Blackwing pencils have had something of a cult following ever since Eberhard Faber produced the original Blackwing 602 pencil in the 1930’s. Animators, cartoonists and writers swore by this pencil, said to write with “Half the Pressure, Twice the Speed.” When it was discontinued in 1998, disconsolate fans took to eBay to buy up all the Blackwings they could find, until 2010, when the Blackwing brand was revived by the Palomino pencil company. In addition to recreating the famous Blackwing 602, they created pencils with a range of harder and softer leads, suitable for artists, writers, musicians, and pencil fans of all stripes.
In this guide, we explain some of the reasons that Blackwing pencils are so beloved, the differences between their four classic pencil types, and the story of their limited edition pencils.
Blackwing pencils are prized for their high-quality graphite that rarely breaks, incense-cedar wood that sharpens easily, and distinctive flat ferrule and rectangular eraser. The erasers are one of the most beloved aspects of these pencils, for two reasons: first, they’re replaceable and extendable, so unlike the erasers on typical wooden pencils, they won’t wear down long before the lead. Second, they’re rectangular, so they have small corners that are useful for erasing little details. The replacement erasers also come in different colors, so you can have fun customizing your pencils!
Blackwings are longer than a typical pencil, making them particularly comfortable for drawing with, and they come in four different grades of lead (more on this below). The high-quality Japanese graphite they use tends to be darker and smoother than other graphite, so their pencils are bold and never scratchy.
As if those weren’t enough reasons to love Blackwing pencils, they donate a portion of all their sales to help fund arts education. In addition to their classic pencils, they create notebooks, pencil cases and sharpeners to complement their writing tools.
The 4 classic Blackwings
Blackwing produces four classic pencils with different lead grades:
- The softest is the Blackwing Matte, which is comparable to a 4B pencil. The Matte pencil writes with a smooth, dark line that’s great for shading and drawing.
- Next is the Pearl, which has a balanced lead: still dark and soft, but with a harder point that stays sharp longer. The Pearl is similar to a 3B or 2B pencil.
- After the Pearl comes the Blackwing 602, the original Blackwing pencil. Ideal for writing, the 602 has a firm lead that’s a little smoother and darker than that of a typical writing pencil. It’s a versatile pencil whose lead is similar to a B or HB.
- The hardest Blackwing pencil is the Natural, with extra-firm lead. This is a great pencil for writing and for drawing fine lines, and is closest to an HB or H pencil.
Blackwing Limited Editions
Perhaps most sought-after of all are Blackwing's limited edition pencils. Four times a year they create a special new pencil in limited quantities as part of their Volumes program. Each volume celebrates the story of a person, place, or event that inspires a creative lifestyle. Their colorful designs have honored cultural icons including artists, writers, and musicians; places and technologies that have impacted the arts; and important creative and political movements. Blackwing fans love to collect these limited editions, which are always carefully and cleverly designed. Lately, Blackwing has also introduced the Eras series, a special edition series of pencils that pays homage to historical Blackwing models.
Check out our Blackwing collection to see the latest editions!