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The best mechanical pencils for artists and designers in 2022

Included in this guide:

Closeup of hand writing on notepaper with mechanical pencil
(Image credit: CBCK-Christine)

The best mechanical pencils make writing and drawing easier, neater, and more accurate. So whether you're doing sketches, drafting technical diagrams or working on full-blown artwork, you'll get much better results with a mechanical pencil than an ordinary wooden one. 

Also known as automatic pencils or propelling pencils, mechanical pencils don't need sharpening, because the graphite (commonly referred to as 'lead') sits in a well inside the pencil. As it wears out, you click to extend it, and then replace it when it's used up. 

For this reason, mechanical pencils are always sharp, which makes them great for making even, consistent lines. It also means the pencil itself stays the same length, compared to wooden pencils which get shorter as you sharpen them. And that makes for a more comfortable holding experience.

Mechanical pencils are popular with artists making sketches and drawings; designers creating mockups and wireframes; architects or engineers drafting plans and diagrams; and anyone wanting to write neatly and clearly. While they're more expensive than ordinary pencils, they save you money over time as they last so long.

Here, we've gathered together the best mechanical pencils available to buy today. We've started out with the best ones for drawing, but it you simply want a pencil for taking notes, then jump to the best mechanical pencils for writing. For more great art materials, check out our guides to the best pencils of all kinds, the best pens for artists, and the best watercolour pencils.

Mechanical pencils for drawing

With the best mechanical pencils, you can create measured lines with precision and accuracy. They're suitable for every type of drawing, including quick sketches, technical drafting, mockups, wireframes and expressive artwork. 

For most drawing purposes, a 0.5mm lead is best, although 0.7mm may be better for shading, sketching and non-detailed work. For detailed marks, however, you might want to try a smaller lead, maybe as small as 0.3mm.

Below you'll find best mechanical pencils for all types of drawing. Once you've bought one, check out our top pencil drawing techniques to make the most of it.

Uni Kurutoga Pipe Slide product shotcb badge

(Image credit: Uni)

01. Uni Kurutoga Pipe Slide

The best mechanical pencil for drawing overall

Specifications
Weight: 18.1g
Dimensions: 19.2 x 10 x 1.6cm
Lead diameter: 0.5mm
Mechanism: Pipe slide
Reasons to buy
+
Self-sharpening
+
Special versions for Ghibli fans
Reasons to avoid
-
0.7mm pencil rare outside Japan
-
Protective cap can come loose

With a regular mechanical pencil, the lead wears down on one side, forming a slanted, wedge-shaped tip. This can potentially cause variations in line thickness. The Uni Kurutoga Pipe Slide, however, avoids this through a clever mechanism that continually rotates the pencil lead as you write. 

A spring-loaded clutch twists the lead a tiny degree every time you lift the pencil from the paper, and this allows for a uniform wearing of the lead, and cleaner and more consistent lines as a result. 

That makes this the best mechanical pencil for drawing, bar none. It may not be the cheapest model on the market, but you will definitely notice the difference.

Pentel 200 mechanical pencil product shotcb badge

(Image credit: Pentel)

02. Pentel 200

The best mechanical pencil for value

Specifications
Weight: 10g
Dimensions: 0.89 x 14 x 0.89cm
Lead diameter: 0.3mm, 0.5mm, 0.7mm, 0.9mm
Mechanism: Push-top button
Reasons to buy
+
Value for money
+
Good all-rounder
Reasons to avoid
-
Nothing exciting about it
-
Included eraser doesn't last long

The best mechanical pencils don't have to be super-expensive. And the Pentel 200 is a quality pencil that offers exceptional value for money. 

Expertly engineered for drawing, drafting or writing, it's no surprise this is Pentel's top-selling automatic mechanical pencil. Each pencil comes with Super Hi Polymer HB leads and an eraser, and the set covers a range of lead thicknesses from 0.3mm to 0.9mm. 

A good all-rounder, this will do fine as a main pencil for most people. Yet it's so affordable you don't have to worry about losing it, or having someone "borrow" it off your desk when you're not looking.

Rotring 800 mechanical pencil product shotcb badge

(Image credit: Rotring )

03. Rotring 800

The best mechanical pencil for sketching

Specifications
Weight: 90.7g
Dimensions: 5.1 x 15.2 x 0.5cm
Lead diameter: 0.5mm or 0.7mm
Mechanism: Twist and click
Reasons to buy
+
High-end engineering
+
Luxury feel
+
Suitable for professionals
Reasons to avoid
-
May be overkill for most purposes

If you're serious about your sketching, check out the Rotring 800. This high-quality model offers a precision and a luxury feel that's perfect for daily use in a professional capacity. 

With a solid weight of 91g, its metal body feels solid in the hand, and the non-slip metal grip 'twist and click' retractable mechanism makes it very easy and comfortable to use, even for lengthy sessions. The hexagonal shape, meanwhile, makes it less likely to slide off your desk, or even a slanted surface. 

In short, if you're working on something special, working for long periods, looking for a gift, or just want a pencil that's nice to use, the Rotring 800 is well worth the extra cash. It comes in two lead thicknesses, 0.5mm and 0.7mm; opt for the latter and you have the best mechanical pencil for sketching on this list.

Pentel Graphgear 500 Automatic Drafting Pencil product shot

(Image credit: Pentel )

04. Pentel Graphgear 500 Automatic Drafting Pencil

The best mechanical pencil for technical drawing

Specifications
Weight: 22.7g
Dimensions: 0.9 x 14.7 x 0.9cm
Lead diameter: 0.3, 0.5, 0.7 or 0.9mm
Mechanism: Button
Reasons to buy
+
Lightweight but functional
+
Wide range of lead diameters
Reasons to avoid
-
0.3mm lead can be tricky to source
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Included eraser not the best

If you're an architect or an engineer, working on a lot of diagrams and drawings where accuracy is important, here's the model for you. In our opinion, the Pentel Graphgear 500 is the best mechanical pencil for technical drawing.

With a 4mm fixed sleeve, metallic-mesh grip and a barrel weighted at your fingertips, it's designed to help you draw precisely and stay in full control of the line. It works with a variety of lead thicknesses, and there's a built-in lead hardness indicator to help you identify your lead type quickly. 

The weight feels good in the hand, and it's light enough to be comfortable over long sessions. In short, this is the best mechanical pencil for drafting and precision work, especially considering its affordable price.

Mechanical pencils for writing

The best mechanical pencils for writing

The best mechanical pencils for writing produce clean, consistent lines that make everything look precise and measured. A 0.5mm thickness is generally a good choice, unless you tend to press hard on the page and often break your lead. In which case, a 0.7mm or even 0.9mm thickness might be better. 

Lamy 200 mechanical pencil product shot

(Image credit: Lamy)

05. LAMY 2000

The best mechanical pencil for writing overall

Specifications
Weight: 18.1g
Dimensions: 1.2 x 1.2 x 13.7cm
Lead diameter: 0.5 or 0.7mm
Mechanism: Button
Reasons to buy
+
Produces smooth, beautiful lines
+
Highly durable
+
Expect it to last years
Reasons to avoid
-
May be overkill for some purposes

Our pick as the best mechanical pencil for writing is the LAMY 2000. Based on the well-known fountain pen designed by Gerd A. Müller in 1996, it's a true modern classic. At 18.1g, this pencil is light enough to be flexible, but also solid enough to feel dependable. It's comfortable to hold and use, and it produces smooth, consistent handwriting. 

Reliable and durable, this is definitely a pen you expect to last for years. Which means that while it might cost a bit more, you do get excellent value. 

Uni Kurutoga Roulette pencil

(Image credit: Uni)

06. Uni Kurutoga Roulette

The best value mechanical pencil for writing

Specifications
Weight: 13.6g
Dimensions: 0.99 x 14.62 x 1.29cm
Lead diameter: 0.5mm
Mechanism: Button
Reasons to buy
+
Self-sharpening
+
Great value
Reasons to avoid
-
Included eraser is not great
-
Lighter than the LAMY 2000

You obviously want quality when it comes to buying a pencil. But for most of us, there's a price beyond which we won't go. If that's you, then check out the Uni Kurutoga Roulette, as it really does offer excellent value. 

Perfect for writing, this pencil is comfortable to hold, with a nicely balanced weight and a knurled metal fingerplate for better grip. Its sophisticated design, matching that of the Uni Kurutoga Pipe Slide (our number one mechanical pencil for drawing, above), means that it sharpens the lead consistently as you write. That gives you an even stroke width that keeps your handwriting effortlessly neat and polished.

Pentel Sharp Kerry Mechanical Pencil product shot

(Image credit: Pentel )

07. Pentel Sharp Kerry Mechanical Pencil 0.5mm

The best mechanical pencil for professional writing

Specifications
Weight: 9.07g
Dimensions: 1.9 x 3.2 x 15.2cm
Lead diameter: 0.5mm
Mechanism: Button
Reasons to buy
+
Precision engineering
+
Lead rarely breaks
+
Suitable for professionals
Reasons to avoid
-
Pencil cap doesn't fit perfectly

The Pentel Sharp Kerry Mechanical Pencil 0.5mm is handcrafted using watchmakers' tools for precision, beauty and accuracy. That means, in short, this is a high-end mechanical pencil with a luxury feel. 

Specifically, it has a solid tip that means you'll very rarely, if ever, break the lead. Plus the removable cap makes it super-portable. If you want a mechanical pencil for professional writing, it's our top recommendation. This pencil would also make a great gift for someone you respect and admire.

How do mechanical pencils work?

With a normal pencil, once the graphite tip (commonly referred to as 'lead') has blunted, you need to sharpen it using a pencil sharpener. A mechanical pencil, in contrast, uses an internal spring to push the lead upwards into the barrel, when you press the button at the other end. When the lead has been fully used, you then simply insert a new replacement.

Why are mechanical pencils better than wooden pencils?

The main benefit of mechanical pencils is they don't need sharpening. This saves you a lot of hassle and mess. More importantly, it means mechanical pencils provide more consistent lines, enabling you to create more precise and accurate drawings, and neater handwriting. The fine lines also tend to be easier to erase. And of course, you don't have to carry a sharpener with you all the time. 

Why are mechanical pencils more expensive?

Mechanical pencils are generally more expensive than wooden ones, but bear in mind that the latter won't last very long. As long as you're happy to keep refilling the lead in a mechanical pencil, which doesn't cost very much at all, then it should last for years. So if you take the initial cost of a mechanical pencil, and divide that by the number of wooden pencils you'd probably go through over a similar time period, it starts to look like very good value indeed.

What are mechanical pencils used for?

Mechanical pencils are commonly used by professionals involved in technical drafting, such as engineers and architects. Many artists also prefer mechanical pencils, even for more expressive and imaginative work, because the size and weight of the lead remains consistent, whereas a wood pencil gets finer the more you sharpen it. Mechanical pencils are also favoured by anyone wishing to produce neat and elegant handwriting. 

Which mechanical pencil is best for drawing?

The best mechanical pencil for drawing today is the Uni Kurutoga Pipe Slide. That's because it has a clever mechanism that continually rotates the pencil lead as you write. This allows for a uniform wearing of the lead, and cleaner and more consistent lines. The lead is difficult to break, too, saving you stress and reducing the chances that your drawing will be smudged with graphic dust.

Which mechanical pencil is best for writing?

The best mechanical pencil for writing today is the LAMY 2000. Based on the well-known fountain pen of the same name, it's a light enough to be flexible, but solid enough to feel dependable, and durable enough to last for several years at the very least. And it provides beautifully smooth and precise lines, perfect for anyone whose handwriting needs to be neat and legible.

Is a 0.5 or 0.7 pencil better?

If you wish to draw very fine lines, you’ll want to go for a 0.3mm lead. For writing and most drawing, you’ll probably prefer a 0.5mm lead. A thicker, 0.7mm lead, meanwhile, may be better for sketching and non-detailed drawing. Other sizes are also available for specialist uses.

It's not just about size, though: also consider the hardness of the lead. A soft lead will be darker and more prone to smudging, while a hard lead is better for leaving light, fine lines. Softness is represented by a number followed by ‘B’; the higher the number, the softer the lead. Hardness is represented by a number followed by ‘H’; the higher the number, the harder the lead. Finally, ‘F’ and ‘HB’ leads lie in the middle..

Why are mechanical pencils banned on SATs?

While mechanical pencils have numerous good qualities, the one disadvantage is that they are often banned for standardised tests. In particular, you must not use a mechanical pencil on the ACT or SAT tests in the United States. 

This is largely because the machines that automatically read these tests are believed to have difficulty picking up the marks made by mechanical pencils. Whether this is actually true or not (either now or in the past) is irrelevant: the ban stands, and so it's best not to put your score at risk. With any other paper-based tests, it's always best to check before the day of the test to make sure you don't fall foul of a similar ban. 

Which mechanical pencil is best for sketching?

The best mechanical pencil for sketching is the Rotring 800. With its high-quality engineering, this model offers a precise instrument and a luxury feel that befits daily use in a professional capacity. The non-slip metal grip 'twist and click' retractable mechanism makes it very easy and comfortable to use, even for lengthy sessions. And the hexagonal shape makes it less likely to slide off your desk, or even a slanted surface. 

How do you refill a mechanical pencil?

Mechanical pencils generally have quite different designs, so it's not always obvious how to refill them with lead. Most of the time, it's just a matter of screwing the barrel at the end to remove it, inserting a new refill inside and then reassembling the pencil. 

However, if your mechanical pencil has an eraser on the end, just may have to remove the eraser and the refill chamber will be underneath it. Don't automatically assume this is the case, though! The eraser may be glued to the barrel, in which case you would use the first method. 

Thirdly, other mechanical pencil designs may have a cap at the end which you just pull to remove and the refill chamber will be underneath it. Finally, a fourth type of mechanical pencil is split into two, so you slide the entire back half out before refilling the lead.

If you're not sure which type of design your mechanical pencil has, then tug just at the cap/eraser/rear half gently at first to see if it comes out. If it doesn't, then see if anything unscrews with a gentle turning motion. Either way, don't force it, or you risk breaking your pencil!

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Tom May is an award-winning journalist and editor specialising in design, photography and technology. He is author of Great TED Talks: Creativity, published by Pavilion Books. He was previously editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine.