Monday, March 19, 2018

Woodless Pencil Test


I decide to try out a woodless water-soluble pencil. A woodless pencil means the whole pencil is made out of the lead, rather than surrounding the thin lead with a casing of wood.

Matthew Schreiber, Bulgarian Accordion. Listen to one of his tunes on YouTube
The pencil I'm using is called a Cretacolor Aqua Monolith. You can buy them individually for about $2.00-$3.00 each. I'm just using the ivory black one here, but it comes in a set of 12 colors, which retails for about $24.00-$30.00.

I'm using a water brush to blend the pencil, and I'm drawing in a Pentalic watercolor journal. The watercolor paper is robust enough to handle some scrubbing.

Some thoughts: 
1. A woodless pencil sharpens like a regular pencil, but you have to waste the pigment on the whole tool to get the sharp point. 
2. The Cretacolor Aqua Monolith is round in cross section, so it would tend to roll off a table. If it accidentally falls to the ground or slips out of your hand, it's likely to break.
3. The pencil is coated in a shiny lacquer varnish, so that it won't activate with water on the part of the pencil that you're holding. 
4. The lead is quite hard, and the pencil is heavy. It feels different from water-soluble crayons or pastels, such as the Caran d'Ache Neocolor, which feel lighter in weight, waxier, and softer.
5. The darkness of the black is somewhere between the graphite gray of a Derwent Graphitint pencil and the velvety black of a Derwent Inktense.
6. It delivers a responsive line and blends well with water, but I don't see much advantage to having the whole pencil made out of the lead unless you want to use it on its side to make large areas of tone. 

With any sketching tools, my recommendation is to buy just one sample of a given product line and try it out and see if you like it before buying a whole set. 

10 comments:

Melinda said...

Well one advantage is probably that trees aren’t being cut down to make them.

rotm81 said...

You're correct... they break very easily. Even during normal use.

Pierre Fontaine said...

I haven't used these but have some thoughts regarding their use. Perhaps if they weren't sharpened to a point but rather whittled into a round nub would allow more possibilities. First, there'd be no tip to snap off or break if dropped. Second, a round nub would provide more surface area to lay down color.

Ultimately, I agree that sharpening a woodless watercolor pencil seems foolish because you are removing a lot of pigment just to achieve a fine point.

GJ said...

You can sand one of these down to give a pleasant broad elliptical end. gj

Rhonda Bender said...

I haven't used these, but have used woodless watersoluble graphite pencils. One advantage of the woodless is that you can apply the brush directly to the pencil lead to grab colour from a larger area, and without fear of water swelling and potentially damaging the wood casing. This is also a nice advantage of the Neocolor II crayons that you mentioned.

Joann Loos said...

Are you into Balkan music? I used to play in a Bitov band.

Warren JB said...

Looks like the perfect storm of tiny design flaws. Accelerated repurchasing, anyone?

I know I'm teaching grandmother to suck eggs here, but I'm thinking along the lines of Pierre and GJ: sharpened to a bullet point, like a Proko charcoal pencil, so that laying tones helps maintain at least a slight point, without too much carving-away?

Talking of Derwent: their soluble graphitone sticks are wrapped in paper for the same purpose as the Cretacolor lacquer, but with cuts at intervals to peel it off, in the way of paper-cased charcoal pencils. Only thing, no colours, just graphite.

And as ever, lovely sketch. Any shortcomings of the medium didn't hold you back much.

taimdala said...

I found your blog by accident, but I'm in hog heaven reading through all the posts. Thank you do much for this blog. I'm learning TONS!

If I were to buy these, I would save the shavings separted by color. I could sprinkle them onto wet paper for random effects as they "melt" or spread the disolving colors out with a brush.

In other words, the shavings are wasted only if you throw them away. ;)

taimdala said...

I found your blog by accident, but I'm in hog heaven reading through all the posts. Thank you do much for this blog. I'm learning TONS!

If I were to buy these, I would save the shavings separted by color. I could sprinkle them onto wet paper for random effects as they "melt" or spread the disolving colors out with a brush.

In other words, the shavings are wasted only if you throw them away. ;)

James Gurney said...

Taimdala, thanks for checking out the site and commenting. What a good idea to save the shavings and drop them into a wet area of the picture. I'll have to try that.