If you have come direct to this page and have not read the notes on the section introductionPLEASE NOTE1. Comments made here are personal and are not sponsored by the manufacturers2. The order of listing is entirely down to the date the initial reviews were done with more recently reviewed brands appearing towards the end of the list.The order is in no way an indication of quality3. The guide is designed to aid those who are new to the medium of coloured pencil helping them select a brand and product that may be most suitable for their needs.4. Just because one brand suits one person does not automatically make it ideal for everyone.
CARAN d’ACHEImported from Geneva in Switzerland, Caran d’Ache Pencils are marketed in a range of individual brands. Caran d’Ache are one of the newer brands in Europe having been founded in 1915 as a manufacturer of writing instruments.They have built up a strong reputation for quality in the years since.The Company produce a wide range of art media and continue to develop new lines.The wax based dry point pencil is branded ‘PABLO’ and comes in 120 colours with a good selection of natural shades - ideal for landscapes. They are medium soft and are very close to Polychromos in feel, but harder than Derwent Coloursoft. They tend to be more expensive than other brands and distribution around the UK is not evenly spread.European distribution is better.They may not be easy to find, but as a Landscape Artist, This brand tends to be one of the first boxes I go to for landscape subjects as the colour range suits my style of work and the pencils handle well.The Pablo pencils layer well, and build up a good depth of colour.There is a very good ‘all rounder’ in the Caran d’Ache brands in ‘SUPRACOLOR SOFT’.This is a soluble pencil with a soft feel which works well both as a dry point and an aquarelle. This also has the same 120 colours as Pablo. If you could only afford one good full set with a wide number of options, Supracolor Soft would be a good choice. One good point with the Supracolor pencils is the fact that when the dry pigment is wet, the colour becomes more intense (in common with all aquarelles ) but this brand has very little colour shift so the colour you put down remains the colour you wanted. The Supracolor make a very good choice as a dry pencil too. Single replacement pencils are readily available over the internet.A colour chart of the full colour range for Supracolor completed from the actual pencils is shown at the foot of this page. This is not in the standard format of the colour comparison charts featured elsewhere on the ‘PencilTopics’ site as it was completed some years ago when I first tried out the full range of Caran D’Ache Supracolor. It does show the effect of adding water to the dry colour. In summer 2013 MUSEUM AQUARELLE PENCILS were introduced into the UK. Soft, highly pigmented and lightfast. These are softer than Supracolor, but contain more pigment and therefore produce strong colour effects. My feeling is that the pigment level lies somewhat less that the Derwent Inktense but substantially higher than Supracolor Soft. Some caution is needed when using this pencil line for the first time, get used to the result of adding water to the pigment before launching into a masterwork.A lightfast non soluble pencil, ‘LUMINANCE 6901’ is a blend of some waxes but mainly oils, first came on sale in the UK during 2008. the number relates to the American ASTMS standard for lightfastness. This is a wax type, non soluble pencil with a high pigment level All the colours are lightfast, but the set of 76 colours has 38 Brights ( reds yellows blues etc ) and 38 Earth colours, many of which come in twins or triplets of shades of the same colour, so you don’t actually get 76 unique colours. The idea of having two or three shades of a colour is helpful to the artist, however, and the collection is a good one. The recommended retail price (RRP) for Luminance is around twice that of other quality pencils so there has been some sales resistance because of the cost. They usually retail at around £3 per pencil, RRP, but there are offers from time to time which are worth taking up. Single pencils are available to replace used ones. The white Luminance is possibly the softest and best white dry point pencil I have come across and it will keep on working long after other brands have given up. Most useful for highlights and when working on black or dark papers. I don’t try to use other brands on top of Luminance, though.Overall, very good soft pencils, but expensive. UPDATE Luminance pencil design has been improved in 2012 with a fresh appearance to the pencil. The new design carries the colour previously just at the extreme top of the pencil, down the sides a little way so that the colour can easily be seen as the pencil sits in the box or on the table top. The lettering on the pencil side is still printed in illegible silver but you don’t get everything perfect in one go !LIGHTFASTNESSAs at August 2010 the position over lightfastness in coloured pencils was complicated by the withdrawal of the Prismacolor lightfast range and the fact that the only other brand meeting ASTMS 6901 at that time were the Talens Van Gogh pencils, now marketed as part of the Sakura group and whilst still available, are belived to be now only sold in sets. ( Aug 2010 ). Cretacolour coloured pencils from Austria meet the terms of ASTMS D4303 which is not the same - but a similar ASTMS Lightfastness Test is done on the pigments rather than the pencils.Luminance from Caran d’Ache filled the gap left by the departure of Prismacolor.If you wish to buy pencils that meet an ASTMS standard for non fading, then the choice is either Luminance, Cretacolour or a careful selection from the ranges of other manufacturers by reference to their detailed charts, avoiding low rated colours.This reduced competition makes the position of Caran d’Ache very much stronger.Also in the Swiss range are NEOCOLOR . These are solid wax crayons in a wide range of colours and can be used with the pencils. NEOCOLOR 1 are non-soluble and come in sets of 30 with some extra metallics,Neocolor 1 ( the non soluble one ) can be used on a wide variety of unusual surfaces and is stable once it has been polished to burnish the surface. I have seen it used on wood and terracotta, and also over Matt Acrylic, and appears to have its limits only on glossy surfaces.The big range are the soluble ones - NEOCOLOR 2 - which come in 126 assorted colours as well as singly.These don’t leave as strong an indented line when drawn ( they are, after all ,a soft crayon) but they do wash in readily and blend on the page. Good for larger works but not as easy as pencils to achieve any detail.For those who like a fine pointed, hard colour Aquarelle pencil, Caran d’Ache PRISMALO is still available.This is an old line, but still useful. Price wise they are less costly than the lines shown above and they are available through Great Art at about the same prices as Lyra lines. There is also a student quality aquarelle branded SWISSCOLOR which is targeted at schools and colleges.I have not handled this pencil.Other pencil brands from Caran d’Ache ( which may not be easily found ) include the original Museum line which had a range of 24 highly water soluble ‘leads’ which fit in a propelling pencil holder. The colour range was said to be lightfast to a high standard though I don’t have data. This product had an advantage for those unable to sharpen pencils easily and though the colour range was limited, the basic colours are there and being soluble, there is the ability to mix colours which are not represented. For most people, though, this line would be an expensive option compared to traditional wood cased pencils. They were not so easy to use as the colour ‘lead’ had to be changed over every time unless you had extra holders ( which were expensive )In 2011, The Company launched a blender/burnisher for colour pencils based on the colourless core of the luminance brand. This is a woodfree stick of solid transparent waxy material which can be sharpened in a blade sharpener and is very effective for blending laid down colour from wax and oil based pencils. The sticks are sold as the FULL BLENDER BRIGHT in packs of two sticks 17cm long, and can also be used to glaze over artwork and are said to protect against UV lightIn addition to the aquarelles and non soluble pencils, Caran d’Ache market an excellent range of pastel pencils which are reviewed in the Pastel Pencil sectionAvailability of Caran d’Ache products is usually easier over the internet :From the UK retailers, try Ken Bromley Art Supplies or www.jacksonart.co.ukThe Geneva Head Office of Caran d’Ache is at www.carandache.ch/
Caran D’Ache SupracolorRange of colours in the full set and the effect of using water on the coloursSeveral years ago, I bought my first full sized box of Caran D’Ache Supracolor pencils (This was before the Topics’ site was a mere twinkle in the eye)and I set to with the pencils on a large sheet of 500gsm watercolour paper to draw out a full chart of the colours Dry and Wet.I show a photo of that chart below and though it is not perfect as an example of all the colours, it does show how little most of the colours are affected by the addition of water. The first examples in column One are of the colour dry. The second column shows the dry colour treated with a small amount of clean water to bring up a concentrated wash. The third column shows the affect of dragging a brush of clean water across a block of dry colour and producing a fading wash.The colours in the central section of the first line (on the left) are a set of very pale colours and these do not show at all well in the photo. Be assured that the colours are there in the original, and the same sort of results are seen as in the stronger shades.The Third colour down in Column 2 is Bordeaux Red. This is one of the few colours to show a step change in strength when water is added. There are two or three other colours that also come up stronger, but it is fair to say that no colour takes on a different shade when wet - the colours remain faithful to the intention of the artist.Note for example, though, Apricot in column 4 is not a yellow. In real life the colour is correctly an apricot colour. Here the photo colour balance is incorrect.The decision taken then and shown here, is that whilst many brands of aquarelle pencil show a marked change in some colours - either in colour or strength - when wet, The Caran d’Ache Supracolor pencils are remarkably stable.
As noted above, some very pale colours do not show on this photo, which is balanced to give the truest impression of most of the colours. All the colours tested show on the original test sheet. Some may show incorrectly in this old photo (like Apricot - which is not yellow).
Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle soft lightfast pencils
This relatively new member of the Caran d’Ache Artists range was introduced into the UK market in July 2013.The pencils are of larger diameter than most in the Caran d’Ache ranges and are highly pigmented and very soft. The lightfastness ranges from 5 star to just the one colour of the 76 ( Dark Plum) which is rated 2 . The Blue Wool scale ratings run from excellent ( 5 = 100 years stability ) to 3 star on a very few other colours which are rated ‘good’. There are 76 colours in the full range and in a similar way to the marketing of the new pastel pencil colours, there is a starter set of a standard 12 colours which incorporates two each of the three primaries ( red yellow and blue ) giving the ability to mix virtually any colour from the 6. In addition the remaining 6 are useful support colours. A good box.The next size selections are of 20 colours each in a box of Landscape colours and a box of Marine colours.Buying both these boxes enables the artist to have a good selection with very few duplicates. The remaining colours of the full set of 76 will be available in October 2013 through selected UK retailers as single colours.Prices run at about £2.50 a pencil, which is good value for such quality - particularly compared to what the artist now pays for a very small tube of watercolour from a market leader like Winsor and Newton.
This chart of the full 76 colour range shows the vivid range of highly pigmented colours. The first sample in each line is of the dry colour. The second sample of each shows the effect of adding water and you will note there is no major colour shift as a result.
When this range of pencils was introduced, a small trial set of 6 colours was marketed to promote the idea that colours could easily be mixed from a small set.A competition was run and some remarkable pictures produced, using just the 6 colours.The prizewinning entries were featured on line and you may find the results still available on the Internet at Painters On Lineusing the link address:www.painters-online.co.uk/News/Fifteen-Works-Selected-in-The-Caran-dAche-Museum-Aquarelle-Painting-Competition/_nw905_pg1.I have undertaken commissions with these pencils, such as the house ‘portrait’ shown here, which have been well received.
Caran d’Ache pencils are readily available from Internet sources and in the UK, a number of retailers stock the sets. A good source of both sets and individual replacement pencils is the Dartmouth based family run company www.pencils4artists.co.uk. Sets can also be sourced from larger Internet organisations such as Amazon ( who often quote supplies from a range of smaller art materials companies) but large discounts are not usually available. If you see a good offer from a reliable source it can be worth taking advantage of, but always bear in mind that when you buy pencils from the Internet, should the goods arrive damaged, or in any way faulty ( faults are unlikely with Caran d’Ache ), then you need to have easy recourse to the seller to get an exchange or refund. Check the position before you click ‘buy’.