Pencil Review: Staedtler Mars Lumograph 12B

Review by Tina Koyama

When I started using the Mitsubishi Kohitsu 10B “brush pencil,” I thought I had the softest graphite core I would ever meet. I figured graphite couldn’t go much softer without needing to be mixed with something else like carbon before it loses its stability. But when I saw that the Staedtler Mars Lumograph now comes in 12B ($2.20), of course I had to try it.

I use several other grades of Mars Lumograph, and when compared grade for grade, Staedtler is typically at least a couple of grades harder than Mitsubishi Hi-Uni or Tombow Mono 100 (my two favorite lines of Japanese graphite drawing pencils). The Mars Lumograph in 10B is harder than the Kohitsu 10B and the Hi-Uni 10B, so I expected the 12B to be no softer than either of those 10Bs. While the 12B is not quite as silky-soft as that Kohitsu “brush pencil,” it does feel slightly softer than Hi-Uni’s 10B.

So while it may not be the softest, the Lumograph 12B is among my four softest graphite pencils. And when compared to the other three, its core gets the prize for being the thickest (in my photo, it’s the top blue one).

It’s a joy to use at life drawing, where that 12B graphite can be smudged with a tortillon almost like charcoal (though without as much smeary mess, of course). I have hit an occasional gritty spot, however, which I’ve never experienced with Hi-Uni or Mono 100.

Even non-sketchers can have fun with a core this thick: Take a knife to it and cut a chisel “nib”!

I write with it like a fude nib, but I bet calligraphers would really go to town with it. I hope one of you will!



Tina Koyama is an urban sketcher in Seattle. Her blog is Fueled by Clouds & Coffee, and you can follow her on Instagram as Miatagrrl.

DISCLAIMER: Some of the items included in this review were provided to us free of charge for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

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5 comments / Add your comment below

    1. Graphite this soft is unlikely to be very cooperative. I doubt that a 12B pencil will erase well but I’ll get Tina to weigh in on this.

    2. On smooth paper, it erases acceptably. But on Col-o-Ring paper, which has a tooth, it did not erase well at all.

    3. On smooth paper, the 12B erases acceptably. But on Col-o-Ring paper, which has a tooth, it did not erase well at all.

  1. I used to draw with the staedtler lumograph 6B back in the day. I recently picked up some lumograph 8B but I was very surprised because they are not the same at all! It’s like they have totally changed the composition ir something. The 8B is very chalky and does not glide on the paper. It’s almost like har Conté. It’s a shame because I liked the thick core but the new lead sucks to be honest. I can’t believe they took the old blue lumograph line and just changed it without changing the name or color on the pencil. I feel cheated. I’m going with Hi-Uni 10B instead.

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