How to Pick Your Tombow Pencil for the Lettering Trends!



Have you ever wondered how to pick the best pencil when you are doing a lettering project? There are so many kinds of pencils out there and it’s not always clear which is the best to use in specific situations.




The Tombow Mono Drawing Pencil Set is a must-have for any lettering artist! I often get asked by other letterers which kind of Tombow Mono Drawing Pencil that I use… and it’s not always easy to answer because I use ALL of them, but I use different degrees of pencils for different tasks and projects.


When you open up a Tombow Mono Drawing Pencil Set, you will find 12 different Tombow Mono Drawing Pencils, including 6B, 5B, 4B, 3B, 2B, B, F, HB, H, 2H, 3H, and 4H. The pencils come unsharpened with a metallic sharpener and the Tombow Mono Light Touch Plastic Eraser. Make sure to open up the inside of the packaging to reveal a synopsis of the kinds of pencils in the pack and techniques for using them artistically.





The best way to know what pencil to pick for a certain lettering project is to really KNOW your pencils and the different degrees of hardness that cause each pencil to produce a different shade and effect and Tombow Pencils don’t smudge! Each Tombow Pencil is labeled with a specific level of hardness, pencils are made of graphite and super easy to sharpen because the lead doesn’t break… all cores are glued end-to-end. The degree range of the Tombow Mono Drawing Pencils in the set are 6B, the softest lead that produces the thickest and darkest lines, through 4H, the hardest lead that creates thin and light lines that are easy to erase. The soft B Leads of the 6B, 5B, 4B, 3B, 2B, H, and HB offer deep blacks. The F pencil creates dark lines that are long lasting but able to create intricate details. The H pencils are harder and are more precise while creating lighter lines.


The best way to get to know each pencil is to write a sample of each pencil in order of hardness so it’s easy to decide which pencil you want to grab for a specific lettering task.





When starting lettering or calligraphy, I always recommend starting with a pencil. All of the pencils in this set are FABULOUS for lettering practice, but different degrees of hardness are better for specific types of practice.


WHEN LEARNING LETTER FORMS: Grab any of the MONO Drawing Pencils in the H degree range (HB-4H) or the F pencil. These pencils have harder graphite tips that will be perfect for forming precise shapes. Any type of lettering or calligraphy requires a certain amount of preciseness and consistency in strokes. When trying a new style or trying to perfect a specific letter form, the harder tips are great for focusing on the shape and consistency of the letters you create.


WHEN PRACTICING APPLYING PRESSURE TO CREATE CALLIGRAPHY: Using the MONO Drawing Pencils in the B degree range (6B-B) is the best. When using a brush pen is difficult or you don’t want to waste ink, picking up any of the B pencils is great to practice applying pressure for thick downstrokes and removing pressure for thin upstrokes. The lead in these pencils is soft enough to produce dark lines with thick downstrokes and thin upstrokes without their tips breaking. These pencils are also great when using practice sheets (click here for Tombow Practice worksheets) made for smaller brush pens, like the Tombow Fudenosuke Hard and Soft Tip Brush Pens.


Tombow Mono Drawing Pencils are also fabulous for practicing, because they are so precise and easy to locate mistakes and areas for growth and focus. It is easy to pick up on inconsistencies when using a pencil and it’s also easy to remove and correct when you have the Tombow Mono Light Touch Plastic Eraser handy. Erase your mistakes and try again…





Sometimes as a letterer we want to go straight to brush pen and final paper when creating a final piece, but sketching is so important. When you sketch out your ideas it not only saves paper and time before putting ink to paper, but it also helps you pay close attention to the composition of your piece and allows you to make changes to your first idea before making it final. Both H and B drawing pencils are great for sketching.


INITIAL SKETCHES AND NEW IDEAS are perfect creations for the H degree range pencils (H-H4). I often pick up the 4H for a new sketch because it produces lighter and precise lines that I find easy to erase with the Tombow Mono Light Touch Plastic Eraser.


FINAL SKETCHES that are ready to go on a light table to create a final piece are usually created with my B range pencils (B6-B). When I am happy with a design idea and ready to take it to the next level, I love to go over my initial sketch with an 5B or 6B pencil to create dark lines. I continue using the 5B or 6B Tombow Mono Drawing Pencils to create faux calligraphy, drawing in thicker down strokes to get the effect of the brush pen or lettering tool that I will choose to make the final project. These lines are very dark, do not smear, and show up perfectly under mix media paper on a light table.





As a calligrapher, one of my very favorite projects is addressing envelopes for parties, events, or special notes. Sometimes, picking up a pen without sketching out an address can be a bit unsuccessful and often leads to wasting envelopes and time. Sketching out the outline of an envelope is a great way to make sure that each name and address will fit and look amazing. I often choose to sketch addresses with the 4H pencil, because the light lines are easy to remove with the Tombow Mono Light Touch Plastic Eraser, which is also perfect for envelopes of all kinds, because it’s light touch is very gentle for all kinds of paper.


After I create an address that I am happy with, I then write over the pencil with the Tombow Fudenosuke Hard Tip or Soft Tip Brush Pen. The light pencil lines of the 4H Tombow MONO Drawing Pencil hide behind the dark ink of the brush pens.


After the address is complete, erasing all the pencil lines that stick out from the inked address is super easy with the Tombow Mono Light Touch Plastic Eraser, which creates a clean and perfectly imperfect look to any envelope.





Also, don’t be afraid to try out the different kinds of pencils for yourself. The more you practice lettering with them, the more familiar you will become on your pencil picking preferences. However, NEVER FEAR, because if you have a PROJECT IDEA, there is DEFINITELY a PENCIL to go with it!


-Steven Glass

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