Graphite was first discovered in the early 1500s and was thought to be a form of lead, thus that term still used today. Graphite was originally used to mark sheep, but quickly made it into Renaissance artists' hands primarily for preliminary drawings.
Today, most aspiring artists and art student start with graphite drawings, and many artists maintain a lifelong love for this medium. Graphite is used today by artists in soft pencils (6B to 2B), hard pencils (H to 6H), graphite sticks, and powdered graphite.
Soft pencils are ideal for contouring, smudging, mixing with water (water-soluble pencils). Hard graphite pencils deliver clean-cut, precision lines, as well as silvery tone shading. Graphite sticks allow a range of uses from soft, rich lines from the point of its edge, to applying broad areas of deposit from a flattened side. Powdered graphite produces a pale, silvery tone applied with a soft cloth or paper towel.