The Top 5 Mechanical Pencils for Drawing and Sketching


Dear friends, I hope you are doing great and are very creative!
I was glad to receive this article that Ethan Molina sent me and which I'm publishing here:

The Top 5 Mechanical Pencils for Drawing and Sketching


What makes a good mechanical pencil for drawing:
I’m sure every artist and every person has a different opinion in regards to what makes a good pencil for drawing. Because that is almost like asking what is the most beautiful type of girl? (or man?): Is it blond? Brunette? Oriental? etc. etc. There is no right answer. Or maybe there are many right answers, depending who is asking the question. 
But leaving aside all philosophic dilemmas, and as an artist with over 40 years of experience and many miles of graphite under my wheels, these are the points that I consider important when choosing a pencil for drawing; and a review of each of my top favourite drawing mechanical pencils.

What to look for in a mechanical pencil for drawing: 
Usually when an artist creates, he submerges into his activity so intently, that he forgets that the world is still making its way around the Sun. His pencil should be as close as an extension of his body, and it should be as effortless, as possible. It should cause him the least distractions, and should not make him tired. Therefore I recommend: 

1. A good anti-slip grip: The last thing you want is the pencil slipping off your hand while you are drawing. Smooth holding areas are not the best for drawing tools. 

2. A solid grip: Squishy, rubbery or soft handles make more difficult the precise control of your tool for drawing and draftsmanship. If you want precise drawing, I recommend you to look for a solid grip. 

3. A round shape: There are pencils which claim to be “ergonomic” and have strange or uneven shapes. Sometimes they feel good when you first hold them, but they only work in one position. When an artist is drawing, he continually rotates his pencil around to get the desired point (either the flat spot of the lead, or to the contrary, the sharper edge). When you turn an ergonomic grip around, even so slightly, it becomes totally anti-ergonomic and ridiculously uncomfortable. A similar thing happens when you try to hold the pencil further away, or closer to the tip, than what the grip was designed for. Avoid them. 

4. The thickness: The pencil should fit and stay on your fingers with the least effort. Keeping this in mind, avoid the thin and the too thick bodies. For me a pencil that is slightly thicker than a regular wooden pencil is the ideal.

5. Weight: It should have some weight to it, but it should not be super heavy, and neither too light. I think most of us tend to like objects that have some weight to them. They just feel of a better quality. Not super heavy, but with weight so that gravity keeps them in your hand.
Ideally the balance would be towards the tip, so that you don’t need to exert any effort to keep the lead on the paper. The balance of the weight towards the tip is ideal for drawing, however, I don’t consider this a vital point. 

6. A fully retractable sleeve: I have had more than one mechanical pencil falling off my table and breaking the metal sleeve of the tip. The ones that retract fully, protect themselves when not in use. Additionally, the ones that don’t retract can make holes in your breast pocket or the pocket on the back of your pants when carrying them, which can be a pain in the butt! (Literally!) 

Which lead?
There are basically two different subjects here:

1. Softness: The regular lead for mechanical pencils is the HB, which for drawing it’s a “medium” softness. They are usually available in a range from 2H (hardest) to 2B (softer). The best for you may depend on what you are trying to do (obviously), and on the paper you are using. A paper with more “tooth” (grain) will “bite” on the graphite and your mark will look darker. While smooth papers will hold less graphite and your mark will be lighter. 

2. Thickness: The common mechanical pencil leads are 0.3mm, 0.5mm and 0.7mm. There are also 0.9mm, although the replacement leads may be a bit hard to find, depending on where you live. 

Ok, having said that, here is my chosen top 5 mechanical pencils for drawing and sketching, and their review. (It was hard to get to these 5 as there are others which I love too):

1. Tutto3 by O Art International Mechanical Pencil Review: 


When choosing the #1 pencil for this list it was a no-brainer to select the Tutto3, as it has all you need for drawing. In this case the dilemma of choosing thickness and softness of leads is not a dilemma because you have it all in one.

The Tutto3 has 3 different caliber of leads and it comes with 3 different hardnesses as well: 0.3mm 2H (hard), 0.5mm HB (medium) and 0.7mm B (soft). Therefore it covers a wide range, to create different effects. An excellent idea. It is one of those things that once you get used to working with them, you can hardly understand why you didn’t have one of these much earlier. I have been lucky to be one of the original users of this pencil, and nowadays when I draw with another pencil, I feel something is missing: Where are my other leads? 

It is a bit of a mystery where this mechanical pencil came from, since it is not from one of the monster companies such as Pentel, Staedlter, etc. It seems it is a private artist who produces this tool in partnership with an established German manufacturer and an American company called O Art International (it is physically made in Japan, as most quality mechanical pencils are). 

Reminds me of those old pens which contain different color tips in one. (An old concept put to a new use). The Tutto3 has a slick mechanism based on gravity. To select a lead you simply look at the label of the one you want, and by holding the pencil in that position (and thanks to one of Newton’s laws), that point will come out when pressing the back button. 

The pencil has a confortable thickness and a classic and effective anti-slip knurl grip, similar to other drafting pencils, except that this area has ben extended, so that you can hold it further away from the tip (for drawing) and you will still be on the anti-slip grip.

It has a very nice weight to it. It is made out of brass, so the body must be really lasting. It comes in 2 colors: Black or silver finish. 
The sleeve retracts fully by pressing the side button, so as to protect the tip while you are not using it and for safe transportation. The tip is also retracted to select a different lead. 
It has a good looking carrying clip and a small eraser under the back button.

This pencil was conceived by an artist, for artists, and in my opinion it accomplished its goal: In today’s market it’s the best mechanical pencil for drawing.  

Best points: Having 3 different calibers and 3 different hardness of leads in one pencil. Nice weight. 
Not so good points: Hard to find one, but if you want me to be really picky, the 3 way mechanism rattles a little if you shake the pencil. Not a problem and this is normal in multifunction pens, but I had to find something to say here!

For more information or to get the Tutto3, click here.

2. rOtring 600 Mechanical Pencil Review: 
By many, this pencil is considered the definition of a drafting, professional mechanical pencil.
The first impression when you hold the rOtring 600 is that of a quality instrument. It is made out of brass which gives it a nice weight. It has a knurled grip that is confortable and provides a good anti-slip hold. The central part of the body has a hexagonal shape, reminiscent of the older wooden pencils. The body is continued with a rounded part where the clip and the lead hardness indicator are located. The clip is sturdy, made from the same brushed aluminium as the pencil with the rOtring inscription embossed. The lead hardness indicator is also a knurled ring.

The fixed sleeve, however, makes it not exactly pocket friendly (as the pointed tip always stays out). The cap is standard, also made of brushed aluminium and it hides a small eraser.

The feeling is that of a solid instrument, one that won’t let you down. I have used the rOtring for many many hours. I have to say this was my favourite drawing pencil until I found the Tutto3. 

All in all a fantastic, near perfect pencil with a nice design and feel. This is a tool that I recommend.

Best points: The design, build quality and nice weight. 
Not so good points: The metallic sleeve of the tip is not retractable, which is surprising for a pencil that costs over $35 dollars. And being picky, I would have preferred a slightly thicker grip. 

To get a rOtring 600, click here.

3. Pentel Graphgear 1000 PG1015 Mechanical Pencil Review 
I have to say, this pencil is a bit strange looking, with a strikingly large clip and the dots on the grip area, which is made up of a combination of a knurl, with little elliptical rubber inserts. Obviously this is an attempt to try to get the best of both worlds, and I’m pleased to say it’s reasonably successful. It offers a firm grip, yet still has a bit of softness about it when you are holding the pencil.

Then there is that huge, protruding pocket clip, which they call a document clip, a reference to how you can clip it to a thick folder or sheaf of papers. This pencil may not be of the same quality as the prior 2, however, still an excellent working pencil which should last you a long time. 

The sleeve is fully retractable, with a push top ratchet lead advance mechanism. Similar to a ballpoint pen, pushing the top button first pushes out the tip section with its 4mm lead sleeve. Further operation of the top button advances the lead like a normal push button mechanical pencil. The mechanism only advances a very short length of lead each time. Once out, the sleeve is a fixed sleeve, but pulling the document clip automatically retracts the tip section for safety. 

There is a small eraser under the top button cap. Includes a lead hardness degree indicator just at the top of the grip section. You can select to display 2B through to 2H.
The Graphgear 1000 is available in 0.3mm, 0.5mm, 0.7mm and 0.9mm options, distinguished by different coloured rubber inserts in the grip section. The body is made out of aluminium. 

Best Points – The retractable tip, the document clip if you like attaching the pencil to documents.
Not So Good Points – The lead advances by very short increments, which can get annoying. I would have preferred a little more weight to it.

To get it, click here. 

4. Staedtler 925 25 Mechanical Pencil Review
The Staedtler 925-25 is another sought after drafting pencil from Japan. This pencil certainly looks “technical” with its all-metal silvery appearance, concentric ring patterns on the grip and the top button, and the long thin lead sleeve. It is appealing and well designed.

It is available in 0.3mm, 0.mm, 0.7mm, and 0.9mm. It features a lead grade indicator. The grip area with its texture and the concentric grooves are very efficient in keeping your hold. Although some may say it is a bit too rough to the feel.

The weight of the pencil is about what you would expect for an aluminum pencil. A bit light for my test, but still good. There is a lead hardness indicator window just above the grip.
Up at the upper end there is a standard button or cap. On the top of it is a very large “.5” indicating the lead diameter of the pencil.

Under the top button there is a small white eraser. You can pull the eraser out to access the lead refill chamber, and there is a needle attached to the eraser to help clear the pipe in the event of a jammed lead.
The lead sleeve is a fixed 4mm thin pipe on the 0.5mm. Obviously it’s not pocket safe,
I like this pencil, almost all around: The looks, the feel and the workability. 
Best Points: It’s efficient grip. Good design. 
Not So Good Points – The fixed, not-retractable sleeve. I would have liked a little heavier weight to it.

To get the Staedtler 925 25, click here.

5. Pilot Vanishing Point H1005 Mechanical Pencil Review


This is a beautiful and elegant mechanical pencil. It’s main feature, as its name indicates, is its vanishing point! The whole sleeve tip section retracts back into the pencil body. It works similarly to a ballpoint pen, you push the top button and the whole tip retracts back inside the body. Very easy.
The lead advances using the same top button, but pressing it lighter. You do have to be a little careful as you can inadvertently push too hard and retract the tip, rather than just advance the lead. Once you get used to it you don’t have to think about it. It conceals an eraser under the top cap. It’s small, but efficient. 

The Pilot Vanishing Point is made of matt black plastic, with nice shiny chrome trims. It is very aesthetic. The body is smooth, without an anti-slip grip area, which may be my only point of complain. The 4mm long lead sleeve is for drawing and draughting work. The band toward the center of the pencil is an adjustable lead hardness indicator.

Best Points: The fully retractable tip. It’s beautiful look.
Not So Good Points: The lack of anti-slip grip. It’s made out of plastic. (I still love it, I have to confess).

I hope this review was helpful to you. I would love to have your comments and feed back about these pencils or your top 5. 

Best,
Ethan Molina

On-Line Sculpture Course: How to Model An Eagle in Clay



Hello my friends,

I'm proud to announce my new on-line course "How to Model an Eagle in Clay".

You can subscribe with a special discount for my followers with this link:

Click Here.

This is the intro video for the course:



This course covers the process of modelling in step by step instructions, with video, from beginning to end. Some highlights are:

  • Modelling tools and materials.
  • How to make preliminary pencil study sketches of the subject.
  • How to make the rough sketch of the eagle in clay.
  • Modelling the form.
  • Doing the detail.
  • Making the different texture effects for the feathers, beak, skin and rock. 

Since this course is hosted on the Udemy platform, you will be able to do it online or download it with their free App which allows you to do it from anywhere, without the need for an internet connection. 

I look forward to seeing you in the course. 

Again, if you would like to subscribe with a discount, please click here.


All the best,

Leonardo

My Drawing Materials


                                                    Click on the image to watch the video

Hello everyone!

Update from 11 April 2016:
Today I'm pleased to introduce the Tutto3, the best mechanical pencil for artists, with 3 different calibers of leads. You can see it here. This is the one I have been using for my last 10 or so tutorials. Click on the image to go to the Tutto3 campaign page:




A lot of people ask me about my materials and where to get them, so I decided to give you some Amazon links to facilitate this. You can order them directly by mail, or you can just take note and get them at your local store.

These are some of the materials and tools I prefer and therefore I use, but by no means I´m saying you need to have them. For example if the lead holders and leads seem too expensive to you, don´t worry, pencils with wood work as well (if they are drawing pencils in the same gradations.)

But having good materials do facilitate things and in some cases they make a big difference such as on the paper. In my opinion the best paper I have used for drawing is the Fabriano. However, I wouldn´t use it for unminingful things or for sketching (it would be a waste). For that I use much lower grade papers. But if I intend to create a masterpiece, then I do invest on a good paper.

My favorite is the Fabriano, but there are many good brands, such as Arches and Canson. 


   

It is key to have a kneaded eraser (my best allay!) and a pencil eraser like the Magic Rub. For fine detail the Tombow Mono Zero is great.

             

I love mechanical pencils because they don´t get shorter and shorter, because the leads are easy and fast to sharpen and because I can collect the graphite powder which then I sometimes use for toning. You can switch different gradations of leads in the same holder, but obviously it is more practical to have the different leads you are using in different holders. And I like to have the holders of different colors so I know at a glance what lead is in which holder (like HB in the black, 2B in the red and 6B in the yellow one). Here are different brands, some may be a little more quality to the feel, but in the end they all hold the lead!


              


For a lot of my drawings I use H (or 2H) and 2B leads. With these 2 you can work well. If the subject has some very dark darks then I add a 4B or 6B. And sometimes it is easier to do the lighter shading with a harder one, so we could expand to a 3H and 6H.

(B stands for “black”, since they are softer they paint darker. The bigger the number the softer. They go from B to 6B. And H stands for “hard”, again, the bigger the number, the harder. They go from H to 6H. And in the middle there is the HB and in between the HB and the B exists an F. "F" stands for "Fine Point". As the "F" is considered a hard lead for drawing, it can keep a fine point for longer than the softer leads.)

I recommend getting the whole set from the same brand as they may vary in hardness from brand to brand and that will throw you off. Recomended brands: Turquoise (by Standford), Faber-Castell and Staedtler.

               

If you get a lead holder you will need a pointer. The barrel type is fast and efficient. The hand-held one also works well and is very inexpensive.

     

Mechanical pencils with fine leads like 0.7mm, 0.5mm or even finer 0.35mm are very useful for precision drawing. I love them and lately have been using them for general drawing. I love the feel of the heavy, high quality Rotring brand, but they are a bit expensive. The 800 series is great because the metal tip is retractable and is not exposed when not in use, like when it is in your pocket. Rotring also has an economy line (the 300s) and they are actually great. Now days I'm starting almost all my drawings and tutorials with the 0.7mm which is the first one of the list below. I’m giving the link for those, and for other options which work practically the same.

        

Large surfaces can be smudged with a brush (preferably a softer one such as the ones for acrylic paint) or for a more even finish, with a chamois. For smaller areas there are the stumps and tortillions (generally speaking the tortillions are a little harder and smaller).

              

Following are great quality charcoal pencils (Primo). I use these a lot to render the very dark blacks when drawing in combination with graphite. And on toned paper, I use the white for the lights.



If you want to draw with felt pens, this sets which includes 4 or 5 different caliber fine markers is very handy!

   

I like these markers, each comes with a dual brush and fine tip. They are available in different types of sets, such as primary colors, skin tones, and if you want the whole thing, here it is as well!

       

If you are going to draw with markers, it is better to use a bleed-proof paper, which doesn’t wear if you go over it a few times, like the following:

   

And finally, when your drawings are finished (specially charcoal, pastel and pencil drawings) you should fix them so that it doesn't get smudged. There are basically 2 types: "Working fixatives" fixes the material so it doesn't smudge as much, but it lets you keep working on it. And "final fixatives for when you completed the drawing. Both come glossy or matte (opaque). I generally prefer the matte.



I hope this information is useful to you.

Good drawing!!

Leonardo

How to Do an Anamorphic Drawing + A Drawing in 3D


Anamorphoses: A distorted projection or drawing which appears normal when viewed from a particular point or with a suitable mirror or lens.

We need to distort our drawing in such a way that when it viewed from a certain angle it looks correct and in 3D. But how do we find the correct distortion?

For this we will use the following 2 templates, one which is straight and the other one which is in perspective, with all the vertical lines heading to a unique vanishing point:







The first thing we do is to draw our object in the perspective template. We draw normally, as we would do it on a blank piece of paper. (Another option is to print the grid on tracing paper and place it over an existing drawing.)



Having done this drawing, we copy it on the regular (square) grid. Actually, since at the end we do not want the template to show, then we copy the grid, using a pencil, on a piece of paper and we draw on it. If we want our drawing to be larger than the original, we can measure the squares and multiply this figure x2, x4, etc. or if we want to make a large street drawing, then we can multiply it x10 or x20.

When copying the drawing, we use the numbers and letters of the original grid in perspective, finding their corresponding position on the regular grid. For example, if a specific feature is where the lines C-5 cross, we draw it on the C-5 crossing of our new grid.




You will notice that our new drawing will be distorted. But if we view it from the correct viewpoint it will look correct, and if we close one eye, or we look at it through a camera’s lens, then it will appear with a 3D effect.

(Note: When you see the sphere from the correct viewpoint, maybe it will not be a perfect sphere due to the additional perspective created by the distance from the point of view to the drawing. This situation may be very slight and if you are not drawing a geometric figure it may or may not be visible. However, be aware that you may have to do some corrections at the end.)

To clarify please watch the video tutorial:



I hope these instructions were helpful to you. If you want to learn more about the technique and the history of anamorphic drawings and paintings, I recommend you to visit the blog at the following link: 



I wish you success with your drawings!

Best,

Leonardo


The Striving Rose



Through the ages roses have been a symbol of beauty. They are delicate and definitely beautiful. I drew 3 roses, one of which is striving to come out of the paper to become part of real life. I like individuality and admire those who dare to be different.

One of my favorite artists is Maurits Cornelis Escher. A genius. He sometimes used to draw figures that came out of the paper and became “3D”. I got the inspiration to draw these roses from him.

The list of materials I used is:

Black lead holder: H lead
Red lead holder: 2B lead
Lead sharpener
Kneaded eraser (Prismacolor)
Pencil eraser 
Soft, synthetic brush
White Fabriano drawing paper, fine grain
Cotton

Here you can see the video of how it was done. It took me about 1 hour and 30 minutes in real time. 

Take care and see you soon!

Leonardo


Sculpting in Clay - Modelling Tools

 Click on the picture to watch the video
Click on the picture to watch the video

With the release of my first sculpture video I want to show you some of the modelling basic tools, and that is why I wrote this blog. 

I have been acquiring my own tools in different countries, through many years, therefore, now that I looked them up on Amazon, in most cases I couldn't find the exact ones I have, however, I'm including the links to several tools which are equivalent to the ones I use and in my view, the ones that can be the most useful. 

As I mentioned in the video, having the correct tools of course help the process very much, however, you may model even with a wood stick and a paper clip; or you may carve your own tools in wood. But in case you would like to see them, or to order them on-line, I'm attaching the links where you may do so (click on the images). The prices are in USD.

Clay:

For modelling, I normally use oil based clay. Once the model is completed one can make a mold (a cast) of silicon or plaster, to then reproduce the piece in a permanent material, such as resin or bronze.

The oil based clay remains soft and malleable, indefinitely. It does not harden. My favorite color to use is brown as it reminds me of the old earth clays or "terracotta" (burned clay). It has a tone which allows you to see what you are doing well. The green would be my second choice. I would advise to stay away of white clay since, in my opinion, it is harder to see the nuances in it and some times you find them only once you cast your piece!

 


If you would like your sculpture to become hard with the air after you model it, you may use the following type of water based clay. A plus of this, compared to oil based clays, is that as it becomes hard your work is permanent. The downside, or at least something to take into consideration, is that as it dries, it doesn't give you an indefinite time to finish the modelling. A trick to be able to work it for a longer period of time (days), is to keep it moist (spraying a little water on it) and to store it inside a sealed plastic bag in a cool space when you are not working on it.




Sculpey is the brand name of a polymer clay which stays soft indefinitely for the modelling stage. But once you have completed your work you can burn it in a house oven and it hardens. It is available in a wide range of colors.




Modelling Tools

Following are some useful tools to model in clay. The ones that are solid or knife like are made mainly for shaping, while the ones that have a wire or a metal loop at the end are made to take material off:

 


The following tool has a soft and flexible tip. It helps to model and shape small spaces which you can not reach with your fingers, such as the spaces around the eyes, etc.





If you would like to take measurements for sculpting, for example if you are making a life portrait and you need to take measurements of the head or a body part, and to transfer those measurements to your sculpture, this tool is the correct one.




Many times one needs to make a wire armature so it holds the clay in the right position. Many wires will do and the best choice would mainly depend on the size (and weight) of your sculpture. This is generally a good one:




The following is a set which comes with the basics you would need for modelling, including the professional oil based clay, wire for armatures, and tools.

 


If you want to model in water base clay, the following set is the basic one:

   

Aside from Amazon, other stores that I recommend and where you can get the supplies either at the store or by mail are:

The Complete Sculptor, in NY: http://www.sculpt.com/

And of course large art stores such as Blick: http://www.dickblick.com/

I hope this was helpful to you. I wish you a wonderful work of art!

Leonardo