Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Uni “-ish” Coloured Leads Review

I thought I would start the year off with a little bit of colour, so the first review of the year is Uni ‘-ish’ Coloured Leads by Mitsubishi Pencil Company of Japan.

First up, I had better reveal the fact that I have never ever used coloured mechanical pencil leads before. So I’m a first timer and can’t compare them to anything other than ordinary graphite mechanical leads, and wooden coloured pencils. Not that I use wooden coloured pencils very often either.

The only –ish leads I have seen around in my part of the world are 0.7mm and sold as a mixed pack of 12 leads, 2 each of six different colours. I haven’t been able to find much information on the web about them, but it appears –ish leads are also available in 0.5mm, and some colours are available as packs of one colour only but aren’t branded as -ish.

The lead container is a normal size one and the clear top half-round section simply pulls off to allow access to the leads. The leads are in six little divided sections within the container. It’s a good system, except it is a little difficult to just get the one colour you want. You basically have to shake them all out a bit, choose the one you want and push the others back in.

As far as the six –ish colours go, (Mint Blue, Green, Orange, Red, Rose Pink and Violet) I am very impressed at how bright and vibrant they are. Just on the actual colours themselves, 'Orange' is the yellowest orange I have ever seen! But they are all good strong dense colours – not like some cheap coloured pencils that put a semi-transparent smear of colour on your paper. These leads write very smoothly and quietly. They are a very soft composition, I would guess something like a 3 or 4B grade equivalent in graphite leads, and this presumably accounts for their smooth and quiet nature. However being soft they certainly do wear down quickly, so you have to keep operating that lead advance system on your pencil. Much to my surprise they erase fairly well. I won’t say they erase as completely as ordinary graphite, but I tend to think of coloured pencil as not really erasing all that well so I was pleasantly surprised by –ish’s erasability. I note Mitsubishi’s claim “erasable” on the lead container, and I agree with them. Just FYI, the label on the back of the container says, “Leads made in Japan, Packaged in China.”
On the down side though, there are some issues with strength. I certainly had some breakage problems, red in particular seemed to be a bit prone to breaking. Strangely though, the break often occurred up inside the pencil, rather than snapping off down at the tip. Another problem was that the lead tended to crumble under pressure. When you press down hard, particularly as you first start writing, a few little specks crumble off and so you get the equivalent of graphite dust left floating around on your page. I found the blues to be a bit worse than the other colours for this crumbling.

Mechanical pencil coloured leads only have a small colour range compared to wooden coloured pencils so I guess they aren’t really aimed at the serious art market, but rather at those who just want a bit of colour. (Sorry, I just can’t resist the thought of teachers and their red pencils.) Uni also have a mechanical pencil model “–ish” which they appear to market as their fun vibrant “colour-shock” pencil. It comes in the same 6 colours as the leads so it’s all part of an integrated concept.

For the final verdict then, Uni –ish leads are well worth a try.

25 comments:

Glen said...

Hmmm.....Very interesting. I know that Pilot and Pentel make a variety of coloured leads refills ( in fluorescents and metallics as well ) but I should check into this more. I've been experimenting with non-repro blue copying / enlarging of my pencils to save having to erase my pencil work on inked black & white illustrations with some success. A mechanical pencil with an appropriate hardness non-repro blue lead
would come in handy on certain jobs. Thanks for getting the thought process going.
And good to see you back.

Glen

Glen Mullaly
www.glenmullaly.com

Mark said...

Interesting. Came across your blog via Google. I use the Pentel colored leads currently. However, they basically don't erase. You can scrub pretty hard with an art eraser and get about 70% off, but it still leaves enough that writing over it is confusing. I'll give these a try.
The 0.7mm from Pentel also break very easily, I've had much better success with the 0.9mm thickness. Now I just need to find one that's erasable too...

kiwi-d said...

Hello Mark
Thanks for your comment. I'd be very interested to hear back on how the -ish leads go compared to Pentel, re erasing and strength.

Mark said...

Sorry kiwi-d, I missed your reply...for several months clearly.

The UNI leads are much nicer to write with, and erase a lot better than the Pentel leads. They are pretty soft and break a lot though. As long as I'm careful and keep the lead length really short I can use the UNI lead like the Pentels.

Anonymous said...

I've been using the ish lead for a while, and I'm almost out. I'm trying to find a place to purchase the 0.7mm lead. I did find a place to purchase the 0.5mm, but would like to stick with the 0.7mm. If you have a place of purchase I would be eternally greatful.

kiwi-d said...

I see them on eBay from time to time. Also I think try Jetpens, maybe Penwish too. They might get it in for you.

Anonymous said...

hey i have a .7mm and i am almost out and i would like to know where to buy some! thank you

Julie said...

I have ish leads (not for sale) in both .5 and .7. When I got them a few years ago, they were advertised (on packages) as being good for black paper, which was popular at the time, along with black-paper-friendly gel pens.

On white paper, I found the light colors to be much lighter than I would like, but they are all very nice on black paper (the .7's are much sturdier than the .5's). My only complaint is that my writing rubbed off the paper readily. Even folding the paper and putting it in my pocket would cause some friction-induced loss of color - not enough to ruin the writing, but just enough to be very noticeable and annoying.

Perhaps that was the paper's fault and not the pencil's - I'm not sure. It's also possible that the ish leads have been reformulated since I bought mine - I've had them at least two years, more likely three or more. They are the only pencil I know of that's good for black paper. (I hate black paper, but I've got lots of it - long story - might as well use it up.)

Anonymous said...

Using blue leads: Atlas 1.1mm with Parker Duofold 1929 mech. pencil (both obsolete); Koh-i-noor 2mm on Hardtmuth 5600 mech. pencil(both current).
Lead tends to break off and compress inside mechanism. Extraction is troublesome but attractive Prussian blue colour encourages continued use and persistent trouble.

connie said...

Ish was the only useable, practical, reliable and workable colored mechanical pencils I have ever used I REALLY LOVED ISH where have all the ishes gone???????
If anyone knows where to purchase some please let me know.

radskee@gmail.com thanks connie

Anonymous said...

hi i completely agree, i found the old mechanical pencils which i bought at a local supermarket and i love them- they are the best. Please can you help me locate an easy place to get the 0.7mm leads. Thanks.

niffiwan said...

Has anyone ever heard of BLACK, erasable lead? I don't mean greyish as regular lead is, but black, like a black pencil crayon.

Regarding Uni -ishes, I bought the set of pencils from ebay (I was lucky that there was one person selling them) & bought 4 10-packs of lead from Cultpens. I hope that will last me a while. The blue -ish lead is indeed better than any other. They should resume selling only the blue lead, at least - it's great for illustrators.

wes said...

i dont know if black graphite exists. i learned in drafting class though that the harder leads such as 4H produce blacker lines

niffiwan said...

@wes: interesting... in the picture on Dave's article about lead grades (April 28, 2006), it seems to be the other way around (B standing for "Black", with 6B being the darkest). I guess I'll have to buy both types and try them out myself.

The reason I ask is that I'm thinking of ways to avoid inking. The shade of my usual pencil lead is too light to scan into the computer well. I also know that regular colour pencils have a "black" colour that is much darker than regular pencil lead. So ideally, what I'm looking for is something that is pencil-like; sketchy, eraseable, but like a pen does not need sharpening and is a very black colour.

Wynne and Wes said...

i might of mixed them up on my comment, drafting class was half a year ago. If you press hard on hard leads they produce a very dark line though.

PointFour said...

niffiwan,
Try the Pilot EasyLead / Easy-Lead. It's a cheap 0.7mm-only pencil with an unusual type of lead. Brief review on the pigpog site here: http://pigpog.com/2006/03/09/pilot-easy-lead-pencil-review/comment-page-0/
I didn't much like the feel of the lead, and when mine ran out, which it does rapidly, didn't refill it. Still, it was an interesting experience and the lead undeniably gives you a very dense line.

niffiwan said...

Thanks for the tip! I'll give it a try.

I've never actually used 0.7 lead before, though I've used 0.9 and found it to be too thick.

I wonder if there are any other EasyLead-type leads out there?

PointFour said...

I have an application for which 0.7 is Just Right, and occasionally use 0.9, but 0.5 is the bread-and-butter thickness :) I think the EasyLead is unique. Even Pilot only make it in the one diameter. EasyLeads are much longer than standard lead refills, probably because it lays down such a heavy line. As an alternative, you might try searching Dave's site for the posts on coloured leads.

Anonymous said...

i purchased red and blue -ish leads for use in diagrams and annotation for clarity's sake. both erase adequately well and i have not had any breakage issues, though they have a bit of a "waxy" feel for my tastes (accustomed to 2B pentel leads).

in response to the fellow(s) looking for BLACK lead: if you're looking for something black and matte as a charcoal pencil or a pen/marker line for the purpose of scanning, i don't know what to tell you. this exact problem frustrated me to no end with my own scanner. using softer leads really doesn't help. it's not a matter of the mark's darkness or opacity. it's an issue of reflectiveness. the burnished surface of a pencil mark reflects the scanner lamp as it passes nearby since the surface is no longer flat. i have been able to use matte fixative over some drawings to reduce reflectiveness before scanning, but i evenutally just switched entirely to inking or digital methods.

Wendell said...

Although it's just an academic question since Uni -ish lead is discontinued, just how prone to smudging is it? Also, a fade test would be interesting, considering that the Uni Color leads fade pretty fast.

Mitsubishi produced the Uni -ish leads in 16 colors: yellow, red, rose pink, purple, violet, indigo blue, blue, mint blue, green, light green, brown, gray, white, orange, pink, and sky blue. It would be nice if someone could post somewhere a swatch of the entire range!

niffiwan said...

Wendell, Dave did actually post a fade comparison of the ish leads with others. It fades, but much slower than the uni "Color" lead does:
http://davesmechanicalpencils.blogspot.com/2009/05/blue-lead-fade-testing.html

@Anonymous, thanks, nice to know I'm not the only one with this problem. I'm going to give the Frixion erasable pens a try, then we'll see... lately I've found that the 0.18mm uni-ball pen works pretty well for sketching. It's not erasable, but you can make very thin lines with it like with a pencil, as well as thicker ones, and its line is completely black of course.

Wendell said...

I got a similar pack of 0.5mm Uni -ish. The green and mint blue both are greenish gray. I don't know what the environmental factors were, but some of the colors appear to have a poor shelf life.

Compared to other colored leads, I'd say they are softer than the Pentel Ain but stronger than the Staedtler. They are strong enough to write with (carefully) but soft enough to give a readable line without much pressure. By comparison, Pentel red and blue give a faint line no matter how hard I press. Staedtler red and blue give a more visible line than the Uni -ish, but you have to use a sliding-sleeve pencil and even then it's tricky.

Colored leads normally don't smudge unless I try very hard. The Uni -ish smudges very faintly, maybe like a graphite 2H.

CJ said...

does anyone know where i can find more of this lead i know its a bit outdated but i would really like to find some.

Anonymous said...

The mulitpack seems to be sold out everywhere I look, but here are some sites that have the individual colors

http://shop.ebay.com/i.html?_kw=Uni&_kw=COLOR&_kw=0.7mm&_mPrRngCbx=1&_sop=

http://www.jetpens.com/0.7-mm-Color-Pencil-Leads/ct/213

http://www.jstationery.com/index.php?cPath=25_145_167

Jonathan said...

I digress slightly from the -ish leads but i've just seen some Pentel AIN STEIN red and blue leads (0.5) on ebay, perhaps they will solve some of the strength issues of coloured leads? gonna buy some, get back here when i've tested them :)