There’s a lot of reasons to love mechanical pencils, from their engineer-like precision to their whimsical artistry.
They’re always sharp and erasable, plus their ergonomic grips make them infinitely more comfortable than a wooden pencil.
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What to look for in a mechanical pencil
Right Size Lead
With so many to choose from, how do you find the right one for your project? First, you need to think about the lead.
There are 4 common sizes of leads for mechanical pencils. Before you even start looking at mechanical pencils, know which lead size you will need. If you’re in doubt, .5mm and .7mm are both very versatile for both writing and drawing.
- 0.3 mm: thin for detailed drawings or fine writing.
- 0.5 mm: popular, good for writing and drawing.
- 0.7 mm: most common, good for writing and drawing non-detailed work.
- 0.9 mm: popular for sketching or use on newsprint where a thinner lead would rip through.
Secondly, if you’ll be using your mechanical pencil for long stretches of time, it’s worth it to upgrade your cheapie and invest in one with a comfortable grip. Your hand will thank you.
Tip that Meets Your Needs
Another issue to be aware of is mechanical pencils come with both fixed and retractable tips. Fixed tips tend to be more stable, easy to see around and better for very detailed work. On the other hand, if you’re carrying your pencil around in your pocket, retractable tips will prevent you from accidentally stabbing your leg and are better on-the-go.
With that in mind, here are our top picks for best mechanical pencil.
Best Overall: rOtring 600 Mechanical Pencil
rOtring mechanical pencils from Germany icons in the world of writing instruments. Inspired by Bauhaus aesthetics, they aim for technical precision and minimalist form. They’re beautiful without being painted or colorful and comfortable without being padded or soft.
There are a lot of additional features. They’re designed to write for hours without slipping and they come with a built-in indicator so you can easily see what hardness of lead is loaded in the pencil.
For anyone who has watched helplessly as their mechanical pencil rolled off the desk, a hexagonal body design prevents rolling. A fixed lead guidance sleeve lets you easily see if you’re doing precision work or using a ruler.
One word of caution, this tip is fragile so either leave it on your desk or find a pencil case for transit. The sleeve will get damaged if dropped.
Best Executive Mechanical Pencil: Sheaffer Prelude
If you want a pencil to make a statement, this is it. The Sheaffer Prelude features black matte and 22KT gold plate trim. The 0.7mm lead will hold up and write smoothly even if you tend to exert a lot of pressure while writing.
It’s an elegant and professional pencil designed to rival the pens on your desk. Makes a great gift for graduation, a new job or promotion and comes in a luxury gift box.
Best for Sketching: WSD Sketch Up
With sketching you’re not looking for detail, you want to catch an impression and fast. For this, the mechanical pencil’s cousin, the clutch pencil is a perfect option. It holds larger leads and allows for a more free-flowing, sketching style of drawing. The advantage of a clutch pencil is similar to a mechanical pencil but with a few key differences.
Instead of pushing the lead forward, a clutch pencil lets you adjust how much lead is out for you to work with. This is an advantage for artists and designers using it for sketching or shading. Because the lead it larger (in this case 5.6mm), it comes with its own built-in sharpener in the lid.
Most Ergometric: Pilot Dr. Grip Mechanical Pencil
Need a mechanical pencil that puts your comfort first? If you spend long hours writing, deal with hand fatigue, or deal with arthritis, try Pilot’s Dr. Grip pencil. Launched in 1995, Dr. Grip mechanical pencils are designed to provide superior writing comfort and reduce pain associated with writing.
Beyond being comfortable to write with, it’s also a quality mechanical pencil. It features a shake mechanism to forward the lead, sturdy feel and easy to refill.
Best Set: Pentel Arts GraphGear 1000 Premium Gift Set
If you’re an architect, drafter, or artist, you’ll soon discover you want a pencil in each thickness. Pentel Arts GraphGear 1000 is a quality set of mechanical pencils that includes the four most popular sizes of pencil leads: .3mm, .5mm, .7mm, and .9mm. It comes with color-coded pencils, leads and replacement erasers.
A 4mm tip allows it to work well with rulers and stencils and retracts to prevent the lead from breaking. The metallic grip is inlaid with soft, latex-free pads for a more comfortable grip.
Best Cheap Pencils: BIC Mechanical Pencil Variety Pack
There are many times that having mechanical pencils comes in handy. Whether you’re on a tight budget, need a few extras as back-up, or to give out without worrying about getting them back, this variety pack of Bic mechanical pencils combines good writing quality with a very affordable price tag.
The pack comes with a 60-count of mechanical pencils with .5, .7 and .9 lead types fitting most writers and needs. Plus at that price, you won’t need to tear your hair out if a few get lost. They come in a range of cheerful colors.
Best with Colored Lead: Pilot Color Eno Automatic Mechanical Pencil
While most people associate mechanical pencils and gray graphite lead, there are also amazing colored mechanical pencils. This set comes from the popular Color Eno line from Japan and includes 8 colors: red, pink, orange, yellow, green, soft blue, blue, and purple.
The leads are 0.7 mm, soft, creamy and vibrant. Plus being mechanical, you never need to stop your work to sharpen them. Just be aware that it will be more difficult to replace the leads than with a graphite pencil.