Review by Tina Koyama
Whenever I see colored leads for mechanical pencils, I have a two-fold reaction: The first is to feel tingly with anticipation as I always do about any colored pencil I haven’t (yet) tried. This feeling is almost immediately followed by skepticism, which is an annoying but realistic buzz-kill. I’ve tried many colored mechanical pencil leads with woefully pale hues; I have concluded that it must be much more difficult to make a good colored pencil lead when it’s not surrounded by wood. Yet hope springs eternal: I couldn’t resist trying Uni EMOTT Color Mechanical Pencils (set of 4/$13.50). The sets are available in three color palettes; I chose Tropical. Each set includes eight 0.9mm refill leads.
I also picked up a pack of refill leads in each of the other two color palettes – Nostalgic and Refresh (8 pieces/$2.95) – because I needed to see all the colors, of course. The refill packs include two leads each of four colors.
First, I must say something about the design. With a white matte plastic barrel in a unique rounded-square shape, the EMOTT pencil is slender and lightweight. Pressing the white-capped colored segment extends the lead. Removing the cap reveals an eraser, which is also square like the barrel. After so many engineer-y or utilitarian mechanical pencils, it is a refreshing delight to see this distinctive design. And – be still, my heart – it’s lefty-oriented!
The EMOTT set comes with a small stand that holds four mechanical pencils and a refill vial. When each is replaced in its slot, the pencil is secured with a satisfying click (though they do wobble a bit after securing).
So tickled was I with the design that I was almost afraid to use the leads for fear my bubble would be burst. With some trepidation, I pulled out a scrap sheet of Strathmore Bristol (a smooth drawing paper) to make some test swatches. To my surprise, the hues are vibrant and distinct – among the best I’ve seen in a non-woodcased colored pencil.
The second surprise came with erasing. I tested the EMOTT’s eraser against my standby favorite, the Tombow Mono Zero retractable eraser. The EMOTT eraser did as well or even slightly better, even where the color was heavily applied. Interestingly, when I tried the EMOTT eraser on other colored pencils, its performance was only average. It seems like the eraser was especially formulated to work well with EMOTT leads.
EMOTT leads smudge a little, especially on slightly toothy paper (swatches below were made on Col-o-Ring “Oversize” paper).
Satisfied that the colors wouldn’t break my heart, I looked out my studio window on a wet, dreary day and made a sketch that was a lot brighter than what I saw (made in Col-o-Ring “Oversize” book). Coloring with mechanical pencils feels different from coloring with woodcased pencils, but the 0.9mm leads are solid under my heavy hand, even with substantial pressure. They are not going to snap as so many thinner leads do, at least in my hand.
Hard yet with decent pigment, EMOTT colored leads are excellent for writing as well as sketching. Even if you don’t have coloring in mind, these would be a fun checking or editing pencil, especially since it erases well.