I like to use wooden pencils. They’re not as practical as mechanical pencils but they feel more personal and I feel more connected to the drawing when I use them. They seem more organic. For a long time I used Tombow Mono 100 pencils. They’re lovely and smooth and give a fantastically consistent line. Then a little while ago on my stationery blog, Pens! Paper! Pencils!, I looked at a wide range of pencils and decided the Mitsu-bishi Hi Uni was a little better, so I’m in the process of switching over to them. Honestly, they’re both great and so is the Steadtler Mars, which also has the advantage of being considerably cheaper. It’s an indulgence, using these pencils, but when you spend so much time using something why not make sure it’s the best?
I sketch the outline using a 2H pencil and then use a 6B for most of the shading. However I also use 4B, 2B, HB and 4H… I do quite a bit of swapping about. I could get away with using fewer grades of pencil but I enjoy having the range. What I couldn’t do without is my secret weapon, the 10B pencil, which lets me get really dark areas. Good contrast is what lifts a drawing out of the paper and judicious use of this pencil is like a little bit of magic.
I keep the pencils in a lovely stand made by Dudek Modern Goods.
For sharpening I use the Dux single hole brass sharpener. This is a really solid sharpener that gives a very crisp point. I also have a KUM Automatic Long Point Sharpener. This is a two stage sharpener: the first hole peels away the wood but leaves the lead and the second hole sharpens the lead. This gives a long point but I only use the first stage, which leaves the lead nice and blunt, useful for shading large areas and soft edges.
I’ve tried quite a few putty erasers and most of them I find too sticky. The Faber-Castell Kneadable Artists Eraser isn’t sticky but still lifts the graphite from the page. If I want to erase larger areas I use a Staedtler Mars Plastic Eraser. I haven’t researched this kind of eraser as I found that one I liked a lot early on.
The paper you use can have a huge effect on the final appearance of the drawing. I want my pencil drawings to look like drawings and so I don’t like to use perfectly smooth paper. I like there to be some texture to it that can show through into the final picture. However too much texture and it’s hard to get much detail. Daler-Rowney fine-grain heavyweight cartridge paper hits the sweet spot with me.
That’s what I use. It’s a result of research, trial and error and a certain amount of indulgence!