I have no idea where to put this, but here it is anyways. This is going to be lonnnnggg.
Individual shop reviews:
I shop purely online for my supplies, for starters. Secondly, I am in no way affiliated with these shops. I've simply done a TON of online searching and have found these shops to be the best in many ways. All of my listed websites accept Paypal, too!
These are the only decent, Paypal accepting, affordable shops I've come across in my many years of searching Google. If anyone knows of any others, feel free to tell me, though my wallet might hate you for it.
This is a fantastic online shop for all of your Japanese pens, pencils, leads, journals, and stationary supplies needs. They carry a lot of different products that can only be obtained from Japan, and even have copic markers and those rare 0.3mm pencils that I love so much. Their shipping is fast, and if your order totals $25 or more your shipping is free! Otherwise it's around $6 shipping - for me, at least. I haven't noticed many sales here, but they might exist.
I stumbled across this site purely by luck but holy crap am I glad I did. Their shipping is fast and usually pretty reasonable, though there are no shipping deals that I'm aware. They carry a HUGE array of things, both professional and amateur, and things for children and classrooms as well. Their prices are usually pretty great, at least on artistic staples that most people will want to have. Though they don't have a huge array of mechanical pencils to choose from, they carry a lot of classic wooden pencils that you can usually order individually or by the box. Some things are expensive, but they have just about anything you could want. They even have a VIP membership that will get you further savings if you're into that kind of thing. I've never tried it, but it does offer a decent discount, usually around 20% off or so. This site has sales at times, too.
Lots of artists know about this site, of course, but I still recommend it - though not nearly as highly as the prior websites. Dickblick can be pretty pricey, but they have some decent deals, too. Dickblick has a humongous supply of everything an artist could ever need, but again, their prices aren't too agreeable sometimes. In fact, I would recommend checking Misterart for the same product to see if it isn't cheaper there, first.
Now onto the supplies!
1) These are all 0.3mm pencils and leads, and are my absolute favorite. I HIGHLY recommend these pencils for any artists that like to get very slim, lovely lines. They're fantastic for drawing detail. Just don't push too hard because 0.3mm can be easy to break sometimes, depending on your pressure, pencil, and lead. These pencils aren't good for shading large areas or blending - at least in my experience.
1A) The white, blue, and purple plastic pencils with metal tips are Pilot AirBlanc 0.3mm mechanical pencils. White is 2H lead, blue is HB, and purple is 2B. These pencils are affordable, have a very slight, good weight, and they work like a dream. These pencils can be purchased here: [link] and if you erase with your pencil a lot like I do because you don't care for switching tools, I also highly recommend you get the eraser refills here: [link] when they're back in stock.
1B) The brown pencil is a Pentel Graphgear 500, available here: [link] in H grade 0.3mm lead. The tip is metal, which gives it a great weight, and the barrel is plastic. The tip has four rings and the rest of the metal is textured, which feels really neat and not at all uncomfortable, surprisingly. It's a good pencil, but it's more expensive than the AirBlanc ones. Overall, unless you really want a heavier pencil, I'd recommend the AirBlanc pencils by a long shot for both their better price and on par performance.
1C) Here we have three sets of Pentel Ain Stein Enhanced Silica 0.3mm leads in 2H, HB, and 2B, available here: [link] These leads come 15 in a container and boast smear resistant properities. Honestly, they still smear, but no where near as badly as other leads. Though I've seen complaints that they snap a lot, I totally disagree. I've had maybe one or two lead breakages that were my fault and any other time the lead broke it was because I dropped the pencil and it landed awkwardly. I would definitely recommend these leads. Also note the cool, sleek container they come in: the cap twists instead of popping off, greatly reducing your chances of the leads flying all over the place and becoming lost.
1D) Finally, we have run-of-the-mill H grade 0.3mm lead by Pentel. This is pretty much just standard H lead, nothing special. This was gotten from Misterart.com
2) These are all 0.5mm pencils and leads. Good for standard drawing, of course. You'll most commonly find 0.5mm and 0.7mm leads and pencils in most stores. Sometimes you'll find 0.9mm, too, but I've never found 0.3mm.
2A) The blue and pink pencils are Sun-Star W Knock Mechanical pencils in 0.5mm ([link]) with 4H and 2B lead inside. These pencils are alright. They're not my favorite, but they're not bad. They're entirely plastic except for the eraser cap, lead sleeve, and shirt clip as well as the little band around the middle. The grip is ringed plastic, giving it an interesting but all over cheap feel.
2B) The black and blue pencil here is an Alvin Draf/Tec-Retrac 0.5mm that I use with the blue or red lead pictured to right of the pencils. Slightly heavy with a rubber grip, metal sleeve and eraser cap and shirt clip and ring around the middle. I don't know what it is about this pencil but I don't really like it. I got it years ago from Dickblick.com: [link] I wouldn't recommend this pencil for its price. Dinky plastic mechanical pencils are still on par with this pencil, and I break the lead with this thing a LOT, though I'm not sure if it's the colored leads or the pencil's fault.
2C) The red, black, and blue grip pencils are Staedtler Riptide 0.5mm mechanical pencils. They come three in a pack for a great price: [link] and come in both 0.5 and 0.7mm. They're really good pencils that are comfortable and a little weighted - and they come with 6 eraser refills. This is another pencil where I feel the need to recommend extra erasers, but the only problem is that you can't get them individually. I've considered buying another pack of three pencils that I'll never use just for all of the extra erasers. For the price, you really can't beat it. Honestly, they should cost more than they do. I would recommend these pencils over all of my other 0.5mm pencils.
2D) The whole row of tubes to the right of the pencils are Pentel 0.5mm lead of varying grades. Again, these are your run-of-the-mill, nothing special leads, but I'd definitely recommend getting some if you go through lead like water. The two at the bottom with red and blue caps are still Pentel 0.5mm leads, but in red and blue, respectively. These run a little soft; there's no indication of what grade they are, but it feels like it's about a 2B. I got all of the tubes from Misterart.com: [link] for really great prices. Seriously, a tube will last you a long time, there's 12 leads per tube, and they're less than a dollar per tube.
3) These are all 0.7mm pencils and leads. Good for adding thicker lines or standard drawing. I'm not a big fan of 0.7mm, but didn't pay too much attention to the fact that they were 0.7mm before buying them - at the time, I just knew that 0.7 pencils needed 0.7 leads but not how they compare to 0.5s and 0.3s. Of all three, I greatly prefer 0.3mm pencils.
3A) That lovely rainbow is my set of 0.7mm Pilot Color Eno pencils and their refills. These are available on Jetpens.com: [link] but I got mine as a full set with the refills as well on eBay for less than $20. Buying the whole set off of Jetpens would get pretty expensive, especially if you wanted refills as well. These tubes of refills come 6 leads per tube - not a great deal, really. Also, on the Jetpens link you'll see that there are also Color Eno Neox leads. From what I can tell, they're simply more vibrant or something - I don't know. Either way, these leads do not erase well no matter what you throw at them (though I've found Faber-Castell erasers to work the best). While these pencils are adorable and will appeal to all color loves, I wouldn't really recommend them. They go on a little too light, to where you might have trouble seeing the lines without pressing hard at times (or maybe my eyes just suck). Plus they're only available in 0.7mm which is a little large for my tastes, personally. Others would love these pencils though, I'm sure.
3B) The two black pencils here were purchased as a set from eBay. They're Pilot Progrex and have plastic bodies, a metal lead sleeve, hold 0.7mm lead, and a rubber grip that's pretty comfortable. Not bad pencils, but I'm not sure if they're on any of the supply sites I keep mentioning. These pencils (and all 0.7mm pencils) are good for adding thicker outlines and standard drawing in general if you like slightly thicker lines.
3C) The two lead containers here are Pentel 0.7mm leads in 2B and 4H. Again, run-of-the-mill lead, purchased also from Misterart.com.
4A) Standard Bic 0.9mm HB mechanical pencil like you'll find in any given store in packs of 5 to 20 or more with an added rubber grip that's cute because it matches. I use this pencil to get really pretty, soft shading. I take the tip of the lead diagonally to sand paper and shave it down so that one side is flat, and then use that side to shade with. It gives really nice results.
4B) The gray pencil with black top and bottom is an Ohto Comfort Sharp Lead Holder for 2mm leads [link] It has a built in lead sharpener in the end that you press to advance the lead - a very nice feature as long as you do it over a trashcan, as there's nothing to catch the graphite shavings. 2mm leads are very thick leads that I like to use for shading and adding thick outlines. You can get lead holders like this at Misterart.com, too, and probably Dickblick as well.
4C) The tan tube next to the pencil is a tube of Kitaboshi 2mm lead refills in 2B - [link] There are only a few grades, and 2B is as soft as it gets for these, which is disappointing. But all in all it's lead, and it does its job. It doesn't tend to scratch or anything bad, which is good. These leads are more expensive than standard mechanical pencil refills, though.
4D) The light blue pencil with a pink eraser is a Prismacolor Col-Erase Non-Photoblue wooden pencil. When you draw with non-photoblue leads, the lines will not show up when scanned into the computer. This is great for many reasons, but it also kind of sucks because the lines don't show up very darkly on paper. If, for some reason, you need lines that won't show up in a scanner (say for an undersketch that you'll sketch over in graphite then load into Photoshop to color) then leads like this are perfect. Available here: [link]
4E) The next pencil in line is a Faber-Castell 9000 8B and 6B pencil. LOVE these pencils for shading, really dark, thick outlines, and all around drawing. There are a ton of grades to choose from, they're not TOO expensive, and they move really smoothly. I recommend picking up several if you're getting softer leads, though, because they wear down very quickly. Available here: [link]
4F) The black pencil with big white lettering is a General's Layout Extra Black pencil. I just don't like this pencil. It's scratchy and it's nowhere near as dark as it sounds like it will be. It's described as being capable of adding 'intense black' to shaded areas, but...no the hell it isn't. But at least it's really cheap: [link]
4G) Next in line is a Koh-I-Noor Progresso woodless graphite pencil in 8B. These kinds of pencils would be fantastic for people that need to shade gigantic areas, because every last centimeter of the pencil is graphite. The entire tip - all graphite. You can use the tip for thinner lines or the entire side for a really broad stroke. The outer shell protects your hands and the graphite, but once it's sharpened away, the graphite is exposed and can make a mess of your hands if you touch it. The pencils are heavier than you'd expect, but very, very comfortable to hold and draw/shade with. They're also pretty cheap, too: [link]
4H) This is just a standard No.2 pencil from Meijer that I use for lighter shading. Not very good quality, but it's a chain-store brand so what can you expect? Got a pack for like $.70.
4I) The black and silver short little thing next to the standard yellow pencil is a Koh-I-Noor pencil extender. Basically, this is used on short little nubby pencils that you can barely hold. It works well from what I've experienced; there's a metal sleeve over the area where you slide the pencil in that you push upward to tighten the extender around your pencil. Keep in mind that it may ocassionally come loose and need to be readjusted. While I can't necessarily recommend this exact extender because it's the only one I've ever used, I definitely recommend that people wanting to get the most out of their pencils pick one of these up. [link]
4J) These are simply a small pencil sharpener without a shavings-catcher and a few sheets of sandpaper. The sandpaper is great for making points on your pencils for shading or getting super thin lines. Every artist should have one of these. [link]
5A) Starting with the white package and light blue packages and the few tubes on the far left, these are all eraser refills for the various pencils I've already shown.
5B) The gray squares are Generals brand kneadable erasers. I don't particularly care for this kind of eraser unless you're erasing a massive area. Though you can knead them into whatever shape you want, they don't maintain their shape and they suck for getting into small areas. They're fairly cheap though. These were purchased at Michael's years ago.
5C) The ugly brown, broken thing is a Blick brand eraser that I can't find on their site anymore. Though it's just a simple little cheap eraser, it works REALLY well. I believe it's a gum eraser, but can't say for sure.
5D) The little white nub in front of the stack of gray-wrapped erasers is a Faber-Castell Dust-Free eraser. When you erase with these, the shavings roll into one long snake, minimizing tiny, annoying little particles that have to be blown out of your way. I love these erasers. They erase well, leave little mess, and they work the best on the Pilot Color Eno pencils mentioned above. They're also cheap and come two to a pack, so they're definitely worth giving a try: [link]
5E) This is, of course, a standard pink eraser. I hate these things as much as I hate the colorful, useless pencil topper erasers.
5F) The slim black rectangle is a Uniball boxy eraser. Haven't tried it yet, but I've heard great things about it. Seems like it would be on par with a Faber-Castell Dust Free eraser. The good thing about this eraser is that the corners, until they're worn down, are great for getting into tiny areas or erasing small lines. The only downside is that it's pretty slim and small for its price. [link]
5G) These are standard graphite blenders. Very, very cheap no matter where you get them, but especially cheap from Misterart.com, because you pay $.30-$.40 for not one, but a pack of the things. [link] Pictured is a size number 1 and 2.
5H) In the middle of the picture are 4 pencil-looking things with pink ends. These things are Faber-Castell Perfection Eraser pencils, and I whole heartedly recommend these for people that need to erase small details. They're sharpened like regular pencils (though you'll probably need to use sharp scissors to cut the eraser that's bared into a decent point) and they're really good at erasing, especially for such as small eraser. They're a little thicker than your average pencil lead, but it's no problem. [link]
5I) The blue and clear thing next to the pencils is my beloved Uni-ball E Knock Eraser. You just push in the end and out comes a little eraser. The two white packages on the far left are refills for this, and I love it very much. It's a pretty small eraser and it does its job very well. [link] Refills come three to a pack and the pencil itself comes with the single eraser inside of it. Do keep in mind that sometimes, if you erase too hard or at too much of an angle, the eraser can break.
5J) The odd, rectangular, metal thing is an erasing shield. I got it just to try it and found that it's not all that useful to someone like me, but it would be great for others, I'm sure. Just erase over the shapes, and viola~ They're insanely cheap, and thin, and flimsy. [link]
5K) The big, pretty brush above the erasing shield is a simple, $1 makeup brush from the dollar store that I purchased for the sole use of cleaning shavings off of paper. It does its job well without leaving any smudges, and I'd recommend that everyone gets one.
5L) Finally, this big, bulky thing is a Helix Auto-Eraser. It's kind of fat, and since I have small hands, a little hard for me to use without a bit of hand pain, but it works very well! It's also not nearly as loud as you'd think, which is a huge plus. It does leave a lot of shavings, but who cares? Batteries not included, but it does come with a pack of eraser refills - some for graphite, some for ink (though those don't work well at all). The erasers get used up quickly though, so I recommend buying some extra. One thing to keep in mind is that replacing erasers can be a gigantic pain in the ass. The slender metal sleeve jutting out of the thing can be very hard to remove - especially if you're scared you'll crush/ruin said sleeve. This can make changing erasers a huge, painful hassle. Sometimes you can get lucky and can replace erasers without having to remove the sleeve, though, so there's that. All in all I'd recommend it, or at least one like it. [link]
6A) First up are Alvin TechLiner pens, sizes 01, 02, 04, and 05, because the Pigma Micron in the center, an 02, is actually more like an 03, apparently. I don't care too much for the TechLiners. Initially I thought they were awesome, but as I used them more, I realized that you can't taper the ends of your lines at all - at least with the 01. This means you'll have dull, flat lines that don't do your work any justice at all. A key to lining is to vary the line widths, and these pens just make it a nuisance (or downright impossible) to do. They work fine in some areas, but if you want how hard you press to matter, which it should, these pens aren't worth it. I've barely used my 01 and already it's skipping or sometimes not putting down at all. They're not expensive, and they're fine for certain tasks, but not fine line art. Furthermore, using fast strokes is a thing of the past with this pen, because they look god awful no matter how good you are or how hard you press. Even worse, it jitters all over the damn place. Wouldn't recommend these pens, at least not the 01. [link]
6B) The two white pens pictured next are Pentel Sunburst gel pens that I got to correct ink mistakes. They don't work very well for that, however. They can do an okay job, but that's less than half of the time. [link]
6C) Here we go: the love of my life! I love, love, love, love, LOVE this pen so much. This is a Zebra Disposable Brush Pen (Fine) and it makes the most beautiful lineart I've ever produced. It is a little thick, especially for something labeled 'fine', but that's okay, because with this pen, the pressure you use actually matters. You can make beautiful, weighted, tapered lines with this pen and if I could buy a million of them, I would. It's also fantastic for filling in areas, too. Thankfully, it also comes in medium and super fine, both of which I ordered the other day and can't wait to test. [link]
6D) This is one of those things I buy just because I want to up my total to $25 for free shipping on Jetpens. xD It's a Kuretake Pocket Color Brush Pen in Light Gray. It works like a very soft marker that gives lovely, slightly transparent lines, allowing you to build up color and blend a little. I've never used a Copic marker in my life, but if they're anything like this, I wish I could get the entire set. My only complaint with this line of pens is that there isn't a full range of colors, because I would definitely buy them. This pen is great for shading inked pictures, but it's not a necessity by any means. [link]
7) Annnd last but not least, my Discovery Sketching Pad sketchbook! Yes, it's cheap. Yes, it's ugly. But it's 8 1/2" x 11", 60lb paper with a nice, smooth surface that doesn't get ragged when you erase too much and it's laughably affordable. Sure I wish it was pretty, but I love the top spiral, I love that there are 100 sheets, and I love drawing in it. While it may not be fancy, it offers a freakin' fantastic deal for someone that wants a sketchbook that doesn't cost $20, or even $10. I've used all of my inking pens on this paper and have never had a bleed through, too. With my almighty zebra pen, I really thought I would, but I was pleasantly surprised. Get it cheap (and currently on sale) here: [link]
And that's it! I've proven that I am a giant art supply nerd and hopefully someone learned something along the way. As a final note, of everything listed here, I most recommend the AirBlanc pencils, Pentel Ain Stein Enchanced Silica Leads, both Faber-Castell erasers, Sunstar E Knock eraser, Helix Auto Eraser, Zebra Disposable Brush Pen, and Discovery sketching pad for the learner looking to start out fairly cheaply.
This is wonderful! Since you and I both enjoy .3 mechanical pencils, could tell me if the price has anything to do with quality of the pencil I've gone through 4 in 4 months. I'm looking for a better one.
I haven't noticed price affecting quality at all. In fact, the cheaper pencils, the Pilot Airblancs, are the only ones I use now and they work extremely well despite being the cheaper of the two brands of .3 pencils I have.
But I can definitely tell quality differences in .5mm pencils. Lots of companies jumped on that bandwagon so there's a ton of crappy pencils out there for those, but .3mms seem rare enough that only the better companies are making them.
The only thing is that I've never used an expensive mechanical pencil of any kind, so I don't know if the pricier ones are better or not.
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`anmari has been spreading her infectious positivity throughout our community for over 6 years. Throughout this time Ana has been at the core of all things devious, passionately developing an eclectic gallery, helping organise devmeets, participating in chat events and also recently completed dedicating her time as a Community Volunteer. We are absolutely delighted to bestow the Deviousness Award for May 2013 to `anmari, congratulations! Read More