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The best mechanical pencils for artists and designers

best mechanical pencils
(Image credit: CBCK-Christine)

The best mechanical pencils are great for writing, drawing, sketching and drafting, because they're so neat and precise. You never need sharpen them because the graphite (aka 'lead') sits in a well that's built into the pencil. So you simply click to extend it as it wears down, and then replace it once it's gone.

Mechanical pencils are used by all kinds of people, including artists working on drawings; graphic and web designers sketching mockups and wireframes; architects or engineers drafting their plans; or just anyone looking for a neat way to take notes. 

Below, we list the best mechanical pencils available today. Not sure how to choose between them? Skip down to read about the benefits of mechanical pencils and how to choose the best mechanical pencil.

Alternatively, if you're not sure whether a mechanical pencil is for you, check out our guides to the best pencils of all kinds, the best pens for artists and the best watercolour pencils available today.

Mechanical pencils for drawing

Whether you use them for quick sketches, technical drafting, mockups, wireframes or expressive artwork, the best mechanical pencils let you create measured lines with precision and accuracy. For most drawing, a 0.5mm lead is best, although 0.7mm may be better for sketching and non-detailed work.

Here we present our pick of the best mechanical pencils for all types of drawing. Once you've bought one, check out our top pencil drawing techniques to help you make the most of it.

Uni Kurutoga Pipe Slidecb badge

(Image credit: Uni)

01. Uni Kurutoga Pipe Slide 0.5mm

The best mechanical pencil for drawing overall

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

The best mechanical pencil for drawing overall is the Uni Kurutoga Pipe Slide. The big difference that sets this pencil apart from its rivals is that when you use 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 Kurutoga 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.

Pentel 200 mechanical pencilcb badge

(Image credit: Pentel)

02. Pentel 200

The best value mechanical pencil

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

You don't have to spend a lot of money to get the best mechanical pencils; some models are surprisingly affordable. Our favourite value option has to be the Pentel 200. It's priced so cheap that you don't have to worry about misplacing it, or someone walking off with it. That makes it a great option as a backup mechanical pencil, but it will also do fine as a main pencil for many people. Each of these pencils 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.

Rotring 800 mechanical pencilcb badge

(Image credit: Rotring )

03. Rotring 800

The best mechanical pencil for sketching

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

The best mechanical pencils for drawing can be a little pricey. But if you're serious about your sketching, drawing or drafting, we recommend the Rotring 800. With its high-quality engineering, this top-of-the-range model offers both a precise instrument and a luxury feel that befits daily use in a professional capacity. 

It has a good weight (almost 91g), and the metal body feels solid in the hand. The non-slip metal grip 'twist and click' retractable mechanism also makes it very easy and comfortable to use, even for lengthy sessions. The hexagonal shape also 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 a real pleasure to use, the Rotring 800 is a gem. 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

(Image credit: Pentel )

04. Pentel Graphgear 500 Automatic Drafting Pencil

The best mechanical pencil for technical drawing

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-Included eraser not the best

Featuring a 4mm fixed sleeve for template work and technical drawings, the Pentel Graphgear 500 is the best mechanical pencil for technical drawing. With its 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, and it comes at a very 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 for handwriting, unless you tend to press hard on the page and often break your lead; in that case, a 0.7mm or even 0.9mm thickness might be preferable. 

Lamy 200 mechanical pencil

(Image credit: Lamy)

05. LAMY 2000

The best mechanical pencil for writing overall

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

If you want one of the best mechanical pencils for writing, then we recommend the LAMY 2000. Based on the well-known fountain pen of the same name, designed by Gerd A. Müller in 1996, this is a true modern classic. 

It's light enough to be flexible, but solid enough to feel dependable. It's also comfortable to hold and use, and it produces smooth, consistent handwriting. With an impressive build quality, this is a pen you can expect to last for years. Supremely reliable and durable, it might cost a bit more than rivals, but you really get what you pay for. 

Uni Kurutoga Roulette pencil

(Image credit: Uni)

06. Uni Kurutoga Roulette

The best value mechanical pencil for writing

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

The Uni Kurutoga Roulette has a surprisingly low price considering its high quality, making it the best value mechanical pencil we've found for writing. It's comfortable to hold, with a nicely balanced weight and a knurled metal fingerplate for better grip. Its clever design, matching that of the Uni Kurutoga Pipe Slide (our number one mechanical pencil for drawing, above), means that it sharpens the lead as you write. As with its sibling, that helps achieve a highly even stroke width to make your handwriting neat, polished and attractive.

American Classic Mechanical Pencil 0.9mm

(Image credit: American Classic)

07. American Classic Mechanical Pencil 0.9mm

The most durable mechanical pencil for writing

Weight: 7.8g
Dimensions: 15.24 x 5.84 x 1.78cm
Lead diameter: 0.9mm
Mechanism: Button
Reasons to buy
+Trusted brand+Super-tough+Should last a lifetime
Reasons to avoid
-Included eraser not great

The American Classic 0.9mm Mechanical Pencil is a little pricey, but if you want a highly reliable mechanical pencil for writing, this has a lot going for it. It's been popular for decades among the armed forces and public institutions of the US, gaining a strong reputation for its reliability, durability and clean lines. The thick 0.9mm lead is super-tough and rarely breaks. So long as you take proper care of it, this should last a lifetime, which puts the slightly higher cost into perspective.

Pentel Sharp Kerry Mechanical Pencil

(Image credit: Pentel )

08. Pentel Sharp Kerry Mechanical Pencil 0.5mm

The best mechanical pencil for professional writing

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

Handcrafted using watchmakers' tools for precision, beauty and accuracy, the Pentel Sharp Kerry Mechanical Pencil 0.5mm is another quite pricey option. This high-end has a solid tip that makes breakage of the lead a rare occurrence. The removable cap makes it super-portable. 

This mechanical pencil has been in production for many years now thanks to its impressive consistency and quality. It's an excellent choice for anyone who wants to produce highly professional-looking writing.

Benefits of mechanical pencils

Mechanical pencils offer several advantages over traditional pencils, not least the fact that when the lead runs out, you just insert a new one. This not only saves you a lot of hassle and mess, it also means mechanical pencils can provide more consistent lines, enabling you to create more precise drawings and neater handwriting. They're the obvious choice for technical drafting, but that’s not all they're good for.

Many artists prefer using a mechanical pencil, even for more expressive and imaginative work, because a mechanical pencil's size and weight remains consistent, whereas a wood pencil gets finer the more you sharpen it. The finer lines produced are also usually easier to erase. 

Finally, whether you’re using a pencil for writing or drawing (see our how to draw tutorials for some tips), mechanical pencils are typically more cost-effective in the long run because you only need to replace the lead once it has run out, not the whole pencil. It's also convenient not to have to carry a sharpener with you all the time.

How to choose the best mechanical pencil

There is a wide range of options on the market, and there are certain things to consider when choosing the best mechanical pencil for you. The first is the diameter of the lead. 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.

Another consideration is 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.

Also think about the mechanism used to extend the lead. The three most common mechanisms are push-button, which may be on the side or on the top of the pencil; a twist operation, which is more often seen in older models, and a 'shake' method. Weight is also important, as is grip – some pencils have special features, such as a bumpy texture, to improve this and make your mechanical pencil more ergonomic.

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Tom May

Tom May is a freelance writer and editor specialising in design, photography and tech. He is author of Great TED Talks: Creativity, published by Pavilion Books. He has previously been editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine.