I Tested a $25 Pack of Pencils… But This Cheaper Brand is STILL Better!

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More School Supplies

I tested the best pencils on the market and only one is worth putting on your back-to-school list! 

hand holding a glass jar with various styles of wood pencils

Be on point this school year. ✏️

After testing some of the most highly rated wooden pencils on the market, I’m confident I’ve found the only one you should consider for all your writing purposes. Whether you’re a teacher getting back in the classroom or shopping for your kiddos, you’re not going to want to buy anything else after reading the final results for the very best pencil!


packs of #2 pencils on wood table

The market for school supplies is saturated and overwhelming so knowing exactly what to buy can make your whole experience more productive. Plus, the next time you’re out of pencils, you’ll easily and quickly know what to reach for in the store.

hand holding a box of wood pencils

How I conducted my pencil test:

To determine the best pencils out of all the brands I tested, I considered their comfort level while holding them, their smoothness when writing, how easily they erased, and how well they sharpened.

It’s also worth mentioning, my final verdict was my own opinion and not swayed by any type of payment or sponsorship. In fact, we purchased each and every box ourselves because we truly wanted to know which are the best!

The pencil brands tested:

  1. Walmart Pen + Gear
  2. Target Up & Up
  3. Amazon Basics
  4. Blackwing
  5. Ticonderoga

Here’s how they performed:


1. Walmart’s Pen + Gear wood pencils were the cheapest option and performed the worst in every category.

hand holding a box of pen and gear wood pencils

Buy them at Walmart – $0.97 for 24 (4¢ each)

At Walmart, you can scoop up a pack of 24 pencils for just under a buck. However, don’t let their tried and true looks deceive you because they proved to underdeliver in every single testing category and ultimately were my least favorite.

comparison of sharpened wood pencils

Pros:

  • Smooth writing on paper.

Cons:

  • Do not come sharpened.
  • Most uncomfortable to hold.
  • Made of cheap wood that split easily when sharpening.
  • Eraser performed the worst & needed the most amount of pressure.
  • Eraser didn’t last long (was almost half gone after erasing 3 lines on paper).
  • Eraser easily got caught on paper and ripped.
  • Not kid-approved.

2. Target’s Up & Up brand was the second cheapest option we tested. 

hand holding pack of up and up target wood pencils

Buy them at Target – $1.49 (reg. $2.99) for 24 (6¢ each)

On sale, Target’s wood pencils (made by their popular generic Up & Up brand) are just 2 cents more than the cheapest option available at Walmart. I had high hopes for these pencils considering Up & Up has many other awesome products, however, they left a lot to be desired just like Walmart’s.

hand writing with best wood pencil on notebook

Pros:

  • Come pre-sharpened.

Cons:

  • Writing on paper felt the most gritty and sticky.
  • Uncomfortable to hold.
  • Eraser performed the second-worst effective.
  • Eraser needed the most pressure to work.
  • The pencil tip went dull pretty quickly.
  • Rough to sharpen.
  • Freshly sharpened pencils occasionally got stuck on paper.

3. Amazon has it all, but they don’t have the best pencils either.

hand holding a box of wood pencils

Buy them on Amazon – $4.99 for 30 (16¢ each)

While we’re on the topic of store brand picks, I had to try Amazon’s to see if they could be the best on the market!

Surprisingly, they were the most expensive of all 3 store-brand options. More surprisingly, they were a favorite among the store brand picks I tried. However, while they’re a great budget pick, they still don’t trump the others I tried on my list.

hand holding two wood pencils side by side in front of notebook

Pros:

  • Come pre-sharpened.
  • Smoothest eraser of all the store brands.
  • Smooth on paper.
  • Easy to sharpen.

Cons:

  • Uncomfortable to hold (although, the edges were slightly smoother than the other two store brands).
  • The eraser didn’t last long.
  • Lead chipped easily when sharpening.

4. Blackwing was the most aesthetically pleasing pencil & wrote the smoothest, but was the most expensive.

hand holding a box of black blackwing best pencils in box

Buy them on Amazon – $24.95 for 12 ($2.07 each)

If there was ever a question whether you could fall in love with a pencil’s looks or not, the Blackwing pencils are the best pencils if you’re strictly going for aesthetics. 😍

Made of genuine Incense-cedar from California, premium Japanese graphite, an iconic rectangular eraser, and finished with gorgeous matte colors, this highly-rated pencil brand sure didn’t skimp on materials. In fact, the price proves it considering you’ll pay a whopping $2.07 per pencil! 😱

close up of black eraser from best wood pencil

These best pencils on the market were the smoothest on paper and are sought after by everyone and anyone from musicians to everyday writers. However, what makes them the most unique (aside from the outstanding materials), is the innovative eraser – it easily pops out and extends as needed! Plus, it’s easier to target exactly what you want to erase with its unique, straight edges.

All of that said, I found this eraser to perform the worst of all the pencils since the lead writes a little too good.

blackwing pencil erasing I love hip2save on paper

Pros:

  • Best aesthetics.
  • Made of quality materials.
  • Comfortable to hold.
  • Smoothest writing.
  • Minimal pressure is needed for dark/thick results.
  • Innovative eraser.
  • Easy to sharpen.

Cons:

  • Do not come sharpened.
  • Eraser performed the worst on dark writing.
  • Most expensive.

5. Everyone’s favorite tried & true brand, Ticonderoga, stole the entire show!

hand holding pack of the worlds best pencils

Buy them at Target – $2.19 (reg. $2.99) for 12 (18¢ each)

The Ticonderoga brand which claims to be “The World’s Best Pencil”, truly IS the best pencil! 🏆

Even better, it’s still completely budget-friendly (just 18 cents per pencil) even though it wasn’t the cheapest option on our list. In fact, when all three of my kiddos tested our group of pencils, all three of them picked Ticonderoga! Proof that not all pencils are the same. 😏

hand holding the worlds best pencil on notebook paper

Pros:

  • Most comfortable to hold.
  • Smooth & easy writing.
  • Best performing & smoothest eraser.
  • Easy to sharpen.
  • Kid-approved.
  • Budget-friendly.
  • Comes pre-sharpened.

Cons:

  • None?!

Better yet, Ticonderoga makes the world’s best pencil in matte black too, which makes the perfect Blackwing pencil dupe! 😍

two black best pencils on paper with i love hip2save on notebook

Buy them at Walmart – $2.47 (regularly $3) for 12 (20¢ each)

If you had your eyes & heart set on the Blackwing pencil and don’t mind spending just two cents more per pencil, the Ticonderoga black pencils are the perfect dupe! 😍

Even more exciting, the kids and I found them to perform just as great as their regular yellow wood pencils so not only are you getting the style you want, but you aren’t compromising on the best performance either!

Pencils down, this test is officially over. ✍️


I just grabbed these 5 essentials before school starts.


Sara is a self-taught blogger and photographer with 5 years of experience having work featured in various building, travel, and fashion publications, most notably Bassett Furniture and Fossil.


Join The Discussion

Comments 24

  1. tiffanydavis

    Thank you. A fun read and informative!

    • Sara (Hip Sidekick)

      You’re very welcome, tiffanydavis!

  2. tracey

    This is great! Can we add some more brands?! Jot (Dollar Tree) and USA Titanium (sold at Walmart instore and says is a premium pencil). Now I’m wondering about mechanical pencil reviews too!

    • Sara (Hip Sidekick)

      So glad you enjoyed this post, Tracey! And thank you for the other brand recommendations. I’ll be sure to keep this in mind for the future!

  3. Shawna

    Thanks! Good to know for pencils I keep around the house. I did however have many teachers tell me over the course of my child’s elementary years that they choose the Ticonderoga brand because the lead breaks less when the children chew on them and drop them. Therefore they don’t need sharpened as much throughout the day and last longer. It was also mentioned that it is frustrating to the teacher and the children when the lead constantly breaks and they have to get up in the middle of writing assignments to sharpen their pencils when the lead keeps falling out. For that reason I always buy the Ticonderoga brand for school hoping it is less frustrating to the teachers and kids. That being said though, it doesn’t really matter because the kids usually end up trading their pencils for “cool” pencils anyways, haha. They did also say that the designed pencils with the foil and plastic coating jam up their pencil sharpeners. This year I bought a pack of the neon Ticonderoga so maybe he will keep his own! We shall see

    • Sara (Hip Sidekick)

      That’s a great point about pencil sharpening while in class. Thanks for sharing, Shawna! I hope he has a great year!

  4. franny5

    As a teacher, Thank you for doing this so more parents understand

    • Sara (Hip Sidekick)

      You’re very welcome! I hope you have a great school year this year!

  5. Kelly B

    I homeschooled last year and tested out Walmart, Dollar Tree, and Ticonderoga. TICONDEROGA all the way! It was a great teaching lesson for the kiddos. They wanted the Walmart Dollar Tree pencils because they were the cheapest (I gave them $ and they bought supplies and got to keep the change). I secretly bought Ticonderoga with a Hip2Save deal and put them in the closet. First week the kids were ready to throw out both Walmart and Dollar Tree pencils because they didn’t sharpen well, lead broke (Walmart), and the erasers left pink smears everywhere (Dollar Tree). I brought out the Ticonderoga and they were both so happy to have good pencils. Thanks for sharing your school deals! My 11 year old daughter checks Hip2Save before she buys anything to make sure it isn’t a Hip deal!

    • Sara (Hip Sidekick)

      WOW! What a fun idea, thanks so much for sharing, Kelly! I also love that you’ve already started your daughter on all our Hip deals!

  6. Melanie

    You all can send them to my 6th grade class and we will test them ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Munoz247

    Right now Amazon has the TICONDEROGA pencils 96 for 10$

  8. Kim

    Has anyone tried staedtler no 2 pencils? Picked them up bc I found a box on sale AND they were presharpened. But may pick up a few Ticonderoga just in case. Hahahaha

    • Sara (Hip Sidekick)

      I’ve never tried those, Kim, but please let me know how they compare!

  9. Clestina

    The Ticonderoga also make a thicker primary style pencil. I bought those all the time for teaching elementary art because they are decent even for not being an actual drawing pencil, hardly ever break, and are easy to grip.

    • Sara (Hip Sidekick)

      Awesome! Thank you for sharing, Clestina!

  10. kel

    my son loves the office depot brand and crayola brand pencils.

  11. Carol

    I was also going to say that you need to drop them on the floor three or four times and then sharpen them a couple of times. Most crappy pencils will have the graphite shatter internally when dropped. Not so with Ticonderoga. And they also have neon colors.

    • Sara (Hip Sidekick)

      That’s a great point too, Carol, I can’t remember how many times I’ve dropped a pencil! Thanks for sharing. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Bonnie C.

    You can also get Ticonderogas in a triangular shape for learning writers or even for older writers who have grip issues. In addition, if you keep your eyes open, at different times of the year you can find some great deals on the regular Ticonderogas, usually on Amazon, that make them almost as inexpensive as the cheap pencils.

    • Sara (Hip Sidekick)

      Great to know, Bonnie! Thanks so much for sharing these tips with us!

  13. JC

    I Only use the Ticonderoga Black pencils at work. They are definitely a bit more expensive but when I need to use a pencil for work… There is nothing better. And I deserve nice things to work with. ๐Ÿ˜Œ

    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, JC! The black sure is nice! ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ’ž

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