Which oil-based pencils?

Fiona asked recently, in my Coloured Pencils section, which oil-based pencils were the best? The best for botanical work, the best for finer work and so on. Well, I don’t have a wealth of experience but I can share my thoughts. Fiona mentioned Koh-i-Noor’s Polycolor and Faber-Castell’s Polychromos as a comparison and for the purposes of answering her question fully, I have included Caran D’Ache’s Luminance 6901, offering the more expensive end of the scale to Koh-i-Noor’s reasonably priced.

For all three brands I tested light yellow to dark yellow then to light green, light red and mid-brown. I blended them into each other also using a Derwent blender.

The Koh-i-Noor Polycolors are very inexpensive – currently around £30.00 for 36. They claim soft laydown, strong pigment and good lightfastness. I find them buttery-smooth with dense pigmentation. They don’t blend and layer as well on cold-press paper but they perform incredibly well for their price. There is a great range of colours in the 72 collection. My only complaint would be that they don’t remain sharp for long and they tend to have a chunkier laydown which doesn’t lend itself well to finer work. It takes a little more work to fill tooth. So, expressive work, no problem.

Next, I tried the Faber-Castell Polychromos. One of my favourite collections. These are on the expensive side of the scale though at Cowling & Wilcox (see Links) you can get the box of 120 for about £116.00 just now. These have a harder core than the Polycolors and make light work of finer pieces. The pigments are dense, the laydown is smooth and very light. They remain sharp for longer and have good lightfast ratings. You don’t need a heavy hand with the Polychromos as they fill the paper tooth with ease.

Lastly, the Rolls Royce of wax-based coloured pencils. Yes, wax-based but I have included them because I think Fion might be trying to avoid wax-bloom and I believe these pencils are so good that wax-bloom ain’t going to be a problem. Caran D’Ache’s Luminance 6901, so called because 6901 is the highest rating of lightfastness. Expensive. About £180.00 for a box of 76. The core is not as hard as the Polychromos but the laydown is so smooth you won’t believe you actually moved your hand. You can see by the picture to the left that the pigment is much denser than the other two examples. They blend with ease and really just glow. Though not as hard as the Polychromos, they still do a great job with botanical works. See Peacock on Prunus.

Because it’s the festive season, I’ll throw another option into the mix. Lyra Rembrandt’s Polycolor. Another oil-based coloured pencil that sits comfortably in the lower end of the artist grade costs. Roughly £80.00 for a set of 72 and I’d have to say, my choice for oil-based pencils for botanical work. These pencils combine the best points of all the pencils discussed above.

The Lyra pencils have the dense pigment of the Luminance, the smooth laydown of both the Luminance and the Polychromos, the competitive pricing of the Koh-i-Noors and the sharpness and point retention of the Polychromos. They are “extremely lightfast” and from my experience you can achieve some beautiful greenery in your botanical works. See Fritillaria.

So, Fiona, I hope that helps you somewhat and thank you for your question. Do let me know what you decide upon!



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