A pencil is a writing implement or art medium constructed of a narrow, solid pigment core inside a protective casing which prevents the core from being broken and/or from leaving marks on the user’s hand during use.
Pencils create marks by physical abrasion, leaving behind a trail of solid core material that adheres to a sheet of paper or other surface. They are distinct from pens, which instead disperse a trail of liquid or gel ink that stains the light colour of the paper.
Most pencil cores are made of graphite mixed with a clay binder which leaves grey or black marks that can be easily erased. Graphite pencils are used for both writing and drawing and result in durable markings: though writing is easily removable with an eraser, it is otherwise resistant to moisture, most chemicals, ultraviolet radiation, and natural aging. Other types of pencil core are less widely used, such as charcoal pencils, which are mainly used by artists for drawing and sketching. Coloured pencils are sometimes used by teachers or editors to correct submitted texts, but are typically regarded as art supplies, especially those with waxy core binders that tend to smear on paper instead of erasing. Grease pencils have a softer, crayon-like waxy core that can leave marks on smooth surfaces such as glass or porcelain.
The most common type of pencil casing is of thin wood, usually hexagonal in section but sometimes cylindrical, permanently bonded to the core. Similar permanent casings may be constructed of other materials such as plastic or paper. To use the pencil, the casing must be carved or peeled off to expose the working end of the core as a sharp point. Mechanical pencils have more elaborate casings which are not permanently bonded to the core. Instead, the casing supports a separate, mobile piece of pigment core that can be extended or retracted through the casing tip as needed; these pencil casings can be re-loaded with a new core (usually graphite) when necessary.