A Handful of Our Favorite Pencils

Ever wonder why standard pencils are yellow? During the 1800s, the best graphite in the world came from China. American pencil makers wanted a way to tell people that their pencils contained high quality Chinese graphite. In China, the color yellow is associated with royalty and respect. American pencil manufacturers began painting their pencils yellow to communicate this “regal” feeling and association with China. Today, a majority of basic hexagonal graphite writing pencils sold in the United States are painted yellow and what was once perceived as “regal” has now become “common”. Here are a few of our favorite pencils, none of which can rightly be called “common”.

PRIMO Euro Blend Charcoal Pencils by General Pencil

The General Pencil Co. have been manufacturing writing instruments in the USA since 1889, and we happily carry some of their pencils. Their PRIMO Euro Blend Charcoal Pencil is a smooth charcoal pencil made of an exclusive, rich, black, euro blend formula. Less dusty than other charcoal pencils, and available in three degrees: 3B, B and HB, as well as in White and the Elite Grande. Did you see the General Pencil Co. factory in Jersey City featured in the New York Times Magazine? It’s a good read.

MONO Drawing Pencils by Tombow

MONO Drawing Pencils by Tombow are drawing pencils that offer superior extra-refined, high density graphite. Smear proof lines help produce crisp, clean drawings with the added value of slow wear for smooth, dense writing.

Grafwood Graphite Drawing Pencils by Caran d’Ache

New to the store, Grafwood Graphite Drawing Pencils by Caran d’Ache! Yeah we’re not wild about the name Grafwood either, but it probably sounds better in the original Swiss. Designed for specialists, these extra-fine, hexagonal graphite pencils include a range of blacks from hardest (lightest) to softest (darkest). These are the pencils with the most complete range of graphite leads, the diameter ranges from 2.1 – 3.6mm depending on the degree. Each pencil is made using Premium FSC® certified cedar wood and is varnished in a color that precisely depicts the hardness and depth of the black. Developed and manufactured in Switzerland. Mis Luftchüssiboot isch volle Aal.

My absolute favorite pencils to write with are the Blackwing Volumes Pencils. Volumes is a quarterly, limited edition program featuring new, never before seen Blackwing pencil designs inspired by cultural icons and events. I usually get a box of the editions featuring extra-hard graphite, so I currently write with Vol. 530, which pays tribute to the California Gold Rush and eureka moments of the creative process with a gold-colored semi-hexagonal barrel, gold ferrule, and black eraser.

The Blackwing Vol. 530 is a tribute to Sutter’s Mill, California Historical Site No. 530, where gold was first discovered. The Blackwing 530 celebrates eureka moments of the creative process.

When I run out of those, I have boxes of Vol. 162 (white barrel/black ferrule; mathematician/writer Ada Lovelace), Vol. 54 (rose barrel/teal imprint/silver ferrule/blue eraser; Surrealist Art), and Vol. 205 (6 white and 6 green jade barrel/gold ferrule/gold imprint/black eraser; The Silk Road). And I use the Blackwing Point Guard to make sure I conserve the point and lead, bc I’m obsessed like that.

The Blackwing 16.2 is a tribute to mathematician, writer and visionary Ada Lovelace.
The Blackwing Volume 54 pays tribute to surrealism. The number 54 is a nod to 54 rue due Chateau in Paris, the birthplace of Exquisite Corpse.
Each Blackwing 205 set contains six green jade pencils and six white jade pencils. The number 205 references the molecular weight of jadeite, the most sought after form of jade. 

Currently, we only have Vol. 33 1/3 in stock, which is a tribute to vinyl records. It features a matte black finish and matte black ferrule to go with its black imprint and black eraser. The gloss black foil banding near the grip was inspired by the grooves on a record.

Blackwing Vol. 33 1/3

What’s your favorite pencil?

How-To: Neocolor II Water-soluble Wax Pastels

This video covers various basic techniques with NEOCOLOR® II Water-soluble Wax Pastel by Caran d’Ache: drawing, graded applications, washes, watercolour effects and techniques. Soft, velvety texture, ultra-high pigment concentration, luminous colours, excellent light resistance, and superior covering power – these are more than just crayons. The NEOCOLOR II Water-soluble Wax Pastels have the widest color range on the market – perfect for dry or wet drawings, water color effects, washes and sgraffito. On sale for 20% off through March 31st!!!

How-To Video: Getting Started with Water-Soluble Colored Pencils

Strathmore’s Artist Educator Sarah Becktel shares her tips for using watercolor pencils.

Check out this video where Strathmore’s Artist Educator Sarah Becktel shares her tips for using watercolor pencils. This video has become the top video on Strathmore’s YouTube Channel because of Sarah’s straightforward method of teaching both classic and unique ways to get the most from watercolor pencils.

Raw Materials carries a carefully-curated selection of water-soluble or watercolor pencils, but below are three we love, including the artist-grade watercolor pencil that Sarah uses in the video, Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils.

Supracolor Soft Aquarelle Pencils by Caran d’Ache

Supracolor Soft Aquarelle Pencils by Caran d’Ache

Superior-quality water-soluble color pencils for the most exacting requirements by artists, illustrators, and graphic artists. Perfect for mixed media applications, and can be used with Pablo permanent colored pencils, watercolor, gouache, and Neocolor pastels. Available in 120 colors, the soft water-soluble lead is 3.7mm, with a high breaking-strength. Encased in premium-quality, FSC-certified cedar, the colors are bright and have excellent lightfastness. Throughout the month of March, all Supracolor Soft Aquarelle Pencils and Pencil Sets are on sale for 20% off!

Goldfaber Aqua Watercolor Pencils by Faber-Castell

The fully water-soluble lead of the Goldfaber Aqua Watercolor Pencils have vibrant colors, optimum opacity and good lightfastness. High-quality materials and innovative production technology provide high tip-breakage resistance with SV bonding along the 3.3mm lead. Using a wet paintbrush drawings can be transformed into stunning watercolor paintings. Dry drawing techniques of colored pencils can also be used with these watercolor pencils. These hexagonal pencils are easily sharpened with all common sharpeners.

Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils by Faber-Castell

Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils by Faber-Castell contain the highest quality pigments for unsurpassed lightfastness. They feature a buttery smooth color laydown and are easily blended and layered without waxy build up. The thick 3.8mm break-resistant and fully water-soluble leads can be easily blended when wet for rich watercolor effects and become permanent when dry. The lead is housed in premium California cedar wood casing with SV bonding to strengthen lead and resist breakage, while providing sharp fine lines and excellent point retention. Available by Special Order.