Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mon Crayon Est Grand!

Today’s post is for the art “gearheads”.  I want to give you one of my art secrets.  The more advanced artist will find this post academic, but I think many of you will find this information to be a real game changer.
     You already know that I place drawing at the top of my priority list for any serious artist.  So it’s only natural that you need the best tools to accomplish this skill.  I want to introduce you to the lead holder.  

     At first glance, it appears to be a mechanical pencil of sorts, but there are no mechanisms involved; it’s either “open” or “closed”, having a release that advances the lead.  This means if you hold the button down, the entire 5 inches of 2 mm lead will fall to the floor …. And bust into at least 12 pieces.  I’m speaking from experience here!
     The leads come in a box of one dozen, and in a designated hardness of H, HB, B, etc.  The lead is held firmly in the holder, and with a pencil pointer, can be sharpened to a seriously sharp point.

     The obvious question here, is why is this pencil pointer so wonderful?  Here’s a short list of answers:

1.   With one pencil holder and 3 different leads, I have choices.
2.   Different papers prefer different lead hardness.  If I am using Arches, I use an H lead.  If I’m drawing on Twin Rocker, I use HB lead.
3.   I can maintain a super point throughout the entire drawing.
4.   If I want to shade, it will do that, too.
5.   I sharpen only the very tip.  This aspect makes the pencil very economical.
6.   They have a “cool factor” – just my opinion, of course.

     The sharpener for a lead holder is called a pointer.  (Buy them 3 at a time).  They put a remarkable point on your lead, and once you use this tool, you will never go back.
     This pencil is versatile.  If you’re an oil painter, you can buy plastic leads made for using on Mylar to lay your painting out.  The plastic won’t climb up through your thinner paint layers like graphite will.   Also, these pencils aren’t just for artists.  To anyone who demands a great pencil…. Welcome Aboard!

     So, what are my favorite brands?  They all serve the same basic purpose, but my favorite has been the Tacro No. 4438, made in Italy.  I also use the KOH-1-NOOR 5611C, to good effect.  Most big art supply houses, such as Dick Blick or Texas Art Supply or Jerry’s Artarama, carry them.  You might also check stores in your town that carry drafting supplies.  I recommend that you buy all the leads applicable to your drawing style and then let me know what you think.
     Keep your pencil sharp!

All content and images © Mark Kohler Studio.


  1. I used to use these back when I was in advertising and LOVED them. For some reason I just never brought them with me to fine art. Can't wait to revisit these old friends.

  2. Good tool, I've been using them for years. Prefer them to standard pencils for my beginning layout drawings.


  3. Glad to see that you both were familiar with this tool. You're ahead of the pack!

  4. Yeh, I bought a few of these when I first started drawing 18 months ago, and really like them. I need to find some way to label them so I can remember which holder has which lead.

  5. It can definitely be confusing and frustrating, but well worth the tool!