Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Comparing colored pencils

A while back Rita asked me, "how do you find the Coloursofts compared to other pencils that you've used? Pros? Cons?", and I promised her I would address that question in a blog post. First of all I have to say that I really enjoy experimenting with this medium. A little over a year ago, if someone had asked me about differences between colored pencil brands I would have been stumped for a reply, thinking they were all pretty much the same. But then I began actually using colored pencils, trying various brands, and reading about other artists' experiences with colored pencils and which brands they preferred. I soon realized that choosing the colored pencil brand that is right for me would be no easy task.
When I received my first set of 24 Prismacolors as a gift I started out using them over graphite drawings. Looking for more information about drawing with colored pencils opened up a whole world of possibilities. So I started experimenting. To date I have yet to purchase a complete set of any one brand. I have been fairly happy with Prismacolors when working on pastel board but prefer Faber-Castell's Polychromos when working on paper. I must have a heavy hand when drawing and the softness of Prismacolor colored pencils quickly becomes a heavy, waxy mess when I use them on paper. Polychromos, however, are oil based and a bit harder, which works with my drawing style a little better when I work on paper.

The images here are Polychromos on Strathmore 500 Series Bristol, 5 x 7 inches. The pear above is an underpainting, or grisaille, using walnut brown, and the image below shows the completed pear after I colored over the underpainting with local color.
I love the feel of Polychromos colored pencils on paper and intend to continue using them this way. It is also helpful that they are available locally in open stock so I have been able to supplement my original set of 36 purchase.

I have tried using Polychromos on pastel board, another favorite support, and have not been as pleased with the result. The hardness of the pencils that works so well for me on paper doesn't translate for me to the textured surface of pastel board. Prismacolors work well enough although at times they can be a little too soft leaving a bit too much of a waxy deposit on the board. Plus there are issues with the leads breaking, doesn't happen often but it can be irritating when it does. And then there is the whole lightfast issue. While regular Prismacolors are readily available open stock in my area, the lightfast sets are only offered as sets, and then only occasionally.

So, my most recent experiment was with a 24 set of Derwent's new line of Coloursoft colored pencils. Overall they seem to have better lightfast ratings than regular Prismacolors. And so far I haven't had any issues with breaking leads. When I used them on pastel board they felt to me to be ever so slightly harder than Prismacolors, a little less waxy, yet still soft enough to lay down nicely on the textured board, even with my heavy handed drawing. All in all I feel that the Coloursofts are to be my colored pencil of choice for works on pastel board. The biggest drawbacks for me are that the range of greens available are somewhat limited (I'm hoping they will continue to add more colors though!), and they are not available locally in open stock. In fact, the one local art supplier that does carry them does not carry the complete set, only the set of 36. So planning ahead for orders is needed.

And there you have it. Of course, these opinions are based solely on *my* experiences with these products and will vary greatly with each individual. And I'll probably experiment again the next time a new colored pencil product hits the shelves. After all, that's part of the fun!

11 comments:

Alan said...

Thanks for dropping by my blog today.

I have used primarily Prismacolors for the few things I have done in color pencil. I actually had used them back in my days as a draftsman as we used Prismacolor pencils on blueprint paper when we checked other draftsmens work. We used a very limited palette of red, green, yellow, and purple.

I have a couple of other small sets of color pencil but they are really cheap that have been laying around the house for years. I didn't like they way they worked so they are still laying about the house. I am going to try some of the other brands a few at a time to see which ones I like.

Shelly McC said...

Wow! This is gorgeous!

Laurel Neustadter said...

Your pear is beautiful. I am just getting started in colored pencil and have only used Prismacolors. Your post has inspired me to experiment with different brands. Thanks!

Rita said...

Great review Ann!

I'm thinking about picking up a set of Coloursofts since I do most of my work on Colourfix and now I'm doing more and more work on "the board". :)

The breaking leads has been my biggest complaint with Prisma's so it's good to hear that the Coloursofts don't appear to have the same problem. Again, thanks for doing that review!

Ann said...

And thank you all for stopping by! Part of the fun for me is trying out different materials. I'm glad you all enjoyed reading about the process!

SCquiltaddict said...

that second pair is just lucious....

Sherry said...

Thank you for your thoughtful analysis of the qualities of various brands of colored pencils. I have also gradually migrated away from Prismacolors, for the same reason as you, the waxy buildup. However, I have tons of these pencils and I expect they'll last me the rest of my days. Your pear is truly luscious.

Anonymous said...
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adlai said...

nice arts.

adlai said...

great color combination, very creative.keep it up. love to see your new collection.
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