Sharpeners come in many different formats and price points, the best pencil sharpeners reduce pencil waste and create a fine, precise point.
The best pencil sharpeners for your drawing practice will depend upon the pencil medium you are using. For example, you will need different sharpeners for graphite pencil and charcoal. Some sharpeners will give the option of sharpening the pencil to different lengths. A sharpener that maintains the core of coloured pencils will make the pencil last longer to save you from replacing your pencils too regularly.
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Derwent SuperPoint Manual Pencil Sharpener
Attributes: manual helix sharpener, sharpens pencils up to 8mm, adjustable, desk clamp
This is a durable manual sharpener with steel helical blades that sharpen pencils to an ultra long, fine point. This sharpener is a little more budget friendly compared to other artist grade sharpeners.
The mechanism has an automatic stop, self feeding feature which means that when the lead has reached its sharpest point, it will stop sharpening.
There is a shavings reservoir beneath the sharpener to cleanly catch all the shavings as you go, it’s easily removable meaning you can quickly empty the drawer.
Prismacolor Pencil Sharpener
Attributes: manual sharpener, reservoir to catch shavings, inexpensive, two blades
Sharpen pencils to a fine point to achieve precise details in drawings. This sharpener is inexpensive and compatible with coloured pencils and graphite. It features two blades that allows artists to sharpen to a narrow or wide point.
Holbein T’Gaal Adjustable Sharpener
Attributes: manual sharpener, five adjustable settings to change the length of the point
This is an inexpensive sharpener that has five adjustable settings that enables artists to sharpen pencils to a shorter point and an ultra long point. The short blunt point is helpful for shading and the longer point is useful for fine details.
Nitram Sharpening Block
Attributes: use with charcoal, quality sanding block
Charcoal is sharpened using a sandpaper block to taper the edges to a point. This Nitram sharpening block is super high quality. It’s made from wood and a sharpening pad that has a grit grain of 180. Shape charcoal by running it up and down the sharpening block until you have achieved your desired point. Make sure to get a sturdy charcoal that is resistant to breakage, Nitram charcoal is both durable and soft.
X-Acto Mighty Pro Electric Pencil Sharpener
Attributes: electric sharpener, compatible with coloured pencils, auto adjust feature
This professional quality sharpener is on the more expensive end of the spectrum, however it is designed for both studio and commercial use. The sharpener has a few features which makes the process faster and cleaner, allowing artists to achieve consistent results and reduce pencil breakage.
It’s one of the fastest pencil sharpeners made by X-Acto and it features an LED light that lets the user know when the pencil is fully sharpened. The sensor automatically stops the motor when the pencil is fully sharpened, to prevent over sharpening and breakage. It automatically adjusts to the size of the pencil, so you can use with with a range of different pencil brands.
X-Acto XLR Electric Pencil Sharpener
Attributes: electric, inexpensive, lightweight, sharpens to a long point
This is a great alternative to the X-Acto Mighty Pro, at a fraction of the price. It’s more lightweight, but it’s compatible with coloured pencils and gives a long, sharp point. The sharpener has a pencil saver and helical cutter that sharpens pencils with precision. Overall, it’s a reliable sharpener that’s reasonably priced.
Faber-Castell Trio Sharpener
Attributes: manual sharpener, suitable for large pencils and regular sized pencils
This sharpener is basic and budget friendly and is suitable for use with regular graphite pencils and larger sized pencils. It’s small, lightweight, easily portable and has three holes for sharpeners of different sizes. The Trio sharpener is also compatible with coloured pencils and collects the pencil shavings neatly in the two reservoirs.
Best knives for sharpening pencils
Use a craft knife for sharpening pencils to an ultra fine point. This tactic takes longer, but gives artists more control over the finished look. It’s essential, if you are using charcoal pencils, to sharpen with a knife. This is because charcoal pencils break much more easily than graphite or coloured pencils. It also helps to maintain a longer core, which is more conducive to charcoal drawing.
Should you get a helix or blade sharpener?
Sharpener blades fall into two categories, helix and blades. Blade sharpeners are the most simple and inexpensive type of sharpener, you’ve likely got on in your pencil case already. Push and then twist the pencil around the cone shaped receptacle so that the blade shaves the wooden casing around the core.
The blade rotates around the pencil of a helical sharpener. Helix sharpeners work by clamping the pencil in place, then a cog mechanism will cause the helical burrs to rotate against the pencil casing and shave the pencil into a precise point. This cog mechanism is operated by a motor in an electric sharpener and a lever in a manual sharpener. Helix sharpeners are usually more expensive and used by professional artists. You can achieve a longer point with a helical sharpener.
A sharpener with a reservoir will collect all the shavings, so you don’t have to sharpen your pencil over a container to throw away. The X-Acto Mighty Pro electric sharpener has a large shavings reservoir that’s easy to remove; it automatically stops sharpening once the bin is removed.
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