I do most of my professional work on a Cintiq these days. Even when I was still on a drawing board, I stuck with technical pencils to avoid all of the sharpening required with wood-cased pencils. Still, there’s a certain charm about using wood-cased pencils, so that’s what I often use when doodling chicken-scratches.
Now, a pencil is a pencil is a pencil, and at the end of the day the quality of your drawing is going to come more from your mind and hands than from the pencil. Nevertheless, your frame of mind can be affected by the satisfaction of using a particular tool that inspires you or makes your job easier. One pencil that has been given lots of attention because of its widespread use (especially by animators, writers, and composers) is the original Blackwing 602.
Given the big hoopla about the “new” Palomino Blackwing which are made in Japan (and I realize that “new” is a relative term, since I’m late to this party), I thought I’d try them out, so I bought a box at the Stuart NG booth while at the Comic Con last month. (these Blackwings are really more like reproductions and not from the original production 602s which were discontinued in the late 90’s. You can check out more about the original Blackwing HERE.)
Off hand, It’s a beautiful design if tool aesthetics is your thing, what with its unique ferrule design and replaceable eraser. I also picked up a two-step, long-point sharpener, since an electric sharpener eats up pencils and wastes too much lead. Lots of these type of hand-held sharpeners have cheap blades that break your lead or don’t really sharpen well, but the German-made blades on this work quite well, though I’m not sure where to purchase new replacement blades.
These pencils come in a nicely designed box of twelve. I no longer go through pencils like I used to, so I gave one to each of my kids to try out as well since they do a lot of drawing.
I didn’t have time to do a nice drawing with this pencil for the purpose of this post, but I wanted to show a comparison between a couple other good drawing pencils: the Schwan Stabilo 8008 and an old Faber Castell 9000 4B pencil made in Germay.
All three of the following pencils are really smooth. The Stabilo 8008 is probably the smoothest, but it’s the lightest in tone as well, so if you want a darker lead, the other two are better.
The nice thing about the Blackwing is that it’s both firm and dark (though this one is softer than the “new” 602). Usually, I find dark leads are too soft or grainy.
Surprisingly, I found the Faber Castell 9000 which I had fumbling around my tool drawer to perform as well or better than the Blackwing. In fact, I liked it so much that I went online to try to find more of these older versions, but I could only find two, each for slightly more than what the new Blackwing costs. They’re still manufactured, but I never know whether to trust newer models because it seems everyone’s manufacturing is done so cheaply now in order to cut costs. I’m not suggesting the new Faber Castell 9000s under production are not good. I just don’t feel like spending the money to find out. In any case, if I ever come across more of these older 4B 9000s, I’m grabbing them as fast as I can. In the meantime, the Blackwing works quite well and offers lots of drawing satisfaction.
I scrawled out a few swatches of each for comparison.