• 10 Best Mechanical Pencils for Drawing in 2022 (Artist-Reviewed) 1
  • 10 Best Mechanical Pencils for Drawing in 2022 (Artist-Reviewed) 2
  • 10 Best Mechanical Pencils for Drawing in 2022 (Artist-Reviewed) 3
  • 10 Best Mechanical Pencils for Drawing in 2022 (Artist-Reviewed) 4
  • 10 Best Mechanical Pencils for Drawing in 2022 (Artist-Reviewed) 5

10 Best Mechanical Pencils for Drawing in 2022 (Artist-Reviewed)

Every drawing starts with a sketch, but not every pencil can get the job done. Whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional artist, it’s crucial to have a high-quality tool like a mechanical pencil in your studio. They can reduce fatigue in your wrist, draw precise lines, and outlast nearly any wooden pencil. 


We’ve done the research to help you find the best mechanical drawing pencil for you. Our favorite is the nine-piece set from MstrSktch. It comes with an eraser, a case, and three pencils with lead in the three hardnesses most useful to artists. Check out our other picks, and read through our buying guide for tips reviewed by an artist on choosing your ideal mechanical pencil!

Featured in this article

Susan Lucier-Ogawa
mybest US Editors
  • Last updated: 08-29-2022
Table of Contents

How to Choose a Mechanical Pencil for Drawing - Buying Guide

There are a lot of mechanical pencils out there to choose from, which can make it difficult to find the best one for you. Before you buy a mechanical pencil, consider the material it’s made of, the kind of lead it supports, and whether or not it comes with additional features.

Choose Materials and Features Based on How You Draw

There are a variety of mechanical pencils available that are designed to meet different needs. Some are metal and others plastic. They can have different grip styles, too.

Metal Mechanical Pencils Are Weighted to Aid Precision

Metal Mechanical Pencils Are Weighted to Aid Precision

Metal mechanical pencils tend to be heavier than other pencils, which can make them easier to control while drawing. Some are specifically weighted towards the tip of the pencil to promote precision, while others have an even weight distribution so that they feel more comfortable in your hand.


The metal body of the pencil makes it durable and protects the lead from breaking. These pencils have a longer lifespan than wooden pencils and some plastic mechanical pencils. However, if they have a totally smooth barrel, they can be slippery to hold on to.

Plastic Mechanical Pencils May Be Refillable or Disposable

Plastic Mechanical Pencils May Be Refillable or Disposable

Plastic mechanical pencils are lighter and often thinner than their metal counterparts. These pencils are great for the spontaneous, on-the-go artist because they are lightweight and easy to carry around. The lightness can also stave off hand fatigue. However, plastic pencils are also more fragile.


If you’re someone who regularly finds themselves breaking lead, you may also end up throwing out plastic mechanical pencils more often than you’re drawing with them. That’s because not all plastic mechanical pencils are refillable, so some will have to be discarded once they run out of lead.


Fortunately, there are plenty of plastic mechanical pencils that are refillable. They often come in fun colors, patterns, and designs. They are great for expressing yourself or tying together your workspace’s aesthetic!

Susan Lucier-Ogawa
Oil Painter and Glassblower
Susan Lucier-Ogawa

A disposable plastic pencil is obviously not the most eco-friendly choice. They could be good in some situations, but there are plenty of refillable ones you can buy. Refillable ones also are usually more ergonomically-designed and better quality overall, since they're built with longevity in mind.

Grips Support Your Wrist and Make Drawing More Comfortable

Grips Support Your Wrist and Make Drawing More Comfortable

Grips make a mechanical pencil more ergonomic, which means they’re designed to minimize discomfort and risk of injury. Artists are susceptible to repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis, so a grip is helpful to prevent them or alleviate the pressure on your wrist if you have an RSI already.


Thick rubber grips are comfortable because they require less pinching and clenching to hold. Many mechanical pencils are also designed with knurled, ribbed, and other textured grips that promote comfort as well as prevent the pencil from slipping out of your hand.

Susan Lucier-Ogawa
Oil Painter and Glassblower
Susan Lucier-Ogawa

While big, squishy grips may feel nicer to hold, if they're too large or soft, you'll have trouble controlling your pencil. You might want to consider buying grips separately so you have more choice over their design.

Multi-Pencils Can Hold Different Colors or Sizes of Lead

Multi-Pencils Can Hold Different Colors or Sizes of Lead

A multi-pencil is a mechanical pencil that can hold multiple pieces of lead, usually in different colors or diameters. This is a great art tool for someone who doesn’t want to buy multiple pencils or wants to quickly switch between colors or line sizes.


You can only use one type of lead at a time while drawing with a multi-pencil, but fortunately, this kind of pencil makes it easy and convenient to switch between them. They are especially convenient because you do not have to keep track of multiple pencils to use different colors or lead diameters!


If you want to vary the look of your line art, look for a multi-pencil that holds leads with different diameters. Depending on its diameter, some leads can make your lines look either thin or thick.

Pick the Type of Lead You Want

Lead comes in all kinds of colors, hardnesses, and diameters. What do all those HB numbers mean? Choosing the wrong one for your style will leave you very unhappy!

Leads Labeled "H" Are Hard and Light, "B" Leads Make Soft, Darker Marks

Leads Labeled "H" Are Hard and Light, "B" Leads Make Soft, Darker Marks

Contrary to the common terminology, pencils don’t actually contain lead! Instead, they are made with graphite. There are two grading scales that measure how hard graphite is: the numerical graphite scale and the HB graphite scale.


The numerical scale grades the hardness of a pencil’s graphite core with a number; think of a No. 2 pencil, for example. The higher the number is, the harder the graphite core is. Harder graphite cores leave lighter marks, whereas softer graphite cores leave darker marks.

Leads Labeled "H" Are Hard and Light, "B" Leads Make Soft, Darker Marks

The HB graphite scale uses letters to indicate the hardness, and therefore darkness, of a pencil’s mark. This is the scale that most artists' pencils use. When using this scale, “H” means hard and “B” designates the blackness of the mark. You may also see “F,” which means the pencil sharpens to a fine point.


The HB scale uses these letters plus numbers to indicate how hard the graphite core is. For example, an 8H is harder than a 4H, and a 5B is softer than a B.

Susan Lucier-Ogawa
Oil Painter and Glassblower
Susan Lucier-Ogawa

A #2 pencil is equivalent to an HB. There's no set standard for these scales, however, so one manufacturer's version of HB or #2 could be slightly softer or harder than another's.


For mechanical pencils, the HB scale you'll find is more limited. Because the leads need to be strong and thin, their availability usually only ranges from 2B at the softest to 2H. Lead holders, or clutch pencils, hold thicker leads and offer more variety.


And, when it comes to that F designation, no one really seems to know what it means. Depending on the manufacturer, it either means fine or firm! The good news is you're unlikely to see it in mechanical pencils anyway, but for the record, it's sort of near an HB pencil or slightly harder.

Wide Lead Diameters Are Great for Drawing

Wide Lead Diameters Are Great for Drawing

Lead for mechanical pencils is measured in millimeters, and comes in widths ranging between 0.2mm and 5.6mm. Lead diameters on the smaller side are typically used for drafting rather than drawing.


For drawing, it’s recommended to use a mechanical pencil with a lead diameter of 0.7mm or above. 0.7mm is also the most common lead diameter used for mechanical pencils, which gives you many options to choose from and makes finding lead refills easy!


If you’re struggling to pick the right lead diameter, you should know that different sizes are useful for different parts of the drawing process. Smaller lead diameters lend themselves nicely to sketching and linework, whereas larger lead diameters are better for shading.

Susan Lucier-Ogawa
Oil Painter and Glassblower
Susan Lucier-Ogawa

When looking at the lead, see how it comes out. This part is called the sleeve. Some mechanical pencils have retractable sleeves, which are great to protect the lead and prevent the thin sleeve from poking the bottom of your shirt pocket or the items in your pencil case.

Colored Lead Can Be Used for Sketching or Coloring

Colored Lead Can Be Used for Sketching or Coloring

Lead doesn’t only come in gray and black! Many manufacturers sell leads in different colors, too. Colored pencils can be used in all kinds of ways, from coloring to sketching, and even line art. Some aren't easily erasable, however, so test it before you sketch away.


If you’re planning on doing ink linework over top, consider using erasable red or blue lead for your sketch. These colors will contrast with the darkness of the ink, which makes them easier to see and erase once the ink dries.

Keep an Eye Out for Different Features and Accessories

Not all mechanical pencils are created equal, and some have features and accessories that others may not!

Erasers Are Helpful for Cleaning up Stray Marks

Erasers Are Helpful for Cleaning up Stray Marks

Not all mechanical pencils come with erasers attached, especially ones that are made of metal. Some artists buy erasers separately, but it can be handy to buy a mechanical pencil that comes with a built-in eraser to quickly fix mistakes and erase stray marks.

Lead and Eraser Refills Can Increase the Longevity of Your Mechanical Pencil

Lead and Eraser Refills Can Increase the Longevity of Your Mechanical Pencil

Mechanical pencils have a range of price points, but having to replace one each time it runs out of lead can be costly in the long run and is not environmentally friendly. To really get the most out of your mechanical pencil, look for one that is sold in a bundle that comes with lead and eraser refills.

Sharpeners Bring Dull Tips Back to a Fine Point

Sharpeners Bring Dull Tips Back to a Fine Point

Not many people think of sharpeners when they think of mechanical pencils, but even a mechanical pencil can benefit from having an included or built-in sharpener! Referred to as lead pointers, they can spruce up any dull lead tips, which makes your lines look more even and consistent.


Some pencils come with a hole in the end cap, which is actually a lead pointer. One example is the Staedtler Mars 780.

Susan Lucier-Ogawa
Oil Painter and Glassblower
Susan Lucier-Ogawa

In addition to features and accessories, I strongly recommend considering the overall design of the pencil. Some have a push button on their side to release more lead. Do you like the convenience of that, or would it get in your way when gripping the pencil? Would you prefer the button on the end of the pencil?


A clip is convenient. It keeps your pencil attached to your shirt or jacket pocket, or shirt collar, in my case! But if it can't be rotated or removed, it could bother you while you're drawing, not only by its mere presence but because it throws the weight balance off.

10 Best Mechanical Pencils for Drawing

Here are our 10 favorite drawing mechanical pencils available now. Our list includes a variety of materials, lead diameters, and cool features, so whatever you're looking for, you'll be sure to find it here!

Image
MstrSktch 9-Piece Mechanical Drawing Pencil Set 1

MstrSktch

Pentel GraphGear 500 1

Pentel

Bellofy Mechanical Pencils Set 1

Bellofy

Uni Kuru Toga Red 1

Uni

Staedtler Mars Technico 780 1

Staedtler

Mr. Pen Metal Mechanical Pencil Set 1

Mr. Pen

Kaweco Sketch Up 1

Kaweco

Sakura SumoGrip 1

Sakura

Zebra Pen Z-Grip Plus 1

Zebra Pen

Pentel Multi 8 Lead Holder 1

Pentel

Name

9-Piece Mechanical Drawing Pencil Set

GraphGear 500

Mechanical Pencils Set

Kuru Toga Red

Mars Technico 780

Metal Mechanical Pencil Set

Sketch Up

SumoGrip

Z-Grip Plus

Multi 8 Lead Holder

Features

Best Grab and Go Set for Creating Drawings With Values From Light to Dark

Best Pencil for Drafting and Drawing That Requires Fine Control

Best Set for Drawings With Lines and Shading

Best for Sketching Under Ink

Best to Remind You What Lead You're Using

Best Set for Line Drawings With Colored and Different-Thickness Leads

Best to Hold Thick Leads for Smooth Shading

Best for Drawing Comfortably With an Ergonomic Grip

Best to Dispense Lead Without Breaking Your Stride

Best Single Mechanical Pencil for Coloring

Price$24.97$6.49$10.99$6.40$13.19$12.99$31.97$7.88$8.99$18.78
BarrelMetalMetal, plasticMetalPlasticPlastic with metal gripMetalBrassPlasticPlasticPlastic
FeaturesLead refills, kneaded eraser, file sharpener, canvas caseEraserLead refills, erasersEraserEnd cap sharpener, lead refills, comes with separate eraserEraser refills, lead refills including 2mm colorEnd cap sharpenerEraserEraser and lead refills6 colored leads, 2 non-copy colors
Available lead thicknesses2.0mm0.3, 0.5, 0.7, 0.9mm0.5, 0.7, 0.9, 2.0mm0.3, 0.5, 0.7mm2.0mmIncludes one each of 0.3, 0.5, 0.7, 0.9, 2.0mm5.6mm0.5, 0.7, 0.9mm0.7mm2.0mm
Hardness of included leads5B, HB, 4HHBHB for smaller leads, 2B, HB, 2H for 2.0mmHB or red2HHB5BHBHB-
Link

MstrSktch9-Piece Mechanical Drawing Pencil Set

$24.97

BarrelMetal
FeaturesLead refills, kneaded eraser, file sharpener, canvas case
Available lead thicknesses2.0mm
Hardness of included leads5B, HB, 4H
BarrelMetal, plastic
FeaturesEraser
Available lead thicknesses0.3, 0.5, 0.7, 0.9mm
Hardness of included leadsHB

BellofyMechanical Pencils Set

$10.99

BarrelMetal
FeaturesLead refills, erasers
Available lead thicknesses0.5, 0.7, 0.9, 2.0mm
Hardness of included leadsHB for smaller leads, 2B, HB, 2H for 2.0mm
BarrelBrass
FeaturesEnd cap sharpener
Available lead thicknesses5.6mm
Hardness of included leads5B
BarrelPlastic
FeaturesEraser
Available lead thicknesses0.3, 0.5, 0.7mm
Hardness of included leadsHB or red

StaedtlerMars Technico 780

780SBK

$13.19

BarrelPlastic with metal grip
FeaturesEnd cap sharpener, lead refills, comes with separate eraser
Available lead thicknesses2.0mm
Hardness of included leads2H

Mr. PenMetal Mechanical Pencil Set

$12.99

BarrelMetal
FeaturesEraser refills, lead refills including 2mm color
Available lead thicknessesIncludes one each of 0.3, 0.5, 0.7, 0.9, 2.0mm
Hardness of included leadsHB
BarrelPlastic
FeaturesEraser
Available lead thicknesses0.5, 0.7, 0.9mm
Hardness of included leadsHB

Zebra PenZ-Grip Plus

55403

$8.99

BarrelPlastic
FeaturesEraser and lead refills
Available lead thicknesses0.7mm
Hardness of included leadsHB
BarrelPlastic
Features6 colored leads, 2 non-copy colors
Available lead thicknesses2.0mm
Hardness of included leads-

Expert-Recommended Erasers to Go With Your Pencil

If your mechanical pencil doesn't come with an eraser, fear not! Susan has some artist-approved ones to help you perfect your drawings.

TombowMono Zero Erasers

$11.61

BarrelPlastic
FeaturesIncludes small round eraser and a flat eraser, refills
Available lead thicknesses2.3mm round tip and 2.5mm square tip erasers
Hardness of included leads-
Susan Lucier-Ogawa
Oil Painter and Glassblower
Susan Lucier-Ogawa

Every pencil artist needs good erasers. They aren't just for correcting mistakes. You can use them to create highlights and other subtractive techniques. Think of them as another type of pencil! If you're looking for precision and a controlled way to erase, these will complement your mechanical pencils well.

Frequently Asked Questions

We asked Susan to answer some common questions about mechanical pencils. Read what she has to say!

How do mechanical pencils work?

Susan says, "There are a few different ways that they advance the lead. A clutch pencil like the Staedtler Mars 780 has a set of jaws that hold the lead in place. When you push the end button, the jaws open and the lead drops down. It can be adjusted manually to your desired length.


Most mechanical pencils use a ratchet system. These also have jaws that hold the lead in place, but when the button is pushed, they move the lead forward automatically (or can be pushed in and fully retracted.) Variations on this design are common. 


Some use a weight to control the jaws when you shake the pencil. Others advance the lead on their own when the nib is depressed a certain amount, so you don't have to. And some rotate the lead every stroke, so they never lose sharpness unevenly."

Is mechanical pencil lead toxic?

Susan says, "Pencil lead is mainly graphite, with some clay and possibly oil mixed in. Pencils have never actually been made with the element lead; it's a misnomer resulting from inaccurate understanding of chemistry in the 1500s. 


Mechanical pencil lead isn't particularly toxic, but I don't see any good reason to ingest it, either, so wash your hands after you're done sketching. And if you happen to stab yourself with it, it might leave a discolored mark under your skin if you don't get it washed out properly."

Other Art Tools to Add to Your Studio

Now that you've found the perfect mechanical pencil, be sure to check out the links below for other art supplies that will help you complete all of your new sketches! 

Amazon's Best Selling Mechanical Pencils

Want to see what happy Amazon buyers think are the best mechanical pencils? Check them out here!

In Collaboration With Artist Susan Lucier-Ogawa

Susan Lucier-Ogawa
Oil Painter and Glassblower
Susan Lucier-Ogawa

This expert reviewed the contents of the buying guide for accuracy and provided factual corrections when necessary, as well as extra tips and advice. They did not participate in the product selection process, nor are they affiliated with any of our choices unless explicitly stated so.

Author: Alexa Nogueira

Updated by: Susan Lucier-Ogawa, 11/17/2021


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