• Rose-Marie Marshall-Jane

Now you can have a pencil case like a Pro.

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

What’s in our pencil case?

First of all, Yvonne doesn’t really have a pencil case. Instead she has a tool box, bag, table and pot where she keeps her collection of pencils. There’s more places with pencils on in our house than tea bags. Some of her pencils really have to be over ten years old that no longer get used, mainly because they’ve been reduced to tiny little stumps of pencils living in the shadows of their former glory. I’ve gone as far as creating a pair of earrings out of two little pencils. Honestly, there is nothing like a new pencil. Somehow it’s different to a new pot of paint. The smell is different, the feel is more delicate and the length of a new pencil is full of wonderful drawing potential.

Each to their own, we both have our favourite set of pencils and this depends on our individual drawing styles or what piece we are doing. Yvonne mostly uses coloured pencils and ever since the beginning of her art career she’s used Caran d’Ache. To us, they’re the cream of the crop with the cream of the crop when it comes to wood with coloured sticks in.

Coloured Pencils

Caran d’Ache Aquarelle

These pencils are water based so can be mixed with watercolour for that wishy washy paint style. Even though these were what Yvonne used at the beginning of her career she didn’t use them with water. As she tells me: “Wasn’t my thing”.

I guess that these are slightly more duller than non-water based pencils, meaning the colour is less vibrant, takes more to layer and creates a more realistic tone of colour rather than a false, bright hue. Perfect for pets portraits where no dog has bright blue hair or pink teeth. Not that I know of anyway…

Over the last few years it seems to have become more difficult to find these pencils singularly, without buying a whole new tub. There’s only one place I know of where you can still get them singularly and that place is pencils4artists.com

Caran d’Ache Luminance

Oh what glorious pencils. What wonderfully pigmented, versatile, smooth working pencils. Ya gotta love ‘em.

They’re now the favourite with the household and many of our students who predominantly work with coloured pencils. They layer beautifully that other pencils just can’t do. They can be soft and delicate with gentle blending or bright and vibrant with deep tonal colours.

You can find them on most art websites but they are a bit pricey compared to other brands. At roughly £3 a pencil you’ll want to choose them wisely. The boxes are about £44 for … pencils but if you know you’re not going to use 50% of the pencils then don’t buy the box, buy instead individual pencils and stick to a small palette. I know from experience you will mostly likely use white and black more than any other colour.

Jackson's Art do a good range.

Faber Castell Polychromos

This is what I use for small sketches and practice pieces. They’re okay and do deliver a good stroke of colour however I have found that it depends on the surface you are drawing on. For example, they’re not that good on mount board but great on fine grain paper. Which is why I use them for trial pieces.

More readily available singularly and in more colours than you will ever need.

Find a few here: craftyarts.com


Graphite is my thing. It’s my main joy in art and I just love how you can create amazing pieces from just one medium and colour. It’s so versatile and comes in many forms.

Here’s what I’ve got in my pencil case (yes, I do actually have one but we won’t mention all the other boxes of materials I’ve got).

Caran d’Ache 6B Grafstone pencil.

Like butter, like cream, so silky smooth. I could believe how silky this pencil was when I first used it. It’s able to create such deep layers and dramatic contrasts in a piece that ordinary pencils can’t do without a lot of work. Using this on its side means that shading becomes 10x easier and quicker to do. Yet sharpened to a point you can really add in those fiddly details. So, without the wood surrounding the pencil it is structurally less stable. You will need to be careful not to drop it or put too much pressure on the pencil. When I need to sharpen the pencil, I collect the shavings in a pot to use as powder. Nothing’s wasted!

Caran d'Ache 9B and 4B Grafwood

9B is deep, deep and dark. It’s what I like to think of as the graphite version of charcoal. The led is thicker in the 9B than in the other pencils because if it was any thinner it would just break. The first one I brought was was on sale for 50p, bargain I thought. What I didn’t know was that the pencil must have been dropped a few times because every time I sharpened it the lead broke. I came up with a hack to combat this, superglue. With a tiny bit on the broken lead I shoved it back in and stuck it together. Worked quite well for a bit until you got to the superglued part, then I really needed to sharpen that bit off otherwise I’d scratch the paper instead of colouring it.

The 4B is much lighter and even though it is still on the B side of the graphite scale, used wisely you can still create a lighter tone of colour and delicate feel like that of the H side. It’s now up the top as one of my most favourite pencils. It even rivals the 6B Grafstone.

Caran d'Ache 3B Grafcube

So this is a cube and less of a pencil but because it can be used in the same manor as a pencil I’m including it in. On its long side you can cover large areas, with the corner you can do fine detail and on its short end you can combine the both. It’s coverage is less dense than that of a Grafstone, it’s much lighter and picks up the texture of the paper you are using rather well. Which is obviously great if you like that sort of thing and want to include it into your work. Less so if you want that photorealistic style.

Faber Castell 9B Pitt Pure Graphite Stick

Again, this is something I brought on sale just to try it out. Although it’s supposed to be 9B I found that is still isn't as deep or dense of a colour that you can achieve with the 9B Grafwood or even the 6B Grafstone. Which is surprising as it is supposed to be 'pure graphite'. I know a few artists who use Pitt religiously, like it’s the only thing that graphite artists should use but it really all depends on what you like.

The Summery

There’s one thing for sure, you will definitely be able to tell the difference between a pack of budget pencils from Wilko and a quality pencil from Caran d’Ache. If you want your art to look professional and want to create a quality piece of work then you should invest in quality materials. Trust me, it will make a world of difference!