Category Archives: Comics

My cartooning pencil – The Blackwing 602

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have no connection to the Palomino Pencil brand, nor do I receive free samples. Like everything else on this site, this is all my opinion.

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A pencil is just a pencil. Just as a cigar is just a cigar. But that is a serious over-generalization. Pencils are like cigars, there are a million different types from all over the world and of varying degrees of quality. And like some cigars from the land of Cuba, some pencils are all but nearly impossible to obtain anymore.

The original Elberhard Faber Blackwing 602 pencil is one of those rare birds. Born in the 1930s, the Blackwing pencil became a cult symbol of artists and writers alike. With their replaceable oversized erasers and smooth soft lead, the pencils always cost a bit more than your regular everyday #2 pencil but some would say there is nothing like them.

With the loss of the machining that formed the eraser bracket and lower sales numbers, the original Blackwing passed away in 1998. For a time, true devotees of the pencil quietly bought up all the remaining stocks in stores across the country. One by one, the remaining survivors served their masters until they were unusable stubs. One by one, the pencil was pushed closer to extinction.

Prices for remaining Blackwing pencils continued to climb. A like-new and unsharpened original currently sells for more than $50 a piece in online auctions. Contrary to popular belief, cartooning is not quite lucrative enough to warrant using $50 pencils. An alterative was needed.

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A Palomino Blacking (top) and an original Elberhard Faber Blackwing (bottom)

Flash forward to over a decade after the pencils official death, a California company revived a new version of the Blackwing. In fact, they currently offer a new family of Blackwings, which as of July of 2014 consists of 3 different types of pencils.

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It may sound odd to some but I enjoy trying out new art supplies. I will try most any pen and pencil I can get ahold of. I have tried dozens if not hundreds of different types and brands and types of pencils. For cartooning, I have settled on the Palomino Blackwing 602 as seen above. I do prefer the upgrade of changing out the standard issued black erasers for pink colored erasers that mimic the look of the original Blackwing. The erasers come in packs sold separately from the pencils.

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Cartoon rough and the finished piece with an original Blackwing (top) and a Palomino Blackwing 602 (bottom)

I used to carry multiple types of pencils in my bag. I still carry many different types of pens but I now only carry one type of pencil, the Palomino Blackwing 602. Why do I personally like these pencils for drawing? Here are a few of my pros and cons that may help to answer that question:

Pros

  • Smooth lead that leaves a nice, dark line but is firm enough for my needs. I can draw and write both with these. The line shows completely when using a light box. This is important to what I do.
  • The line is dark but erases cleanly on most papers.
  • The look and feel are great. The pencil feels good in the hand. The paint job on these is very slick but that seems to add to the comfort. This doesn’t have much to do with performance but I personally like the fact that they have the nostalgic overall look of the original Blackwing.
  • With the shape of the barrel and the eraser ferrule, these will not easily roll off your desk or your food tray on an airplane.
  • Although I use plastic erasers, the eraser on the pencil works fine when needed while on the go.
  • Hack-worthy. I have experimented with cutting Staedtler plastic erasers to fit the ferrule of the Blackwing 602. Couple that with a cap/sharpener combo and that  makes it an all-inclusive cartooning machine.

Cons

  • Lead is softer than your standard pencil and dulls quickly. I have to keep a sharpener on hand when drawing.
  • Cost. If you are comparing these to other pencils based on cost alone, the Blackwing will not win out.
  • Ease of acquisition. These can be ordered online easy enough, and I’ve found them at pen shows but you won’t find these in places like Hobby Lobby or even most independent art supply stores that I have visited. if these pencils gain a big enough following to be found in the big box stores, everyone will win.

There never seems to be the all-perfect art supply. When you do find what works for you, it seems it doesn’t last. I have heard artist say if you find an art supply that works for you, buy all you can because it will either change or be discontinued. Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz once famously bought all of the pen points in existence. The pen point he preferred was being discontinued. When he found out about this, he bought the remaining stock from the manufacturer.

And no art supply will make you a better artist. Find what works for you. As far as pencils go, I recommend trying the Palomino Blackwing 602.

 

 

 

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