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.