Pencil Review: Midori MD Graphite

Review by Tina Koyama

I recently reviewed Midori MD Paper Products colored pencils in its very limited but lovely, understated palette. Midori also makes graphite pencils (6/$10) – equally sublime in their appearance and beautifully coordinated with other Midori stationery products. I was given the B grade for review, but I happen to have other drawing grades as well, so I’ll include them in my comments.

Like the colored pencils, the graphite pencil barrel has a subtle matte finish with simple branding. The barrel color is the vanilla ice cream off-white that appears on many of Midori’s notebook covers. Something about that matte finish is such a joy to touch!

Also matching the design of the colored pencils is the slightly convex, uncapped end that reveals a perfectly centered core. They sharpen nicely with a whiff of cedar.

I compared the Midori B grade with B grades in two of my favorite Japanese graphite pencils, Tombow Mono and Uni Mitsubishi Hi-Uni. Although not quite as smooth as either of the higher-priced pencils, the MD graphite quality is consistent and flawless. It feels slightly softer than the Tombow but slightly harder than the Hi-Uni. The B makes a great writing grade for those who prefer softer pencils. (Swatches and sketch shown in this review were made in a Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook, which has a smooth surface.)

The swatches below show the full range of MD grades available – HB through 6B. 

I have been taking crosshatching courses from France Van Stone (better known as Wagonized), and having the B in my hand was a good opportunity to work on one of the course exercises – a friendly, young cow. (France’s courses often use fun photo references of animals that I adore drawing!) I would typically use a softer grade for the final details, but this B did well enough even at the end.

The MDs are excellent writing and drawing pencils at a price that makes them a good value. 

My only complaint is that the beautiful matte finish I love so much tends to become easily scuffed and marked. I’ve had the full set for a while, knocking about in a pencil cup, and they are showing their age prematurely. I’m sure the colored pencil barrels will suffer the same fate shortly. Most of the time, I appreciate evidence of wear and use on my art materials, and I don’t baby them. But something about that creamy, formerly pristine finish with scuffs is harder to look at. I don’t want my stationery to be better dressed than I am, but if I daily-carried a Midori pencil, I might be tempted to keep it in a Rickshaw sleeve.  

DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were provided free of charge by Gentleman Stationer for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

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

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2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Great review as always. I know what you mean about liking signs of wear and tear on many and even most stationery items but there is something about that finish, maybe it’s the color, color and texture combined?, that makes (as you say) the formerly pristine finish with scuffs not nice. I wonder whether keeping them together in a pencil case would also cause scuff-marks? Do they actually require individual care and storage? Are they prima-donna pencils?

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