Best Pencils for Manga and Comics Drawing
When using traditional art board and pencils for comics and manga art, there are a number of variables to consider. On one hand, you have your favorite pencil type and/or brand, and you most likely will find a brand of art board you prefer to use, but those two things do not necessarily always work well together. And, if you are working for a publisher who supplies you with a company-standard board, your choices are limited at best.
However, when starting out or if you are working on your own as an indie creator or mangaka, you call your own shots. There are a number of different types of pencils you can use for different purposes, with qualities best suited to specific functions.
Premium Wooden Pencils
There are a few different brands that purport to be of the finest quality, but, in many cases, it’s up to the buyer to determine which they prefer for personal use. One of the most popular premium brands is Palomino/Blackwing, which is a boutique manufacturer of high-quality specialty pencils. These pencils were originally manufactured by the Eberhard Faber company, but were discontinued due to low sales, though a loyal but small customer base continued to buy them second-hand at large prices on secondary markets. They are notable for having a flat, rectangular replaceable eraser attached by a long ferrule at the end of it, and a graphite core mixed with clay for a solid and satisfying writing and drawing experience. They make several different weights of lead: the harder “602” lead, the softer “Black” lead, and the mid-level “Pearl” lead. In addition, Palomino/Blackwing manufactures specialty pencils for different users, such as the “64” model that honors the four-color comics printing style.
These pencils offer a very pleasurable drawing and writing experience, from the smooth mark-making down to the feel and finish of the actual pencil shaft as you use it. Before you get into making final art with it, you will want to use a test sheet of whatever art paper you are using and try out different varieties, so you can see what kind of mark quality you like. The one caveat with these pencils is that, depending on the strength of your line, your lines might not cleanly erase to your liking; this can be an issue when you are cleaning up files for scanning final art pages.
Professional Art Pencils
Most professional grade art pencils share a number of similar characteristics: a uniform pencil color and finish with the pencil’s graphite weight clearly listed on a blunt, rounded top in place of a built-in eraser. There are a significant number of high-quality brands available online and in brick-and-mortar stores, and you will want to try out as many as you can, as the line quality varies slightly between brands, and some work better in different climates, especially in regards to humidity levels. The most ubiquitous brand in most art supply stores and, for that matter, office supply stores, is Staedtler. These are usually found in a variety pack in stores like this, though art stores usually offer loose pencils by graphite weight. However, brands like Faber-Castell and Derwent and more are usually available online and some large art supply stores. Regardless of your favorite brand, you will want to test out both the line quality and ability to cleanly erase lines on a test sheet of your preferred art board.
A wide number of cartoonists and mangaka swear by mechanical pencils for professional work. The primary reason for this is that there is little to no time needed to sharpen mechanical lead; the only time you need to stop drawing to deal with mechanical lead is when you physically run out of leads (which, if you plan ahead, should never be an issue mid-page).
The biggest variable in mechanical pencils, in terms of the final product, is the graphite quality of the individual mechanical leads that you choose to use for linework. Thankfully, most graphite weights are available online (from 6H to 6B); and mechanical lead containers are available, and are fairly inexpensive. You have a number of brands available to you, from Pentel to Uni.
In terms of mechanical pencils themselves, there are a few specialty options available, like Kurutoga pencils which forcibly rotate the mechanical lead a quarter turn with each click, in an effort to keep as sharp an edge on the mechanical lead as possible when drawing. If that’s not as important to you personally, your best bet is to find a mechanical pencil that you prefer the feel of, or a specialty feature that you prefer. For example, Pentel’s Quicker Clicker has a lead clicker on the pencil grip itself, which means you don’t have to move your hand to advance the lead. Other premium pencils, such as Faber-Castell’s Tri-Executive are known for their natural comfortable grip. One extra positive that mechanical pencils enjoy over traditional pencils is that many mid- to light-weights of mechanical lead tend to erase very cleanly on art board.
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