Sharpie Liquid Pencil

About eight months ago, Sharpie announced a new product, the “Liquid Pencil”. As soon as I learned of it, I was excited to see what it might offer.

Of course, I have heard of the former Parker Liquid Lead Pencil through Penhero’s excellent article, and noted the similarity of the marketing, though fifty-five years apart:

1955: “A lead that never breaks!”
2010: “Eliminates broken pencil leads”

1955: “Rolls words on paper smooth as silk!”
2010: “Writes as smooth as a pen”

Parker and Sharpie are now both brands of conglomerate Newell Rubbermaid, so it is entirely possible that the techniques of the original process are part of this revival.

The product launch had a lot of interesting elements, as well as some controversy.

First, it garnered considerable media attention. A few samples:

TIME: Sharpie’s Liquid Pencil Becomes Permanent After Three Days

Engadget: Sharpie Liquid Pencil, the aftermath: it’s ‘permanent,’ not permanent

Wired: Sharpie Reinvents Pen with Liquid Pencil

Now if you look at those articles, you’ll see the controversy. The original “Becomes permanent like a Sharpie marker after three days” statement was withdrawn by Sharpie. See the timeline of reactions in these three Engadget articles.

On stationery blogs, I saw reviews at Office Supply Geek and The Pen Addict. The product didn’t seem to be winning over either of these reviewers. Yet, I still wanted to see what this pencil might offer. I told myself that I’d wait until it turned up locally. That day just arrived.

Sharpie Liquid Pencil

The package contains two pencils and six minuscule eraser replacements.

The package claims (front):

No more breaking leads!

And on the back:

Smooth like a pen, erases like a pencil

Sharpie’s Liquid Graphite Technology eliminates broken leads

No. 2 lead equivalent

Sharpie Liquid Pencil

I won’t say much about the form factor or appearance. The product looks like a cheap ballpoint pen, and has some sharp ridges where the cap meets the body. The cap clicks to extend or retract the pencil point.

To my eye, the mark made doesn’t at all look like any graphite or pencil deposit I have ever seen. It has none of the luminescence or texture of graphite – ceramic, polymer, or water soluble. It simply looks like a ballpoint pen mark.

Sharpie Liquid Pencil

Writing with it, the problem is that the pencil barely functions by conventional standards. It just doesn’t leave a consistent line. The mark starts to dry up after a word or two (and that word or two isn’t rendered very well). It cannot render the dot in an “i”. Any woodcase pencil can do a better job.

Sharpie Liquid Pencil

It does erase well, but that seems moot given the overall problem. It is hard to understand how this product was released to market.

36 Replies to “Sharpie Liquid Pencil”

  1. Great review, Stephen. I special-ordered some of these and was hugely disappointed. I noticed the i problem too. If this item becomes popular in schools (no trips to the sharpener), we’ll have a. a generation that puts circles on its i’s or b. a generation that hates writing by hand.

  2. That writing sample made me wince. Can you go back to the store and get a refund? You could justifiably say that the item is broken, if that sample is indicative of the pen’s output.

    Do note, there appears to be an extra ” at the end of the hyperlink to the Pen Addict.

  3. Thanks for the warning!

    And thanks for this website, by the way.I love mechanical pencils (proper phrase?), but haven’t used actual pencils in years.You almost made me start buying those again. :)

  4. Thanks for this review. The writing sample looks so bad, unless your pens (I wouldn’t want to call these ‘pencils’) are broken it is shocking that Sharpie dared to release this on the unsuspecting public. If they are broken it’s shocking that Sharpie’s QC fails so horribly.

  5. Thank you for that thorough review, Stephen. A while ago I have considered testing than pen but now I will steer clear of it. What a shame to expend energy on and raw materials for producing such a junk.

  6. Parker’s liquid lead pencil never really caught on and neither did Papermate’s erasable ball-point pen and I can’t see this taking off either. As far as I can tell it’s really just a ball-point using graphite or something like graphite as the pigment in the paste ink. It’s not just the review pen that writes badly – all the ones I’ve seen write like a poor quality ball-point.
    If you want a pen you can erase then the Pilot Frixion or the Uni-ball Fanthom are much better and they come in a whole load of colours and shapes.

  7. Anyone old enough to remember the Papermate Replay/Erasermate from around 1980 will remember these. They were terrible then, and 30 years hasn’t improved them. I sent mine back, and got a nice package of other Sharpie products and an apologetic note in return.

  8. @Scruss I do indeed remember those Papermate pens. They are still around, aren’t they?

    I considered reviewing these pens over at Woodclinched after I got my hands on a couple, but I realized they were so similar to those Papermate erasable pens, they seemed to only be calling it a pencil.

    As someone who really likes the Sharpie pens, I was disappointed in what they decided to call a pencil. Have some respect, Sharpie! (-:

  9. I too was very excited to find these available locally, and very disappointed to try them. Your writing sample actually looks BETTER than what I was able to get out of these new pencils. They’re a nifty idea, but a very poor execution of that idea.

  10. I remember Papermate’s Erasemate from elementary school. They were required pens for any “final” drafts and for cursive practice. The ink didn’t flow very well when the pen is new, but it flows better after you’ve used the pen for a bit. I don’t recall Erasemate being as bad as the above “liquid pencil” sample, though.

    That was over a decade ago so I can’t say how good the Erasemate pens are now especially if the ink formula has changed.

  11. They I are not available yet in the UK and I was quite looking forward to trying them out. However with all the negative reviews they are getting I don’t think I will be in any rush now.

  12. This one of the worst performing products I’ve seen in some time, and it was a shame because of the big hoopla behind it and because being the Sharpie brand, we all expected better.

  13. Sanford’s common use pens are not the best so I wouldn’t expect their fake pencil/erasable pen to be any better.
    Michael has it right, I almost always gravitate towards Pilot or uni-ball for better standard pens.

  14. I was almost tempted to try to source one of these just to see how bad it could be. Luckily there are enough reviews out there to permanently dissuade me from hunting one down. The concept itself is kind of interesting, but the consensus seems to be that the execution is pretty bad.

    I wonder how their sales are holding up, despite the web reviews.

  15. Well, I’m one of those holding up the sales. Bought two of these – both as bad as here described. Besides, I don’t really get the idea, ink should be permanent, graphite erasable. A clone like this is confusing. ;-)

  16. I too can confirm that this wasn’t simply a bad sample; the product is terrible. Besides the fact that it barely writes, when you’re using it the end will clatter around loosely. The whole thing just feels shoddy.

  17. I remember the Pentech liquid pencil and the Erasermates. Both very poor products when compared even to something as low end as the Dixon No.2 (the cheapest model they make) The review makes it sound like the new take is just as flawed and poor as it’s predecessors which makes one wonder why they would release them in the first place.

  18. I can’t see the appeal whatsoever. Apparantly, the “refills” are a whole new inside chamber, like a fountain pen. It’s cost makes no sense either. Uh-uh. If the lead aint broke don’t fix it.

    FYI, you may also be aware that the Derivan paint company makes a product called “Liquid Pencil.” It’s not a drawing tool at all but a paste made of graphite that can be diluted and brushed on.

  19. I purchased a package of these with much reservation but hoping that I would be wrong, they are terrible. I totally agree with your assessment just wish I had read it prior to my purchase.

  20. Spot on review. Wish I had read it before I wasted 3 bucks on this crappy product. I tried it and tossed it!

  21. Ok, I bought a few of these when I finally saw them in local stores too and I gotta say I’m not in the hater camp. I do find them to write basically like a cheap ballpoint, and I can understand that for those looking for a truly revolutionary game changing product this might be a bit disappointing.

    On the other hand, here are some things I like about it: 1) It doesn’t smear like a #2 pencil if you run your hand over it just a few seconds after writing. Lefties rejoice! 2) It leaves a much blacker line than a pencil. 3) It creates an overall much more pleasing line (to me) than the papermate erasable pens of old and many cheap ballpoints (less oily and less rough) (that is, when it’s not skipping out). 4) As advertised, no breaking or wasting leads.

    As for the skipping, my girlfriend and I have found two different ways of working around this. She finds that after warming up the pen by writing a page or so it smooths out almost completely. I find that if I press a little bit harder than I would typically press with a pencil it smooths out quite a bit as well.

    Either way, I definitely enjoy the product, feel that I paid a better than fair price and use it every day.

  22. Recently in both an office supply store and a grocery I’ve seen the sharpie pencil marked as “discontinued”. Is it being withdrawn from the market? Sounds like it should be.

  23. I recently purchased these pen/pencils over the weekend. My experience wasn’t so great but i will give credit to the thought of having lead-less pencils but there are just some things that can’t be broken if they’re already fixed. i’ll stick the the papermate “clearpoint” mechanical pencil.

  24. The special promotion pencils given to promote the product among purchasers before their release were great in quality. It is too bad that that didn’t stay the same.

  25. SO GLAD YOU POSTED THIS REVIEW. I had the exact same experience with the package I purchased at Staples. A total let down. I too am astonished that Sharpie put this out.

  26. Reminded me exactly of an Erasermate- writes okay if you hold the pen strictly in a vertical position, but who writes like that? At even a slight angle it begins to skip, no matter how much you warm it up (I scribbled for about 5 minutes in a notebook and it never was able to produce a solid line for more than an inch or so).

  27. The only time I want a pencil is for a crossword-puzzle, and this product just tears them up; meaning, you have to double or triple-write every letter, thus, tearing up said certain page, and each one behind it.

  28. I bought this thinking it would be a nice writing utensil. I normally use pens because I do not like the smudging/mess pencils can leave behind when writing and thought this would be a perfect solution so I can just erase when I make a mistake. BAD IDEA! If the liquid pencil actually wrote it would be great but I can’t get more than 1, maybe 2, words written (sometimes just a letter or 2) and the lead/ink stop working. Its so frustrating since I am a college student and am usually trying to write a lot very fast to keep up. One pro is that once you actually get something written down, the eraser works great! Really wish these would because the liquid pencil would be a perfect fit for taking notes and writing rough drafts. Please Sharpie, Try out your products before you release it. This product was pretty pricy for its quality epically for a poor college student like me!

  29. I absolutely agree!!! The darn thing skips way too much. I love the idea, but the execution was a fallible attempt at mediocre at best!

  30. Just bought a pair. I already threw one away because it skips terribly and I’m keeping the other one because it does OK like a cheap ballpoint. This one is smooth and it erases quite well. Still however, I would agree that this product does not meet expectations for ANY writing instrument, and especially for a name like Sharpie. 4/10

  31. I second every detail of every negative review. I too am a victim of the Sharpie Liquid Pencil hype. It’s not worth wasting your money on. It skips, scratches, and it really is noisy. It reminds me of the crappy Papermate erasable pen, if it isn’t the same crap in a different barrel. Definitely consider Pilot FriXion instead. The black ink looks more like gray, but writing is smooth, erasing is excellent, and yes they come many colors. Try, they have a huge selection of the Japanese finer point pens.

  32. I have had these pencils for years when I had elementary school kids now 50. My pencils still work great. When purchased there was no disappointment for I liked the ink color and possibilities. Still have the pencils and original packaging. Will my refills fit something else as they are still fabulously useable.

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