The best mechanical pencil 2018: for drawing, writing and more

Treat yourself to a proper grown-up writing instrument

TODO alt text

Whatever you call them – aliases ‘automatic pencil’, ‘propelling pencil’ or occasionally just ‘clicky top’ – the principle of mechanical pencils is pretty simple. It means any pencil that uses a mechanism to push the lead forward when you need more, rather than needing a sharpener like the good old wood-cased pencil. This might sound simple, but there’s a surprising amount that goes into finding the best mechanical pencil for your needs.

If you’re here, chances are you’re already well-acquainted with the benefits of using a mechanical pencil (no time wasted sharpening, no inconsistent line thickness, no waste from throwing away stubby used pencils) so we’ll get to the point. 

What’s the best type of mechanical pencil for you? Well, it seems as if every stationery brand worth its salt has a mechanical pencil to its name, so we feel like this is best considered on an individual basis, which is why we’ve rounded up the cream of the crop from tried-and-trusted brands like LAMY, Rotring, Pentel and Uni to help you come to a decision.

These all come highly commended by discerning stationery nerds for a surprisingly wide range of reasons: light in the hand for endless note-taking, comfy to grip without cramping, solidly built to withstand years of use, and even some that save you from yourself by adjusting their own leads between words to resist wear – that’s right, pencils have gotten pretty high tech since that black-and-yellow HB you accidentally nicked off someone in maths twenty years ago.

So whether you’re after a pencil for technical drawing, jotting down ideas for a novel, sketching on the go, or whatever else you can think of, these options should give you something to consider – keep reading to find your new favourite pocket companion.

The best mechanical pencil

1. Rotring 600 Mechanical Pencil

A clever hexagonal nib in a full metal jacket

Specifications
Best for: Effortless writing
Lead thickness: 0.5 or 0.7mm
Mechanism: Click button
Weight: 20g
Reasons to buy
+High quality build+Easy to select lead hardness
Reasons to avoid
-A bit on the heavy side

Rotring call this “the ideal professional tool for technical writing, drawing and sketching”, and its reviewers are inclined to agree. The list of things to love is long, but most users raved about the weighty, quality feel of the pen’s full metal body, the precise propelling action, great balance and overall engineering. 

Sublimely precise, weighty but balanced, and with the feel of a proper investment piece, this is our best mechanical pencil.

Cross Century II Pencil

2. Cross Century II Pencil

A chrome-plated pen for trendsetters and classic pencil lovers alike

Specifications
Best for: Style
Lead thickness: 0.7mm
Mechanism: Twist-action
Weight: 16g
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic-looking chrome finish+Sleek, streamlined shape
Reasons to avoid
-Only one choice of thickness 

Call us shallow (honestly, we don’t mind) but this pencil looks to be a winner before you even start writing. With its lustrous chrome finish, streamlined shape and subtle engraved branding it adds a little bit of pageantry to the everyday, whether it’s jotting notes in an endless meeting or writing a shopping list. 

Users, especially those with smaller hands, found it superbly comfortable in-hand, and the option to have it engraved means it’s supremely giftable too.

Pentel GraphGear 500 Automatic Drafting Pencil Black

3. Pentel GraphGear 500 Automatic Drafting Pencil Black

Bring out your inner draftsman with this technical drawing-friendly pencil

Specifications
Best for: Well-weighted
Lead thickness: 0.3, 0.5, 0.7 or 0.9mm
Mechanism: Click button
Weight: 22.7g
Reasons to buy
+Great grip and control +Four lead thicknesses
Reasons to avoid
-Sleeve is fixed 

Even if the closest you’ve come to a career in architecture is building outlandish houses on The Sims, the professional look and feel of this drafting pencil is the real deal. 

The metallic mesh grip is a classic feature offering grip and control over template work and technical drawings, but reviewers loved this pencil for all kinds of tasks, commenting on the comfortable hold and precise lines, as well as the delicate extendable eraser, while writing or drawing.

Uni Kurutoga Pipe Slide

4. Uni Kurutoga Pipe Slide

A triumph of small-scale engineering

Specifications
Best for: Uninterrupted writing and drawing
Lead thickness: 0.5mm
Mechanism: Click button
Weight: 10g
Reasons to buy
+Superbly smooth mechanisms+Rotating lead stays sharp
Reasons to avoid
- Only one choice of lead thickness 

Some seasoned fans of Uni’s awesome Kuru Toga functionality have commented on a lack of consistency in past mechanisms, but by all accounts, this newest incarnation has it nailed. 

Reviewers loved that you don’t need to adjust your hold on the pencil to get the mechanisms to kick in, however there’s no change in that big seller: the clever rotating lead that stays consistently sharp all-round. That, plus the eponymous ‘pipe slide’ action that retracts as you write, let you keep your flow going.

LAMY 2000 Mechanical Pencil

5. LAMY 2000 Mechanical Pencil

Light, comfortable, but considerable

Specifications
Best for: Comfort
Lead thickness: 0.5 or 0.7mm
Mechanism: Click button
Weight: 18.1g
Reasons to buy
+Iconic modern design+Light and comfortable
Reasons to avoid
- Some found the eraser a bit flimsy 

The design of this LAMY mechanical pencil might be low-key, but that’s all part of its charm – it doesn’t shout about what it can do, it just does it superbly well. The makrolon shell is, in the words of one reviewer ‘indestructible’, and makes the pencil a lot more lightweight than many of its metal competitors. 

While this pencil has a similar design to the 2000 range’s fountain pen, it makes one notable change to the clip, which has a lower, less obtrusive profile, good for long stretches writing when you often turn the pencil in your hand.

Uni Mechanical Pencil Kurutoga Roulette Model

6. Uni Mechanical Pencil Kurutoga Roulette Model

An all-round good buy in more ways than one

Specifications
Best for: Rotating lead
Lead thickness: 0.7mm
Mechanism: Click button
Weight: 13.6g
Reasons to buy
+Rotating lead for consistent line+Balanced weight
Reasons to avoid
- Perhaps less fully-featured than the Pipe Slide 

Finding a pencil that’s heavy enough to make a proper mark, but not so heavy that it’ll give you crampy hands, is a bit of a holy grail in the world of mechanical pencils, and the Uni-Ball Kuru Toga Roulette Model achieves it. 

But it’s not just a comfortable and capable all-rounder, its (literally) revolutionary design, matching that of the Uni Kurutoga Pipe Slide, keeps any one part of the lead from wearing down inconsistently. If you’re set on the retracting sleeve of the Kurutoga Pipe Slide, go for it. Otherwise, this is a great alternative.