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Having already taken a look at the world of mechanical pencils for drawing, we thought it was time to introduce you to the world of colored mechanical pencil leads. This is a fun little addition to the mechanical pencil, or lead holder. Bringing all the benefits of moving away from a conventional pencil as well as a pop of color.
What Are Colored Mechanical Pencil Leads?
Pencil leads are the core of the pencil. Made with various ingredients such as clay, binders and graphite most leads are that normal pencil grey color. When it comes to colored mechanical pencil leads the graphite is swapped out for some colored pigment. This gives us a lead that will lay done a colored line in the same way as a colour pencil.
All that to say we can use these leads in mechanical pencils or lead holders to turn them into a no fuss colored pencil.
What are Colored Mechanical Pencil Leads used for?
The introduction of color opens up the use of mechanical pencils to a range of different areas that were not accessible before. You can obviously use these pencils (and therefore these leads) anywhere where you might need a colored pencil, but there are also some cool specific use cases of colored pencil leads that you might not be aware of.
Sketching – Sketching, but this time in colour. Many artists have already adopted the mechanical pencil for the sketching activities. The addition of a colored lead opens up the opportunity to add a dash of colors to these works of art. All the benefits of the mechanical pencils carry over. From the consistent weight and feel in the hand, the not ever having to sharpen.
Illustrations – in this case we are specifically talking about some animation and comic illustration. Both disciplines tend to use colored leads to render their story boards and first drafts. Particularly, red and blue leads. This is because these colors are dark enough to be seen, while being light enough to be used as an outline when drawings are finalised in ink.
Any Regular Joe – you can really use colored mechanical pencil leads anywhere where you might find colored pencils. Be it for teachers marking class work or professionals brainstorming ideas. These leads allow you to render in color without the need to carry around coloring pencils.
What to Consider When Looking for Colored Pencil Leads
Colored lead refills are quite a niche product so it can be hard to find good advice on what to look out for. Here are the key points:
Unfortunately, the choice is somewhat limited when looking at colored mechanical pencil leads. For most brands you will be limited to blue and red. These are the favourites of animators and comic artists and are therefore quite easy to get your hands on. You can also find some other colors such as; orange, yellow, green, pink and violet. Though these are less common.
Leads are available in a range of different diameters, and these need to match the “pencil” you have.
Mechanical pencils – (0.5 mm or 0.7mm) These are most common lead sizes used in mechanical pencils. This kind of lead works great for writing as well as finer details in drawings and sketches.
Lead holder – (2mm or 5.6mm) Lead holders take a chunkier lead. These leads are better suited to drawing or sketching. This size of lead will also need to be sharpened in the same way as a normal pencil would.
The erasability of material put down by these colored leads can be variable. When it comes to graphite it is often quite easy but this is not the case when colored pigment is involved. There are colored pencils specifically designed to be erasable, but that is not the case in the mechanical pencils world. Depending on the binders and pigments used in the creation of your leads their erasability will differ. There are some of course some colored mechanical pencil leads that are very erasable but this is not the case for all. Your mileage may vary.
Lastly comes solubility. This is essentially how much liquid (water, alcohol etc.) affects the color left on the page. Highly soluble colored mechanical pencil leads will dissolve and be malleable on the page when exposed to these liquids. Their insoluble counterparts will be unaffected.
Colored Mechanical Pencil Lead Recommendations
Here are some options that fit the bill for those looking for colored mechanical pencil leads.
Manuscript Callicreative Lettering Pencil Refill Leads
First up is the Manuscript Callicreative Lettering Pencil Refill Leads these are actually the most varied leads in terms of colors, hence their being up first. Available in both flat and round variants these leads are available in turquoise, red, orange and lime green. The leads also pair really well with this handsome little lead holder from Manuscript.
Up next we have the Cretacolor leads. Coming in the standard 5.6 mm form, these leads are available in an interesting group of colors. With leads in Sanguine, sepia light and dark, as well as charcoal and graphite. We particularly like the sanguine as a nice alternative to the more common red lead. Not hugely colorful but definitely enough to spice things a little.
Pentel Hi-Polymer Colored Lead
As you might expect from Pentel their offering is both excellent and somewhat of a staple. Their hi-polymer leads come in the two most used colors for colored lead, red and blue. Coming in at 0.5 mm these leads will happily fit in most mechanical pencils, working great for sketching or whatever other work you ask of them
Mechanical Pencils and Lead Holder Recommendations
We did a rundown of the best mechanical pencils for drawing. So for the full in detail look head over to that article. Here we will run through the highlights. We should mention that mechanical pencils are a little different, so we have pick for both.
Mechanical Pencil – Pentel Graph Gear 500 Pencil
We think that the Pentel Graph Gear 500 is a great choice for anyone looking for a mechanical pencil. This is a great looking pencil, with it’s plastic barrel (available in several different colors) and its sturdy knurled metal grip. The metal tip gives the pencil a nice weighty feel in the hand.
The pencil comes with a solid clip, a top click mechanism and a fixed eraser and tip. This tip is not retractable so care should be taken so as not to cause damage. Refills are readily available for both the eraser and the leads. The Pentel Graph Gear 500 is available in 0.3, 0.5 and 0.7mm variants (we’d go with 0.5mm) so you should have no problem finding colored leads for your mechanical pencil.
Lead Holder – Cretacolor Ecologic Wooden Lead Holder
Lead holders are a little different to mechanical pencils, mostly in that they take much thicker leads. The most common lead diameter for a lead holder is 5.6mm and that is exactly the thickness of lead used by the Cretacolor Ecologic Wooden Lead Holder. This cool little lead holder is great. With a pleasant wooden finish making it a joy, both to hold and to look at.
Delivered with a 2B graphite stick included this lead holder would go great in combination with the Cretacolor color leads for those looking to add colored leads to this lead holder. Furthermore, the Cretacolor Wooden Lead Holder is comfortable in the hand and with a study metal “clutch” (the bit that holds the lead) the holder gives you great control as well.
Colored mechanical pencil leads may seem like somewhat of a niche product to start but there are a huge amount of professionals that rely on them. They can also be a great asset to the layperson, turning any mechanical pencil or lead holder into a fantastic coloring tool.