In our previous installment, we talked about the basics of pencils - grades, shapes, sizes, and purpose. Let's dig a little deeper now and take a look at some of our go-to recommendations.
Of course everyone has different opinions on what they want their daily pencil to be like, so since I can't predict everyone's taste I'm going to work with the typical pencil recommendations we make in the shop - our best-selling go-to's that we share with people when they're unfamiliar with pencils. Have more specific tastes? You can always email us about pencils at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note taking, writing, on-the-go doodling. Nothing too fancy or serious needed here, just a nice pencil with good "point retention" (a fancy term we pencil people use to mean "it stays sharp"). Each of these has a good eraser (so you don't need a separate one on the go) and nice, smooth HB (remember that's the median graphite grade) graphite.
Palomino HB (also comes in orange!)
Tombow 2558 HB
Camel HB / Craft Design Technology HB
Yellow School Pencil
Cedar Pointe #2 (the #1 is also very nice!)
This is truly a difficult pencil to make a recommendation for if you're unfamiliar with pencil grades (it's much easier if you know if you prefer dark or light pencils). I like light pencils for drafting and dark pencils for looser, more expressive sketching and shading. Generally, if you're new to drawing and just want to get some things to play around with, I like to recommend picking up a variety of hardnesses to see what you prefer. These two sets come in a nice range of hard to dark:
Edelweiss - F, HB, 3B
Natura - 2H, HB, 3B
Desenho - H, HB, B
9800 - HB, B, 2B
Grafwood - HB, 2B, 4B
If you're looking to try one pencil, here are a couple that are lovely to work with:
Blackwing (see more about the different hardnesses below!)
Art Graf - all the pencils in this line are very dark and smooth (the Soft Carbon in particular is very black), and have water-soluble properties (which is really great for working with light and dark values)
Black Wood Jumbo - a very smooth jumbo HB with a thick core - great for practicing lettering or calligraphy
Looking for a little more bang for your buck, but trying to avoid the broken-on-the-inside drugstore pencils? These are our favorites that cost less than a dollar.
Musgrave Test Scoring
Nataraj 621 (it also comes in Bold!)
Perhaps you're looking for something a little higher quality than the everyday pencil? Something that looks really nice in your pencil cup, or gives you a break from fancy pens? Here's our favorite premium pencils:
Mitsu-bishi Hi-Uni - HB or 2B
Mono 100 - HB or 2B
Caran d'Ache Swiss Wood
Caran d'Ache Black Wood Jumbo
Pencils for Lefties:
We've had many left-handed people stop by and bemoan the fact that graphite is so smudgy. We actually have a couple of lefties who work for us, so we've been able to pick out a few less-smudgy pencils for our left-handed friends! A good place to start is Japanese pencils, as they tend to have a little polymer in the graphite which prevents smudging. Another solution is a harder pencil, like an F or an H, since they'll have more clay than graphite in the core.
Edelweiss F or HB (the 3B is even pretty smudge resistant!)
9852EW Master Writing
9606 Academic Writing
Mono 100 HB
The "Gateway" pencil:
The myth, the legend, the Blackwing. We've joked for a long time that the Blackwing 602 is the gateway pencil because many people are drawn to it for its unusual look and replaceable eraser, or it's illustrious history, and it becomes the pencil that introduces them to other quality pencils. There's three types of Blackwings - the 602, which is the firmest (around a B grade) and is the reproduction of the famous Eberhard Faber classic; the Pearl, which is their "balanced" version (around a 2B); and the unnamed matte black Blackwing, which is the softest and darkest of the three (around a 4B). They're certainly a good place to start for writing or drawing, though I think the 602 is the most versatile. (Note that they're only sold by the dozen online).