Toad Hollow Studio's Drawing Tutorials And Classes by Carol Rosinski

Mechanical or Wooden Pencils

mechanical pencilI use mechanical pencils with 2-mm leads for drawing a lot, and I prefer them for several reasons. Over the years, I've collected several types of lead holders in different colors and have consistently kept the same hardness of lead in each one. This creates a color coded system that allows me to find the hardness of lead I need with a quick glance. Leads in a holder are quicker to sharpen than wooden pencils and the leads are less likely to break, too. Just a few rotations around the sharpener creates a long sharp point. That may not seem like much of a benefit, but a smooth workflow is important to me.

Mechanicals are more economical and ecological than wooden pencils. While you could buy several wooden pencils for the initial cost of a lead holder and sharpener, the less expensive replacement leads save you money in the long run. Using mechanical pencils saves trees too, but some pencil companies claim to use renewable growth wood now.

I do use wooden pencils, but only for a few specific things. Sometimes it's hard to find replacement leads at the extreme ends of the hardness scale, so I keep 9B and 9H woodens around for back-up. I prefer to do quick sketching with a wooden pencil, too, because you can lay them down on their side and use the full length of the lead. It's hard to do that with a lead holder because they don't taper back from the lead as sharply as wooden pencils do.

You probably started out with a set of wooden pencils as most people do, and when it's time to replenish your supply I suggest that you buy a lead holder, sharpener, and a few leads to see how you like them. The holder and sharpener will last for years and I suspect you'll prefer the fine point for detail work too.

Here's more about wooden pencils and leads with quality ratings and a cost comparison chart.

Carol Rosinski
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Drawing Made Easy, Getting Started by Carol Rosinski
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Toad Hollow Studio - Teaching how to draw since 1999