How Long Do Pencil Marks Last? (It’s Longer Than You Think)

If you’re creating a work of art – poem, drawing, diary, you name it – chances are, you want it to last as long as possible. In most cases, as long as you take care of something, it will remain in good condition. 

You might be thinking, how long do pencil marks last? How can I keep my pencil drawings safe and long-lasting?

Pencil markings will last incredibly long as long as they’re kept protected from smudging, spilling, and light. In the right conditions, pencil writing can last 100 years or more. 

In this article, we will tell you why pencil marks last so long and give you the scoop on how to make yours as permanent as possible!

How Long Do Pencil Drawings Last? 

Why do I keep buying notebooks?

Graphite has a false reputation for not being very long-lasting. This might be because it’s more “natural,” and so we assume pens would last longer. On the contrary, graphite endures the tests of time.

As long as you store your work safely and securely, you don’t have to worry about them fading within your lifetime. Let’s talk about the contributing factors to a pencil drawing’s lifespan.

What is Lightfastness? 

Lightfastness is a term that refers to how fast or slow a material fades when exposed to light. Certain mediums are more lightfast than others and require more thorough protection. Graphite, which pencil lead is primarily made of, has a high lightfast rating. In other words, you do not have to worry about graphite fading from light exposure. 

If you have ever been to an archive, you will have noticed that certain important documents are kept in dark rooms with only special lights. Flash photography is strictly prohibited. This is because these documents need to survive for centuries on, and the smallest light exposure adds up over hundreds of years.

On the contrary, pen ink is not lightfast at all. The oils in ink don’t hold up when exposed to sunlight for long periods of time. So if your concern is light exposure, pencils are your best bet. If you’re more worried about smudging, perhaps you’d choose a pen

How to Protect Pencil Drawings

You may not have to worry about the light ruining your pencil drawings, but smudging is a whole different animal. Smudging occurs when there is friction and rubbing on the pencil marks. This causes them to smear and fade. 

Make sure to store your drawings somewhere where they are protected from weather, light, water, and constant friction. I have a few of my great-grandmother’s books on my bookshelf with her handwriting on the front cover as clear as day. 

The pencil marks are as clear as ever because they’ve been safely stored inside the book, on a shelf, not facing much wear and tear. 

  • Fixative spray

You can use a fixative spray to seal your pencil drawings. This protects them from anything that would touch the surface, kind of like the weatherproof spray they make for suede shoes. 

  • Parchment Paper

Parchment paper or wax paper function as excellent barriers to protect pencil marks from smudging. 

  • Interleaving Paper

Interleaving paper is another great option to protect your graphite artwork. Even better are page protectors that you slip paper in to protect it from spills and smears!

What Pencil is Best for Sketching?

There are actually a ton of types of pencils that each have their pros and cons. The type you choose depends on your sketching goals and how dark or smudged you want the drawing. 

In general, B pencils are the best for drawing and sketching. B stands for blackness, or blackness of the pencil. They have a higher ratio of graphite to clay and thus, leave darker traces on the paper. Because of this, they smudge more easily than other pencil types. 

H pencils are best for writing fine lines or detailed sketches that you don’t want to smudge. H stands for hardness, and these pencils have a higher ratio of clay to graphite which makes them more sturdy. H pencils leave indents on the page, so even if you manage to erase them, there will likely be a mark left after. 


As we can see, pencil marks can last for a long time, barring any excessive wear and tear. Graphite by nature is extremely lightfast, meaning it does not fade when exposed to light. That being said, graphite does rub away when touched, so you must protect your art with fixative spray, wax paper, or interleaving paper.

Pencils come in a wide variety of options, from the harder H pencils to the softer, bolder B pencils. B pencils are suitable for drawing and sketching because of their erasability and ability to be easily smudged (for blending on purpose, that is). H pencils are hard and much lighter in color. They are not recommended for sketching.

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