Lead Sizes for Mechanical Pencils (2024)

Since their beginnings in the early 19th century, the mechanical pencil (sometimes called a propelling pencil) has come a long way. With advancements in technology allowing for stronger, more robust ‘leads’ and continual improvements to the internal gripping mechanism, mechanical pencils have become the handy go to for all occasions; enabling both technical precision, and artistic flair.

Mechanical pencils have diversified over the years to hold a range of different lead sizes. The lead size will affect what your pencil will be best for.

We have outlined the 10 most commonly used lead sizes for mechanical pencils; what they look like, feel like, what they are good for and which products you should choose for this size lead. Lead Sizes for Mechanical Pencils (1)This picture shows the line widths of lead sizes from 0.3mm to 5.6mm.

Lead Sizes for Mechanical Pencils (2)

0.3mm leads are the thinnest of the lead sizes currently available. As this size is generally used for technical drawings and finer details they are usually available in HB or harder, but softer graded leads can be found. The 0.3mm HB was hard to write with, as there was no give in curves. This size was excellent for drawing straight lines, especially when aided by a ruler. The effect was clean and precise.

Our Pick:

Platinum Pro-USE MSD 1000A 0.3mm Pencil

The narrow barrel and thin writing point make this an ideal pencil for professional drafting as they enable an uninterrupted view of the drawing.

Lead Sizes for Mechanical Pencils (3)

This is a popular lead size with many companies creating mechanical pencils designed for 0.5mm leads. However several companies have recently changed their standard size from 0.5mm to 0.7mm e.g. Cross. The fine line is suitable for both writing and technical drawing. Like 0.3mm leads these are more commonly found in HB and harder.

Our Pick:

Ohto Promecha Mechanical Pencil

The aluminium and steel construction makes this pencil lightweight, but perfectly balanced. Whilst the rubber grip section which twists to set the exposed lead length makes this pencil a joy to use.

Lead Sizes for Mechanical Pencils (4)

0.7mm is the most common lead size used for mechanical pencils. The writing style matches closely to the size of a fine ballpoint or rollerball, and is available in the widest array of hardnesses. The lead thickness is great for day to day writing, sketching and can be used for less detailed technical drawings. Very pleasant to use.

Our Pick:

Faber-Castell Ambition Pearwood Pencil

The sumptuous wood barrel of the Faber-Castell Ambition Pearwood coupled with the highly polished chrome trim makes this pencil a statement piece with real wow factor. Faber-Castell have a true pedigree when it comes to making fine writing instruments, with origins in the beginning of the 20th century and this pencil.

Lead Sizes for Mechanical Pencils (5)

0.9mm leads are similar to a medium width writing point pen. 0.9mm was the standard size for mechanical pencil leads from the late 1940’s till around 1980. The size allows for writing and drawing strong, solid lines and lends itself well to sketching.

Our Pick:

Kaweco Special 0.9mm Push Pencil

The light and robust Kaweco Special has a balanced feel and suits both writing and drawing. The elongated writing point allows for the user to easily view what they’ve just put onto paper.

Lead Sizes for Mechanical Pencils (6)

1.18mm (Sometimes known as 1.1mm or 1.2mm) were the standard size for mechanical pencils way back when they first became popular. As this size was used in the very first Yard-O-Led pencils, the company has made a conscious decision to maintain the size throughout the years. This size is similar to a broad point pen, and can feel slightly cumbersome for smaller handwriting.

Our Pick:

Worther Slight Mechanical Pencil Available in Black Aluminium or Natural Aluminium

This sleek lightweight pencil has a modern feel and is simple to use, with the writing point twisting to extend and retract the lead. This pencil also refills through the writing point opening so there are no loose bits to lose or break.

Lead Sizes for Mechanical Pencils (7)

1.4mm is the last size of lead that is really suitable to write with. Past this width the letters can be difficult to draw and need to be simplified to ensure they are legible, however this does mean that 1.4mm leads are perfect for young children as it encourages them to write large clear letters. The lead width also ensures a solid and consistent line.

Our Pick:

Lamy ABC Pencil Available in Blue or Red

Designed for little hands, this pencil features an ergonomic grip to encourage correct finger placement and a robust wood and plastic shell. The included stickers enable you to label your pencil and ensure they don’t go walkies.

Lead Sizes for Mechanical Pencils (8)

From 2.0mm upwards your lead may need sharpening in order to get the effect you are after. The 2.0mm size is cumbersome and was not pleasant to write with, but to sketch it was a pleasure. Great for shading. Press hard for strong dark lines and softly for smooth shades.

Our Pick:

Kaweco Special ‘S’ 2.0mm Push Pencil

Easy to use push mechanism and compact, durable aluminium body will make this your go to sketching pencil for carrying around in your bag or pocket.

Lead Sizes for Mechanical Pencils (9) Lead Sizes for Mechanical Pencils (10)

These two lead sizes are so similar it is hard to tell them apart. 3.0mm and 3.2mm leads usually come sharpened in the pencil and will need to be sharpened depending on your preference. This size is great to sketch with and for shading. Press hard for strong dark lines and softly for smooth shades.

Our Pick:

Worther Shorty Available in a wide range of colours, including Green, Purple and Black

Cheap and inexpensive, but a thoroughly pleasurable writing experience. The Worther Shorty is has a durable plastic exterior and comes with a manufacturer lifetime guarantee. Due to their superior German craftsmanship, the Shorty has a cult following in the art and design world.

Lead Sizes for Mechanical Pencils (11)

The largest of the common lead sizes. This chunky sized lead will need regular sharpening. It’s prowess lies in shading and sketching larger objects. Press hard for strong dark lines and softly for smooth shades.

Our Pick:

Worther Compact Mechanical 5.6mm Pencil Available in Black Aluminium or Natural Aluminium

This great sketching pencil comes fitted with 4B leads, perfect for sketching. Plus, this pencil comes with its own sharpener so you can ensure your pencil is always just so.

The picture below was drawn using all of the aforementioned lead sizes.

Lead Sizes for Mechanical Pencils (12)

Lead Sizes for Mechanical Pencils (2024)


What size lead for mechanical pencil? ›

If you're going to be writing with your pencil, you'll want lead thick enough that it won't break too easily. With modern leads, 0.5mm is quite strong enough for most people, but more heavy-handed people do sometimes find they snap such thin leads, and 0.7mm or even 0.9mm leads are better for them.

Is 0.5 or 0.7 lead better for drawing? ›

0.7 MM: Ideal to write numbers since this lead is soft but tougher. Ain't need to apply as much pressure as using a 0.5 mm lead, which is better when it is necessary to make corrections and wipe off a written line without leaving any groove. Therefore, we recommend it for artists that want to draw with precision.

Is .7 or .9 lead bigger? ›

0.7 mm lead is a thicker variety, which makes it suited to sketching and non-detailed work. You may also find this lead useful if you do long-hand drafting. It it also more common nowadays compared to 0.5mm, as cheaper mechanical pencils became more popular using 0.7mm. 0.9 mm lead is an even thicker lead.

Can 0.7 mechanical pencil use 0.5 lead? ›

While it's technically possible to insert 0.5mm lead into a 0.7mm mechanical pencil, it's not recommended. Using lead that's too narrow for the pencil can lead to breakage and instability during use.

Is 0.7 mm lead the same as #2 pencil? ›

A: Yes, it's equivalent to a #2 pencil.

Which mechanical pencil lead is strongest? ›

The higher the number next to the "H," the harder the lead is. The higher the number next to the "B," the softer the lead is. The hardest leads produce the lightest lines with the same finger pressure it takes to create dark lines using the softest leads.

What size mechanical pencil is best for sketching? ›

While B, 2B ones are mostly used for hand drawing, H, 2H is preferred for technical drawings. Although the diameters of these tips vary between 0.2 and 5.6, the most commonly used ones are 0.5 and 0.7, and 0.9. Small diameters used in detailed works draw sharper and cleaner, while larger diameters draw thicker.

Does pencil lead size matter? ›

Nowadays, the most common size is 0.5mm, but there are also pencils that take 0.7mm or even 0.9mm. Pencils using these 4 sizes do not need sharpening, and the finer the lead the finer the line you leave on paper (but the more likely you are to break the lead if you use too much pressure).

Can you use any lead for mechanical pencil? ›

Yes. The critical factor is the size of the leads (normally 0.5, 0.7 or even 0.9 mm. The personal choice is which grade of lead to use - I prefer 2B or even 4B as I use propelling pencils to do puzzles in books and newspapers (I still don't know which grade to use when completing them on a screen).

What is a soft lead for a mechanical pencil? ›

Softer lead gets a B grading, with a number to say how soft the lead is. B on its own is just a little softer than HB. 2B, 3B and 4B are increasingly soft. Further up the range, 9B is the very softest lead available, but so soft and crumbly that it's rarely used.

Is .5 or .7 lead better for writing? ›

The 0.7mm leads are thicker, which is better for people who tend to press hard on the pencil when writing. For drawing,use 0.5mm leads, because they're more precise than the 0.7mm leads. The softest lead that is available to fit in a pencil is 120 /a3 0.7 mm.

What is the difference between 2B and HB mechanical pencil lead? ›

The middle ground is referred to as HB. Softer lead gets a B grading, with a number to say how soft the lead is. B on its own is just a little softer than HB. 2B, 3B and 4B are increasingly soft.

What is an HB and 2B pencil? ›

HB pencils are lighter than 2B pencils. The "H" indicates hardness, and the "B" indicates blackness or softness. HB is considered a medium grade, while 2B is softer and darker, making marks with more graphite.

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