Friday, December 31, 2010

Colored pencil swatches

I went on a swatching bender and (finally) made color swatches of almost all my colored pencils. (Everything but the Polychromos, which I know really really well and didn't feel the need to swatch. And also, I just ran out of gas.)

*This isn't meant to be an 'official review' of any of these brands, by any means. More like just an impression by ONE user. For example, I love love love Polychromos, and I know plenty of people who can't stand them, so take what I say here with a grain of salt. Its all subjective, you know?*

First up, the Luminance. These are light fast, which means they won't fade like a lot of other colored pencils will. (Or at least not as much.) They're also expen$ive.

I was at first really disappointed because many of the set of 76 were scratchy going down. I went so far as to email the company as well as the online store I bought them from to ask for a refund or something.

Then I sat down to do another quick scribbly swatch chart to document which ones were really bad - and this time, they worked better.

I think its possible they were actually a bit frozen? from sitting on a FedEx truck the first time around, since I had opened them up almost immediately upon receiving them and did the first round of swatches right away. This second set was made a few days later after they've been sitting in a nice warm house, so maybe that's made a difference. I'm willing to give them another chance.
(And I emailed both companies back to set things right.)

However. Aside from that (let's say they all 'went down' smooth and I was 100% happy with that aspect), I have a couple of picky complaints:

The name of the color is wrapped around the barrel of the pencil (instead of going down lengthwise, like with most other brands) which means you have to turn the pencil around to read the name. I know that sounds like I'm just being lazy, but its kind of annoying. I understand why they did that - to keep the color name from being sharpened off as the pencil gets sharpened down to the nub. OK.
But more annoying than the wrap-around design is the color of the type - its reflective silver, and almost impossible to read, especially when one has a light on over the drawing table. At least for me.

So you can picture this - I'm cranky because the pencils are going down scratchy, then I can't read the darned name on the end. And I'm thinking about how expensive these are, and how much I was looking forward to them, and how I was expecting them to be pencil nirvana. Well, I don't want to give them a bad review, but I can't in good conscience give them a glowing one either. I would LOVE to hear anyone else's thoughts on these in the comments or you may email me privately.

On a good note, they do come already sharpened, and they feel nice to hold, and the color range is fine. And they're light fast, so there you go.

Next up I did my Lyra Rembrandt Polycolors.

Ahhhh, such smooth luscious feeling pencils. And such pretty colors. I did use these a while back on a piece and ended up using my Polychromos to bump up some color at the end. But now I think that if you give them a good burnish, the colors will pop more. I tend to not like to burnish - I'm not a fan of the 'look' (usually, but there are exceptions - and I'm just talking about for my own work, I'm not criticizing anyone else's burnishing technique), and I really really don't like how it makes my hand and arm feel. But over all, the Lyras go down 'like buttah'.

Then I did my whole set of 132 Prismacolors.

It was about time - I've been using an old set forever, that was actually bits and pieces of lots of sets cobbled together, then recently sprung for the new ones. I've used several of these, but also there were many that hadn't even been sharpened!! (That's one drawback of Prismas - you have to sharpen them all.)

Then after I was done I realized I'd done Terra Cotta twice (which means I had a new and an old one in the tin) and also included a Deco Blue, which I know wasn't in the new set, since they're not doing the Deco colors anymore.

Still, it was good to do, because there are some neat colors I hadn't used. There a lot of good sort of neutral beige-y colors like Rosy Beige, Peach Beige, Ginger Root, Putty Beige and Beige Sienna. I also like Espresso and Chocolate (well, no surprise there). And the tried and true French Greys are essential, as are (for me, anyway) Black Raspberry, Black Grape and Black Cherry.

Then I did the Coloursofts.

I have no complaints about them at all. They go down easy and have a nice color range.

I don't have my current Lightfast booklet from CPSA nearby, so can't comment on that aspect of any these pencils at the moment. I know that's their biggest drawback, that some of them fade.

I'm glad I did these swatches - now I know what I have, and how they feel, and have them there on a chart I can hold up to see without having to fish through the tins for a color. Sometimes you need a really specific color for something, and when you have literally hundreds of pencils, it can be hard to find the right one.

So that's it. Now I have to go make some actual art.


Fay Akers said...

hey that studio time should come in handy and sometimes that saves time. I only wish I had the motivation to do so.

Meisie said...

Great post Paula! I actually did my swatches (99% Prismas) onblack as well as I enjoy working on black...personally I love making swatches and samples's like building a friendship ;-) I even have ones done with my water colours :D

Felicity said...

Brilliant post Paula! I should do this so I admire your patience and persistance! Luminance are readily available here, of course, but I have yet to be won over, I just don't find them that impressive. I keep their black and white though for adding at the end as other similar brands don't have the strength that they do. Overall, I don't like that waxy feel.

Btw, did you notice when you were doing the Lyras, how Gold Ochre is so much waxier than the others? It doesn't mix and won't let anything else on top! I find that so bizarre as I really like the range. I love the Polychromos too and Derwent Artists.

CC said...

Glad you found something to keep you from wandering the streets......

UH,oh! Just heard a CRASH!!! Fred D. Cat just tried to climb Mt Stacked-high-book -shelf-over-flat-files. To his great surprise there was a huge book avalanche as he leaped to the floor.
6 lives to go....
As soon as I pick up the spilled books.... I'm going to unzip his little fur suit and set him out in the snow...... or maybe initiate flying lessons...out the 37th story window....... And the new year commences.

Sarah Melling said...

Oooh, I love your swatch charts! I just blogged about sorting and organizing my new set of 132 Prismacolors. I'm just getting back into drawing, so I'm sticking with them for now, but I'm very tempted to give some of the other brands a try. As it is, I'm feeling my heart race a bit just choosing from 132 colors. I totally agree on the lovely beiges - Ginger Root seems to find its way into every drawing I do. I'm a HUGE fan of your work, by the way. (My globetrotting daughter just brought me some chocolates from Laduree in Paris, and my first thought upon opening them was, "I wish I could draw chocolates like Paula

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Paula - you'll find Luminance are a "slow burn". I've been using them more and more - they're very pigment rich. They also do like to be kept warm! They're a good complement for Polychromos being a different type of pencil

I love my Lyra Rembrandts!

There is one range which you've done which has more issues with Lightfastness than any other - and I do wish CPSA would get off the fence and say which one it is. It's very clear from the lightfastness handbook.

I'm putting a link to this post in my Coloured Pencils resource which you can find at

Paula Pertile said...

Thanks everybody!

Sarah - BIG thanks, gosh! I couldn't find your email anywhere (on your blog -?) so I'm just saying 'thanks' here instead. "Thanks!" :~)

Felicity ~ I didn't notice the Gold Ochre being more waxy, specifically, but generally speaking, in each set, there are noticeable differences between the colors. Some are soft, some aren't as nice, some feel harder, etc. It must be something in the pigment. The Luminance ones that gave me the hardest time the second time I swatched them were Apricot and Raw Umber. {{shivers}}

Sarah Melling said...

Oops! As a blogging newbie, I wasn't aware that my email address hasn't been visible. Thanks for bringing to my attention; hopefully I've remedied it now! I look forward to following your blog, Paula.

Kendra said...

Paula, You put a lot time and effort into the color charts and I really find it helpful. I keep putting the Lyra Rembrandts away and I should keep them out and use them more. I tend to fall back on the Prismas although I switch brands to be conscious of colorfastness in the colors I choose.

Starrpoint said...

I have done this for most of my Derwent pencils, but not the prisma colors yet.

I have a sketch pad I devote just to this, something I can refer back to.

Helped me learn them.

for the water-mixable, I have a swatch of the dry color, a swatch with water overlaid it, and a swatch going onto wet paper.

Dutchbaby said...

I'm glad I did something that a pro does. Being a lover of data, and my natural inclination to catalog, I always make swatches of my pencils, pens, and calligraphy nibs. The only problem I have is every time my son borrows my colored pencil set for his school projects, my swatch sheet turns up missing. I've remade it so many times now, I've decided to wait until he graduates from high school in a year and half before I redo it.