The 8 Best Mechanical Pencils of 2020
For writers, designers and artists everywhere
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From architects and artists to anyone who simply prefers a pencil to a pen, mechanical pencils easily beat out the ordinary No. 2 wood variety and they’ve been around for centuries. The major difference between the different makes and models of mechanical pencils is how the lead is delivered to the tip for writing or for illustrating purposes. The method you prefer can depend on what you want to use the pencil for (are you a graphic designer or are you just using it in a casual setting?). And, of course, some come with additional perks (ergonomic grips, self-sharpening capabilities, etc.) that might make one more appropriate for you than another. Want our help picking one out? No problem. Read on to find the best mechanical pencils to buy today.
Best Pencil for Architects and Graphic Designers: Pentel Graph Gear 1000
The Pentel Graph Gear 1000 is a drafting pencil with a grip that’s designed to divert heat from the hand. This keeps it steady and not edging toward slippery with sweat when you’re working hard. The tip is retractable, which is nice if you’re one of those who tends to drop your pencil into your pocket when you're not using it — no smudges or lead smears. It also preserves the tip from breaking off if the pencil gets knocked around on your desk or drawing board a little.
The Graph Gear 1000 uses self-sharpening high-polymer lead with a 4mm tip, so it’s suitable for use with rulers and similar devices. If you like to vary your lead type for different projects, a built-in indicator will alert you to how hard it is, as well as how much lead you have left. Overall, this is an attractive pen with a tidy price tag.
Best Disposable Pencil: Paper Mate SharpWriter
Paper Mate’s SharpWriter looks like a regular pencil at first glance — it even has a little pink eraser at the end, and yes, it does use No. 2 lead. But that’s where the similarities end. The lead is cushioned with a shock-absorbing material, so it’s very hard to break and it writes well on a number of different surfaces. Just twist the barrel to push the lead forward into position. The tip is .7mm long.
The only downside is that this pencil is a disposable model, non-refillable. But that shouldn’t be a problem because the box comes with 36 of them, so if you really like the pencil you should have enough to last you for a while.
Best for Casual Writing: Bic Xtra-Sparkle
You don’t have to be a professional artist to love mechanical pencils, particularly when they sparkle a little to lighten up your day. No, the lead in the Bic Xtra-Sparkle isn’t sparkly — that would be a bit much — but the pencil barrels are bright and cheerful. You can get either 24 of them or 48 of them in a convenient, economical pack. The lead thickness measures .5, .7 or .9mm.
They’re a good fit for anyone who does a lot of writing, such as students. The leads are No. 2, so they’re suitable and scannable for high school and college exams, and they advance with a single click. Bic claims they are the No. 1 bestselling mechanical pencils.
Longest-Lasting Pencil: BIC MPLWP241 X-tra Strong
Bic’s MPLWP241 X-Strong come 24 to a pack and the pencils might not be refillable, but each holds an amount of lead comparable to two and a half regular pencils and you can load the lead with just a click.
As the name suggests, these pencils are heavy duty. The tips are .9 mm, which makes for thicker print — we’re not talking fine lines here, but they’re still easily erasable. The pencils are shatter-resistant, so drops and other mishaps shouldn’t have you reaching for the next one in the box. You can choose from a variety of colors.
Most State-of-the-Art Pencil: Uni Kuru Toga Roulette
Uni effectively reinvented the mechanical pencil when it designed its Kuru Toga Roulette model. This pencil has a built-in ratchet at the tip to automatically rotate the lead a little each time you lift the point from the paper. If you think that’s a bit of overkill, you haven’t suffered through a lot of mechanical pencils with the lead wearing down in odd forms and shapes with extended use. The Kuru Toga is all about consistency in delivery. The lead is sharp every time, and it’s less likely to break.
The Kuru Toga Roulette also has a low center of gravity, making it easier to handle, as well as a textured grip. Both are also conducive to consistent writing and marking. It comes with lead refills and extra erasers, also a nice touch, and it boasts a professional metallic appearance as well.
Best for Executives: Pentel Sharp Kerry
This mechanical pencil gets rave reviews from buyers and that’s at least partly due to its appearance. Each pencil is assembled by hand with watchmaker tools, from the shiny metallic barrel to the fine silver tip — and yes, you’ll pay a little more for that, but the price is by no means stratospheric. The Sharp Kerry is perfect if you work in a professional office where appearances matter. In fact, it looks somewhat like a pen, not a pencil, at first glance.
The Sharp Kerry delivers fine .5mm lines. The lead is loaded with a simple click, even if the pencil happens to be capped at the time. An eraser is tucked beneath the cap, too — not that executives ever make mistakes. And the cap is somewhat unique because very few mechanical pencils offer them. Pens, yes, but pencils, not so much.
Best for Sketching and Drawing: rOtring Rapid Pro
This rOtring model is known for its precision, making it a favorite among artists and illustrators. The pencil is retractable and the lead-delivery mechanism is cushioned. Delivery is achieved with a push button. Put all this together and you have a long-lasting pencil with lead that’s less prone to breakage.
There’s even a built-in lead sharpener tucked beneath the push button. The body is all metal with a sliding sleeve, which also promotes durability, and if you habitually work at an inclined drawing board, the Rapid Pro won’t roll off when you put it down, thanks to its hexagonal shape. The Rapid Pro also has a reputation for being easy on the hand during long drawing sessions. The grip is knurled with little bumps around the barrel to provide superior comfort and control. The pencil is available in matte black or chrome. And rOtring offers a two-year warranty.
Most Ergonomic Pencil: Staedtler Integrity 9505
Staedtler hopes to make your life easier if you spend a lot of long, extended hours with your pencil in your hand. The Integrity 9505 is ergonomic with a triangular barrel to help promote proper grip placement.
And you won’t have to wrestle with the barrel to get the lead placed correctly because of its double-clutch mechanism that holds the lead in place on two sides. This not only adds to your comfort, but it means that you’ll use more of the lead you load the pencil with — no more annoying remnants left in the pencil to be wasted and tossed out when it’s time to reload. The Integrity 9505 also has an extra-long eraser and comes with two extras.