pencil increases its chances of more smudging and smearing (or maybe even blurring).

Personally I feel yes, and my theory is that when we use less pressure, the graphite is not properly 'inserted' into paper texture. But when we use more pressure, it is more attached to the paper. So that's why I feel so.

But that's only my speculation and personal observation from a few times. I have tested it and it works especially when I have to create a blur effect. I don't know for sure. I could be wrong too.

Something similar has been briefly mentioned here:

A note, pencils in the B range are softer and will smudge more and more obviously, so be extra careful with them. 4H and higher shouldn't smear very much at all, but they give you much lighter values.

But I want to know in detail if creating lighter shades from darker (soft) pencils actually increases the chance of getting it smudged and smeared?

PS: In case it helps to know why I want an answer: I want to know because I can get lighter shades from a lighter grade like 4B or 3B pencil instead of using a 6B with less pressure. So that will decrease the chances of smudging. Both when we are drawing and after the drawing is done and we review it after years!

  • 1
    Not specifically what you are asking, but if you want to avoid smudging after your picture is complete, coat it with a lacquer or fixative.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Jul 28, 2021 at 18:18
  • 1
    @RoryAlsop no, actually that question has already been asked. About avoiding smudging. I just want to ask if it is true or false.
    – Vikas
    Commented Jul 28, 2021 at 18:21
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    I suspect you're right, but for a different reason. Pencil lead is a mixture mainly of graphite and clay. The higher the % of graphite, the softer it is. Say the darkness on the page is roughly proportional to the amount of graphite (lightly applied soft pencil = small amount of graphite; heavily applied hard pencil = small amount of graphite mixed with clay). Clumps of graphite from the soft pencil will smear more easily than the graphite/clay mix from the hard pencil. But the real test will take an experiment. :-)
    – fixer1234
    Commented Jul 30, 2021 at 7:13

1 Answer 1


Yes, it does.

First of all, as fixer1234 mentions in the comments, softer pencils relatively contain more graphite (hence they can produce darker tones). As relatively more graphite is deposited into the texture of paper, it will be easier and more visible (i.e. obvious) if it gets smudged.

Secondly - and this is mostly theoretical and aligned with your own hypothesis - a more superficial abrasion will cause the graphite particles to be deposited more loosely onto the paper, which will similarly make it more susceptible to smudging.

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