This cheap set of drawing pencils from Faber-Castell includes 6 grades of graphite pencils: HB 2B 4B 6B 8B 10B. All labelled ‘Black Matt 1111’. Can this be one of best drawing pencils for beginners and more seasoned artists alike? What makes this set of artist graphite pencils so special, and what does it have to do with getting your fingers dirty with charcoal sticks (or charcoal pencils)? Can the 10B pencil be the black sheep of the family by being too grey? Watch to solve all these sketching pencil mysteries and more.
Reviewing Faber-Castell Black Matt Drawing Pencils Set
Minjal: This is Minjal.
Vishal: And I’m Vishal. And, the three of us are have been very curious about getting into charcoal pencil and or charcoal sticks or just charcoal as a drawing medium.
But as beginners in that particular tool, we’ve figured out that maybe to get that charcoal kind of effect with something simpler we should start off with these drawing pencils! And Samir why don’t you tell us about these Black Matt Faber-Castell Drawing Pencils?
Samir: Faber-Castell, of course needs no introduction. They’re one of the longest running pencil brands in history. They’ve been around since 1761 in Germany.
Vishal: They’re sort of the big two, them and Staedtler.
Samir: Yes, in fact they are in the same town in Germany. So Faber-Castell, the original factory is in Stein in Germany near Nuremberg. Again, hundreds of years old, and they have been making pencils of various grades and levels for all of that time.
And this particular version is a fairly low cost version that we get here in India. I think Faber-Castell makes several grades of artist pencils, we were quite surprised by the fact that this you know relatively inexpensive set was really excellent to use.
Vishal: Is it literally the equivalent of a dollar!
Minjal: Also, when I got the set I was a little confused about whether this is their newly launched Graphite Matt Pencil Set or is this a cheaper version?
Samir: Yeah, and just to cover the confusion about the the matt pencils. So recently, Faber-Castell has introduced a new form of pencil which they claim has a more matt graphite that comes out of it. One of the problems with graphite, which everyone who tries to take a picture of a pencil drawing faces is that reflective sheen that you get. In fact you can look at our older pencil episodes and you can see that the drawings don’t quite show up cleanly.
Minjal: It’s almost glossy.
Samir: Yeah, there’s a glossiness to it which cameras are really troubled by.
Vishal: And studio lights certainly enhance or exacerbate that problem.
Samir: So considering that everyone who’s an artist today takes pictures of their work to put on social media and all over the place, Faber-Castell has come up with a matt black pencil which is supposed to be less reflective.
Now the confusion is that those are called the Pitt Graphite Matt Pencils and these are called the Faber-Castell Black Matt Pencils. So you can confuse the two because they both have the word matt in them, but these are just normal drawing pencils.
Vishal: But I’m glad for the confusion because these turned out to be really good pencils. I’m surprised at having such good quality for such a low price, especially in India. Maybe you get them for more elsewhere but 75 rupees for five of these, you would be very happy with the results and we were happy with the results.
Minjal: Right! After having tried the Staedtler Mars Lumograph, I don’t know if there is ground for direct comparison, but these are to use these for writing, drawing and shading.
Vishal: We’ll actually come back to comparisons because in our test drive, which is what we do every week we’re artists and calligraphers and designers, we basically take these tools, sometimes inexpensive, sometimes expensive like even the Staedtlers that we tried were more expensive than these. Minjal why don’t you show us your test drive?
Pencil Calligraphy with Faber-Castell Black Matt Drawing Pencil Set
Minjal: Pencil calligraphy is a great way for beginners to learn styles like brush calligraphy. We’ve used the Tombow for instance in the past and we have an episode on that, it’s not very easy to learn a new style with a more evolved tool like the brush pen.
So a lot of lettering artists will actually start learning calligraphy with pencils! I used the 6B in the set and you can sharpen it, flatten it out till you get a broad edge and then you can do pencil calligraphy, where you manage to get the thin strokes and thick strokes.
Samir: Okay, so you essentially then practice the shapes of the letters with something like a pencil which is more controllable I guess, before you go on to a brush pen.
Vishal: That’s a very good way to start off. And, speaking of things that you want to move on to pens, we have an episode on the Staedtler Pens, the calligraphy ones, right?
Vishal: And we tested the Staedtler Luna color pencils as well, so Faber-Castell is actually lagging behind in our test drives. Is the first Faber-Castell one we’re doing?
Samir: No, we tested the Faber-Castell kneaded eraser.
Comic Illustration with Faber-Castell Black Matt Drawing Pencil Set
Vishal: Oh the eraser, yes! I did sort of an Arabian Nights inspired pencil drawing with the Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencils, so I thought, okay, let me do another Arabian Nights inspired thing for this one! And yeah I enjoyed it, it’s really fun.
These Faber-Castell pencils are closer to charcoal. I don’t really have much experience in charcoal, but having said that it’s fun to kind of lean into the wedge-like nature of the tip. I mostly kept to sort of proper heavy lines this time.
As an artist you try to go for lighter lines which I did for shading, but finishing off with this nice heavy line gives it more character or as much character as a pen, almost approaching a brush, so that range! I think I mostly stuck to two or three pencils. I don’t think I ended up using all in the set.
Here’s the fun thing I think both Samir and I noticed. The 8B seems to go down darker or easier at least on certain papers than the 10B.
Samir: And I think we will come back to talking about the whole range of pencils later.
Vishal: But yeah very fun to use, very quick to use though, I was surprised at how quickly these went down and put down a tone that I liked where I didn’t have to do repeated finessing. Obviously it can be a bit sharper but I’m trying to kind of loosen up with some of these and be more like certain mid-century illustrators that I admire like Austin Briggs or Mitchell Hooks.
It’s clearly nowhere near that level but it’s fun to just loosen up with these and I think that’s the fun of cheap stationery, cheapish stationery like this. You can loosen up and you don’t have to care and you can sharpen one or just keep one blunt and it doesn’t matter and these are very tough. I did not have any single breakages or anything like that even on the softer leads. Samir what did you end up with?
Portrait Sketching with Faber-Castell Black Matt Drawing Pencil Set
Samir: I think I also kind of did a similar piece to what I did for the Staedtler Mars Lumograph, in that this is figurative as well. Just like the Staedtler I stuck to the human figure, although this is more of a portrait. And I think very similar to what Vishal noticed I just really like the texture of these pencils.
Vishal: Yeah, we’re using a sort of a rough-ish cartridge paper, it’s not very rough, so we specifically use that so that the texture of the tool itself shows up sometime and this one shows up I think a bit more than the Staedtler.
Samir: I think if we have to compare the Staedtler Mars Lumograph and Faber-Castell Drawing Pencils, both of them are not the super-expert artist pencils, they’re kind of the beginners artist pencils. The Staedtlers are great at producing an even, smooth tone. With the Faber-Castells I found that the texture was just so pleasing that I didn’t want to smoothen it up. I wanted it to remain kind of rough.
Vishal: I really enjoyed this graphic shadow shape that you got which has several levels of shadow in it, but somehow shows up as almost like a computer-made graphic shape.
What is a charcoal pencil?
Samir: Yeah and I mean we started off saying that these pencils are great for people who would like to try out something like a charcoal pencil. For those who haven’t tried it out, charcoal is a beautiful medium. It’s literally a stick of charcoal and sure you get them in the form of pencils.
Those are easier to use, but the point is that the charcoal medium is always messy, there’s just no way around it. It’s so fine and so powdery once it actually goes down on the surface that it gets everywhere, like there is no way to do charcoal artwork and be neat and clean about it. You’re going to have it all over your clothes, all over your fingers, it’s a mess.
Very worth it once you get into it to a certain level but I think that these pencils were a great in between. Like they have the convenience of a graphite pencil but they kind of give you that experience of having that very textured almost organic look that charcoal gives you on paper. So I would definitely say that if you are interested in charcoal, try something like this out first.
Vishal: And if you enjoy it then absolutely move on to charcoal but do get one of these on the way because just the range of things you can get from this. You can get totally artistic but graphic, you can get extremely controlled calligraphy and you can just doodle around and get things like that.
Minjal: Now the one thing I’ve always wondered is does anyone use the HB pencil at all?
Vishal: I use the HB pencil for what is known as I guess block-in or the sketch stage of things. So you just lightly put it in and then I used a Faber-Castell kneaded eraser to knock it back, like we’ve talked about before and then I proceeded with the 4B, the 6, the 8.
Minjal: I was also telling Samir that we’ve recorded 42 episodes I think, in almost 40 episodes now I’ve used the Nataraj 621 Plasto Eraser for all my work.
Vishal: Yes! The Plasto and now the Faber-Castell kneaded eraser are both extremely versatile in anything you do.
Faber-Castell Pencil-Making Factory Tours
Minjal: I read that Faber-Castell is one of the few stationery companies that actually allows tours of its production facilities. So you can visit the Faber-Castell castle, there are guided tours. There is a wooden pencil making facility that you can visit, guided tours again. And not all stationery factories are very open to the prospect. I’m guessing there are patents and copyrights, so they don’t encourage visitors. But if you’re in Germany please let us know if you’ve actually visited the Faber-Castell factory!
Samir: And I think we can include a link in our description for an article on our site which displays videos of the Faber-Castell factory and other stationery factories. And on a side note, Minjal mentioned that they have workshops showing you the wood-making of the pencil. That’s partly to do with the history of Faber-Castell because the Faber family that started Faber-Castell were cabinet makers.
Vishal: Ah, okay! So from large pieces of wood to very minute and precise ones.
Different Grades of Faber-Castell Black Matt Drawing Pencils Set – HB 2B 4B 6B 8B 10B
Samir: And the one thing that we said we’d cover later and we should get to that is if we have any sort of I won’t call it a negative comment but a more detailed comment about these pencils, we have to cover the range of this set.
So it has six drawing pencils from HB to 10B and I think the thing that both Vishal and me and I think even Minjal found is that from HB to 8B the the gradation kind of makes sense, it gets darker and darker with each grade, at 10B something changes.
So I ended up not using the 10B much because it’s technically supposed to be the darkest pencil but to get it to be as the darkest pencil it requires a lot more pressure than the others, so it’s a very different experience than the others and therefore I did not for the most part.
Vishal: I don’t think I bothered too much with the 10B either. I just used it to fill in some things but I didn’t bother to make it so dark.
Samir: My theory is that as gradations of pencils get darker, they are actually including less clay and more graphite, which means that they get softer and softer and easier to break.
I’m guessing Faber-Castell got to the 8B and they were fine with how much pressure it required, but at 10B it was just too brittle and they had to change the formula for it. And maybe they’re aware of this because I don’t know if it shows on camera but the colors of these grades on this box are different for all of these and different for the 10B.
It’s a gray versus a black, so maybe it’s something that they have very specifically made that way. But it’s something you should be aware of. The 10B can be the darkest pencil if you put in a lot of pressure but it doesn’t behave exactly like the others.
Vishal: One more thing that you need to be aware of is that we are Inky Memo, we have stationery stories and transcripts, even of these episodes on our website and other things, as well many wonderful things. Follow us on social media for those and we will see you every week for more test drives.
Samir: If you like this video, and of course, are a fan of artist pencils you really should watch the video that we’ve been talking about, which is the one on the Staedtler Mars Lumograph and also the Faber-Castell Kneaded Eraser which we have covered before. Those would be the next best thing to watch after this one!