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  1. #1
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    mechanical pencils vs wooden pencils

    I am starting this thread to get an understanding of the processes of other artists and what thought people have on this.

    I am currently trying to improve my sketching. I work mostly with either 2-4b pencils, but also with mechanical pencils. I am curious to hear what people prefer in general.

    I find that I have much more control with mechanical pencils as they don't become dull and I can get a crisp line at all times, at the same time the tip of a 3 b pencil will become dull after just a few strokes and the lines start thickening and "bleeding out" at the edges.

    But, the uniform line of a mechanical pencil means that you don't get the variation in line and "liveliness" of wooden pencils. I am greatly inspired by artists such as Alan Lee and Jean Baptiste-Monge, and I am looking to get a similar kind of feel to my sketches, not in order to imitate but to learn the technique.

    What do you prefer - mechanical pencils or the traditional wooden pencils? I would love to hear any reasoning on pros and cons.


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  3. #2
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    Use whatever works best for you. As you've pointed out they each have their strengths so why use only one type? I've always used a variety of pencils just like I use a variety of brushes.

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  5. #3
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    I've always detested the feel of mechanical pencils. The graphite is held together with a plastic (as opposed to standard pencils, which are held together with clay). They feel slippery and bad to me, and look gray.

    Have you tried 2mm drafting leads and lead holders? Best of both worlds, in my opinion.
    I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).

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  7. #4
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    I've only tried the really thick drafting leads with holders, will test out the 2 mm one

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    Get yourself a 2mm lead holder, some 2mm leads, and a 2mm lead sharpener, and you've got the best of both worlds.

    The 2mm lead sharpener I mentioned is not the same as your typical manual lead sharpener that you use for wooden pencils.

    http://www.staedtler.com/Mars_lead_pointer_tub_gb

    This lead sharpener sharpens using the rotation of your arms about the center of the sharpener, which is unlike the wooden lead sharpeners that works by the rotation of your wrist about the center of the pencil.

    After sharpening your lead, you get left-over lead dust, which you can re-use for toning papers or whatever.
    Last edited by Vay; April 9th, 2012 at 07:37 PM.
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  10. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    Use whatever works best for you. As you've pointed out they each have their strengths so why use only one type? I've always used a variety of pencils just like I use a variety of brushes.
    This. I remember one of the first things my highschool instructor said to the class: "You're not allowed to use mechanical pencils. You can not shade with them"

    Pretty silly if you ask me. 1 you can shade with them. 2 Even if they don't shade well, you can use them for linework.

    Generally I only use mechanical pencils for very very small detail, usually on a smaller piece as well. For the most part, I don't use them. But there are times when they are the perfect tool.

    Use whatever tool you need in order to get the desired end product.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vay View Post
    The 2mm lead sharpener I mentioned is not the same as your typical manual lead sharpener that you use for wooden pencils.
    Though those exist too. And there's the pushbutton pointers.

    I like all three types of pencil meself, for the reasons Dpaint and UmpaArt mentioned. Leaning back towards wood-cased. I know what you mean about wearing down the point on softer leads, but that hasn't bothered me much since I started, well, sharpening them a bit longer. How hard do you lean on your 3Bs?
    ...which is only my opinion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vay View Post
    The 2mm lead sharpener I mentioned is not the same as your typical manual lead sharpener that you use for wooden pencils.

    http://www.staedtler.com/Mars_lead_pointer_tub_gb
    Rotary sharpeners are fun. Make sure to stock up on the little cigarette filter insert thingies for cleaning the leads.

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  14. #9
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    You know you can always use more than one kind of pencil I like wooden pencils for sketching or roughs {especially big fat ones like Koh-I-Noor Magnums} and mechanical pencils for everything else.

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    I kind of go off and on with mechanical and wooden. Mechanical can be a pain for shading since you can't use it in the same fashion. But at the same time I like having a constant fine point without sharpening (though for me this is just an issue of having only a shitty hand sharpener if I had a nice one that gave a nice point when I needed it, wood all the way)

  16. #11
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    I use both, but tend towards wooden pencils for drawing since I can't find a supplier of .5mm 6H graphite. I find mechanicals are great for making broader and bolder strokes, while a properly-sharpened wood can pick out miniscule details you can't get with a mechanical, oddly enough.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vermis View Post
    Though those exist too. And there's the pushbutton pointers.

    I like all three types of pencil meself, for the reasons Dpaint and UmpaArt mentioned. Leaning back towards wood-cased. I know what you mean about wearing down the point on softer leads, but that hasn't bothered me much since I started, well, sharpening them a bit longer. How hard do you lean on your 3Bs?
    I sharpen the wooden case pencil tip quite long with a crafting knife, I do lean a bit since I want to have contrast and also I want some really dark outlines on some parts. But when I start shading for example faces of characters it usually becomes a bit of a mess with the wooden case pencils. Also I tend to go towards hatching and cross-hatching and not blending, so the tip needs to be quite sharp. But probably the main factor is I tend to draw and sketch really small, usually on A4 paper. I imagine that drawing A3 and A2 the wooden case pencils work much better as you are drawing larger and shading larger areas.
    Last edited by janlapp; April 10th, 2012 at 02:39 PM.

  18. #13
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    my opinion: lead holders are the best. Really questions like these are looking for answers like that... i ask them a lot too... like "whats the best computer, or RAM or program?"
    in this case, i'll say lead holders are tops. plus i saw Dave Finch use a lead holder in his GNOMON tutorial video.
    except he had a big nice foam rubber grip on his, looked cool.

    you can be nit picky as a beginner because if you're serious about this "art" stuff you'll soon learn its about the end product and whatnot. You'll hopefully work so hard you just find your own groove of things using a pencil here a mech pencil there and a lead holder here and there...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    Rotary sharpeners are fun. Make sure to stock up on the little cigarette filter insert thingies for cleaning the leads.
    ..what? wow i never knew that... i have a staedtler lead holder and rotary sharpener but always wondered what that little white thingy was for... can you elaborate?
    Last edited by Shahan; April 10th, 2012 at 04:44 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sporus View Post
    ..what? wow i never knew that... i have a staedtler lead holder and rotary sharpener but always wondered what that little white thingy was for... can you elaborate?
    After you've sharpened the lead, you stick the point into the little white thingy to clean the lead dust off.

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  21. #15
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    I have never loved a pencil as much as the Sakura .05 SumoGrip. That being said, I am looking forward to trying out other kinds of pencils like the Palomino Blackwing.

  22. #16
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    I go through mechanicals way too quickly, and the price for refills of just one grade is pretty expensive. The only thing I like them for is precise, mechanical detail etc.

  23. #17
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    Thank for all the replies, specially the ones recommending the 2mm leadholder. Obviously tools dont make the artist, but I just bought a staedtler 2mm leadholder and I am really liking it so far.

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  25. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by janlapp View Post
    Thank for all the replies, specially the ones recommending the 2mm leadholder. Obviously tools dont make the artist, but I just bought a staedtler 2mm leadholder and I am really liking it so far.
    i'm also new with the staedtler, so do you notice the nice... weight difference? its cool. try really holding your pencil further up the base and drawing more from the shoulder also. its better for your hands in the long run.
    the lead holders just too good imo...
    have fun and keep drawing!

  26. #19
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    I think it really depends on what you want your artwork to look like. I have to agree with the crisp lines of mechanical pencils, but I prefer the use of regular lead pencils. I like to do some shadowing and the can give me that effect always.

  27. #20
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    I normally use mechanical, they're quicker to use. No point fiddling, it also doesn't smudge as much. I like the precision

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