Karisma Colored Pencils

Back in January 2005 Berol/Sanford stopped making their hugely popular Karisma Colored Pencils. Sales had fallen, production costs were high and since then Prismacolor pencils have been the go-to pencil for coloured pencil artists everywhere. That tide is currently turning I think as production of Prismas, the quality of Prismas and general opinion of them have fallen. I have spoken of this previously and one look at the Colored Pencil forum on WetCanvas will show that I am not a lone voice.

Anyway back to Karismas. My only experience of these pencils was a paltry couple of inches of pink pencil in a much used box in a school art department. I used it to draw Rihanna’s hair for pupils. The subject left a little to be desired (hey, I like her music just not much interest in drawing her over and over again), but the pencil itself was fantastic. Y’know when artists talk about symbiosis with their materials, well, I knew exactly how this pencil would perform, I knew it would do exactly what I wanted and each time it delivered a dense, smooth whoosh of colour. It never disappointed. It sharpened beautifully even the meagre 2 inch that I was drawing with.

So every so often I check in at eBay where occasionally a box, a clutch of pencils, the odd pencil comes up for sale. And over at 1Buy1Pencils, they sell some remaining pencils. Ideally, I wanted a box of 36 and untouched would be lovely. It seemed like a wish too far. Unless, of course, I was willing to pay £100+ for 36 pencils! I bid on a few boxes, lost all of the auctions and dreamed of having enough spare cash to afford the £300+ for bigger boxes…I kept watching.

And last week, my attention paid off. A seller put a box of 36 up for sale at a fairly reasonable Buy It Now price and I snapped it up. I told Mr. S. afterwards. They arrived today:

IMG_6822A sealed box of 36 pencils, untouched and in near mint condition. It was quite a feeling opening them up. It had taken me a while but I had them in my sticky paws.

Aren’t they pretty?


As is my habit, I made my little colour chart; for information as much as fun.


I am pleased to report that the pencils didn’t disappoint. They are wonderfully creamy and smooth, dense pigment fills the tooth (and I use pretty rough watercolour paper for my colour cards). The colours are rich and bright and the ones you need to be dark (Tuscan Red, Indigo Blue, Sepia) are exactly that. I like Sepia, I find it a useful pencil in most of my drawings but all too often the Sepia pencil in any brand/collection can be scratchy and unusable but this Karisma Sepia was just as good as the rest of the box.

The pencils themselves are encased in clear varnished cedar wood with the pencil information on the barrels in black. The end has the famous Karisma wedge shape giving you a bright splash of the core colour.

The box also came with the original leaflet providing lightfastness information and information about the Karisma Watercolor pencils. Karisma rate lightfastness on a 1 to 8 scale, 1 being the least and 8 being the most lightfast. Oranges and yellows are mostly about 8, reds range between 2 and 7, greens 5 and 7, blues 4 to 7, purples are very low at 2 and 3, greys and browns between 6 to 8 and black at 8. Pretty much typical of most coloured pencil collections. Pinks and purples are always the main worry.

Now that I have them…what do I do with them? I can look at them and enjoy them, but can I bring myself to use them? Sharpen them? With a rapidly depleting and extremely expensive stock, it’d have to be a pretty special painting! But boy, am I happy today.






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10 Responses to Karisma Colored Pencils

  1. gordon pirie says:

    Just looked at box and have 62 brand new unused karisma pencils and 30 partially used pencils 32 different colours
    Light Blue 5 pencils
    Peacock Green 3
    Sky Blue 5
    Cool Gray 2
    Yellow Ocre
    True Blue 7
    Olive Green 6
    Lemon Yellow 2
    Scralet Red
    Hot Pink
    Pale Peach
    Cavary Yellow 2
    Grass Green 2
    Metallic Green
    Parma Voilet 3
    Deco Blue
    Yellow Ocre
    Indian Blue
    Graphite Aquarelle
    Burnt Ochre
    Jade Green
    Indio Blue
    Blue Voilet

    • SalemSkye says:

      Karismas are still highly sought after as the replacements, Prismas, while having great cores have quality control issues. They fetch good prices on eBay. Go have a look and you’ll see that you have a little goldmine there!

  2. gordon pirie says:

    Just looking at this site and was amazed at how many people like karisma coloured pencils. I have a box of used and brand new pencils which i never use. Must be about 60 pencils

    • SalemSkye says:

      Lucky you! I would recommend heading over to eBay and selling them if you don’t use them. You should get about £200 for 90 pencils. I paid around £80 for 36 last year.

  3. Hi all,

    Was browsing various art blogs and came across this discussion about the Karismas.

    Thanks for mentioning me: I’m the eBay seller selling 10 pencils for £15! Hope you liked the pencils Emily! As our eBay interaction showed I’m more than happy to sell fewer or more pencils than the sets of 10 that I have available. If you know anyone else that likes these pencils, please pass on this link as they’ll be able to make a purchase there: http://myworld.ebay.co.uk/wallacesupplies-uk. Either that or send me an email at wallacesupplies@hotmail.com.

    Just to let you all know I also have a number of pencils that aren’t in mint condition including the following colours:

    Indigo Blue 901
    Light Blue 904
    Aquamarine 905
    Peacock Green 907
    Grass Green 909
    Olive Green 911
    Apple Green 912
    Orange 918
    Light Green 920
    Vermilion 921
    Blush 928
    Pink 929
    Tuscan Red 937
    Peach 939
    Raw Umber 941
    Yellow Ochre 942
    Burnt Ochre 943
    Terracotta 944
    Burnt Umber 947
    Sepia 948
    Blue Slate 1024
    Goldenrod 1034
    Warm Grey 20% 1051
    Warm Grey 30% 1052
    Cool Grey 10% 1059
    Cool Grey 20% 1060
    Cool Grey 30% 1061
    Cool Grey 90% 1067
    French Grey 10% 1068
    French Grey 20% 1069

    More than happy to answer any questions about the condition of the pencils etc.

    Kind regards,


  4. Emily says:

    Hi there , Its such a shame these lovely pencils are so hard to get hold of now , very luckily my Mother unknowingly came across about 16 Karisma’s (Brand New )at a Car boot sale and the price well .. only £1 ! So now i’m after more colours as these pencils are a dream to use . Btw i love this blog especially the colour swatches of all the lovely pencils as it help me check colours i need and such .

    Kind Regards

    Emily .

    • SalemSkye says:

      Thanks for contacting me Emily. I love the Karismas too. I now have this lovely box and I want to use them but can’t bring myself too in case I can never get them again! Your £1 box is a bargain. You can buy singles (of whatever stock exists) from 1buy1pencils.co.uk and I know there is a seller on eBay currently selling your choice of 10 pencils for £15.00. Hope that helps and thank you very much for your kind comments about my blog, it’s nice to know my ramblings and gushings are of use to someone! If there’s anything you want me to look at in particular, please don’t hesitate to suggest it. X

      • Emily says:

        Hi again , I’ve just ordered some from the lady on Ebay so i’ll have those to draw with soon :0) , but wasn’t able to get all the colours i need so i’ll have to keep looking . i also heard that Prismacolour and Karisma have the same cores and batch numbers , i personally think that the prismas are more buttery and melt easier and the Karismas are more studier ( and sharpen easier) which i like , they are both great pencils .

        Anyhow Thanks for your help and your blog is just wonderful to read and to look at your lovely artwork .

        Kind Regards

        Emily .

        • SalemSkye says:

          That’s good news Emily. It’s a good price for the pencils. I agree with you about the differences between Prismas and Karismas. I prefer the sturdier core of the Karismas. Prismas are great too though, I like that they can smoosh together well and often, with enough layers, they look like paint. Just the stability and the durability of them annoys me – sharpening is difficult though Maped sharpeners do a great job. Thank you for your kind comments. I am hoping to free up some time to do some drawing!

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