We’re currently living in an age where technology is advancing faster than ever. From folding phones to drones built for crop dusting, technology is creeping into our lives in ways we could never imagine. That being said, it’s incredible that a good mechanical pencil is still an essential part of almost every artist’s arsenal. While something like a wireless pen mouse is great, it’s still simply not able to write on paper.
Whether you’re doing architectural or mechanical drawings, prototyping hand-drawn logos or fonts, taking notes or doing quick sketches – a mechanical pencil is vital for two reasons. Firstly, they’re erasable, and, secondly, they’re a lot sturdier and long-lasting than standard pencils. A good mechanical pencil can easily last you a lifetime, if you look after it.
There are, however, many factors to consider when shopping for high-quality mechanical pencils, from their shape, size and functionality to the ergonomics, hand-feel and more. As such, we’ve put together this guide of our top mechanical pencils. Each one has its own pros and cons, and there’s a handy buyer’s guide at the end of the article to help you make an informed decision.
Now, let’s put pencil to paper and dig in.
Table of Contents
It’s a sleek and comfortable stainless steel model, which comes packaged in a fancy Parker gift box. It’s built to sit at your desk until the day you retire and even has an eraser on top, under the metal cap.
Many have found the larger body of the pencil to be ideal for drawing, whether doing illustration, drafting, or mechanical drawings. The lead included is Pentel’s Super Hi-Polymer HB lead, which is some of the best, and clearest, for digital scanning. It’s also got a nifty bonus – if you buy the pink version, five cents will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Who knew that buying a mechanical pencil could be such an altruistic endeavour?
One of the coolest features of this pencil, however, is the Lead Hardness indicator which identifies which lead grade you’re working with as you write. But, we’ll get into more of that later on in the review. It’s one of the most expensive mechanical pencils on this list, but the price is justified, as far as we’re concerned.
|Name||Best For||Price||Rating||Image||Check Price|
|rOtring 600 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil||All-Round||$$$||9/10|| ||Check Price|
|Parker Jotter 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil||Writing||$$||8.5/10|| ||Check Price|
|Pentel Sharp Kerry 0.7mm Mechanical Pencil||All-Round||$||9.5/10|| ||Check Price|
|Aviation Magnetic Control 2.0mm Mechanical Pencil||Drafting & Drawing||$||8/10|| ||Check Price|
|Zebra M-301 0.7mm Mechanical Pencil||All-Round||$||8.5/10|| ||Check Price|
|Paper Mate ComfortMate 0.7mm Mechanical Pencil||Writing||$$||8/10|| ||Check Price|
|Uni Core Keeps Sharp 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil||All-Round||$||9/10|| ||Check Price|
|Staedtler Mars 780 2mm Mechanical Pencil||Drafting & Drawing||$$||8.5/10|| ||Check Price|
|Pentel Click 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil||Writing||$$||9/10|| ||Check Price|
|Lamy L117 0.7mm Mechanical Pencil||All-Round||$$$||7/10|| ||Check Price|
In this next section, we’re going to take a look at the top mechanical pencils individually. We’ve included pros and cons for each pencil, as well as a bulleted list of notable points from each pencil so that you can easily compare them at a glance. We’ve also listed $-$$$ as one of these attributes, so that you can get a rough idea of what each one might cost. Let’s take a closer look.
The rOtring is not only one of the most cool mechanical pencils around (if you’re into German engineering, at least), but also one of the most effective. Its great design is also the first indicator of the pencil’s incredible build quality, with its red-accented hexagonal body and cross-hatched metal grip.
The rOtring 600 is built to last a lifetime, and is fully decked out with features such as its brass mechanism for extra precision when advancing the lead. A small eraser on the back, as well as a nifty lead hardness/grade indicator which shows you what you’re working with inside the pencil.
This is a great mechanical pencil for drawing, illustration, drafting or writing – it’s an all-rounder. It comes in a black or silver finish, and as well as 0.35mm, 0.5mm and 0.7mm variants.
You’ll probably know Parker’s Jotter pens from their status as the ‘best of the best’ of pens. They’re fancy looking, heavy and comfortable, and hold that status for a reason. So, it’s only natural Parker would eventually go on to release a mechanical pencil in the same iconic design. This stainless steel beauty makes for a fantastic lifelong desk-companion.
There’s really not all that much to this mechanical pencil. It’s well-built, made from stainless steel, and fits a 0.5mm lead. It’s a very comfortable everyday pencil, and while it doesn’t feature a grip, its design sits smoothly in the hand to allow for hours of use on end. It’s a well-built partner for anyone looking to invest in a mechanical pencil that’s going to be around for years.
If you’re prepared to take a small hit in quality for a big saving when it comes to price, then the Sharp Kerry from Pentel is likely the model for you. It’s also got a wider, bigger design than most mechanical pencils – almost more similar to something like a fountain pen. If you’ve got long fingers or big hands, you might find this to aid in your motor skills quite a bit.
The Sharp Kerry comes in 0.5mm and 0.7mm sizes, both with an aluminium pen cap, so that the lead doesn’t poke holes in your shirt pocket. It comes in a number of different colours, and as we mentioned earlier, each purchase of the pink model sees five cents donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
While this isn’t as fancy a mechanical pencil as the Parker or rOtring models, it’ll do the trick just fine. It might even suit you a little better, depending on the kind of shape and design you’re looking for. With the super comfortable weighting and weight-balance of the Sharp Kerry, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell it’s a more budget-friendly option.
If you’re one to use pencils for marking woodwork, DIY or building – or even just need a larger lead size for bigger drawings or less-fine writing work – then this mechanical pencil is going to along the lines of what you’re looking for.
Apart from looking like a space-age pencil, the Aviation features a magnetic ring which is twisted to extend and retract the lead. The leads itself is 2.0mm in size, which is 4x the diameter of its 0.5mm competitors. This means that it’s best for making clear, large drawings, notes or marks, and probably won’t be the ideal mechanical pencil to write your thesis with – although you never know!
It’s got a very reasonable price, and seems quality-built and made to last. And while it’s quite specific in its intended use, it can form part of a great arsenal of different-sized mechanical pencils for different purposes.
The M-301 mechanical pencil from Zebra is one of the best quality mechanical pencils on this list, and has the added bonus of being very cheap. A twelve-pack costs about the same as the Parker Jotter pencil.
It’s a great all-rounder, with a shape and size appropriate for drawing, drafting, note-taking and writing for hours on end. It appears to be a popular choice for an every-day mechanical pencil, that you can carry around with you everywhere.
It’s got a lightweight and durable stainless steel body which is accented with a rubber grip for ergonomic assistance. While it doesn’t have too many extras or cool features, it’s a solid choice that won’t leave you disappointed.
The ComfortMate from Paper Mate, which comes in both 0.5mm and 0.7mm variants is really not a very special, or unique mechanical pencil. It’s on this list because it’s a classic – it’s simple, reliable, and comfortable (especially for those with motor skills issues). It’s probably the most similar to any cheap mechanical pencil you’ve used in school or college – only better-built.
The hourglass, oversized rubber grip is a wonderful feature for those who have trouble writing with thin pencils, or lose their grip after writing or drawing for hours on end. The ComfortMate has a plastic body, with an eraser-cap keeping spare lead safe in place in the upper compartment.
This is a simple and reliable go-to if you’re looking for something that isn’t too fancy or convoluted, and something that’s familiar.
The full name of this mechanical pencil is the Kuru Toga Roulette. The first part of its name, ‘Kuru Toga’ means ‘auto-rotate pencil’ in Japanese when roughly translated. If you combine this with the idea of a roulette, a clearer picture starts to form.
Every time pressure is released, the rotation mechanism twists the lead a little. In simpler terms, this means that every time you lift your pencil from the page, the lead with turn slightly, ensuring that your lead is constantly round and pointed, and you’re never writing with a side that’s been worn flat. This is a cool and nifty innovation, and while not cheap, the price isn’t ridiculous either.
The Kuru Toga Roulette features a gunmetal body, with a metal cross-hatched grip which is sweat and slip resistant. It’s got incredibly strong build quality, and would be ideal for less office-friendly work – although it’ll obviously work great as your desktop writing-mate.
If you’re looking for a bit of extra care and attention, both in mechanical and product design, then this is the one for you. Bonus points for a cut-out hole, allowing you to watch the rotating mechanism do its thing while you do yours.
The Mars from Staedtler, like the Aviation Magnetic Control, is a larger-sized mechanical pencil for more versatile technical or artistic use. It’s got a 2mm lead, which is four times the diameter of most of the other mechanical pencils on this list. But has its own host of uses for which a 0.5mm just won’t cut it.
The metal tip and grip are machined together to the inside of the pencil separate from the plastic body, so you won’t get any bits or pieces accidentally unscrewed or coming loose. It’s got a quality build despite the plastic body, and seems more than sturdy enough for work outdoors or on-site.
This is a less-fancy option than the Aviation Magnetic Control if you’re looking for a 2mm lead, and comes at a pretty decent price that’s not going to hurt your pocket.
The Pentel Click is another simple and classic mechanical pencil that’s really not doing anything special. But it’s made to be a reliable and simple option for those who aren’t looking for flair and fanciness.
It comes in a pack of twelve, which is pretty incredible for the price, and each pencil is made from a clear plastic when it comes to the body. There’s a button on the side for click lead-advancing, and a comfort grip to make long hours of use comfortable. The Click also has a large, long retractable eraser which can be extended and retracted using the rotating mechanism on the back end of the pencil.
This is a simple, great choice which won’t bankrupt you, nor leave your side for a good few years.
This spacey-looking pencil from Lamy, the L117, is a high-end option for those looking to spend a little, to a lot more on a mechanical pencil. There’s nothing particularly special about it in terms of features – it’s got an eraser, rear-end click advancement, and a flexible shirt clip. It’s also built from ABS plastic, which is really sturdy – but still not quite on the same level as a metal body.
It’s the design, however, that sets this pencil apart. It’s got that look that sets it apart from other mechanical pencils, and it’ll stick out in a pile on the table. It’s got the tasteful design of a stealth-spaceship but lacks the features thereof, so it’s a bit of a weigh-off you’ve got to consider.
While these mechanical pencils are all pretty similar, there are certainly a few things you’ll want to take note of when shopping around. These are all little factors which will affect how well said pencil works for you, so be sure to take note of them when you’re comparing your final choices.
Here are some things you’re going to want to look out for:
When it comes to something like a mechanical pencil, the shape, size and feel in your hand is the primary factor that you’re going to want to get right. You want one which fits comfortably in your hand, is well-balanced, and is easy to write or draw with for hours on end, without fatigue. It’s often a good idea to use any old pens you have at home for reference – find your favourite, and see which of these pencils is the closest to what you’re looking for.
Now we’ve sorted that out, you’re prepped and ready to write for eternity. What comes next, is your medium or intent. If you’re using the pencil for mechanical or engineering drawings, you’re probably not going to want a 2.0mm lead size. Conversely, if you’re using your pencil primarily for design and drawing, it’s unlikely you’ll find it easy to do any shading with a 0.35mm nib. It’s important to pair up the size to what you’re going to be using it for – the same way one might have varying paintbrush widths that work for them.
This goes hand in hand with the features of the pencil – for example, if you got for a simple click-and-draw, you can’t expect too much in terms of versatility or flexibility. On the other hand, if you get a pencil that’s got a lead-grade sensor, built-in eraser and sharpener, and comes with a pen cap, you’re going to find your workflow a lot more seamless than it might otherwise be.
Lastly, you’re going to want to make sure your mechanical pencil is built to last. A good mechanical pencil can last you a lifetime, so it makes very little sense to buy one that won’t.
There’s a lot to a mechanical pencil, but there’s also not that much to a mechanical pencil. It’s really all about what you’re looking for, and to what lengths it’s ‘just a pencil’ or ‘my most important tool’ to you personally.
It’s going to take a while to decide on a model, that much is for sure, so just remember to use our handy buyer’s guide, and to trust your gut when deciding. If you’re looking to take your art to the next level, why not take a look at our list of the best tablets for animation?
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