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Best Drawing Pencils For Artists Of All Levels in 2020

No matter what type of creative individual you are, the pencil is an indispensable tool of the trade.  Beginner, professional – or somewhere in between – a quality graphite pencil is a necessary component in your artistic tool belt.

Without it, you’d be naked – like Batman without his utility belt.   So how do you go about picking the best drawing pencil for your needs?

We picked 3some of the best artistic pencil sets you can purchase below. Some are geared for simplicity – these are the best drawing pencils for beginners.  Other pencil sets are more complicated yet impressive tools in the hands of a skilled craftsman.  If you’d like more information on how we choose these particular pencil sets, you can head to the explanation section.

Best Value For The Money In An Art Pencil Set:

Lyra Rembrandt Art Design – Set of 12 Pencils

Top wooden lead art pencils

This set of 12 durable break-resistant drawing pencils from LYRA are a perfect fit for the novice artist, as well as a great value for the expert practitioner.  Inside this convenient tin case are 12 graphite pencils of assorted hb lead hardness levels.   With these pencils in tow, you should always have the right hardness for the job at hand.

This company has been making high-quality pencils since 1816, and is well known for the craftsmanship and quality that is synonymous with German engineering.  They are known for their consistency, and for being resistant to breakage.

Best Woodless Graphite Pencil Set:

Cretacolor Monolith Set

Cretacolor is a trusted brand

While the box may have a prominent “11” on it, you’ll actually only get 6 pencils.  But these are woodless graphite sketching pencils, perfect for projects where water solubility is needed.  These pencils can be used dry, applied dry and then use a wet brush to get a watercolor effect, or dipped into water directly for a richer, fuller color application.  Made in Austria, Cretacolor is another trusted brand.

Woodless pencils are known to be smoother and longer-lasting than the average wood-encased pencil.  Inside this pencil set you’ll get a kneaded eraser and a sharpener, so you’ll be ready to attack your project the moment you open the case.

You insert the pencils into the pencil holder.  You can think of it like a wide mechanical pencil, but much cooler due to the wide metal grip!  The ‘lead’ is kept in place in the holder while you are drawing, so you don’t get graphite all over your hands.

Best Art Pencil Gift Box Set:

Caran D’ache Graphite Line Gift Box Set

Swiss drawing pencils? Yes please!

Have an artist on your gift-list and you aren’t sure what to get them?  Here’s a perfect gift you can give to show how much the creator in your life means to you.

The Swiss brand Caran d’Arche is known as being the gold-standard in quality art supplies for over 100 years.  They are among the highest quality pencils in existence, so they cost a bit more. This kit include 3 water-soluble pencils along with 15 graphite pencils of various hardness.

I know most artists wouldn’t want to spend this much on themselves – but would be extremely grateful if they received them as a gift.  It’s not the right gift for everyone – but if you want to show someone you believe in them as an artist, this is a great gift idea.

Best Drawing Pencils For Beginners


faber castell - these arent charcoal pencils

Another German product with over 100 years of serving the artist and other people with an eye for fine craftmanship, the Faber Castell line of drawing pencils are sure to have pencils to fit your needs.  You can either mix and match a variety of pencils from 12 of the 16 lead hardness levels or buy a pre-assembled pencil set.

These are break-resistant lead, which means more time sketching and less time fixing your tools.  These are at a reasonable price, so if you are just starting out Faber Castell won’t let you down.

How to Choose the Best Drawing Pencil For You

Picking the right pencil is a very personal choice.  It depends a lot on your personal artistic style and what you are drawing.  While you could draw both detailed, fine line sketches and shading from the same pencil, you’ll find it easier to choose different grades for each job.  The same goes for how thick or thin your personal stroke style tends to be.  That’s why I don’t think there’s one particular best pencil for you.  Much depends on the use situation.

Must-Have Pencil Qualities:

Regardless of the brand and hardness you choose, a quality graphite art pencil will exhibit these qualities:

  1. Consistent Lead Quality – Your pencil needs to be made to exacting standards so the graphite/clay mixture (“lead”) is consistent from pencil to pencil.  Without this rigorous quality control, you will really struggle to achieve the artistic effects you want from tool to tool. Marks and lines will come out inconsistent, making sketching less fun.
  2. Good Sharpening – Some pencils will chip and break when sharpened.  This quickly gets annoying. It can sometimes be the fault of a bad pencil sharpener, but often it’s a sign the manufacturing process isn’t very high-quality, and you’ll likely have other problems with this pencil down the road.
  3. Erase Without Smudging – While some of this is based on the hardness of the pencil, higher quality pencils will smudge less at the same hardness level than cheaply-constructed ones. The best pencils will contain an excellent eraser of some sort.   You are going to make mistakes, so do yourself a favor and look for a good brand name.

Pencil Grades:

PencilGradingChartYou might not know that the drawing portion of modern pencils is made up of a mixture of clay and graphite. The clay helps make the pencil draw smoother. By changing the ratio of clay to graphite we can change the darkness and hardness of the pencil.    Generally, less clay = darker strokes and a softer pencil.

Most artistic pencils are graded on the HB scale.  You can see from the picture above that 9B is the blackest while 9H is the lightest.  While it’s easy to guess that the “B” is for blackness, not everyone can guess the “H” is for hardness of the pencil.

Here’s another gotya to keep your eye out for: there is no “universal” hardness scale.  The HB scale is meant to judge pencils from a single manufacturer – so what is a 5B from Derwent might vary slightly from Staedtler.  This isn’t generally something to worry about, but you might run across a pencil that makes you think “this isn’t a 4H?”  It could be it’s just from a different brand than you are used to using.

In the United States of America, pencils are graded on a 5 point scale – #1,#2,#2.5,#3 and #4.  The good-ole trust #2 pencil you know and love from standardized testing equates to a H on the HB scale.

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The Best Paper Cutters You Can Buy

If you want a clean edge when cutting paper, it’s time to trade in your scissors for a paper cutter. Some people may astonish you by how straight they can cut with scissors. For the rest of uspaper cutters solve the humiliating dilemma. For lefthanded people who don’t have lefthanded scissors, a paper cutter is a better alternative than sore thumbs from trying to cut with blades that sit on the ‘wrong side.’   

Schools and office workers prefer cutting stacks of paper with the right guilotine paper cutter or paper trimmer. It’s convenientfaster, and saves time. Scrapbookers, crafters, and hobbyists use trimmers for cutting cards, photographs, and other craft material that may be cumbersome with scissors. Gridlines and rulers help to align materials and to repeat the cutting measurements with multiple pieces.  

Although paper cutters and guilotine paper trimmers cut faster and more accurately than scissors, they differ in quality, features, and usage. We’ve compiled a list of the best paper trimmers and cutters to help you chose the one that will satisfy your needs.  

Rotary Paper Trimmers versus Guillotine Paper Cutters

The most significant difference between rotary paper trimmers and guillotine paper cutters are the blades. A guillotine paper trimmer uses a blade that comes down with force slicing the paper. These types of blades can cut large stacks of paper at once. The blade is under a handle or lever that is pushed down to slice through the paper.  

The rotary paper cutter can cut more extensive sized material like posters and smaller slivers of paper but only one or a few sheets at a time. The trimmer has a grid that guides the round blade to always cut in a straight line. The blade is enclosed in a carriage that functions as the handle to slide the blade down the grid.   

Guillotine paper cutters are ideal in offices and schools where large volumes need to be cut. Rotary paper trimmers work best for varied cutting needs required by scrapbookers, hobbyists, and photographers.  

If precision is required, then a guillotine paper cutter would be a better option. Rotary paper trimmers cut slivers of paper easier than guillotine blades.  

Best Paper Cutters - Our Choices

Best All-Purpose Home Paper Cutter

  • Instructions are difficult to follow. The trimmer is easy to use, and you don’t need the instructions to figure out how to use it.   
  • Scale markings are predominantly in metric with inches only at the top scale.  
  • The handle may loosen after a while. 
  • The paper cutter’s accuracy may decline with heavy duty usage; it’s designed for casual use.

The Swingline Paper Trimmer is an easy to use paper cutter and ideal for occasional general-purpose cutting in the office, at school or for hobbyists at homeTwo models, the Swingline Paper Trimmer 9312 with a 12inch cutting length and the Swingline Paper Trimmer 9315 with a 15-inch blade cutting length are perpetually two of the top paper cutters on Amazon’s bestsellers list 

The self-sharpening guillotine-style blade cuts cleanly and can cut through 10 sheets of paper. The blade is sharp enough for photos and possibly for specific cardsIt’s always best to test the trimmer blade on thicker material before attempting to cut a significant amount.   

Designed for accurate cutting the trimmer has an alignment grid and a dual scale ruler. The guides are clearly marked, making it easy to see and use for alignment. The grid ensures the correct alignment of the paper. No need to try and convert centimeters to inches or to estimate the measurements, the dual scale ruler is marked in both, centimeters and inches, for convenient and accurate measuring.   

The plastic base is steady when used but light in weight for carrying around from one office to another or from home to work. The latch hook securely locks the trimmer when its not in use preventing unnecessary accidents during transport.  Another safety feature is the guard rail that keeps fingers away from the blade when feeding the paper for cutting.    

    • The blade cuts the tiniest slivers of paper up to 1/32 of an inch. 
    • Angle guides allow for versatility and accuracy when cutting at different angles. 
    • The spring action of the blade keeps the blade up, making it safe to align the paper before cutting.
    • The durable metal base will last long without cracking or warping.
    • The blade isn’t self-sharpening, which means blades someday need to be replaced or sharpened.  

    The Dahle Vantage Paper Trimmer has an 18-inch blade that saves time when working in a busy office or on a school projectInstead of cutting one or two pages, the sharp 18inch guillotine-style blade can cut up to 15 sheets simultaneouslyThe 18-inch cutting length allows for cutting larger paper sizes than 12-inch or 15-inch paper cutters can’t.  

    Have you ever tried cutting a tiny piece off the corner of a photograph or sheet of paper and ended up with a crumbled chopped product? Then you’ll be delighted to know that this paper cutter cuts those small pieces. The machine sharp ground lever style blade cuts accurately, even the tiniest slivers of paper. It’s possible to cut a thin paper strip of up to 1/32 of an inch 

    Papers won’t shift while cutting with the automatic clamp. The clamp provides even pressure across the surface of the paper holding it in place for cutting 

    The well-constructed stiff base has gridlines to help align the cuts. The inch, metric, and angled guides align cuts at any angle or size. The angled guides remove the restriction of being limited to only a 90degree alignment and allow the freedom of a variety of accurate angled alignments.    

    The metal base won’t crack or warp with usage. Non-skid feet keep the base steady and prevent it from slipping during the cutting process.   

    Safety features include the automatic clamp and spring action of the metal blade. With the automatic clamp keeping the paper steady, there’s no need to hold the article with your hand and accidentally moving your fingers too close to the blade. The spring action secures the blade in an upright position preventing it from falling while aligning the paper.  

    • The blade cuts up to 20 sheets of paper at once. 
    • Excellent for commercial use. 
    • Hardened steel blade cuts through paper, photographs, and film. 
    • The blade cuts accurately with the same precision as X-Acto knives. 
    • The blade stays sharp with the Perpetual Edge self-sharpening system. 
    • The solid wooden base makes it heavier to carry around. 
    • The safety latch could fit tighter.  

    The X-Acto Commercial Grade Guillotine Trimmer is an excellent choice for schools and offices. It is designed to cut large volumes of paper and can cut up to 20 sheets of paper at once. The base is ¾ inch solid wood that stays steady during the cutting process. The already stable base is attached to rubber feet; it won’t move when cutting paper.    

    The blade is designed with the same precision X-Acto knives are made for clean and accurate cutting. The hardened steel blade cuts through paper, photographs, and film. The Perpetual Edge self-sharpening system keeps the blades sharp for every cut.    

    A safety guard guides fingers away from the blade, which is a benefit when students at school may use the paper cutter. Another safety feature is the lock mechanism. A safety latch locks the blade down securely when not in use.  The handle is spring loaded, which means it stays in position and the blade won’t come down when fingers are in the way.   

    Grid measurements on the wooden base are clear to see when measuring and aligning sheets accurately.  


    • The blade cuts a variety of material which is ideal for crafters and hobbyists. 
    • SureCut wire cutline indicates exactly where the blade cuts. 
    • Cut straight and perfect every time with the Triple Track System.
    • Broad base allows for cutting more extensive sized material. 
    • Extended measuring deck adds another 15 inches for measuring more extensive material. 
    • Lightweight and easily transportable. 
    • Lifetime guarantee. 
    • The wire may require replacement after a while. The lifetime guarantee covers the replacement. 

    The Fiskars SureCut Deluxe Craft Paper Cutter is an excellent option for scrapbookers, crafters, and DIY projects at home. 

    Creating a scrapbook page and other DIY projects require using different materials in various shapes and sizes. The rotary paper trimmer cuts through a variety of materials including paper, photographs, scrapbook pages, and other crafting materials. Some users successfully cut laminated material,  cardboard and vacuum sealer bags with it.  

    The SureCut wire cutline shows precisely where the blade will cut the material. No more wondering if you’ve aligned the paper correctly or having to cut off slivers because the blade cut slightly to the right or left of where you wanted it to cut.  

    Fiskars patented Triple Track System ensures precision cutting. The blade and the rail interlocks resulting in a straight and perfect cut every time. An ergonomically designed high-profile blade carrier grips comfortably while cutting fast and accurate. The grid and scale help to align the material for precise cutting.   

    The paper trimmer comes with an orange cutting blade. A black scoring blade is purchased separately. Blades cut in both directions, which is very convenient if you want to go over the cut again to make sure it was a clean cut.  

    With the broadest base on the market, the deluxe trimmer can cut more extensive sized material that other paper cutters can’t. The self-leveling swing out arm extends the measuring deck with another 15 inches. Now it’s possible to manage the extralarge crafting material that is too cumbersome to cut with smaller base and measuring deck cutters.   

    Light in weight, the paper cutter is easily transported and stored. Rubber feet keep the paper trimming steady when cutting.  

    Fiskars has a lifetime guarantee on this product. 

    • Environmentfriendly product made from 100% post-consumer resin. 
    • Lightweight for transport and storage. 
    • Ruler system conveniently marked in inches and centimeters. 
    • The grid and rulers at the top, bottom, and middle accurately align any sized papers.    
    • The base isn’t weighted down and requires a hand to stabilize it during the cutting process.  

    Fiskars Recycled Bypass Trimmer is an environmentally friendly product made from 100% post-consumer resin that can cut heavy duty material. It’s a simple, user-friendly cutter with a very sharp guillotine blade.  

    Light in weight, the cutter transports easy and works well when there’s a limited workspace, and the item needs to be stored every time after used. The lock mechanism keeps the blade locked during storage.  

    One may think it may be flimsy because of the low price and recycled material. It is, however, a heavyduty cutter and the blade comes down with the same cutting sound that guillotine cutters, made from more substantial stuff, make. The blade connects to the metal plate with the same amount of pressure than heavier and pricier cutters do.     

    The Fiskars Bypass Trimmer‘s blade is designed for heavy-duty cutting and is sharp enough to cut invitations and fliers. Some users cut ribbons, tissue paper and shrink wrap with the Fiskars cutter.  It cuts 10 sheets of 20lb copy paper at the same time.  

    Blades are self-sharpening, which means clean, sharp cuts, and no maintenance necessary. No sharpening of blades like some guillotine blades require 

    For accurate measurements and alignment, the trimmer has a ruler system at the top, the bottom, and in the middle. It doesn’t matter the size of the uncut material; it will line up with one or all the rulers for accurate measurements. The ruler is conveniently marked in inches and metric measurements. The base has a grid marked in squares of about ¼ inch each to further help with aligning the material for cutting.  

    The plastic guard that prevents fingers from slipping under the blade is removable. It is handy for cutting thin slivers that are narrower than the guard itself.

    • The blade cuts a variety of material of various sizes and thicknesses. 
    • Cuts A4 and A5 sized paper with the ability to trim smaller pieces. 
    • The sharp blade cuts straight lines. 
    • Angled markings help with aligning and cutting at various degree angles. 
    • A spare blade is included in the purchase. 
    • The blade safely retracts into the carriage to prevent injuries to fingers.  
    • Instructions are difficult to follow. Luckily the trimmer is easy to use, and you don’t need the instructions to figure out how to use it.   
    • Scale markings are predominantly in metric with inches only at the top scale.  

    Designed for standard cutting of photos, labels, and paper, the Jielisi Paper Trimmer is ideal for mixed media projects at home or school. The sharp edge also cuts through card stock and chipboard.  

    The plastic cutting surface improves the visibility of the scale when measuring and aligning material With the scale visible, it’s easier to line up thin and smaller pieces of paper or cards for cutting purposes. 

    The sharp pointy blade cuts straights lines with the Track System that interlocks the blade and cutting rail. Combined with the scale and angled markersthe material can be cut at 45-degree to 90-degree angles, which is handy for scrapbooking, crafts, and school projects. 

    Included in the purchase are two bladesBlades snap out when replacement is necessary. The blade retracts into the carriage and requires pressure to move out of the protective carriage for cutting purposes. Since the blade isn’t rotary but pointed, it is a great safety feature. No accidentally cutting your finger by touching the bottom of the carriage.   

    The ability to cut A4 and A5 sized paper and cards helps with trimming smaller cutting pieces. The interlocking feature of the Track System helps hold smaller pieces steady while cutting. The marked scales make it easy to align and repeatedly cut at the same markers.  

    Light in weight the trimmer is portable and easy to transport.  


    • Environmentfriendly product made from 100% post-consumer resin. 
    • Lightweight for transport and storage. 
    • Ruler system conveniently marked in inches and centimeters. 
    • The grid and rulers at the top, bottom, and middle accurately align any sized papers.    
    • The base isn’t weighted down and requires a hand to stabilize it during the cutting process.  

    If you need to cut stacks of paper, then the HFS Heavy Duty Guillotine Cutter is a great choice. Designed for commercial use, it can cut a stack of documents of to 1.5 inches at a time. That is about 400 sheets of paper.  

    The heavy-duty clamp holds the stack of paper in place. By applying the same amount of pressure on the article, the material doesn’t shift during the cutting process.  

    With a 17inch cut lengththe blade is long enough to cut posters and more substantial books. The steel blade is very sharp but wears down over time. Sharpen the blades at any knife sharpening shop or replace the blade.   

    A unique hinge system multiplies the leverage from the handle to the blade. Therefore, no extra strength required to push the lever to cut through a thick stack of paper; it merely slices through with the help of the hinge system. 

    The movable fence and rulers help in aligning the material for accurate cutting. Tighten the fence as a back-stop when cutting a large stack of papers to ensure cutting each sheet at the same lengthFor smaller stacks, the rulers help measure and accurately align posters or half-page flyers.  

    The handle is removable for storage purposes. The trimmer takes less space, and the handle doesn’t stick out awkwardly, taking up unnecessary space. 

    A solid steel structure ensures durability and a tool that will last long. The coating on the grid surface is scratch resistant. Rubber feet prevent it from slipping during use.  

    Heavy-duty guillotine blades may cause severe injuries and harm. To reduce the risk, the cutter has built-in safety features. With the blade at the far side of the clamp, the clamp acts as a barrier between fingers and the blade. A safety pin keeps the handle in the up position. No cutting occurs until the safety pin is removed and the handle pushed downward. The safety handle ensures that the handle doesn’t shift downward by accident. A removable guard covers the exposed blade avoiding injuries when accidentally brushing against the blade. Videos show step by step how to replace the blades safely and the correct usage and maintenance of the cutter. 


    • The blade cuts large stacks up to 1.5 inches thick. 
    • A hinge system decreases the strength required to push the handle downward. 
    • A durable and steady cutter made from solid steel with rubber feet for stability.  
    • The movable fence works as a backstop to ensure the same-length cutting. 
    • Several safety features reduce the risk of injuries. 


    • The solid steel structure of the cutter is heavy and cumbersome to move around.   

    The contemporary designed Westcott TrimAir Titanium Guillotine Trimmer has a unique blade that cuts through 30 sheets of paper at a time.  

    A beautifully designed paper cutter that is pleasing to the eye with its modern look. The natural wooden base is stable and steady when cutting thick stacks of paper. The ergonomic handle is shaped for comfort and ease of use, minimizing the strength required to push the handle downward for cutting purposes.  

    Westcott has proven its reliability for cutting and measuring tools. Manufacturers of the famous Titanium Bonded Scissors, they use the same patented technology in the blades of the paper cuttersThe blades stay sharp longer and easily slices through a stack of 30 sheets of 20lb paper. When the blades require sharpening, take it to the local hardware store or tool sharpening services.    

    The paper cutter also features the anti-microbial protection used on their scissors and other Westcott products. The coating keeps the cutter’s handle clean; it’s not necessary to clean the handle every time before using it 

    The comfortable handle has a special safety guard that covers the blade when not in use.  It avoids accidentally cutting and injuring oneself when moving the paper cutter or while preparing and aligning the paper stack for cutting. The blade is very sharp, and itadvisable to use the safety guard to avoid accidents.  

    The paper cutter’s high performance and durability make it an excellent choice for office use and in schools. The blade’s safety guard is another benefit for using the trimmer in schools and places where kids are in the vicinity.   

    A clear plastic paper guide holds the paper in the aligned position. A large stack may shift and require holding it with your hand. The paper guide can easily be removed and snapped back into place when neededIf used as a cutting guide, keep in mind the actual cut is about 3/8 of an inch away from the edge of the paper guide.   


    • Contemporary design with a solid wooden base. 
    • A very sharp blade that stays longer sharp with the patented Titanium Bonded technology. 
    • The blade cuts through 30 sheets of 20lb paper and about 15 inches of paper. 
    • A special safety guard covers the blades when not in use. 
    • Ergonomically handle is comfortable and easy to use. 
    • Protective coating keeps cutter handle clean. 


    • No paper clamp to secure the paper stays in its position when cutting. The transparent paper guide holds the paper in place, but a thick stack may shift.