I Tested a $30 Pack of Pencils, But This Cheaper Brand is STILL Better!

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

hand holding various types of best pencils on market

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!


various boxes of number two 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.

various types of pencils on notebook with brand names on paper

How I conducted my pencil test:

To determine the best brand 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, that 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!


Here’s how each one 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

Pen + Gear #2 Pencils97¢ for 24 (4¢ each)

At Walmart, you can scoop up a pack of 24 pencils for just under a buck which is even cheaper than Dollar Tree’s prices! However, don’t let their tried and true looks deceive you. The Pen + Gear pencils 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.
  • The lead didn’t wear nicely when writing.
  • One of the worst performing erasers and needed the most amount of pressure.
  • Eraser didn’t last long (it was almost half gone after erasing 3 lines on paper).
  • Easily got caught on paper and ripped when erased.
  • Not kid-approved.

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

hand holding pack of up and up target wood pencils

Up & Up #2 Pencils $2.19 (reg. $3.99) for 24 (9¢ each)

On sale, the Target brand Up & Up wood pencils are still an affordable buy, but don’t let their sale price fool you because it’s gone up 70 cents since last school year. 😳 Putting each pencil at 9¢ each compared to last year’s 6¢ per pencil price.

I had high hopes for these pencils considering Up & Up has many other awesome products. However, they left a lot to be desired.

hand writing with best wood pencil on notebook

Pros:

  • Come pre-sharpened.

Cons:

  • Writing on paper felt the most gritty and sticky.
  • Most uncomfortable to hold.
  • Eraser was very crumbly.
  • 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

Amazon Basics #2 Pencils $4.24 for 30 (14¢ each)

While we’re on the topic of store brand picks, Amazon was another must-try, and interestingly enough, they’ve gone down in price since last year by 50 cents per pack. 🤔

Surprisingly, they were still the most expensive of all 3 store-brand options I tried so far. Even more surprising, 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 and have a nice point.

Cons:

  • Uncomfortable to hold (although, the edges were slightly smoother than the other two store brands).
  • Lightest writing of all the lead tested.
  • 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 by far.

hand holding a box of black blackwing best pencils in box

Blackwing Matte Pencils $30 for 12 ($2.50 each)

If there was ever a question about 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 $2.50 per pencil which is also nearly 50 cents more than last school year! 😱

close up of black eraser from best wood pencil

Blackwings were the smoothest on paper, write nice and super dark. They’re 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 because 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 pretty poorly since the lead writes a little too well.

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. USA Titanium pencils are available at Walmart but had the worst performing eraser of all.

hand holding a bunch of yellow number two pencils

USA Titanium Pencils – $4.49 for 36 (12.5¢ each)

These #2 pencils may have people fooled with their made-in-the-USA name, sustainably sourced premium wood, and budget-friendly price range, but the erasers they claim to be long-lasting couldn’t have been more disappointing. I found the eraser to cake on the paper and the eraser itself even when applying minimal effort.

Remember those days of smearing lead all over your paper because of lackluster erasers? These are unfortunately it. 👎🏻 In fact, they were disappointing right out of the box since all 36 pencils look oddly used and dirty. No thanks!

notebook with yellow #2 pencil eraser

Pros:

  • Come pre-sharpened.
  • Smooth on paper.

Cons:

  • Uncomfortable to hold.
  • Rough to sharpen and chipped easily.
  • Eraser caked on paper and smeared leaving paper messy.
  • Worst performing eraser of all the pencils tested.
  • The entire box looked dirty/used upon opening.

6. Dollar Tree’s Jot pencils weren’t as awful as I expected, but they still weren’t even close to the best.

hand holding a pack of joy pencils in dollar tree store

Dollar Tree Jot #2 Pencils – $1.25 for 24 (5¢ each)

If you’re judging the best pencils based on price then Dollar Tree’s Joy pencils are among the cheapest options I tested of all. At just 5 cents per pencil, they’re incredibly affordable, despite Dollar Tree now charging $1.25 per pack compared to last year’s dollar prices.

Considering many people commented on the past of Jot’s poor-performing eraser, I didn’t expect much. However, I found them to rank slightly better than USA Titanium’s erasers, so they certainly aren’t the worst on the market and they wrote pretty decently too.

For the price, I would still consider these a good budget buy.

dollar tree joy pencil on notebook paper

Pros:

  • Smooth on paper.
  • Budget-friendly.
  • Easy to sharpen.

Cons:

  • Uncomfortable to hold.
  • Writes light on paper.
  • Don’t come pre-sharpened.
  • Eraser occasionally smeared on paper and was one of the worst performing ones.

7. Everyone’s favorite tried and true brand, Ticonderoga, stole the entire show!

hand holding pack of the worlds best pencils

Ticonderoga #2 Yellow Pencils – $2.99 (regularly $6.59) for 18 (17¢ 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 at just 17 cents per pencil which is one cent less than last school year! 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. 😏

Even better, we heard from teachers on this topic; many of them stated that the lead in these pencils never tends to break when students drop them. Plus, when this happens frequently in class it can be pretty disruptive for everyone.

hand holding the worlds best pencil on notebook paper

Pros:

  • Most comfortable to hold.
  • Smooth and easy writing.
  • Best performing and 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

Ticonderoga Black Pencils – $2.94 for 12 (25¢ each)

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

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.


About the writer:

Sara is a self-taught blogger and photographer with 8+ years of experience having work featured in various building, travel, and fashion publications, most notably Bassett Furniture and Fossil.


Join The Discussion

Comments 37

  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 🙂

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. kel

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

  10. 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. 🙂

  11. 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!

  12. 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. 😌

    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, JC! The black sure is nice! 🙌💞

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks so much for the recommendation, Wendy! Good to know the vertical sharpener has worked so well!

  13. klw

    I was a “classroom party mom” one year and made goodie bags for each party. One time I included Ticonderoga Noir Black Wood-Cased #2 Pencils, Holographic Design – the teacher loved that I used Ticonderga pencils, the kids loved the “cool” look and parents loved that it wasn’t just “junk” coming back to their house. Definitely pricier but watch for price drops!

  14. michelleroman

    Once you go Blackwing you never go back. Best pencil on the market.

    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Good to know you like that brand best! 💕

  15. Ap927

    We only buy Ticonderogas, which makes it frustrating when teachers throw all supplies into a community stock. I understand why, but it sucks to buy quality supplies that my kids might not even get to use.

  16. vmat

    just yesterday i sharpened half of a box of Ticonderoga pencils and was super disappointed!
    i was shocked…the wood was super chippy where it met the led after sharpening (high quality electric sharpener at my work) then one of the pencils even split…like a whole layer of the wood just peeled or split off from the tip back toward the eraser maybe 3″ so now it’s no longer the same shapeor smooth all the way around. so weird.

    • 5pink1blue

      Definitely reach out to them. That is not the norm and maybe you got a faulty batch.

  17. Salviati

    You are basically comparing two pencils. There are so many amazing pencils that are not on here. Mitsubishi 9850 &9852, Musgrave Tennessee Reds&Naturals, General’s Cedar Pointe, Tombow 2558, Asparagus platinum, Palomino Golden bear&Forest choice. There are so many great pencils.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks for the heads up on the other great options! We sure appreciate the feedback! ❤️

    • Jen2020

      Thank you for the recommendations.

  18. Thinn

    Thanks a lot all the time hip2save team!

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      You’re SO very welcome! ❤️

  19. Jen2020

    Unfortunately I’ve had very bad experience with the Dixon Triconderoga pencils that were selling really cheap on Amazon (like $5 for 96 pencils). The deal was even posted on hip2save several times.

    Those were cheap for a reason. The lead was off centered and wood chips fell off while sharpening. The entire lot should have been discarded by the manufacturer if they really wanted to hold up their standards. I don’t trust that brand anymore. There are plenty of bad reviews from other customers on Amazon from the same sale who faced the similar issues. Not a trusted brand.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      SO sorry to hear about that, Jen2020. That does sound frustrating. Were you able to reach out to customer service? Hoping they were able to help. ❤️

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