I visited Wonder Fair in Lawrence, KS this weekend and was delighted to find the new Zebra Zensations 2mm mechanical colored pencils. Wonder Fair stocks the set of 12 ($11.76) as well as individual pencils ($0.90 each). The cost for these softly-rounded triangular, plastic, click-advance colored pencils was too good to pass up. I know that, at this price point, the quality of the cores may not be as high as pencils sold directly to the art market but I had never seen 2mm mechanical colored pencils so I couldn’t resist trying them.
The pencils come with blunt tips but a 2mm lead pointer made these wickedly sharp. The 2mm leads were hard enough to sharpen to a strong point so I was a little worried the cores might be very hard.
The cores advance with a click and a half-press of the knock will allow the core to be pushed back into the plastic housing for transport. No stabbing yourself with those wickedly sharp points!
Regardless of what I say about these pencils the portability and the comfortable soft, triangular shape makes the pencils worth owning. Whether you want the whole set for coloring or urban sketching or you just need a couple of colors for highlighting your journal pages, the price of these pencils make it hard to pass them up.
The packaging indicated that the pencils were refillable though, at this time, I was unable to find replacement leads. Also, the plastic housing the set came in can be transformed into a standing pencil case for ease of use. It a nice feature though I found that once I bent it into the stand shape, it was hard to close it back up for transport.
Most of the darker colors (reds, blues, purple and black) were much softer and more pigment rich than the lighter colors. I really like the #05 Blue (in the set) and #16 Terra Cotta (purchased individually). The white #21 pencil was not particularly useful except on dark papers and it was still pretty translucent. It might be usefull for tinting darker colors but I am pretty skeptical. If you want a white colored pencil for tinting other colors or blending, go for a softer brand like Prismacolor Premier (sold individually at most art supply stores). The peach color #04 was also very light and challenging to use. In the 12-color set, I found the #14 sage green to be an odd choice for such a basic set. I suppose it could be considered a very cool grey but most 12-color colored pencil sets would be more likely to include a brown or sepia color and a true neutral grey over the too light peach and sage. Even a turquoise might have made more sense. My inclination would be to purchase the pencils individually since the cost difference is negligible and you won’t end up with the lighter, less usable colors.
I frequently use black colored pencils as an alternative to graphite as it tends to smudge less — handy tip, lefites! I also love the red/blue pencil combo and use them to highlight, underline and add details to my planner and journal. As such, I wanted to compare the color and softness of the Zensations Black pencil to the classic Prismacolor Col-Erase Black and the red and blue Zensations to the classic Caran D’Ache Bi-Color. The black pencil is similar in hardness to the Col-Erase and even kind of erasable. Being able to carry the Zensations pencil instead of the Prismacolor Col-Erase means no need to carry a sharpener or point protector. When comparing the Red and Blue Zensations pencils to the Caran D’ache Bi-Color is a pretty unfair comparison. The Bi-Color is often about $5 for ONE PENCIL and uses the color rich pigments from a company known for their artist grade pencil products. However, the blue is pretty comparable. The red color is more pink compared to the Caran d’Ache. The Bi-Color is also a water soluble pigment so if you like to add water for a watercolor look, the Caran d’Ache Bi-Color is a better option.
I’m on the fence whether I will switch to the Zensations red and blue pencils in my daily kit as it is still so convenient to have them both in one pencil with my Bi-Color but I will definitely be adding the black Zensations to my daily carry. I’ll save the other colors for coloring and drawing for now.
The Set of 12 is $11.76 and individual pencils are available for $0.98 each directly from Zebra. I would have included links directly to my darling Wonder Fair to purchase these pencils but they are not listed on their website. You can call them and ask to order them and they will gladly pop them in the mail for you.
I was not paid to promote Wonder Fair. I just really like their shop. I also paid for the pencils in this review with funds from our Patrons. Other links included in this post were added to provide purchasing options. JetPens is a sponsor of this blog. More info on our About Us page.