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Mechanical or Wood pencils?

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#1 Michael Rapp

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 11:14 AM

Hi all,

While shopping at my local art supply store today, I learned that in addition to the wooden sketching pencils that one sharpens, they also make mechanical pencils in which you insert 0.2mm pieces of graphite of the various hardnesses (H, 2H, etc).

The immediate advantage to the mechanical is, obviously, always having a 0.2mm point and never having to sharpen it out in the field.

However, many photos of people's sketching supplies for deep-sky often show the traditional wooden pencils.

Which one do you prefer and why?

#2 dlapoint



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Posted 04 November 2012 - 12:42 PM

I would pick it up and try it. I've used cheepee mechanical pencils and they work really well for starfields, but not so good for blending. If you can change the hardness with them it might work. you could keep two in your box,onw with a harder,sharper lead and one with a soft. Good luck

#3 mike73


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Posted 05 November 2012 - 02:48 AM

The beauty of sketching is that it doesnt cost a fortune to experiment.
Get both and see which you prefer. :)

#4 azure1961p


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Posted 05 November 2012 - 08:32 PM

Ive used both commercially in graphite and color "leads" like Berol Prismacolor [though Berol no longer makes it].

I personally prefer mechanical pencils for graphite and color pencils of wood for color .

Mechanical pencils come in two varieties basically:

1. the type that is very thin and never needs sharpening - a real plus since its too thin to sharpen

and then my overall favorite...

2. The claw type mechanical pencil. Essentially press down where the eraser would be if it were would and the clasps that grab and hold the lead open in splayed fashion to allow the lead inside to fall out or open empty to be filled. The leads for these are quite a bit thicker than the other kind and they do infact have a sharpener strictly for this pencil type. Back in the day in an architects office this was THE pencil and EVERYONE had their assortment each with a different lead, some Skum-X in a can or pouch and assorted erasers including an erasng shield. When I did medical illustration in graphite this was my pencil. The sharpener allowed me to get a hyperdermic point on it for the most fine line work. It was developed as a mechanical pencil for drafting and I came to know it that way but it turned out to be the best pencil in the whole world. Always balanced, always the right size, incredib;y sharp point potential with the lead thick enough that chisel point technique was fair game too. For you interests dont think drafting, think technical and this becomes quite the tool.

Color pencils...

Sigh. I used to use Berol Prismacolor for everything. Childrens books, Text Books, posters, medical, architectural - this was THE medium to use. A wax and gum base with the pigment allowed for this smooth burnishing technique that could approach photorealism. I loved it forever, used it since I was...6? Dad is a retired architectural illustrator so I grew up with this medium when most kids were using Crayola. But again the sigh. I recently did a book jacket cover illustration that I wanted to do in color pencil. Itd been a while as oil paints took over my artistic life. So I go buy a bunch sitdown to begin illustrating and - forget it. The pencils were so brittle they cracked and chipped and shattered and what points rarely held together fell out entirely from the wood. I was in awe. And at the late hour I was panicked. They cheaped out and so this medium is no longer viable commerically. The cover jacket was completed in oils and I glot my money back on the color pencils. She tried to blame it on a bad batch but after over forty years of using them and never seeing the likes of that... well a batch too large. Forget color pencils.

Ahhh but pastels...

Yes I have an asortment now in wonderful tones jupiter and saturn would applaud and so this is my new medium. I cant honestly see these exploding on sharpening and I bought good ones so Im confident. They wont give me photo realism like the color pencils used to but within the sharpness and textures provided astronomically they are more than adequate and blending pastels is so much easier than burnishing color wax based leads. In this realm they ought to infact be photorealistic to a "T".

Wood pencils... in graphite sure. They are great and not garbage like the Prismacolor. I prefer the mechanical pencil for the same leads as the pencil never gets short stubby and uncomfortable.

Thin lead mechanical pencils are ok but supplement it with some good wood pencils and not no. 2's lol. 4H is too too severe. Go from HB to 4B. The 2H anf 4H is a little hard...at the very least dont go past 2H.

Hope this helps.


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