Coloured Pencils

Caran D’Ache Luminance 6901

It is claimed that these are the best coloured pencils in the world with the highest lightfast rating you can get. They are named after the highest international standard: ASTM D-6901. They are certainly the most expensive pencils I own. Husband thinks they should have come with their own security. I have the tin box of 76 and these are wax-based pencils.

The tin is pretty standard, a little more stylish than some of the Derwent tins. But the trays are metal too and they make removing the pencils, individually and per tray, very easy indeed. The pencils themselves are lovely to look at. Plain cedar with a light varnish, detailed and ringed in silver to match the tins. The colour information is at the end of the pencil and the colour is on the end-stub.

The pigments are strong and lay down very smoothly. They are easy to blend and layer very well. I love these pencils and while there is a very standard collection of colours, there is nothing standard about the design, feel, build, or quality of these. Truly the Rolls Royce of pencils and your go-to collection for reliability.

Sanford Prismacolors

Nearly every single art instruction book recommends these pencils. This is for a number of reasons: they are relatively cheap in the artist’s grade pencil shop, they are super-soft and super-blendable and in most places (not here in the UK though) you can get them very easily and in open-stock. Prismacolours are wax-based pencils.

I ordered mine from eBay, but you can get them at a wonderful site as listed in my Links. I have the box of 120.

Now, the pencils are good: strong pigment, buttery soft and very easy to blend. I can see why they are the number 1 choice in books. Cost are cut in the presentation though. The pencils look bog-standard. The writing is mismatched (possibly a reflection of these being readily available in open-stock leading UK stockists to create their own collections for sale), they smell a bit odd (sickly sweet) and they come in plastic trays that interlock to fit into the very standard tin. If you don’t interlock these just so, then you can’t get the lid on.The pencils are self-coloured, matching the core.

But…and it’s a big BUT, we are concerned with the core and the Prisma’s core is a delight. Particular favourites are Clay Rose and Black Grape.

Faber-Castell Polychromos

For all-round wonderfulness, these oil-based pencils (so you don’t get the dreaded wax bloom) are my favorite coloured pencils. They tick every box. I have the box of 120. The tin looks great; in the traditional dark green of Faber-Castell, the trays, though plastic but felt-backed, lift out aided by elastic pulls. The pencils are self-coloured in the colour of the pencil, ringed and detailed in gold and have chunky cores. Most have a high lightfast rating. The colour laydown is perfect with strong pigments and they layer very well. The range of reds, pinks and purples is lovely. I can’t fault them. And currently Cowling and Wilcox (see Links) have 50% off this spectacular set. You couldn’t get a better box, if you only buy one set, I’d recommend this.





Lyra Rembrandt Polycolour

I love the Lyra Splender so I had to try the Lyra Rembrandt Polycolors to see if they were as good. I have the 72 tin: standard tin, plastic trays, cardboard pull out handles – but it does come with 2 Splenders. The pencils themselves are slim, wooden shaft and matching tip to the colour pencil. The detailing is black and the pencil information is on the latter half of the pencil.

The pigment is strong and most of these pencils have a high lightfast rating. They lay down smooth and their colour is dense. They blend well. I can’t really criticize these in anyway, such a little workhorse are they. At 72 in the range though, they could be wider, but I’d be hard pushed to see what they are missing over other ranges like Faber-Castell Polychromos at 120. Great choice of colour, great blendability. What more could you ask for?





Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer

I love these pencils just as much as I love Faber-Castell’s Polychromos. They are thick, chunky and a pleasure to hold. The packaging is the same as the Polychromos and the pencils are thick-cored, self-coloured, gold-detailed and have hexagonal barrells. Again, I am fortunate to have the 120 box and you can see that covers pretty much every colour and shade that you would want.


But these are watercolours and you get to play with them a little more. The same strong pigment, the same laydown quality, but with the added joy of being able to add water to obtain painterly effects. Perfect for applying a solid base colour and painting on the top with dry pencils.



Derwent Artists

The first Derwent coloured pencils, developed in the 1930s and appropriately the first Derwent pencils I am going to mention. These stalwarts are round-barrelled, feature a wide core and come 120 colours. My box also is the fancy-schmancy wooden box that Derwent do so well. These are wax-based pencils and are great for blending and layering. These are your workhorse pencils. Any complaints? Only minor ones. Sometimes the casings are poor – crumbly varnish, inconsistent livery, and sometimes, just sometimes, the pencils are tricky to sharpen. Use a battery-operated sharpener for less problems. The Magenta is a stunning colour and the range of greens are lovely for botanical work.


Bruynzeel Sakura, Design

Dutch company Bruynzeel merged with Japanese company Sakura in 1997 continuing a history of 60 years in making fine art pencils. These are the Design coloured pencils coming in range of 48 colours. They come in a very nice drawer system box, made of extremely hard cardboard (it feels as if the box is layered over a metal structure) and the drawers handily store 12 pencils each. The colours are very bright, more so than you get in your more traditional ranges and the colour laydown is very buttery, very creamy and yet they still retain quite a hard solidity. No information as yet regarding the lightfastness.








Caran D’Ache Pablo

Caran D’Ache’s Pablo pencils are water resistant and come in a range of 120 pencils. Unfortunately I could only afford the box of 80, but those are more than enough to suit my needs. Pablos have a high lightfast rating and what most sellers call an “excellence luminance”.

The pencils have hexagonal barrels and are self-coloured with gold detailing – much like the Albrecht Durers and Polychromos. The main difference with the Pablos is the core – it is much harder than the other Caran D’Aches and they sharpen to a very hard, fine point making them perfect for botanical drawing or subjects with very fine detail.









Caran D’Ache Supracolor Soft Aquarelle

Soft like Prismas, Caran D’Ache’s Supracolour Soft Aquarelle’s have a high pigment quality, are highly lightfast and come in 120 colours. They are quite subtle colours and have a very delicate water wash which can be built nicely.

I find these to be very natural, earthy colours, which makes them good for landscapes. I have the wooden box of 80 and unlike most wooden boxes the tray doesn’t lift out but slides up as the box opens. It’s rather slick.


Derwent Signature

Derwent Signature was an expensive range specially designed by Derwent to be highly lightfast. The finest pigments were selected and Signature was the result.

Then Derwent stopped making them. Maybe the high cost? Maybe they didn’t have a market for very lightfast pencils? I don’t know, but I have heard in some quarters that they weren’t as good as they were meant to be. Yes, highly lightfast but there were problems with the casing, the livery, the binding method. You can still get them on eBay and they are still expensive but I like them. They are very creamy, with a dense colour laydown and a nice range of blues and green.



Derwent Drawing

Only 24 in the range?! Yes, but like the sonnet these force the artist to play, to adapt and invent creating wonderful landscapes and portraits. Derwent’s Drawing pencils are the softest pencils you will find – a cross between pencil and wax pastel, they lay down like cream and have the yummiest muted colours. They fast became a favourite with landscape and portrait artists on their release.

Coffees, chocolates, earthy reds, moody seas and cloudy skies – these are the things that Drawing dreams of.  They are also great for fur as they are soft and dense and natural. They all carry a lightfast rating of 8 (BW) except for the Ink Blue at 7 – which means your paintings will be around for quite some time.

Derwent Watercolour

I really like Derwent Watercolour pencils despite their headache-inducing livery. Turquoise! They don’t feel as smooth as the Albrecht Durers or the Supracolor Soft Aquarelles, they are definitely more rough and ready when it comes to laying them down, but they make you feel a bit looser when painting, a little more free and relaxed creatively. They have dense pigment, which does make it a little more difficult to dissolve with water, but you get some really interesting effects.








The colour range is nice and bright, much more subtle than the Derwent Inktense range, and they come in 72 colours. The downside? Well, the darker end of the range, the blues and greens have a lightfast rating of 7/8, but some of the pinks, yellows and violets are only 1 on the scale – so this must be a consideration when creating, especially works you want to sell or commissions.

Derwent Inktense

The introduction of this range was big news. Vibrant, jewel-like colours, they brought about a revolution in the coloured pencil world. When water was added the pigments became ink-like, they were permanent too which meant once diluted they would stay on the page and couldn’t be lifted off. They came with an outliner pencils too which was water-resistant  – no bleeding!







The outliner is lovely – like a graphite pencil but oh-so smooth. Handsome livery too – dark royal blue with gold detailing. High lightfastness on the darker end of the range with 3/4s at the lighter end – something to consider. And they can be used on fabrics like silk. The pinks and purples are eye-poppingly decadent.


Sanford Prismacolor Verithins

Prismacolour, as I have said, are the go-to choice for most coloured pencil artists. But sometimes they can be too wide a core, too smooshy for fine, detailed work. So, we have Prismacolor Verithins, which are exactly as they say, very thin. Thin, hard cores that are perfect for detailed work like botanical paintings.








You get the same bright, blendable colours with dense pigment laydown, but in a finer, ore controllable point, much like…

Derwent Studio

…these. Derwent’s thin, hard-cored pencils which are great for botanical paintings and fine, detailed work.

Derwent say that these have the same pigment cores as the Artists range but in a finer, crisper, more precise delivery.

They come in 72 colours and I have to say this, in the interest of fairness, they are not the most lightfast pencils you could buy. Some 8s, but a lot of 4s even in the darker side, and a lot of 1s especially in the light pinks, violets, yellows…be warned.

The Studio line is hexagonal barrelled giving you a better grip, which you’ll need as these hard, fine pencils are great for detailed work. For a hard pencil, they are surprisingly creamy and smooth, especially over cold-press support. It’s almost linear, the surface, which makes covering it a little hard work. But a few layers of these Studio pencils and I got a lovely warm cover of beautiful colour. I can say that the Studio pencils blend seamlessly. I got a smooth and warm transition of colours.

Derwent Aquatone

I’m cheating again, these aren’t really pencils, not in the traditional sense of a pigment core surrounded by a wooden (always cedar these days) barrel. Have a look -

These babies are all core. No wood. Derwent claim that this delivery gives you 4 times more usable material than a traditional coloured pencil. They come in 24 colours and can be used wet or dry. You can peel back the paper cover too and use them in broad sweeps.

Not bad lightfastness – mostly 7s and 8s, but there are a few 4s and 5s and the Burnt Carmine, which is a lovely colour indeed is a 3.

Lyra Skintones

Lyra make chunky pencils for younger artists which are just as loved by us old ‘uns. I have the Skintones collection as, well, kind of obvious really, they are great for skintones. The chunkyness of them means that you are not fiddling with large areas of skin trying to keep your pressure even and undetectable. You can paint quite quickly and freely and these Skintone pencils build and layer very well creating believable, warm skins.

I am quite nervous about painting skin and these make you feel more confident, more creative, and more able to tackle it.

On a silly note, they do make you feel like a crazy kid again drawing away without a concern.

Most people call them a “must” for portrait artists. But ‘most people’ are selling them.


Derwent Coloursoft

Derwent claim this is the UK’s softest coloured pencil and it certainly is very soft indeed, not quite in the same league as Prismas, but pretty close. They come in 72 colours and very handsome round-barreled, dark burgandy livery.

They lay down very dense, intense and buttery pigment. Derwent do say that they sharpen and hold a fine point. This is a bit of a stretch, they do sharpen well but they blunt quite quickly and need to be sharpened quite often, especially on any kind of textured paper.


The lightfast ratings are very similar to a lot

of the Derwent range in that they hover around 7/8, but in the lights (yellows, pinks, violets) you will find 2/3s. So be careful!









Derwent Signature Watercolour

Like the Derwent Signature coloured pencils, these were discontinued. Possibly due to the high cost of the pigment and the various complaints rumoured.

You can still get sets on eBay and they are still relatively expensive for a discontinued line. But as a completist, you may be willing to pay the price.

I have a set of 40 that came without the original box but the seller kindly packs them up in Derwent wraps for you. I say “kindly”, I am sure I paid for them too.


Derwent Signature watercolour pencils feature some nice muted shades and have a delicate wash when water is added. They lay down dry quite thick and with a very waxy feel. I noticed doing my colour chart that they struggle with textured paper and will probably like a smoother paper or board.

No lightfastness information unfortunately but it is supposed to be very high – hence the high cost – hence the ‘out of production’.




Caran D’Ache Prismalo

Available in 80 colours, Caran D’Ache’s Prismalo is a watercolour pencil range with strong, break resistant 3mm cores. Like other artist ranges from Caran D’Ache, they are extremely lightfast with strong pigments. When water is added they have a subtle wash of colour. The pencils shafts are self-coloured and are hexagonal for an easy grip. I find them to be very similiar in feel to Faber-Castell’s Albrecht Durer coloured pencils, less chunky and densely pigmented, but subtle and solid.






Bruynzeel Sakura, Design Watercolour







Packaged in the same sturdy drawer unit, the watercolour version of these pencils is as pleasing as the coloured pencils. They are very light with dense, smooth laydown of pigment which has a solid wash when water is added. It is a bit of a effort to dissolve the pigment though. I like the banded colour tip and wooden shaft – they look much more expensive than they are. Again, no lightfastness information as yet, which will be a consideration with some paintings.




Derwent Watercolour (New Livery)

I spoke before about the headache-inducing livery of the old Derwent Watercolour pencils. Turquoise indeed. But those clever people over at Derwent have reissued their Watercolour pencils with a new livery and with a new, creamier formula.

Certainly doing my wee colour chart for the new box, I found them to be much creamier, almost like Prismacolors in their butteryness. And I like the smart, dark blue jackets. The colours are essentially the same, just with a much denser laydown of colour. One tiny, itsy complaint though. I don’t know what happens in production but some of the pre-sharpened tips have a dark blue stain that needs worked off before you even begin to do any painting. It messed up my colour chart and my first play with these pencils. Grrr.

Lightfastness is fairly good, mostly 6-8s, but again a good handful at 1-3 which will have implications for your work.


Prismacolor Watercolours

A surprise purchase this. Usually to get Prismas you have to shop on eBay or 1Buy1Pencils, but a trip out during my work day to a card craft shop that I didn’t even knew existed and I found Prismas on sale. In a shop. Without fanfare. I snapped them up.

Ok, it was just a wee tin of 12, but still. Just as creamy and dense as the Prismacolor Premiers but with the added delight of dense colour washes when water is added. They do come in 36 colours but this set will do me for a while. I am hoping to add and use them to other watercolour sets.






Koh-i-Noor Hardtmuth Polycolor

You won’t quite believe the price of these artist grade coloured pencils and you will snap them up. It’s shocking how cheap they are in price but how nice they are in quality. The colours are as bright as jewels and the pigments laydown densely, creamily and without a scratch or glitch. The pencils themselves resemble Faber-Castells, banded, detailed in gold and thick, hexagonal shafts.

Koh-i-Noor also do a watercolour version which would be quite an interesting prospect as I would expect solid washes of colour.

These are oil-based pencils and the company claims excellent lightfastness.


Koh-I-Noor Hardmuth Progresso Woodless







These woodless pencils are very popular with pencil artists because they are very unlike the traditional coloured pencil. They are without wood casing and the entire pencil is just solid, pigmented, core. That means that you get very little waste, more pigment and useable material for your money. They are very heavy in your hand which feels very reassuring. They have dense, rich pigments that go onto the paper confidently and thickly. Great for backgrounds, less so for fine detail. They come in two hard plastic trays that slot into a cardboard holder. The trays are great, they hold each pencil independently and would be great for storing current working pencils if only they were a little longer. No lightfastness information at the moment.


Cretacolor Karmina








Cretacolor are an Austrian company making artist grade art supplies. It is claimed that they are “highly pigmented” and “extremely lightfast”. I have the set of 36 pencils. They have thick cores and hexagonal barrells. They come in an oddly-coloured livery which is very matt but the end caps are the pencil pigment. When you first receive them, the pencils are stored top-to-tail but this drove me nuts and I had to rearrange them more traditionally. These are decent pencils, good shades, smooth laydown and dense coverage. Some of the shades are a little too ‘out there’ – not really found in nature and this makes me think that these pencils are more suited to design, decorative art rather than botanical or wildlife studies.The pencil cores are hard though, tips snap under pressure and they do seem a little scratchy and streaky – so go easy.


Cretacolor Marino







Cretacolor’s Marino pencils are their watersoluable line. The colours within are found in the Karmina range. These are round-barrelled however and have a metallic blue finish, with the pigment end caps. One thing these feature over the Karmina range, is that they have the lightfastness rating on the side of each pencil  – differentiating between I and II mostly. Like the Karminas, the cores are hard and the use of the pencil is a little scratchy. When water is added they retain good colour and dissolve quite well.


Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth Mondeluz

I quite liked the Koh-I-Noor Polycolour pencils and I remembered thinking they would be good watercolour pencils, so when I saw a set of 36 on eBay for a reasonable price, I had to buy them. First things first, they come in a horrific cardboard box reminiscent of the crappy boxes you would get in some cheap shop that your mum would buy you to keep you amused on holiday. By the time I received my pencils, the box was torn in 3 places. Anyway, it’s the pencils that matter and these look like bog standard coloured pencils. Hexagon barrels, self-coloured livery and chunky feel. But when you lay down the pigment, it is dense and creamy. And when you add water, well they just dissolve into thick, painterly washes. Lovely. They just burst with colour. These babies are getting rehomed as soon as I get a nice box.








Koh-I-Noor Giaconda leads

I don’t know very much about these, but they were on offer from the same eBay seller that I bought the Mondeluz pencils from and at £3 I couldn’t resist finding out what these were like. 6 leads – really, pencil cores in metallic shades. They come in teeny wee plastic box and are well protected. I don’t know what I’ll do with them but they are interesting. Hard leads, smooth coverage and nice metallic sheens.


Dick Blick Studio







These are heralded as a great and inexpensive alternative to Prismacolors in the USA. Not that Prismas are terribly dear over there anyway. In collaboration with the Coloured Pencil Society of America, Dick Blick created these pencils that claim to be as soft and lightfast as premier, artist-grade pencils. They come in 91 colours, I have the box of 72, and have thick cores; 3.8mm leads.

I found them very bright and very smooth. I would need to see them perform in a work, but I think I may prefer them to the Prismas. They don’t seem quite as buttery which is a good thing as I find it difficult to get real detail with Prismas unless I am sharpening after every stroke. Not bad Dick Blick. And thanks to WthrLady on Wetcanvas for sending this box to me.

ETA – having now seen them perform (see “Cherries”) I am pleased to report that these pencils are very good indeed. I see no fault in performance, they layer and blend like the best of your pencils. Plus, they have a firmer core than Prismas, which means less sharpening and better for detailed work. The only fault is the darks – there’s not the choice that the Prismas have and you will have to work hard to obtain darks in your painting -


Royal Talens Van Gogh

There was some discussion on WetCanvas about the origins of the Royal Talens pencils these days and whatever set you buy, wherever it is made, may affect the quality and feel of them. Mine are labelled Royal Talens Van Gogh though made in Indonesia.

IMG_6696 IMG_6699


They came in a bog-standard silver tin. I have the tin of 36 and certainly you get a nice selection of colours, plenty of blues and purples. The pencils are round-barrelled and feel chunky and weighty in your hand.

I found the pencils to be quite firm and a little bit scratchy. They do go down quite nicely after a few strokes but after you have built up a good number of layers then the pencils seem to start to score at the layers rather than build. They reminded me of Derwent Studio pencils in that they’d be good for lighter layers and detailed work. On softer, smoother surfaces you have to tread carefully. They also demanded a harder blender to fill those gaps ans I found the Derwent Burnisher to be more than up to the task. I think these pencils would be great for sketch work and foundation layers.


Prismacolor Premier ArtStix

These are sold as the same core as Prismacolor Premier coloured pencils, only woodless and in square sticks. For the artist, these promise to be good for broad sweeps of colour or smaller areas if you use the edges and points. I thought they may be good for backgrounds; quicker and easier. Plus, I have been having trouble with my Prismacolor pencils snapping and not keeping their core so anything to make big areas less frustrating is a bonus.

I didn’t know quite what to expect with these. Would they be as soft as the Prismacolor pencil cores? Would they snap? Would they behave like art block or hard pastels? Would they crumble and dust?

Well, they feel firmer and less smooshy and buttery than the pencils.

For my swatch card, I worked them back and forward and they didn’t crumble, snap or dust. They are surprisingly creamy and they don’t mess up your hands. The box of 48 contains a good selection of colours though as this is the biggest box you can buy, you are not going to get all of the 132 colours that the pencils offer. I think Prisma have done well to cover most colours that you are going to need. The silver and gold…hmmm…could have been left out in my opinion but someone may find a use for them. I am looking forward to playing with these.








Derwent 30th Anniversary Watercolour Pencils

During my recent visit to the Cumberland Pencil Museum – have I mentioned that I went there recently…for my birthday? – I picked up a tin of 12 watercolour pencils that were released in 2011 to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Pencil Museum. They were on sale, and really, how is a girl to resist? Forget cupcakes and shoes, a sale on art supplies is enough to make me giddy and get Mr. S. to open his wallet.

The pencils are fashioned in the retro style though they contain the most up-to-date formula. They look like proper, old-fashioned pencils rather than the double-dip ended, navy blue livery of the ones we use and love today. They are encased in a tin with a retro style pencil drawing of what is, presumably, Derwent Water.

The cores are the soft, buttery, melt like paint when water is added ones that we know well. You get a good selection of colours.

I didn’t really need these and I don’t use watercolour pencils that often but they are beautifully packaged and actually, I think will fit quite well into my Derwent Carry-All to use out and about.

Caran D’Ache Museum Aquarelle

Caran D’Ache have recently released new coloured pencils – Museum Aquarelle. They come in 76 colours though only the full range is available in singles. Currently, the collections available are 12 Basics, 20 Marine and 20 Landscape. I bought the 12 Basics from Ken Bromley for £27.99  – so you can tell immediately that these are high-end, high-quality and lightfast materials.

Back to the Museum Aquarelles though. The collection of 12 came in a beautiful square box with foam top and bottom and grooved to hold the pencils. The pencils themselves are gorgeous.


They are chunky and weighty. They have a black matt livery with a generous colour-dipped tip. In the collection of 12 you get 2 options for every colour group – I was disappointed not to get a white though, I may buy that separately. On the hexagonal barrell, Caran D’Ache helpfully have added the lightfast rating – this collection is 3 to 5 stars – the only ‘fugitive’ pencil being the cobalt blue.


I love the chunky cores in these too. The cores are soft, dense and chunky – chunky enough for you to get stuck in and carried away with your work without fear of damage lending to a more expressive feel to your work rather than detailed.


When you add water to them, they dissolve instantly and the wash is thick and creamy thinning out to a nice wash. The ‘fugitive’ blue is a little wishy-washy as you can see in my swatch, but the rest are good. The dry pigment is thick and dense, solid laydown. I use rough watercolour card for my swatches and these pencils coped admirably though filling the tooth with the chunky cores would take a lot more work.

Derwent Coloursoft Fashion

Derwent brought out a limited edition box of 12 new Coloursoft colours under the banner of ‘Fashion’. They come in lovely tin with an illustration by Niki Pilkington:

IMG_6841 IMG_6840

When you hear ‘Fashion’ you think gawdy, temporary, bright, pretentious…well, at least I do but then I am not the most fashionable person you’ll ever meet. I mean, I like clothes…and for public safety I wear clothes, but I don’t slavishly follow their creation. I believe Victoria Beckham makes dresses…I digress. But this collection’s palette is, happily, lovely. Muted, earthy and rich. The Magenta is pleasingly shocking but the rest are muted and very natural. I think they’ll complement the existing Coloursoft range nicely and will add an extra dimension.



31 Responses to Coloured Pencils

  1. elaine says:

    Mouthwatering! Thanks for his post. It is an excellent resource. May I ask what paper you made the swatches on? The colours look superb on it.

    • SalemSkye says:

      I use 300gsm Cold Press Watercolour paper – I buy the postcard A6 size in bulk and use them for swatches, doodles, ideas etc. You can get them on eBay for very good prices. Mind you, I buy 100 and think they’ll last me for a year and they don’t! Just as well they are reasonably priced. Thanks for visiting!

  2. Futural says:

    Greetings from Colombia,
    I would like to ask you, based on your experience, which brand do you think is the softest dry color pencil, and if you know if the Mitsubishi Uni Color Pencil from japan is wax or oil based?
    Thanks for your attention.

    • SalemSkye says:

      Welcome from Scotland. The softest coloured pencil, I think, is Derwent’s Coloursoft. Of course many artists use and swear by Prismacolor, insisting that they are the softest, but in my experience and what I have heard from some coloured pencil artists, the Coloursoft is much softer, some even say too soft. As for the Mitsubishi Uni coloured pencil, I haven’t tried it at all as it is way too expensive to get a hold of, but from what I know of it, that the parent company/distributor is Sanford, who also owns Prismacolor, and they look very much like Prismas, I would hazard a guess that they are then wax-based coloured pencils.

  3. Fiona says:

    Thank you SalemSkye for all these photos of your color pencils, your website is very informative and your artworks are so lovely.
    Do you think Koh-i-Noor Hardtmuth Polycolor set of 72 would be suitable for botanical drawings? what’s the soft/hardness of their core compare to Faber-Castell polychromos? which oil based color pencil would you recommend for doing finer drawings?
    Thanks so much for your put.
    Wish You A Happy Holiday Season!

  4. Fiona says:

    Hi SalemSkye;
    On the previous comment, I mean to write ” lead” instead of ” core”.
    So my question was , how would you compare the lead’s soft/hardness of Koh-i-Noor polycolor with Faber Castell polychromos?
    Many thanks!!

    • SalemSkye says:

      Fiona, thanks so much for visiting my site. Sorry for the delay in replying but a combination of moving house and the festive period took me away from my site for far too long, something I am to remedy in 2012. I have answered your question in a blog post as I wanted to give you a full answer – hope that’s ok! I hope you and your family had a lovely Christmas and all the best for 2012.

  5. Alexandra says:

    Thanks for this awesome review, so detailed and extensive. It helped me choose my pencils and I have just ordered Derwent Drawing Pencils and a set of Polychromos as well.
    For some time I have had Koh-i-Noor Mondeluz pencils ( the watercolor pencils you mentioned in your review), a set of 24, and I quite like them, most of the colours are really nice. They are sort of breakable but otherwise they are ok, especially for the price.

    • SalemSkye says:

      I am really pleased that my thoughts helped you. You have picked some good pencils – the Polys you just can’t go wrong with and the Drawing pencils are very different – good fun. Koh-i-Noor pencils are amazing quality for the price – get a Maped sharpener (the Vivo if you can get it, if not another line) and you may find that he pencils break less. I am very impressed with Maped sharpeners – cheap but very effective. Thanks for visiting! Do come back and let me know how you get on with your new pencils when you get them! Happy drawing.

  6. Bronte says:

    You have a hugeeee collection of pencils! How do you get to use them all? Thank you very much for these reviews, I found it very helpful, I own a 72 set of Derwent Watercolour Pencils, and Artists Pencils (and a 48 set of coloursoft). I use the watercolours exclusively, because they are a lot easier to apply (than the Artists, which are extremely waxy) and the fact that you can blend the colours easier with water. I agree completely with your review on the Coloursoft pencils! The sharpened points blunt so quickly it is a nuisance to use them, and though I brought mine brand new, from an expensive art shop, the colour in some pencils did not apply easily, it had gone hard? This also occurred with my set of Derwent Pastel Pencils. Was wondering if you had any idea how to soften the core/pigment so that it was usable again? Thanks again for sharing this review :)

    • SalemSkye says:

      Hi Bronte – I don’t get to use them all, that’s the simple answer! I wish I did but I really just like to try lots of different brands and makes to see how they perform and one day I might just find my favourite ever pencil. I do choose which pencil to use based on the subject and support of my piece but generally I stick to a select few: Polychromos, Prismas (when they don’t break), Lyra Rembrandts. I agree about the Derwent Artists range – they are very waxy and take a patient and light hand to get the best out of them, but I do like their firmness. I rarely use Watercolour pencils, but only because I am not confident enough with wet media. I like the intensity of Derwents Inktense range and use them for more fun, loose projects rather than coloured pencil pieces. If I use Watercolour pencils, I tend to use them dry just like regular pencils, kind of defeats the purpose of them but they often lay down better than regular dry pencils. Caran D’Ache Supracolor are a prime example of this.

      Alas, Derwent do have a problem with dry, crusty, filmed pencils occasionally – I don’t know why it happens. I notice it the most in the Pastel pencil range and the Artists. Sharpening down helps, sandpapering off the film helps, but if all else fails Derwent are more than happy to replace the offending pencils if you send them with a covering letter.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment on my site and if there is anything you would like me to look at, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I like having a purpose!

  7. Nathalie says:

    You should have a look for the Koh i noor magic pencils! I got them last weekend and the really look magic with different colors in one lead. Have to try them more still.

    • SalemSkye says:

      I have never heard of these before, they look like a lot of fun. They remind me of the 4 colours in 1 Lyra pencil which is good. I’ll have to get a hold of these though – Koh-i-Noor are fantastic at providing good quality art materials at reasonable prices. Thanks for bringing them to my attention and visiting my blog.

  8. simon says:

    Thank you for the illuminating overview – just what I was looking for! :) Lately, I’ve been scouring the net as to what coloured pencils to buy next. I own the Polychromos and a set of very hard Derwents. I love them, but am rather jealous when reading my books on c.p.s or watching videos, at how some pencils seem to be so buttery smooth and blend almost like oil colours. And so I’ve decided to buy and try some. Now, I’m still a bit confused as to which to choose – Prismacolours seem to be all about smoothness, but I’m worried about the quality (lightfastness, wax-bloom, breaking, etc.). Generally, oil-based pencils seem better with regards to quality, but are there any that are as smooth and easy to blend as the Prismacolours? And, if you were to choose wax-based pencils, would you get Prismacolours or the Derwents? It would be really great, if you could give me some additional pointers. :)

    • SalemSkye says:

      Thanks very much for your kind comments. I am guessing that your hard Derwents are Artists or Studio? I like them both too. Polychromos are the best oil-based pencils. Choosing between Prismas or Derwents – I guess Coloursofts? That’s a difficult one. If you are looking at lightfastness, then both have fugitive pencils and I would probably favour the Prismas. Wax-bloom is an issue with both but as long as you are using a fixative then you shouldn’t have much of a problem. Quality – that’s easy, the Coloursofts win. They are reliable, sharpen well and the cores don’t break too much. Prismas are appalling; the cores break all the time, casing splits and they don’t hold a point very long. Some of that can be fixed by blasting them in the microwave for a few seconds – make sure it is just that as some contain metal paint on the barrel. But if I really had to choose, I would go for the Prismas because when they do work, they are unbeatable. Soft, smooshy pigment that layers and blends wonderfully and gives you a painterly, smooth thickness to your piece. They are both much of a muchness money wise. But if money isn’t a concern, then have you looked at Caran D’Ache’s Luminance 6901? No lightfastness issues, no poor quality issues, beautifully smooth wax based cores. But boy, do you pay for them! Hope this helps and let me know how you get on.

  9. Andreia says:

    Great blog! Really helped me decide what to buy!

  10. Higor says:

    Hey! This is useful stuff! I just have some (i.e. LOADS OF) questions; how hard are the Lyra Polycolors compared to the Derwent Coloursoft and Artists? (The two I have handled) Also, how transparent are they? Opaque like Prismacolors or really transparent? And how blendable compared to Prismas? It’s just that I’m in doubt between buying a set of Polychromos and a set of Prismacolors or the Polychromos with the Polycolors. Ultimately, how do the Lyra Polycolors and the Prismacolors compare, and is it worth buying the Polychromos AND one of these two?
    (A previous post of mine isn’t appearing here so i posted again to be sure XD) Thanku!
    P.S. If you ever feel like giving some away, I’m here for you, hahaha

    • SalemSkye says:

      Thank you – I like to be useful! Polycolors sit in between the Coloursoft (soft and creamy) and Artists (very hard but not dry). They are slightly soft and on the drier side of creamy. The are slightly more opaque than Prismas but not as transparent as the Artists. Not as blendable as the Prismas – but nothing is as blendable as those. Apart from the sharpening issues/core breaking issues with the Prismas, you just can’t beat them. I would pick your Prismas/Polychromos combination over any other combination. But it all depends on the paper you are using too. What supports do you normally use?

      • Higor says:

        To be honest, at the moment, nearly anything I have in “the drawer”; i.e. nothing special. I’m in more of a prolonged practice session than doing finished drawings. However, when I do want to do a finished drawing, any thick (~300 gsm), hot or cold pressed watercolour paper (depending on what I plan to do). Now that you mention it, I was actually planning on buying a few sheets of Canson mi Teintes to try out. Any opinions? And thanks for the help, I appretiate the opinions of fellow “observers of the world” (as I like to call artists(if I can call myself that)). (I like to use parenthesis).

        • SalemSkye says:

          Mi-Tientes is probably my favourite support to work on closely followed by Daler Rowney Murano. They are both quite toothy and robust and work well under my heavy hand when layering. Plus you get both in a wide selection of colours. If you don’t like the toothy side then the back of it is smoother. It’s also fairly inexpensive.

  11. Higor says:

    Thanks for your patience, but I’m gonna stretch my luck here.. XD You said before that you find the Coloursofts soft and creamy. While I do find them to be soft, I feel they are quite chalky.. Could it be the paper I am using or just a difference in the phrasing of our opinions? If the latter, by “on the dry side of creamy” do you mean that the Lyras are even chalkier? I promise that that was the end of my vigorous interrogation.

    • SalemSkye says:

      No problem, I like talking about pencils and paper! You are right, Coloursoft can be chalky and crumbly depending on what paper you are using. On Stonehenge they are good. Mi-Tientes not too back, but anything smoother and they can be disappointing. They are not a good substitute for Prismas as much as Derwent would like them to be. The Lyras are great on smooth paper but on rough paper like Mi-Tientes I found them to be hard work. They are rubbery – if that makes sense to you. They act in an odd way on the paper, drag and rubbery. On smooth though, no problem. If I remember right, someone commented on my blog that if they got a little bit of heat they became rubbery but cold and they were fine, so maybe it’s my storage issue (which I have recently changed). Hope that helps and don’t worry about interrogating me – I could talk pencils all day!

  12. Higor says:

    *edit* Hey I was wondering, do you know if its possible to get the Koh i Noor Mondeluz (Watercolour Pencils) in open stock?

    • SalemSkye says:

      Hi – I don’t know of anywhere that sells them in open stock, that may be because they are fairly inexpensive to begin with. Certainly the cheapest I have found are on eBay or Amazon. Maybe you could try a set of 12 to begin with?

      • Higor says:

        Hm… Just a curiosity to be honest. Thanks again! Also, are you ok WetCanvas? If so, by what name?

        • SalemSkye says:

          I am, Salemskye. I like to be diverse!

          • Higor says:

            Hahaha, mine is really creative too! “Higor Alves” Come to think of it… *checks post on WetCanvas* yup, you helped welcome me to the forum. Now to figure out how to upload something, *scratches chin*

          • SalemSkye says:

            :D It’s easy to do that, your picture just has to be small and when you write your message, click the wee mountain picture icon, then add your file and click on it to post. WC is a great resource for artists and I visit it daily even though I don’t always post.

  13. Higor says:

    Managed to do it :) its the portrait of a green-eyed gal WIP.

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