Great line, not so great feel for a pencil

I watch too many how to draw YouTube videos. One video features a guy from England and he uses Derwent brand pencils. So the other day I was in the arts and crafts store and they sold Derwent brand pencils. I picked up a couple, 2B, 4B and a 6B. They make a OK to good line but the pencil just doesn’t feel right. The paint on the pencil is thin and you can feel the lumps bumps and grain of the wood under the paint and you can see and feel any manufacturing defects in the wood. After so many years of using a yellow number 2 Dixon Ticonderoga with its heavy slick coat of paint the Derwent feels rough. The Derwent also feel lighter than pencils I’m use to. Derwents do sharpen well. I’m back to using the 25 year old Skilcraft 0.7 mechanical pencil.

Worlds greatest pencil

At the San Diego comic fest (not comic con) a couple of years ago I met an artist and he raved about the Blackwing pencil. The pencil has a big square eraser on top that can be replaced. He felt that the pencil drew smoother and made a better line for drawings. Researching it I found they are the Palomino Blackwing pencils. They sell for $22.95 a box. You want the ones with the white eraser not the Blackwing 602 or the pearls, both of which have a harder lead (graphite). On the other hand Mark Crilley (he does drawing videos on YouTube) uses a plain old Dixon Ticonderoga number two pencil. They sell for $15.02 for a block of 96 pencils.

Don’t use a pencil that has been sharpened down so much that it cramps your hand to draw with it. Get a pencil extender or a new pencil. With a Blackwing you have to saw the eraser off to use a pencil extender, not a big deal.

Me, I use ordinary mechanical pencils. Either 0.7 or 0.5 mm leads.

What is the worlds best pencil? What ever is in your hand and your drawing with it. Whether you found the pencil on the ground or paid big dollars for it, if you’re using it then it’s the best. It took me to long to figure that out.


Write on, draw on. Professor Voltage.

Hot and Sweaty Wacom drawing tablet

It’s been so cold for so long you can forget what it’s like to work up a sweat and have your hand stick to your tablet. Many digital artist use a two finger glove that covers the bottom of the hand (where it rest on the tablet) and the bottom two fingers on their drawing hand. See Jazza ( on Youtube. He’s left handed and in the insert window you can see him wearing a two finger glove when he holds up his left hand.      I think it looks dorky. I use a plain piece of copy paper and place it over the Wacom drawing pad. The pen/stylist works like the paper is not there. The paper gives the stylist (drawing pen) the feel of drawing on paper in place of the slick plastic surface. Replace the paper often to keep it clean and the paper will reduce the wear on the drawing pad surface. The paper will most likely wear the tip (nib) of the drawing stylist out a little faster but the nibs last for years and can be replaced. Wacom drawing pads comes with extra nibs.    Draw on.

Drawing on the screen the same size as on paper

Needed to have the image on the screen the same size as the image on the paper (so I could hold the paper up to the screen and compare the two images). Zoom settings are arbitrary, zoom to 100% does not mean one to one.

In Manga Studio 5 here’s what I did.

Open an 11 by 17 page. Turn on grid (click view in tool bar at top of page, then click grid in drop down menu to put check mark next to it). Count number of horizontal, light blue, grid lines as you go down the page vertically. Divide number of grid lines by 17 to get lines per inch. Count the number of vertical grid lines across the page. Divide that number of lines by the size of the page in inches (11). You will get a different number of lines per inch, blame the programmers. I got 4.9 lines per inch (most likely grid lines are in metric spacing) vertically for my small monitor. Zoom out while holding a ruler to the screen, when you get 4.9 (OK 5) light blue grid lines per one inch note the zoom factor. Use that zoom to check how an image will look in real size (when printed on 11 by 17 inch paper). Zoom to 30% gets the screen image close to 11 by 17 paper size on my monitor.

The numbers will be different for different monitors/screens.

e-mail me from the contact page if you have questions or would like to talk about how to use Manga Studio 5.

Write on, draw on.  Professor Hyram Voltage