The Best Pencils for Writers

Writers are notorious for scribbling down thoughts on every scrap of paper that flutters by. It’s not intentional — we just can’t help it. With such expansive imaginations, we need someplace to focus our creative energy. That’s why it’s essential to have one of the best pencils for writers on hand, so you’re always ready to go when inspiration strikes.

Why a pencil, and not a pen? Quite honestly, there’s something special about the way pencils feel. It could be the way the graphite whittles down as you brush against the page. Or maybe it’s the nostalgic reminder of those early school years when life was so simple. Whatever the case, there’s something magic about writing with a pencil that a pen simply can’t replicate.

Whether you’re serious about writing, or just a casual writer with a penchant for quality accessories, this article is for you. So, pull out your notepad and current pencil (don’t worry if it’s a doozy, we’ll replace it soon), and let’s get down to business.

Best Pencils for Writers

To start things off, let’s have a look at our favorite pick — the famed Palomino Blackwing 602.


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The best traditional pencil for writers

Ah, the good ‘ol Palomino Blackwing 602. This classic writing tool has been on the market since the 1930s, or nearly 100 years! During that time, it’s gone from relative obscurity to the weapon of choice for legendary creatives like John Steinbeck and Chuck Jones, the creator of Looney Toons! But why? What makes the Blackwing 602 so special?

The Blackwing 602 features an iconic design with its traditional hexagonal cedarwood barrel and metal ferrule (AKA the eraser part). The rectangular ferrule features a unique extension mechanism that lets you adjust or replace the eraser as required, meaning the pencil’s sure to last down to the last bit of graphite.

And speaking of graphite, the Blackwing’s Japanese graphite core produces a perfectly balanced shade of grey that’s ideal for writing, doodling, and more. With strokes so lovely, it’s no wonder the Blackwing 602 is still the favorite of artists worldwide. The only problem with such acclaim? Finding a store that has them in stock!

Ideal for a variety of artistic endeavorsNot quite as dark as traditional #2 pencils
Crafted from California incense cedar and Japanese graphiteCan be challenging to find (due to popularity)
Every purchase supports the Blackwing Foundation for school children in need


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The best mechanical pencil for writers

If traditional wooden pencils aren’t your style, you’ll want to check out the rOtring 800, a revolutionary mechanical pencil unlike any other you’ve tried.

The rOtring 800 features a full metal body that comes in a black or silver finish. The hexagonal barrel combines with a non-slip knurled grip to deliver an exceptional balance of ergonomic comfort. And, the twist-and-click mechanism covers the entire end-point of the pencil, providing the convenience you’re used to with modern pens without all the mess and hassle of permanent ink.

Reach deep into your wallet (this pencil ain’t cheap), and join the ranks of elite artists and designers by picking up a rOtring 800 with either 0.5 or 0.7mm lead — whichever suits you best. Trust me, you won’t regret snagging the rOtring, one of the best pencils for writers on the market.

Designed in GermanyExtremely expensive
Replaceable lead and eraserCan take a few clicks to produce the lead
Ergonomic metal barrel is designed to last a lifetimeBlack or silver finish begins to rub off after years of use


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The best traditional pencil for writers on a budget

Remember those #2 pencils you had as a child? If you’re in your twenties or thirties, they were probably Dixon Ticonderogas!

What’s so great about these bad boys? As you might expect, Ticonderogas are affordable, durable, and effective. They create a strong, dark stroke that’s highly legible and smooth. They’re also extraordinarily easy to sharpen, meaning less time prepping (or procrastinating) and more time writing!

As for the erasers? Mistakes are no problem, as the latex-free erasers work just like you remember, with no smudges or marks. Don’t settle for anything less than the best. Snag a box of the Dixon Ticonderogas, the best writing pencils around, and relive the glory days.

Very affordableMade in China
Thick, dark strokesPoorly packaged with notable QC issues
Sustainably-sourced durable wooden construction


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The best mechanical pencil for writers on a budget

To be totally transparent, the Zebra 301s are some of my favorite writing utensils on the market (I swear I’ve got these things floating all around my office).

There’s something so refined about the stainless steel barrel that rests gently against the edge of your palm as you write. The weight is neither too heavy nor light, and the ribbed grip is as functional as it is comfortable. What’s more, the 0.7mm tip creates an even stroke that glides across the surface of your paper with ease, leaving a mark as dark as a zebra’s stripe. Just be sure to press down lightly (that’s all you need), as too much exertion will snap the lead.

The stainless steel Zebra M-301, with its convenient pocket clip, is an excellent option for those seeking an affordable pencil that ticks all the right boxes. One of the best pencils for writers.

Stainless steel construction w/ metal clipEraser has a small top that’s prone to getting lost
Refill with standard 0.7mm lead and erasersLead may snap for those with heavy-handed writing styles
Black ribbed writing grip for long-term comfortable usage


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The best Japanese pencil for writers

You probably know the Japanese for their breathtaking tales and poetry. What you may not know is that the country also creates some of the best pencils for writers! The Mitsubishi Hi-Uni is a prime example of Japan’s craftsmanship, with its luxurious, minimal finish and superb quality.

Mitsubishi Hi-Uni’s “lead” core offers a silky-smooth glide, thanks to the unique mixture of graphite and clay, which is thoroughly baked to perfection. The pencil produces a very dark stroke, with a pronounced gray that’s easily legible and doesn’t lose steam as the pencil whittles away during extended writing sessions. It also sharpens like a dream, letting you produce the perfect point with ease.

The only issue? The eraser is honestly subpar, and it has a hard time wiping away the pencil’s dark strokes.

Still, with only one major misstep, the Mitsubishi Hi-Uni is considered by some to be the best pencil for writing on the market.

Glides across paperHigher price, as it’s imported from Japan
Produces refined, dark marks across your pageEraser has a hard time with the pencil’s dark marks
Impeccable graphite core that’s centered perfectly in the barrel


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The best mechanical pencil for sketching and doodling in the margins

If you’re seeking a multipurpose mechanical pencil, you can’t go wrong with the Pentel GraphGear 1000. Specially designed for professional designers and artists, this metallic pen boasts everything you need for serious office work and creative writing alike.

Simply take hold of the metallic mesh grip (accented by soft, cushioned pads), and let your writing lead the way. The pencil comes in 0.3mm to 0.9mm varieties to suit a wide range of endeavors, and a dual-action retractor protects the lead from breakage.

The main downside of the GraphGear 1000 is the plastic interior tubing, which brings the cost down at the expense of overall durability. Expect these pencils to last a year or two with moderate use.

Handy metal clipWhile ergonomic, the padded grip looks a bit funny
Extremely comfortablePlastic interior tubing is less durable than the metal exterior
Comes in four lead sizes (0.3mm to 0.9mm) for extra versatility


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The best pencil set for writers and artists

Staedtler is a common name in the art industry, thanks to their affordable accessories and consistent performance.

While the Staedtler Mars Lumograph Pencils are primarily designed for the traditional art student, they’re also some of the best pencils for writers. That’s because the set comes with twelve pencils total, seven of which boast HB or darker lead that’s ideal for writing.

As for the lighter shades? While those aren’t as well-suited for writing, they are perfect for other forms of creative expression, like sketching out ideas and creating illustrations to complement your written works. Moreover, the Mars Lumograph Pencils are celebrated for their break-resistant lead and professional application.

Oh, and my favorite part? They ship in an attractive tin for easy storage!

Made in GermanyNo eraser means you’ll need a separate tube
Features break-resistant leadFive of the shades are better suited for drawing than writing
Set comes with 12 pencils total, packaged in a handy storage tin

Best Pencils for Writers 101

When it comes to the best pencils for writers, there’s a lot to consider. 

Writing With One of the Best Pencils for Writers

Pencils vary significantly in terms of type, graphite hardness and width, ergonomic features, and so much more. Choosing the right fit can reduce fatigue, and help you feel emboldened to write with enthusiasm and confidence.

Let’s go over three essential criteria to help with your search.

1. Type

First, you need to consider which type of pencil is right for you: traditional vs. mechanical.

  • Traditional Pencils. The conventional pencil with a wooden barrel. These are typically more affordable and durable than their mechanical counterparts. However, they require sharpening, which can be a hassle and a mess. The process also whittles the pencil down over time. Still, many writers and artists prefer these for their timeless aesthetic and classic feel.
  • Mechanical Pencils. A newer type of pencil with refillable lead. Made from plastic or metal (the options on our list are metal). Click the eraser-end of the pencil and watch the lead extend from the tip. Infinitely refillable, but more hassle than simply sharpening and recycling when done. Plus, the cost of lead and erasers quickly adds up. That said, mechanical pencils tend to create finer lines, which is a boon for writing.

Both are excellent choices, and whether you choose the best wooden pencil for writers or the best mechanical pencil for writers, you’ll be in good company.

Regardless of the type you choose, you’ll need to consider the lead next.

2. Lead

Nowadays, the “lead” in a pencil isn’t actually lead. It’s a combination of graphite and clay. Depending on the particular blend of these two materials, you get a different hardness level (denoted by a mix of letters and numbers).

Pencil Swatches

HB (also known as a #2 pencil) and softer leads work best for writing, thanks to their darker and more legible strokes. Harder leads like F through 9H are better for sketching, illustrating, and brainstorming.

The other consideration is the width of the lead, indicated by millimeters or mm. Commons widths range from 0.3mm to 0.9mm and beyond. The smaller the lead, the finer the line. This correlates with durability, so widths below 0.5mm are not recommended for serious writers. I’ve personally found 0.7mm to be the sweet spot in the best pencils for writers. 

3. Features

It’s a pencil, for goodness sake! How many features can it have?

Quite a few, it turns out.

First off, there’s the eraser. The best writing pencils often come with a reliable eraser atop the ferrule, but it’s not guaranteed. If your writing pencil doesn’t feature its own eraser, you’ll need a standalone one to fix mistakes.

There’s also ergonomics. The best pencils for writers come in different shapes, sizes, and finishes. In classic wooden pencils, look for a hexagonal design and genuine wooden barrel. For mechanical pencils, look for a metal barrel and specialized grip (and perhaps a weighted base) that’s comfortable for long hours of writing.

You’ll find a range of other gimmicks, some of which are pretty cool. Consider your options carefully, and choose a pencil that gets you excited to write. At the end of the day, expressing your creativity is all that matters!