Drawing with a mechanical pencil offers lots of advantages that traditional wooden pencils don’t have, including precision and comfort. Plus, mechanical pencils stay sharp, without needing to be sharpened. This can save you a lot of time and hassle, especially when working on detailed art projects.
Mechanical pencils also make it much easier to get the exact line width you want for your artwork. This provides incredibly clean lines whilst drawing.
With that in mind, there are various types of mechanical pencils available to artists, each with their own unique attributes. To help you find the best mechanical pencil to suit your drawing style and practice, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at the different brands and models of mechanical pencils on the market, comparing and contrasting them in terms of features such as lead size, construction and design, ergonomics, and more.
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Staedtler Mars Technico 780 Leadholder
The Staedtler Mars Technico 780 Leadholder is a reliable and comfortable lead holder. This mechanical pencil has a metal clip, push-button, and grip zone that make it easy to use and control.
It also features an integrated lead sharpener that allows you to keep your leads sharp and ready to draw fine lines with. The lead sharpening feature really makes it stand out, above other mechanical pencils available to artists.
The adjustable lead grip and 2mm lead sticks provide taper control so you can handle more pressure when needed.
The Staedtler Mars Technico 780 Leadholder has a knurled metal grip, that provides stability while writing or drawing, while its sturdy plastic barrel ensures durability. The integrated push-button sharpener makes it easy to keep your leads sharp without having to sharpen them manually.
There are seven lead hardnesses sold by Staedtler, designed for their Mars Technico lead holder. Choose from 4H to 4B hardness. The 4H lead is perfect for technical or architectural drawings. Then the 4B lead works to create variation in values, for artists wanting to shade their drawings with deeper shadow tones. Although Staedtler don’t provide softer leads that go up to 8B, the 4B lead is adequate for creating dark shadows when enough pressure is applied.
Additionally, the pencil comes with an identification aid, so you can adjust the indicator to remind yourself the type of lead you put in the barrel.
When the lead is sharpened to a point, it is one of the best mechanical pencils for creating ultra-fine details. However, it is also a fantastic tool for filling in large areas, especially with the softer leads. This pencil would be a great addition to any seasoned artist’s drawing toolkit.
Faber-Castell TK 9400 Clutch Drawing Pencil
Designed specifically for artists, the Faber-Castell TK 9400 Clutch Drawing Pencil has a hexagonal barrel with a round, ribbed grip that provides a sure hold. The strong clutch holds the lead firmly in place. It accommodates 2mm leads and comes in a variety of lead types from 6B to 4H. The soft 6B lead allows artists to create more contrast in their drawings, compared to other pencils on this list.
Leads that can be bought separately for this pencil have a deep black quality, enabling artist to create beautiful contrast in their shaded works.
With a sleek and ergonomic design, the pencil is comfortable to use even during long drawing sessions. The hexagonal barrel ensures that the pencil won’t roll away when you set it down on your work surface. A ribbed grip provides extra control and stability while you draw, allowing you to create precise lines with ease.
A 2mm pointed leads provide smooth, consistent lines without smudging or fading over time. The lead is thick yet tapered to a point, which allows the artist to vary line width, depending on the angle used to draw. It comes with a lead indicator, so you can label the pencil with the lead grade (i.e. 2H or 4B).
Pentel Graphgear 500 Pencil
The Pentel Graphgear 500 Pencil is a great choice for artists, designers and draftsmen who need precision and accuracy in their drawings. It features a metal grip and stamped metal clip, which are usually found on more expensive pencils. The 4mm fixed sleeve makes it perfect for template work and technical drawings, while the metallic-mesh grip provides superior control when drawing details.
The ergonomics of the Graphgear 500 are also noteworthy. Its slim, beveled barrel promotes control when drawing, while its weighted tip makes it easy to create precision lines.
The ergonomic design provides comfortable writing and drawing, making it perfect for extended use without fatigue or discomfort. And the retractable lead offers adjustable sizing, allowing you to switch between 0.3mm, 0.5mm and 0.7mm leads as needed. This allows you to draw with ultra-fine detail, making intricate artwork easier than ever before.
The head of the pencil holds the leads securely, so it can stand up to more gestural drawing techniques. The quality of the pencil leads are high—they are resistant to breakage than some of the cheaper brands, making it great for long-term projects.
The head and grip of the pencil is made from metal, however, the body of the pencil is made from plastic. While the plastic body of the pencil does not have a luxury feel, it makes the pencil feel more lightweight when held.
Alvin Draft/Matic Pencil
The Alvin Draft/Matic Pencil has a plastic barrel and knurled grip combination, similar to the Rotring 500, that provides comfort and stability while writing. The 0.3 mm lead size is perfect for detailed drawings and the cushion pointed tip ensures accuracy when drawing with straightedges. Artists can choose barrels that accommodate leads from 0.3 to 0.9mm, giving the user a range of options depending on their needs.
The lead grade indicator will help you to identify which grade of pencil lead you put in the barrel. This can be useful if you swap out different grades of lead often for drafting and shading.
The knurling is more textured compared to other pencils on the list, which provides a better grip, with no slip or oiliness. However the knurling can feel rough on the fingers when held for lengths of time.
This pencil has an incredibly nice balance and feel in the hand whilst drawing, it is lightweight with adequate grip for ultra fine detailed work.
Koh-I-Noor Toison D’or Lead Holder
Another lead holder with a thicker lead and inbuilt sharpener, this pencil is the perfect budget option for drawing. The metal barrel feels sturdy and high quality, however the pencil does not come with a knurling grip. Whether you’re drawing using the contour technique, or line drawing using hatching and cross hatching to create shaded areas, the lead provides consistent lines for drawing.
The clip is removable, which can benefit artists who want to rotate the pencil to find the sharpest edge, without the clip making this motion feel imbalanced.
Leads can be bought separately in a range of hardnesses, from 4H to 4B. The lead is made from a combination of graphite and clay and can be sharpened with the in-built sharpener, or manually using a sandpaper block.
The Koh-I-Noor Toison D’or Lead Holder is great for sketching on location due to its portability and affordability, as well as its heavier weight which helps to keep a steady hand. It is perfect for architects, illustrators, fine artists and graphic designers who need precise lines and curves.
The inbuilt lead sharpener will come in handy when your lead begins to look dull and needs resharpening.
How to choose the best mechanical pencil for your drawing practice
Mechanical pencils offer a variety of advantages over traditional wooden pencils, including the ability to use replaceable lead cores and the convenience of not having to sharpen them. The size, construction, design, ergonomics, and other factors all play an important role in determining how well a mechanical pencil performs.
Lead size is one of the most important factors when it comes to performance. Smaller lead sizes are better for precision work such as sketching the finest details. Larger lead sizes are better for filling in larger areas of shading and creating thicker lines. Choose lead based on its hardness. Softer leads will allow you to create darker marks and more intense shading in your drawings. With the Faber-Castell Clutch mechanical pencil, you can buy additional 6B leads, which are ultra soft and perfect for the tonal shading drawing technique.
The construction and design of a mechanical pencil can also have an impact on its performance. A well-designed pencil should feel comfortable in your hand and be easy to grip while writing or drawing. The shape and weight should be balanced so that it doesn’t feel too heavy or too light when held in your hand. Additionally, the mechanism that holds the lead should be sturdy enough to withstand repeated use without breaking down over time.
Ergonomics is another important factor when it comes to mechanical pencils. A good ergonomic design will help reduce strain on your hands while writing or drawing for extended periods of time. Look for features such as rubber or metal knurled grips that make it more comfortable to hold the pencil for long periods of time without fatigue or discomfort.
Overall, there are many different factors that affect a mechanical pencil’s performance. From lead size and grade to construction and ergonomics. By taking these factors into consideration when selecting a mechanical pencil, you’ll be able to find one that best suits your needs and provides superior performance. If you’re planning on levelling up your art workspace, check out our review of the best drafting tables.