I have been wanting to try the Palomino Blackwing 602 Pencil for a long time. I’ve heard so many people talk about how they are great pencils to use for art. Obviously, as a person who does art, I wanted to see what made them so special.
There was only one problem. I’ve said in the past I am not particularly fussy when it comes to writing tools. It if works I’ll use it. There is one exception to this, I hate using regular pencils. I hate that you have to sharpen them, I hate that the lead wears down, and in many cases breaks meaning you have to sharpen them again. I would rather not have to go through all that hassle. So, for the most part, I use mechanical pencils where possible.
There is also the fact that the Palomino Blackwing pencils are very expensive. Costing around £30 for a box of 12. If you’re in the UK this can go up to £60 depending on stock levels. Despite all this, I decided I would try the Blackwing pencils. To see if they are as good as the rumours I’ve heard. And try to figure out if they are worth that £30 price tag.
About The Blackwing 602 Pencil
The original Blackwing pencils date back to the 30s. These pencils were manufactured by the Eberhart Faber Pencil Company. They were the favoured pencil of artists and writers of the time. The Blackwing pencil was used regularly by animators working on the early Disney movies. There is even an exhibition of Walt Disney’s desk in the One Man’s Dream gallery which features Blackwing pencils. Today they are still a favoured tool of many artists.
The original Blackwing pencils were discontinued in the 90s. According to Wikipedia, this was caused by a breakdown of the machine which made the metal clip that sits inside the ferrule. Vintage Blackwing pencils can still be found on eBay. A single pencil can be found for $40 and some rarer pencils go up to $100. Fortunately, the modern version of the Blackwing 602 can be bought at a slightly more reasonable price.
In 2010 a Californian based pencil manufacturer bought the Blackwing trademark and began making the pencils again under its Palomino division. In all respects, these new pencils are exactly the same as the ones which have been manufactured since the 30s.
There are a number of different types of Palomino Blackwing pencil. But for the purposes of this review, I will be talking about the original Blackwing 602 pencil. These pencils have a hexagonal body with a graphite core encased in Cedarwood.
The pencils feel really nice to hold, which is an important factor for a pencil. The Blackwing has a gold ferrule on the end of the pencil, containing a small eraser. This ferrule makes the pencil significantly longer than a standard pencil. Combined with the weight of the ferrule the Blackwing pencil may feel slightly off-balance compared to a regular pencil when you start using it.
This may sound like a small detail but was something I certainly noticed when I first started using my Blackwing 602. Fortunately, this was something I got used to fairly quickly.
The length of the pencil is more of an annoyance. I said that the ferrule adds a bit onto the length. But I think the body of the pencil is also slightly longer than a regular pencil. This caused some problems when I wanted to carry the Blackwing pencil around with me because it doesn’t fit into my pencil case.
Now admittedly this became less of a problem as I used the pencil. But it was worrying that I had to leave the Blackwing pencil in my rucksack with no other protection. It’s not something I would bother about normally. And it absolutely wasn’t the only writing tool in my rucksack. But while I don’t care that I have a mechanical pencil in some random pocket of my bag. I absolutely cared about the Blackwing because of its price.
Basically what I’m trying to say is that it was very inconvenient that this pencil did not fit in my pencil case. And I refuse to go out and buy an entire new pencil case just so one specific pencil will fit in it.
I’ve hated using pencils for almost as long as I’ve had to use pencils. I started using mechanical pencils in school as soon as I learned that they were a thing. I loathed using pencils with an eraser on the end, I didn’t see the point of having an eraser on the end of my pencil when it would run out so quickly.
I’m very happy to say that the Blackwing pencil fixes all the problems I’ve ever had with erasers on pencils. The eraser is held in the metal ferrule, in this is another clip which holds the eraser. Its really easy to pull this clip, and therefore the eraser out of the ferrule. This way you can get the full use of the eraser and replace them when used up.
I love that this is such a simple solution to something I’ve hated for so long. The metal ferrule also adds to the whole aesthetic of the pencil. I’m not sure if you’d say it makes the pencil look expensive, but it is a nicely designed pencil.
The Blackwing Pencils come in a number of different graphite hardnesses. The original Blackwing 602 pencil has the hardest graphite out of the three in the Palomino range. According to the Blackwing website, this has been designed to maximise point retention while sacrificing as little darkness as possible.
The Blackwing 602 Pencil is comparable to a 2B lead. If that means anything to you. Honestly, I’ve been at art school for 2 years now and I still don’t understand the difference between 2B and HB.
There are another few pencils in the Palomino range which have softer leads if that is something you prefer for drawing. The Blackwing Pearl is slightly softer than the Blackwing 602. The regular Palomino Blackwing is the softest in the range, equivalent to a 4B pencil.
If you’re buying these pencils for artistic purposed then the hardness of the graphite will be really important. If might be an idea to do some research and figure out which pencil will work best for you.
MORE LIKE THIS: My Favourite Pens For Bullet Journaling
The Blackwing 602 pencil I bought has very hard graphite which makes it ideal for writing. I also used this for creating art, but because of the type of illustrations I was doing, a hard lead was useful.
One of the things I love about these pencils is the lead. I may have mentioned this before but I hate having to constantly sharpen pencils. With the Blackwing 602 pencil, I was able to sharpen it to a fine point and it would keep that fine point for a long time before starting to dull.
It’s hard to give specifics of how long it lasted. But when it comes to pencils keeping a sharp point this was much better compared to Staedtler pencils and other coloured pencils that I have used.
There was the other added advantage that I didn’t have to worry about the graphite in the pencil breaking. With some pencils, you have to take care to not drop them because the graphite will break while in the core of the pencil. The pressure from the sharpener can also cause some pencil leads to break.
I’m happy to say that I didn’t have any issues like this with the Blackwing 602. It can get really frustrating if you’re trying to sharpen a pencil and the lead breaks constantly.
Cost Of The Palomino Blackwing
Probably one of the main downsides to the Palomino Blackwing pencils is the price. The Blackwing pencils seem to be slightly cheaper if you live in the US. At $28.29 for a box of 12. They are much harder to come by in the UK. On Amazon, they can be anywhere from £45-60 depending on the seller.
If you do live in the UK and want to try the Blackwing pencils I would recommend you check out The Journal Shop or London Graphics. Both sell the 12 pencil set for around £30.
I think part of the reason the pencils seem so expensive is that they can only be bought in sets of 12. When you break it down it works out at £2.50 per pencil. Now, this is still very expensive for a single pencil.
But when you look at other artist tools they work out to be around the same price. You can expect to pay £1.90 for an individual Derwent Procolour pencil. The Supracolour pencils from Caran d’Ache also work out at around £1.90 per pencil.
MORE LIKE THIS: A Guide To Bullet Journal Supplies For Beginners
Now obviously this isn’t an exact comparison. Blackwing pencils are still very expensive. Especially when you compare them to other writing pencils.
Another high end writing pencil is the Tombow Mono. This works out as a much more affordable alternative to the Blackwing if you live in the UK at £15 for a box of 12. Still not what you would call cheap but much better than £30.
Even this is still very expensive when you compare it to something like a set of Staedtler pencils at £4. Or the Muji Mechanical pencil which costs £1.50 and another £2.50 for lead refills.
As much as I love using the Blackwing pencil I’m still finding it hard to justify that extra cost. Especially when there are similar alternatives at a much more affordable price range.
My Thoughts On The Palomino Blackwing
I haven’t tried out every pencil in the Blackwing range, so I can’t say for certain if they are all good. But I do genuinely like using this pencil. Which is a big thing considering I do everything I can to avoid using regular pencils. I’m not even joking. The last time I bought a bog-standard pencil was when I started college over 5 years ago.
As nice as it is. I’m still not sure the Blackwing 602 pencil is worth the price. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it is priced so high because of brand recognition. And the fact this is a product which goes all the way back to the 30s. Yeah, its a nice pencil and it’s comfortable to hold. But £30 is a lot of money for a set of pencils.
MORE LIKE THIS: Blackwing Palomino Long Point Sharpener
I think its really one of these cases where you have to consider how much you will use the pencil. If a set of 12 pencils are going to last you three years then yes paying a bit more money might be worthwhile. But if you go through a pencil in a month, maybe you want to get something cheaper.
I used the Blackwing pencil for my fine art module at university and loved it. I used a Kartotek drawing pad and it was lovely to draw on using the Blackwing pencil. The pencil also seemed to last quite a long time considering how much I used it while working on that module. I probably only used about a quarter of one pencil.
They will last me a good long time and I don’t see myself having to buy more pencils any time soon. So really it’s up to how you will use the Palomino pencils and how long you think they might last. Yes its interesting that these pencils have been the favourite of many artists and writers. But I wouldn’t recommend buying a pencil just because some famous person used one.
That was my review of the Blackwing 602 pencil. I think this pencil may have actually converted me to pencil fan. I’ve hated using regular pencils for so long now that I’m genuinely surprised I found one I like.
Of course, the only downside of these pencils is the high price tag. If you’re in the US this isn’t something you have to worry about quite as much. If you’re in the UK I would highly recommend shopping around so you get the best price. Definitely don’t go paying £60 for a set of pencils because that’s going too far.