Red Hot Lead

Red pencil lead refills

Graphite is not the only refill available for mechanical pencils and leadholders. Colour lead refills, red in particular, are available in several formats. They might be be used by teachers, accountants, or anyone seeking to make a noticeable mark. The thicker versions might have uses in carpentry and masonry. Let’s examine ten of them.

Red pencil lead refills

0.5mm Pentel PPR-5 Red – a faint but usable red.

0.5mm Staedtler Mars micro color 245 05-2 Red – much more vibrant and saturated colour than the Pentel lead, yet also fragile – frequent breakage seems to be the tradeoff.

0.7mm Pentel PPR-7 Red – also faint but usable.

0.7mm Mitsubishi Uni Color Red – a bit softer than the Pentel, also a redder hue.

0.9mm Pentel PPR-9 Red – the format makes the marks more readable than the thinner versions.

Overall among the thin leads, the Pentel leads are slightly orange, while the Staedtler and Mitsubishi leads are truer reds.

Red pencil lead refills

2.0mm Koh-I-Noor 4300/5 Red – previously seen here, the lead is somewhat orange, and seemed faint.

2.0mm Fueki (???) RA20 Red – this is a brand that was previously unknown to me, and I thank isu of the uncomfortable chair for kindly sending this lead to me. It is quite good, with vibrant colour and on the softer side.

2.0mm Mitsubishi Uni Red – not bad for writing, it seems to keep a point, and is on the orange side. It should be noted that the leads have an attachment that prevents them “falling through” clutch leadholders. This may make them unusable in certain brands. There is also a risk of this ring getting stuck in a leadholder.

Red pencil lead refills

3.15mm Lamy M42 Color Red – surprisingly hard for a lead of this diameter, it is a nice refill for a 3.15m pencil.

3.15mm Wörther Spare Leads Red – very soft, they are almost like wax crayons – a marking tool rather than a writing implement. They’re also easily the most vibrant.

Among the thin leads, I like the Mitsubishi because it seems to be an accurate red. The Pentel, though performing well, has a slight orange hue that seemed not right. Though the Staedtler lead has great colour, it was too prone to breaking to be useful.

Among the thick leads, the 2.0mm Fueki and 3.15mm Lamy were the standouts from a writing perspective due to their truer red lead. The Wörther would no doubt be good at rougher tasks.

Red pencil lead refills

Ten samples is by no means a complete survey of the category. Are there other brands that you like or special uses for red lead that you might have?

15 Replies to “Red Hot Lead”

  1. I like a cheap faber castell leadholder I own, I think it’s 2mm but the only colour variant I have seen is actually dark blue. This is very convenient for me, as somewhat of an artist, so I like to use light blue leads for my initial sketch. I hope to find light blue 2mm leads somewhere, but until I do find them, I stick to 0,7mm colour leads from pilot.

  2. Excellent post! The photo with the red pepper is great :-)

    There are at least two variants of colour leads from Pilot, namely the “Color Eno” and another one (I don’t have their name at hand). Besides these, there are red leads from Autopoint in 0.9mm and 1.1mm diameter. – Mitsubishi/uni has (had?) the “-ish” series that also includes red leads. – Although the Staedtler Lumochrom 2.0mm leads were discontinued quite a while ago they still can be found (e. g. here).

  3. Nice product survey. The retention attachment ring of the Uni leads just slides off, so they should have no problem fitting in other 2 mm leadholders. I often save the rings from used up Uni leads and attach them to my Staedtler leads for the convenience, and had one get stuck once in a Staedtler 780 holder though it came loose after some vigorous shaking and prodding with another lead.

  4. I had red, dark blue and green 0,5 leads and used them for drawing. I found only two shops where I got them and the one nearby still has red in stock. I ran out of the other colors and hope to buy them soon.
    There are cheaper leads in all rainbow colors but they aren`t lightfast:(
    Mail me if you are interested and I`ll have a look if I can find the brand names again.

  5. I have just found a true Home! I love pencils. I adored the Iish-Sanford colored pencils and cry when I think and Know I cannot get all the colors that were available.
    I have found some more colored leads at Jet Pens.
    I love this blog.

  6. I like to use Turquoise 2mm drawing leads in red and non- photo blue, by prismacolor and/or sandford. I think this is the product# 02194(2376)RED. Can purchase them at I love this leads, marks real dark reds when press hard on paper. I use them to do sketches.

  7. Not sure if the red Uni -ish pack leads are (or were..) any different to the regular Mitsubishi Uni ones. I first thought looking at the sample pic that I get a more packed or saturated line with the ish leads, but thinking about it they are most likely similar. Hard to tell with photos, and the smaller 0.5 ish leads may concentrate the line somewhat as well. And pressure differences and all that.. Hue seems similar. Probably exactly the same.

    Oh and what pens do the smaller-lead front sections in the pic belong to?

  8. These photographs were inspiring! I don’t know much about colored leads, but I enjoyed learning from your perspective.

  9. The best hue and saturation I found is with the Staedtler red. It is so fragile that it’s unusable in a regular pencil. But if you get a pencil with a sliding sleeve (e.g. Pentel PS535) and write with it mostly vertical, it works OK.

    @Gunther: The Autopoint red is less orange than usual, though it is very hard. Their green is also nice, less blue than the typical green lead.

    @Sherrie: The Mitsubishi Uni -ish were sold as the Sanford -ish in North America. Yeah, they were discontinued and I feel your pain!

    @pe: The Mitsubishi Uni -ish and Uni Color are definitely different formulas.

  10. Thank you for this insightful article! What about the other properties of the colored leads? Were they waxy? How do they erase? Did they break easily?

  11. I’m probably going to get one of these for my Staedtler 2mm clutch, if it’ll work. BTW, you may be interested to know that Staedtler have changed the labelling on their clutch pencils. The one I bought a few years back had the Staedtler logo then “Staedtler Mars 780 Germany”. The one I bought just a few days ago has “Germany” in small print followed by the logo and “Staedtler Mars technico” with no model number, but is in every way identical to its older companion. Evidently this is now the only clutch pencil still surviving in their range.

  12. thanks for this post! I recently fell in love with red lead under my ink and watercolour sketches while on a sketching holiday and am looking for some more – this is great

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