When I first heard about the Sharpie Liquid Pencil (via Amazon), I was excited to get my hands on one and try it out because I’ve come to expect great things from Sharpie and Newell Rubbermaid (ie. Stainless Steel Sharpie, Sharpie Pens, and the self rotating, always sharp Uniball Kuru Toga Mechanical Pencil) and their new products. Lucky for me, the kind folks over at Sharpie helped me to get my hands on one of these a little bit early so I could put it through some tests, so as always a big thanks to Sharpie and Newell Rubbermaid for their continued support here.
Right off the bat there are two important things called out on the front of the package of the Sharpie Liquid Pencil. First and probably the biggest question I had, is that it is identified being a #2 lead equivalent which is important for many reasons such as filling out scantron and other forms. The other important thing to note is that it is also “approximately” the same point size as a .5mm mechanical pencil. Another interesting claim on the back of the package is that the ink becomes permanent on paper after about 24 hours, however the official Sharpie Blog says it may take up to 3 days for this to happen. Also, you can see in the photo above that you get 3 extra erasers in addition to the one that comes installed right on the top.
The Sharpie Liquid Pencil has a pretty basic body, with a rubber grip and translucent barrel, although I don’t know why one would bother with a translucent barrel when the ink cartridge itself is solid metal so you can’t see the level of the liquid graphite inside anyway. I found the body and grip to be rather comfortable to write with, although you will see in the video below that the top of the pen that acts as the plunger rattles around quite a bit once it is depressed. A nice and interesting feature is that the eraser on the top does not come with a cap to cover it, which I know has been a complaint for many mechanical pencil users, so it is one less step when you want to erase something.
The liquid graphite cartridge that you find inside of this pencil looks like a regular roller ball ink cartridge, so instead of having a fixed stick of lead, you instead have a rolling ball that applies the liquid graphite to your paper.
Here is a different viewpoint on the liquid graphite cartridge in the Sharpie Liquid Pencil that gives you a better look at the tip. Again, just as a reminder, this tip is mentioned on the package to be comparable to a .5mm mechanical.
Writing with the Sharpie Liquid Pencil proved to be an interesting experience, so first take a look at the video below and then you can come back here to continue reading through my explanation of what I found. Also, note the end of the video shows how the top of the pencil rattles around a bit as I mentioned earlier.
One of the first things you will probably notice in the video is that there is a little bit of a blotchy spot on the “f” in the word Office. As I wrote with the pen, the first thing I noticed was how light the line was, however after getting used to writing with it, I was able to get a bit of a darker and more solid line by applying a little more pressure. Writing with the Sharpie Liquid Pencil was a fairly nice experience in terms of how smoothly it glided over the paper, although after some extended writing, the extra pressure I had to exert to get a reasonably solid line became slightly fatiguing. The eraser test was next, and it did an OK job. You really don’t need to apply a great deal of pressure to get the eraser to work, and while the effort required is minimal, it still doesn’t quite remove all of the liquid graphite from the paper. It seems to do a slightly better job than most erasable pens. I believe that this is partially due to the fact that the metal tip of the pencil puts a slight groove into the paper which makes it hard to completely erase your marks.
In addition to the above quick writing sample, I also did a more extensive writing sample in my Doane Paper Idea Journal with some better comparisons and a test of the dry times. Following are some scans of those tests and comparisons for you to take a look at, you can click on any of the images for a much larger view.
First up is the standard writing sample below that I usually do, and you can see that there is some minor clumping and skipping, which reminds me a bit of what you get with a standard ballpoint pen.
Next I tested the eraser to get an idea of how easy it was to erase and how cleanly the eraser could wipe the liquid graphite off the paper. This part was pretty surprising because the claim on 24 hour permanence didn’t seem to hold up as you can tell. My only thought as to why this may have been the case is that I closed the notebook so maybe it needs more exposure to air in order to become permanent? You can also see that over time from 1 minute up to 24 hours, the eraser seems to remove about the same amount of liquid graphite. I also noticed that in my shading on each of the eraser tests, the eraser did a much better job with the lighter lines, which I guess is to be expected for any pencil and eraser. I’ll probably return to this page once the 3 days have passed to see if that last box is erasable or not. Just an additional note on the erasing, this is not a friction based eraser like the Pilot FriXion line, so putting an erased line into the freezer will not bring the lines back as it did when I tested those.
On the right hand side you can also see that the type of eraser you use here doesn’t matter, as I found out by using a regular pink eraser.
Another thing to note with the sample immediately below is that I tried to do a three-tier gradation from dark to light, and while I think I was somewhat successful, it was a little bit difficult to accomplish the desired dark to light shading.
The third thing I looked at was the dry time and the fact that you can kind of erase your writing by just simply using your finger, which might be bad news for lefties. The dry time was impressive, coming in at about 1-2 seconds, but the test below that was a bit more surprising. For each one, I waited the number of seconds that you see written there, and then lightly rubbed at it with my finger tip to see how much of the line could be erased. The longer it dried, the harder it was to remove, but never really completely removed with just your finger. The simple fact that you could use your finger as an eraser was surprising.
UPDATE: almost 7 days to “dry” and the liquid graphite is still very much erasable…not sure this stuff will ever become permanent.
Next up I wanted to take a look at the Sharpie Liquid Pencil as compared to other more traditional pencils. As you can see below, I put it up against a regular old Ticonderoga yellow pencil, and Uniball Kuru Toga .3mm mechanical pencil. This comparison is telling of the writing experience with the Sharpie Liquid Pencil because you can see that the swatch that I shaded with it has a more grainy and noticeable track of lines in it, while the two traditional pencils show a smoother and almost solid shading box.
My last test was to see how the Sharpie Liquid Pencil estimated .5mm point size compared to an actual .5mm mechanical pencil. To me the lines appear a bit thinner with the mechanical pencil, and they are definitely more crisp and solid, but again, click on the photo below to enlarge and judge for yourself.
Overall, my initial excitement over the Sharpie Liquid Pencil ended up with a bit of a letdown after testing it. I finished my review feeling as if this performs more like a mediocre ball point pen that erases pretty nicely, rather than a being a step forward from a traditional or mechanical pencil. The idea of being erasable for some range between 1-3 days is nice as is the fact that its more of a pen-like experience but with a #2 compatible lead. Once I have allowed the writing sample to sit for 2 more days to hit the 3 day limit, I’ll finish up my test and update this post, but in the mean time, when I need to reach for a pencil, it will surely be my handy Uniball Kuru Toga that always lays down a sharp, clean, and consistent line.
Again, big thanks to the folks at Sharpie for helping me get my hands on the Liquid Pencil a little early for this review, and if you are interested in picking one of these up for yourself, you can find the single pack, two pack, and 12 pack on Amazon, or at your local Office Depot.
Update From Sharpie:
As you noted in your review, there has been a lot of interest in the Sharpie Liquid Pencil. Last week we wrote about it on the Sharpie blog and lots of people responded and commented, excited about this new innovation from Sharpie. Of course along with the kudos came questions, including some that you raised in your review. Hopefully this will help clarify.
As you noted, the Sharpie Liquid Pencil’s liquid graphite is easy to erase. It will initially completely erase from paper. However, over time, the marks – while faint — will remain visible even after attempts at erasing. I suppose this could be called either “permanent” or “not completely erasable” depending on your perspective.
I thought it might be helpful to share some insight on permanency. A group called the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) sets the technical standards for permanence in this area. The Sharpie Liquid Pencil was tested and beginning about 24 hours after writing, our testing showed that it met those standards. (Just to cover off, lightfast, water- and chemical resistance are other permanency qualifiers, and Sharpie Liquid Pencil meets all those too).
So does the Sharpie Liquid Pencil become permanent or “more permanent” over time? Yes, it does, but not “permanent” in the same way as a Sharpie marker and we’ve updated our blog posting to clarify that. You’ll always be able to erase it – a little or a lot depending on how much time has passed, the type of paper used, how hard you write and how hard you try to erase.
You also noted in your review that the Liquid Pencil reminded you of a standard ballpoint pen in terms of performance. Sharpie Liquid Pencil features the same rolling ball mechanism used in ballpoint pens so the flow of the liquid graphite may occasionally skip just as a ballpoint pen sometimes skips. The flow of liquid graphite from the Sharpie Liquid Pencil should become smoother as you use the pencil and the rolling ball becomes fully coated with liquid graphite.
Finally, you asked if the Sharpie Liquid Pencil works like a No. 2 pencil for scantron and other forms. The answer is Sharpie Liquid Pencil is in the process of being tested now for use on scantron, so it is not yet approved.
Again, thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify this. Please let me know if you have additional questions. And as always, many thanks for continuing to support us.
First I want to thank Sharpie again for getting me this sample, and for responding to the issues that I wrote about with the pencil. It also took me quite some time to get this posted because I had a few issues with being able to edit existing posts here on OfficeSupplyGeek, but with that issue resolved now, I am able to post the above and weigh in with my own two cents.
I couldnt agree more with Brad from The Pen Addict on his views with the Sharpie Liquid Pencil when he says that it is great to see Sharpie trying to innovate and not just rest on the Sharpie brand name. It is important to test the limits and see what the market wants, and for this Sharpie should be applauded. Also, knowing Sharpie and how they evolved their Sharpie pens a bit based on user feedback, I’m sure there will be other products in the works that might replace the liquid pencil.
As for some of the points addressed in the response from Sharpie, I see what they are saying about the International Standards set for the permanence of the writing, and I guess its a tricky spot to be in because from a more scientific approach I can’t fault them for applying such rigid standards, however from a consumer perspective, there is clearly a different perspective on what “permanent” means, especially considering the standard that Sharpie has set with their permanent markers.
As for the skipping, they mention that after some extended period of writing, the skips tend to die down. I’m not sure that it will ever write better than a standard ballpoint pen, however I’ll have to write some more with it and see how it goes.
I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what the results are for the scantron testing though, that could be a great use for these pencils
Regardless of the good and bad about this pen, I do expect that Sharpie will continue to make great new products, and for every great one like the Sharpie Pen, there are bound to be some bumps in the road to get there.
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