faber castell 9000 pencil review

Faber Castell 9000 Review: Graphite Pencils

Wherever I go in Europe, I find art shops that sell Faber Castell 9000 graphite pencils. These graphite pencils from Germany, distinctive because of the green paint on the outside, are everywhere here. Is it simply good marketing on the part of Faber Castell, or are these pencils really that good? In my Faber Castell 9000 review, I’ll be exploring if the pencils deserve the publicity they have.

Because of the popularity of Faber Castell’s pencils in European art shops, I’ve been using them for a long time. Before I started doing this series of reviews on graphite pencils, I had been using Faber Castell’s 9000 pencils almost exclusively for over ten years. The reason I didn’t review the Faber Castell graphite pencils first is that I didn’t have a reference point to compare them to at that stage. For me, Faber Castell 9000 pencils were just tools that I used to prepare other artwork.

Now that I have more understanding of graphite pencil quality and have some graphite artwork under my belt, I am returning to objectively review Faber Castell 9000. Just because I used them for a long time doesn’t mean I’ll automatically give them a mark of distinction. The main reason I owned these pencils is because they’re available everywhere and are easy to get hold of.

Drawing using only Faber Castell 9000 graphite pencils

Drawing using Faber Castell 9000 pencils.

Above is an drawing I did of my wife and cat. In this drawing I used most of the twelve pencil grades that come in the Faber Castell 9000 pack. I really enjoyed using these pencils again and would continue using them for some time if I didn’t already have so many other pencils to review!

Ignoring my drawing ability, the Faber Castell 9000 pencils performed exceptionally well when I compare them to the other graphite pencils I’ve been testing. The 12 pencil set ranges from the subtle grey tone on the skin below my wife’s eyes to the near black tone for her hair and the cat’s paw in the bottom right. On the left of the image, the shadow around my wife starts to get grainy but that’s mainly due to me working on this piece fast. If I worked slowly, I’m confident I’d be able to get a very smooth, photo-realistic finish with these pencils.

I haven’t mentioned it before but the reason I’m drawing in a realistic style for these pencil tests is because that’s a good way of seeing the true quality of the pencils. Capturing a picture with realism requires good materials, so if a material isn’t very good, these realistic style drawings show me quickly. I’m also drawing with quite a lot of contrast to show both the subtle and very dark tones of the pencils.

What do Faber Castell 9000 drawing pencils feel like to draw with?

Faber Castell 9000 pencils review

Faber Castell 9000 pencils are of a standard diameter and are hexagonal, so they’ll feel like most pencils you will have handled before. The graphite inside the Faber Castell 9000s feels a bit like polished stone as it’s dragged across smooth textured paper. Some pencils can feel scratchy and dig into the page, some other pencils feel like plastic and glide too much. The Faber Castell 9000 glide nicely while giving a slight resistance, which is why I describe the feeling as “polished stone”. The tactile experience has been refined by Faber Castell and their graphite feels superior to average brands.

The hardest pencil in my set of Faber Castell drawing pencils is labelled 2H. Even this hard pencil glides across the page nicely (with other brands I sometimes find the hard pencils feel like they scratch into the surface). Another nice characteristic about the Faber Castell pencils is that even the softest pencils (6B – 8B) have a good amount of resistance when I sharpen them and press them onto a surface to draw. The nibs of soft/dark graphite pencils sometimes break easily when they’re sharpened too much, that isn’t the case with the Faber Castell 9000 pencils.

Faber Castell 9000 graphite swatch tests

Faber Castell 9000 pencil swatch test
Faber Castell 9000 swatches.

For me personally, it’s important that each pencil grade feels unique and different to neighbouring grades. Faber Castell performs excellently in this area and when I did the swatch test above, I noticed that each pencil felt different and mostly looked different to the others.

2H – 4B are all clearly distinctive to me and even though H and F look quite similar, the two pencils feel different.

The pencils from 5B – 7B are quite similar in look and honestly I’d probably find it difficult to do a blind test with those. They do all feel different to me but the performances are very similar.

The 8B pencil looks noticeably darker to the others and also produces a more grainy finish.

Long story short, if you want a set of pencils that really varies between the different grades/tones, the Faber Castell 9000 pencils are a good choice.

How easily do Faber Castell 9000 pencils erase?

Faber Castell 9000 Drawing Closeup

The Faber Castell 9000 pencils are very easy to erase, which is great news for beginner artists or artists who like me who enjoy bringing out highlights later on with erasers.

If you look at the cat’s whiskers in my drawing above, you’ll see I was able to bring highlights out of even dark areas where I’d shaded in the stripes in his fur. Likewise I was able to bring highlights out in the eyes of both my wife and cat. I’m not immune to drawing mistakes either and had to do corrections to both faces. The fact that the old drawing marks aren’t visible is a sign of how well these pencils erase.

For reference, I was using a Tombow Mono Zero stick eraser and a Faber Castell Dust Free eraser (block eraser).

Break resistance of Faber Castell 9000 pencils

faber castell graphite closeup
The graphite insert and wood are fused to reduce breakage.

I’ve been using Faber Castell 9000 pencils for a long time and have very rarely come across pencils with broken graphite inside. I haven’t been treating these pencils with any particular care either, because I keep them mostly in portable fabric pencil cases that travel around with me in my bag. I’ve used a variety of sharpeners with the Faber Castell 9000 pencils and they don’t have a problem with any of them.

The company states that the wood and graphite is bonded together and that this helps with the break resistance. I hadn’t actually noticed that the graphite and wood is bonded before but now that I’m paying attention, it makes sense. In Faber Castell’s pencils, there is absolutely no room for the graphite to twist or buckle, which means that it’s more difficult for the graphite to break.

If you drop the pencils from a good height, you’ll probably get broken graphite inside them however, normal wear and tear inside a pencil case is unlikely to cause any serious damage to these pencils.

Faber Castell 9000 pencils have been around a really long time

faber castell 9000 old advert

Besides being thoroughly tested, proven and used by professional artists, the Faber Castell 9000 pencils have been around for a long time.

These graphite pencils were first launched in 1905 and even artists as famous as Van Gogh have complimented Faber Castell’s pencils. I’ve also seen more contemporary artists use Faber Castell 9000 pencils to create true photo-realistic work.

Specific art materials that have been around for a long time carry the added benefit of being available for years to come. With cheaper or more recent brands, there is always the likely risk that those materials will disappear in one or two years. With materials as long-standing as the Faber Castell 9000 pencils, you can be reasonably confident that you’ll be able to find the same pencils for decades to come. So if you want to revisit an art style you were doing ten or twenty years ago and use the same materials, a brand like Faber Castell can be counted on to keep their materials in production.

Faber Castell 9000 pencils are sustainably made

Faber Castell states that all of the wood they source for their pencils is 100% sourced from sustainable forests. The company also carries FSC and carbon neutral certifications. The producers of the wood are apparently paid fairly and even the varnish Faber Castell uses on the pencils is waterbed and eco-friendly.

How truly eco-friendly any product is can be difficult to tell. Faber Castell produces 2.3 billion wood pencils every year, so that’s still production on an industrial scale. It’s at least good to know that Faber Castell is aware of things like their carbon footprint and the sustainability of their wood farming, because these aren’t things every company thinks of.

Concluding my review of the Faber Castell 9000 pencils

Faber Castell 12 pencil set review
The 12 set of Faber Castell 9000 pencils I have at the moment.

Faber Castell 9000 pencils come in 16 different grades and I’ve tested 12 of them. The pencils I didn’t test were the harder pencils, which are more suited to technical style drawing (6H – 3H). I tested 2H – 8B and thought that all of the pencils performed excellently.

To answer the question I set out at the beginning of this review “Are Faber Castell simply good at marketing or are their pencils really that good?”; I can answer that their pencils really are that good. It’s easy to see why Faber Castell pencils are popular in Europe. They’re made in Germany, lots of professional artists use them and they’re reasonably priced too.

I have no doubt that after reviewing all of the brands of pencils I’m going to continue reviewing, I’ll still come back to Faber Castell’s 9000 pencils often in the future. I have a preference for the overall feeling and tone of Caran d’Ache’s Grafwood pencils (review here), yet the Faber Castell 9000 pencils are more affordable and are easier to get hold of.

The one thing I wish Faber Castell would do with their 9000 pencils is something that they will probably never do due to marketing worries. I wish that Faber Castell’s pencils were different shades of grey. Faber Castell already colour their Polychromos colouring pencils with the colour of the pencil and I wish they did the same for these graphite pencils. The reason I think Faber Castell will never colour the 9000 pencils differently is because they’ve been coloured green for over 100 years. Nevertheless, I think they’d be better if they were coloured with the shade of grey the pencils are capable of achieving.

Do you use Faber Castell 9000 pencils? If you do please leave a comment about why you enjoy them below! Leave any questions down there too.

Where you can buy Faber Castell 9000 pencils

I hope you enjoyed my review of the Faber Castell 9000 pencils. I write these reviews for my own curiosity and buy everything myself at the time of writing. If you’d like to support what I’m doing, please consider using my links below to affiliated shops, because clicking on them costs you nothing but could potentially throw me a few cents to save up for a coffee!

You can buy the Faber Castell 9000 pencils from the following shops:

Jackson’s Art (UK / Europe / Worldwide shipping)

Rougier et Ple (France / Europe)

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