Palomino Blackwing: A Comprehensive Guide
The legend of the Blackwing exceeds the reputation of any other pencil.
Its exceptional balance of softness, darkness, and sharpness, set off by an elegant ferrule and replaceable eraser, makes it instantly recognizable and highly addictive.
Celebrated authors, musicians, and artists declared that they could not work without the original Blackwing after it was discontinued in 1998. The revived family of Blackwing pencils and companion products produced by California Cedar Products Company live up to the Blackwing name both in terms of quality and in their undeniable panache.
Read on to learn why Blackwing pencils stand out and discover which one would be best for you.
Blackwings are known for their flat ferrules.
Blackwings look as high-quality as they feel.
Blackwings have a distinctive, premium look that no other pencil can match.
Their hexagonal barrels are finished with black, gray, or white lacquer, depending on the model. The Palomino Blackwing logo is imprinted on the side in gold or black lettering. You can feel that the letters are pressed into the wood – there’s no fear of paint rubbing off here. The name of the pencil model is also specified for the Pearl, 602, and Colors lines.
Their iconic ferrules and erasers are what really make Blackwings stand out. Ferrules are the metal connectors that hold erasers on the end of a pencil. Blackwing ferrules are long, flat, and hold refillable erasers with an integrated clip that lets you extend the eraser as it wears down. The ferrules themselves are gold-colored, while the erasers are white for regular Blackwings and black for the Pearl and 602. Blackwing Colors do not come with ferrules or erasers, but have shiny, silver-colored end caps for improved weight and balance.
Finally, Blackwings are longer than typical pencils. This means that they don’t fit in every pencil case, but it also gives them an appealing balance and makes them easier to use with the loose, sweeping motion common to artists. All of the cases in our Extra Long Pencil Cases Category can accommodate Blackwings.
Incense cedar bodies give Blackwings a pleasant smell.
All Palomino Blackwing pencils are made from California incense cedar. This gives them a mild, pleasant smell that persists for a long time. Their cores are made in Japan to a formulation that is smoother and softer than most pencil leads, yet still allows them to keep a good point.
Blackwings come in attractive boxes.
Palomino Blackwing graphite pencils come either in a sturdy, handsome cardboard box of 12 or a special “Grand Piano” gift box of 10. The Grand Piano box is lined in velvet with the Blackwing logo printed in gold. It has bronze-colored hinges and a secure magnetic closure. It comes with a bookmark that tells the story of Blackwing pencils and makes an excellent gift for artists and writers.
BLACKWING PENCIL LINES
Regular Palomino Blackwings are soft and dark.
Regular Palomino Blackwings are especially good for art.
The first of the new Blackwings to be produced, regular Palomino Blackwings are also the softest and darkest. Their soft, buttery cores feel similar to a 4B lead and are especially good for art. They can make light marks when used with a light touch, but are typically quite dark. Unlike some soft pencils, Blackwings do not crumble with use. They are very consistent and sharpen to a fine point. They feature a matte black body with a gold-colored ferrule and white eraser.
Blackwing Pearls stay sharp longer.
Blackwing Pearls have a good balance of hardness and darkness.
The Blackwing Pearl is a bit harder than the regular Blackwing, but still soft and dark. We place its lead at around a 3B grade. It stays sharp longer, so people who enjoy smooth pencils but don’t want to sharpen them as often prefer the Pearl. Its balance of darkness and hardness also makes it great for people who want to use the same pencil to write and draw with. The Blackwing Pearl has a fittingly pearlescent white finish with a gold ferrule and black eraser.
The Blackwing 602 is closest to the original Blackwing.
The Blackwing 602 is especially good for writing.
The hardest of the Blackwings, the 602 is ideal for writing. It is smoother than a typical writing pencil and resembles a 2B lead. This is the pencil that is closest to the original Eberhard Faber Blackwing. In tribute, it reprises the slogan “Half the Pressure, Twice the Speed” on the barrel. The Blackwing 602 has a pearlescent gray finish with a gold ferrule and black eraser.
Blackwing Colors have extra-smooth wax cores.
Blackwing Colors are great for coloring.
Palomino Blackwing Colors expand the Blackwing lineup into the world of colored pencils. They boast extra-smooth wax cores that do not feel too “waxy” or become crumbly with use. Like graphite Blackwing pencils, Blackwing Colors are made from California Incense Cedar with Japanese cores. They are designed for easy coloring and perform best on mildly textured paper, making them an excellent choice for using with adult coloring books. Crafters also appreciate their good performance on black paper. They feature silver colored end caps for improved balance, colored barrels, and silver lettering. Blackwing Colors come in a sturdy, attractive cardboard box with a foam insert and a viewing window.
Palomino produces quarterly limited-edition Blackwing pencils, known as the Volumes series. Each edition celebrates a cultural icon or event through its unique design, including both its appearance and lead formulation. Click below to learn more about each special edition to date, listed from latest to earliest.
The Blackwing 530 celebrates “striking gold.”
Eureka! The Palomino Blackwing 530 celebrates the moment of discovery. Its gold barrel and shiny, black-striped gold ferrule are inspired by both the historic discovery of gold that set off the California Gold Rush and the eureka moments that bring clarity to the creative process. The pencil is named for Sutter’s Mill, also known as California Historical Site No. 530, where gold was first found in the state. The Blackwing 530 has a black eraser and extra-firm graphite.
The Blackwing 344 pays tribute to photographer Dorothea Lange.
The Blackwing 344’s maroon barrel, black eraser, and dramatic red ferrule pay tribute to photographer Dorothea Lange and the 80th anniversary of her historic Depression-era photograph “Migrant Mother.” The pencil’s coloring is inspired by how a Blackwing 602 would look in a darkroom and the number indicates the Library of Congress LOT that contains several Dorothea Lange photographs. Blackwing 344 has firm graphite.
The Blackwing 56 features baseball-inspired pinstripes.
Palomino Blackwing 56 honors baseball legend Joe DiMaggio on the 75th anniversary of his astounding 56 game hitting streak. It features a white barrel with blue pinstripes and a navy eraser, evoking the uniform of the New York Yankees. Its gold ferrule and lettering reference the Commissioner’s Trophy won by the Yankees in 1941. The Blackwing 56 features firm graphite.
The all-black Palomino Blackwing 24 honors John Steinbeck.
No other writer has such a strong association with the original Blackwing, so it’s fitting that the Palomino Blackwing 24 celebrates John Steinbeck. It was designed with input from Steinbeck’s son to be the author’s ideal pencil. It has a custom extra-firm graphite core that is ideal for long writing sessions and sharpens to a fine, strong point without sacrificing much darkness. This all-black pencil’s name references Steinbeck’s practice of working with 24 sharpened pencils at a time to reduce distractions from sharpening.
The Blackwing 1138 displays the entire film, “A Trip to the Moon,” on its barrel.
The Palomino Blackwing 1138 memorializes the groundbreaking film, “A Trip to the Moon.” Not only was it the first science fiction film ever made, but its length, elaborate costumes, and storyline set the tone for narrative films of all genres. To properly represent filmmaker Georges Méliès’ triumph, Palomino compressed the whole movie into strips of color and applied that design to the barrel of the pencil through an intricate process called roll-on printing. The pencil’s silver ferrule and black eraser suit the lunar theme, and it features the same soft graphite as the regular Palomino Blackwing. Its name refers to the frequent appearance of the number 1138 in science fiction.
The Palomino Blackwing 211 is named for the length of the John Muir Trail.
Naturalist John Muir is known as the “Father of the National Parks.” The Palomino Blackwing 211 honors the outsize impact he had on the United State’s treatment of its wild environment – most famously through the founding of Yosemite National Park. The number 211 marks the length of the John Muir Trail, which passes through the park. The pencil has a subtle, natural finish and brown eraser that conjure up the image of the woods. Its firm core is intended to last during long outdoor sketching sessions.
The Blackwing 725 features a Bob Dylan-inspired starburst.
Palomino launched the limited edition Blackwings with a tribute to the Newport Folk Festival® and its impact on music and culture. The Blackwing 725 specifically memorializes the day Bob Dylan “went electric” on the 25th day of the 7th month at the festival. The pencil’s barrel recalls the sunburst finish of his Fender Stratocaster guitar with an ombre color scheme of yellow, red, and black, a gold-colored ferrule, and a black eraser. It contains a balanced graphite core.
WRITING SAMPLES & TEST RESULTS
We tested all of the standard-edition Palomino Blackwing pencils on their erasability and tendency to smudge. Click below to see swatches, writing samples, and test results for each pencil.
Regular, Pearl, & 602
Palomino KUM Blackwing Pencil Sharpeners
Palomino KUM Blackwing Pencil Sharpeners use a two-step process.
Palomino partnered with German pencil sharpener manufacturer KUM to produce the exclusive Palomino KUM Blackwing Pencil Sharpener. This compact sharpener uses a two-step process to ensure a long, sharp point every time. The first hole sharpens the wood, while the second shaves the lead to an acute point. It’s built to last with rust-resistant, high-carbon steel blades and screws instead of wobble-prone rivets. The sharpener comes with two spare blades to ensure that your pencils never suffer from dull blades. It features the Palomino Blackwing logo on the side and comes in orange or black.
Palomino Blackwing Pencil Eraser Refills
Palomino Blackwing Pencil Eraser Refills let you customize your pencils.
Blackwing eraser refills come in six colors, so you can easily “hack” your Blackwing with an eraser in your favorite color. Using different colors also helps you tell your pencils apart if your friends or family also use Blackwings. To replace the eraser, simply pull out the eraser clip, remove the eraser, and place the new one in the clip. Squeeze the clip together before putting it back into the ferrule for a more secure fit.
Palomino Blackwing Luxury Notebooks
Palomino Blackwing Luxury Notebooks lay flat and have a ribbon bookmark.
Blackwing Luxury Notebooks’ simple design features make them an ideal companion to the sophisticated Blackwing pencils. Their black leatherette covers feel pleasantly supple and feature thoughtfully rounded corners. The smooth, acid-free pages open flat and come with graph, lined, or blank paper and a ribbon bookmark. Both the ruling and the notebooks themselves are thoughtfully sized for easy writing. Finally, the embossed Palomino Blackwing logo adds subtle elegance without overpowering the cover.
The original Blackwing was introduced in the 1930s by Eberhard Faber, a well-known pencil manufacturer (if the name reminds you of Faber-Castell, you’re not wrong – the two companies have historical family ties).
Although it was released during the Great Depression, the Blackwing was as much a premium pencil then as it is now. Its appearance was unusual yet attractive, and it was undeniably high quality. Its slogan boasted that it provided “Half the Pressure, Twice the Speed.” Famous writers, artists, and composers seemed to agree. It popped up in the hands of Truman Capote, Igor Stranvisky, and Quincy Jones, among others. Author John Steinbeck and animator Chuck Jones specifically mentioned how much they preferred it.
Despite this high-level popularity, the Blackwing never sold well. Competition from cheaper, mass-market pencils shrank its small customer base even further over time. When the machine that made the custom Blackwing ferrules broke, demand was so low that it did not make sense to repair it. Eberhard Faber discontinued the Blackwing in 1998.
Dedicated Blackwing users quickly stockpiled all the pencils they could find. The internet was also growing at that time, which allowed Blackwing fans to not only share pencil stories but buy and sell the rapidly depleting stock online – sometimes for more than $40 per pencil.
In the meantime, a company called California Cedar Products came out with a pencil under the Palomino brand that reminded some users of the original Blackwing. Inspired by the comparison, California Cedar acquired the Blackwing trademark and produced a pencil that married the original Blackwing’s look and feel with a softer lead and black barrel. They followed that up with the Palomino Blackwing 602, which more closely imitated the original, and went on to produce the Pearl, Volumes, and Colors editions.
Fittingly for a product so tied to the arts, a portion of all sales of Blackwing pencils benefits the Blackwing Foundation. This nonprofit funds arts and music education at the K-12 level.
Artists, writers, and ordinary pencil users enjoy the Palomino Blackwing’s exceptionally smooth performance and dark lead. Have you tried the Palomino Blackwing? Let us know how you use it in the comments below!
|Palomino Blackwing Pencils||Name||Comparable Lead Grade||Core Type||Best For||Notable Features|
|Regular||4B||Graphite||Drawing||Soft and dark lead. Matte black body, gold-colored ferrule, and white eraser.|
|Pearl||3B||Graphite||Writing & Drawing||Balanced lead. Pearlescent white body, gold-colored ferrule, and black eraser.|
|602||2B||Graphite||Writing||Harder lead. Pearlescent gray body, gold-colored ferrule, and black eraser.|
|Colors||—||Color||Coloring||Extra-smooth wax core. Colored bodies and silver end caps.|
|Palomino Blackwing Accessories||Name||Colors||Paper Type||Notable Features|
|Palomino KUM Blackwing Pencil Sharpeners||Black, Orange||—||Two-step sharpener, resulting in a long, sharp point. Two spare blades included.|
|Palomino Blackwing Pencil Eraser Refills||Black, White, Pink, Blue, Orange, Green||—||Multiple colors for customizing pencils.|
|Palomino Blackwing Luxury Notebooks||Black||Blank, Graph, Lined||Leatherette covers, lay-flat binding, ribbon bookmark.|