Pencil Testing

Testing Pencils

NY animator Tom Smolenski was looking for a good 6B pencil to animate with (in 2010 no less–what a masochist!) so he tested a bunch of pencils to find the best one (I’ve always been partial to Tombows myself). Much of it comes down to personal preference, but Tom’s list is good for getting a sense of what’s available. What are your favorite pencils?


  • http://www.frankpanucci.com FP

    Wacom Bamboo.

  • http://www.bobrutan.com Bob

    I thought I recognized that hand writing! Tom has always been a wealth of information regarding animation technique. Unfortunately I just can’t pull myself away from my cintiq stylus or ballpoint pens for sketching.

  • robert pope

    any #2 that doesn’t smudge easily when my palm slides all over it…(and the pencil itself has to have a gripping surface that isn’t too overy “woody” or “plastic-y” feeling!

  • Tim Hodge

    Still looking for a good replacement for the Blackwing 602.

  • http://tekena1200.deviantart.com/ Niki

    Just been using mech pencils all this time, my hands can’t handle wood.

  • http://zachattackary.blogspot.com Zach Smith

    I like to use those big fat pencils called, My First Pencil, they’re made for kids learning how to write, but my hands are huge and holding a small pencil hurts, don’t knock until you try it, big handed animators of the world!

  • http://www.frankrause.com Fran Krause

    Tom “Smo” Smolenski; a very helpful guy.

  • JG

    2B Tombow Mono 100′s

  • http://animatedland.com John Lane

    My favorite wood body pencil is the Stabilo Micro 8000. It’s moderately waxy for predictably uniform density and smoothness. And, it sharpens well. To my knowledge, the 8000 (sadly) has not been in production for several years.

    For animation and pocket sketchbook I currently use a mechanical pencil, with .5mm 4B lead. My Pentel mechanical body has its lead advance button in the same position as the option switch on my Wacom stylus.

  • squirrel

    What does the type of 6B pencil have anything to do with 2010?! How is that being a masochist?! You post news about something someone casually asks you?! Goodness.

  • http://jessicaplummer.blogspot.com Jessica Plummer

    Grade F (any brand) for myself when on paper; I’m heavy handed and tend to make animation drawings FAR too dark and this helps lighten things up a bit while still retaining some softness (and it doesn’t smudge too much).

    Zach – when I worked caricatures we did our lines in graphite with these really unforgivably hard drafting pencil bodies, so we’d wrap HUGE bundles of cushioning in tennis racket wrap!

  • Uli Meyer

    When animating I draw with a HB or B pencil, anything softer and my drawing becomes too crude for my taste.
    For sketching I use a Mont Blanc Fountain pen with a broad nib that I had made more flexible and cut for left-handedness…

  • Bob

    Hammer and chisel my nizzle

  • http://www.mish87.com Aleksandar Vujovic

    Staedtler first choice, Tombow second. The rest don’t really even qualify to my liking. I think there was one type of Koh-i-noor pencils that the factory stopped producing that I really liked.

    But there’s always at least a half a dozen Staedtler’s on my desk.

  • http://www.segaltoons.com/ Steve Segal

    I like the standard #2 pencil, they are cheap and plentiful and come with an eraser attached…what a concept.

  • autisticanimator

    http://www.penciltalk.org/ has some good refrences for this. I pefer the “Pitt Oil Base” from Faber-Castel, or the woodless ebony pencils offered by cretacolor, but I forgot what they’re called….I also like the Cintiq but I’ve yet to get used to working with any 2d animation software….

  • http://www.jasondeeble.com Jason Deeble

    I usually use Kimberly pencils from General Pencil Co. but I just got a Derwent set that goes up 9B. I’ve never had a 9B pencil before and I’ve been really excited about it for days now. Thanks for asking!

  • Wolf Lahti

    General’s Kimberly drawing pencils – non-waxy, non crumbly

    Never had any problem sharpening them.

  • http://www.tubbirdbelty.blogspot.com Barbara

    I remember coming across an artist blog a while ago where, in addition to being an artist, they were also something of a ‘pencil-phile’ and every other post they’d write up about some random japanese pencils they got hold of like it was crack, and discuss lead breaking points and if the wood would shave off in a long spiral or not. It was pretty funny, and interesting.

  • http://seanvec.com Sean

    I would also say that the Tombow is my personal favorite. There are rarely, if ever, those little bits of impurity like sand or harder lead that would interrupt your line. The 6B has a nice dark quality as well. Draws beautifully. Interesting to hear everyone else’s favorites too.

  • MichaelDair

    I love my stash of Blackwings- including the nubs.

  • http://www.dagnabit.tv John Ryan

    Tombow!

  • Tom Pope

    Tombow B is my pencil o’ choice for animating.

  • skyman

    what’s a pencil?

  • http://www.mymedicatedcartoonlife.com Bitter Animator

    Well I haven’t had the chance to animate traditionally but I can’t imagine the mess I’d make with 6B pencils. I’m right handed but sort of hold a pencil like a left hander and the results are very smudgy. Doesn’t help that my drawing’s a bit rubbish. Clean-up artists used to hate me. I loved using 4B but mostly used 2Bs out of consideration for others.

  • http://www.mymedicatedcartoonlife.com Bitter Animator

    Sorry, meant to say I haven’t had the chance to animate traditionally in quite some time.

  • Angry Anim

    Tombow for me, too. There was a short time in there where they seemed to go away… I thought my career was over. Then they came back… but my career was STILL over. Weird how it works out.

  • Tedzey

    I’m using the COL erase pencils (blue and red are good for me depending on the character), and so far i’m not changing!

  • http://smomotion.com :: smo ::

    haha maybe i should have thought about this post a bit more before i put it up!

    thanks amid!

    since it’s a random stream of consciousness over there:

    pretty much though guys i did this after hearing about the blackwing, trying to find a solid pencil that would hold up. i used to always use col erase blue myself until someone told me a story about bob camp flipping out when someone handed him a 2B, and noticing in most pencil tests you see they’re all in softer leads…quicker drawing!

    being someone who’s come into this in the digital age i always feel like i’m doing some sort of archeological study just trying to figure out what kind of pencils and paper people use. i’ll check out these comments and see if any new ones pop up!

    but yeah palomino and tombows are tops!

  • http://friesanimation.blogspot.com Jeremy Fries

    I most commonly use Staedtler Mars Lumograph 3B (sometimes 4B), but I also use Progresso Koh-I-Noor 4B and 6B.

    I do also use the Prismacolor Col-Erase pencils (Blue, mostly) but this is usually for a specific purpose, such as to call attention to a specific part of the drawing for color reference or to make corrections over a previous drawing. I rarely use them for actual animation.

    I haven’t tried Tombows or Palominos, but I’d like to….

    Fun topic!

  • http://trevour.blogspot.com Trevour

    Good old-fashioned Col-erase for me (black/red/blue/purple/non-photo blue – I just love that they’re soft enough but don’t smear). Although I do enjoy a softer 6B for loose sketching, of various brands. There are a couple in that list I’ve never heard of – time to give those a spin!

  • Tim

    The best pencil I have found is the California Republic Palomino. I’ve been using the 2B, which produces very dark lines, does not easily smudge, erases very well, and is super smooth. I haven’t shelled out the money to try out a Blackwing, so I’m not sure how they compare, but for me, the Palomino is a dream.

  • Mitten

    Tombow mono 100 HB/4B

    Mitsubishi Uni*Star HB

    chunks of messy 4-6B graphite for everything else

  • http://chippyandloopus.com/ John S

    Ticonderoga #2. If I’m not using those, I use the shittiest mechanical pencils I can find at Target. Why? Because every time I find a pencil I like, they change it or stop making it. Thus, I go out of my way to use the cheapest pencils possible.

  • Chris

    I’m definitely with Tom – California Republic Palominos 2B. Great pencil, indeed.

  • JH Jordan

    Derwent watercolour – Ivory Black 67.

  • http://constipanimated.blogspot.com Greg

    I’m partial to the violet col-erase pencils. Of all their colors, violet seems to me to have the widest range from a graphite-like texture at light pressure to rich but not-too waxy at hard pressure. It erases well unless you really tattoo the paper, and it holds a point better than most col-erases. I’m not crazy about the color, but for all this pencil does for me, with no smudging, I can live with it.

  • http://www.karmatoons.com Doug Compton

    Great to know I’m not the only one still using pencils! Since the Blackwing woefully went extinct I’ve been using Prismacolor Turquoise, usually a 3B or 4B for final lines. Blue Col-erase to rough with. Can Blackwings still actually be found anywhere?

  • http://awprunes.com Larry Levine

    My favorite pencil is the Tombow Mono J 4B, nice soft graphite that doesn’t smudge (which is especially important since I’m left-handed).

  • Anthony C.

    I’m partial to 2b Prismacolor turqoises myself, with the occasionial use of HB for smaller details-and Steadler non-photos for rough skeletal work.

    Cool to see so many other “masochists”-I work on Cintiqs and have an Intuos 4-but it’s never better than a punched piece of paper. ;-)

  • Erin

    Ah, how convenient for me! Someone stole my bag of art supplies (nice pencils, pens, everything…guess there’s a blackmarket for worn down 6Bs I wasn’t aware of) and I’ve been looking to replace them. I hope there’s more blogs with reviews as thorough as this one for pens and colored pencils and such.

  • http://deleted OtherDan

    My favorite pencils to are: Ebony, (an actual) black Prismacolor noir, and if I had to use something that erases, the Tombow 4B. Each are slick on the surface, nice to hold and give good darks.

  • http://www.pencils.com Joey

    Hello all,
    I work for California Cedar Products and I have some juicy news for all you animators…along with the Palomino – which is a great pencil for all animators and other artists – we bought the rights to the Blackwing and will be re-releasing it in the coming months! You can get more information about upcoming promotions, sales, and the Blackwing, by following us on Twitter (pencilscom) and Facebook (The Pencil Page). We look forward to getting the Blackwing back out there for all animators to re-fall in love with!