© Site and most content copyright to Peter Weatherill 2017  Some content copyright to other authors as identified
COLOURED PENCIL TOPICS
BRANDS
HOW TO COMPARE
I LOOK AT A COLLECTION OF FIVE OF THE MAJOR WAX TYPE PENCIL BRANDS AND COMPARE THEM
You can use a similar method to this to find the brand that suits you and your style of work. This applies to any type of pencil - not just Wax Type. You just need to apply the same principles to your search
You will need a handful of colours of each of the brands that appear to be suitable. You can buy single pencils from many good on-line art materials retailers, but a good approach is to ask friends who have coloured pencils if you can borrow some to see which you find the best for your own picture making. ( Also have a look at the ‘Differences’  Topic, in this section, for an idea of brands) I am going to compare a set of non soluble ‘wax’ pencils Prismacolor ( USA ) Wax Polychromos (Germany ) Oil Derwent Procolour (UK)  Wax with some oil Caran d’Ache Pablo ( Swiss) Oil/ with 10% wax Caran d’Ache Luminance ( Swiss ) Oil with 30% Wax
Why have I chosen these particular brands ? Two of them are the largest sellers internationally  ( Prismacolor and Polychromos ) Prismacolor is the largest seller in the largest market.  It is a soft wax based pencil, and as the major player in the USA must be the one to compare other brands with.  I don’t have Prismacolor, as such, but I do have a full set of Karisma, made to the Prismacolor formula and colour range by Sanford for sale in the UK under the Berol brand. These are virtually identical to Prismacolor. Derwent have recently brought out a new mid range softness wax pencil ‘Procolour’ which needs to be looked at in comparison with Prismacolor.  The second big selling mid range pencil Internationally, is Polychromos, always considered an oil based pencil, but we do not know the exact formula. This is manufactured in many countries for Faber Castell and is easily found. It is the range that directly competes with Prismacolor around the World. I need an oil based pencil to match with Polychromos so have selected ‘Pablo’ from Caran d’Ache. This is a similar 120 sized set. Pablo has 10% wax but very close to Polychromos in handling. I have added a ‘wild card’ in the Caran d’Ache Luminance pencil.  This is of mid softness and also lightfast, so meets the aim of providing a quality pencil to match the others against.  It is the most expensive per pencil but ALL the colours are lightfast, this means there are no wasted ‘poor’ colours.  Luminance is 30% wax and has a soft feel. So I have the two biggest sellers, a new kid on the bock, a matching brand and the wild card ‘top of the range’ for quality I need to compare the pencils on the same paper and select the same image. For this test I am using a new 300gsm Hot Pressed Botanical paper in the style of the old Fabriano 5 paper and marketed by R.K.Burt in the UK. This is made in the UK by St Cuthbert’s Mill. It is surface sized and 50% cotton.    For the image, I have gone for a simple picture of a seaside hut which gives me some colour choices.  I could have used the little welsh miner pottery figure used in my paper tests ( see ‘Surfaces ) but that had a limited colour range and I wanted to open out the colour selection here.  The choice of picture also enables me to test out some handling techniques like scraffito, erasing and multi layering.  I will be restricting the colours used to 6 more or less primary colours.  These are not the same as those found in most small sets of coloured pencils - manufacturers have an odd idea of what colours a small basic set should comprise and using the small sets would not produce a comparable result.  My pencils are taken from sets of 72 or more. NOTE :  Most of the brands compared have some colours in the sets which are of poor lightfast quality and will fade in direct sunlight.  I am going to try to avoid the colours where poor lightfastness is usally found ( pale pinks, blues and mauves).  Check the manufacturers colour charts on line, where you can usually see the lightfastness ratings either as a number (1 to 9 ) or a star rating ( up to 3 stars - sometimes  up to 5 stars). The higher the number scored, the better.  A set with a large range of pencils (100 or more) will usually give you more options to avoid poor lightfast colours.  smaller sets will limit your choices.  Bearing in mind that Luminance pencils are ALL lightfast, this means that the relatively smaller set of Luminance - 76 - is more effective in competition with the others, with all 76 colours usable.   I consider 100 of the 133 Prismacolor pencils lightfast, 100 of the 120 Polychromos pencils lightfast, 106 of the 120 Pablo lightfast, and on Derwent’s reckoning, 59 colours of their 72 Procolour are lightfast  with the remaining 13 scoring 3 or less on their lightfastness scale. Here are the reference photo and the simplified sketch I will use for comparing the pencils I believe it should be possible to do the test with the following colours - Two reds, two blues and two yellows and a white for blending.     I will not use black.   My first idea was to only select from the 24/30 sized sets but the colour choices would have been so varied, the final pictures would not be comparable and the test would only be on feel and performance.  Better to also include the  ‘end result’ in the comparison.  You will note there is quite a lot of green in the picture but no green pencils used.  There is a reason for this.  Aquarelle and pastel pencils blend colour easily, and it is relatively simple to work a full picture with just 6 ‘primaries ‘.  Wax pencils lay down specific colours in layers which are either blended with a white or clear wax blender, or optically blended by the viewer’s eye.  To get a good range of greens with wax pencils without using a green pencil will be difficult, but I hope not impossible.  A good result will be an excellent reflection on the standard of the pencils used. There will be a close up of each worked example with notes, and a final image showing all 5 results side by side with some personal observations……. You will observe that the drawing above omits the collection of old machinery on the right. This is a test exercise, not an artwork !   However, I have included a few dark posts in the foreground and moved the top of the roof up a fraction to break the skyline …..   just to keep my compositional eye happy. If you wish to complete a similar exercise with your own pencils, a PDF file with two drawn images is linked below.
PROCOLOUR SET White 72 Primary Red 12 Crimson Lake  14 Mid Ultramarine 30 MIdnight Blue  40 Buttercup Yellow 03 Sunset Gold 61
PABLO SET White 001 Scarlet 070 Dark Carmine 089 Sky Blue 141 Prussian Blue 159 Lemon Yellow 240 Ochre  035
POLYCHROMOS SET White 101 Scarlet Red 118 Burnt Carmine  193 Ultramarine 120 Prussian Blue 246 Cadmium Yellow Lemon  205 Light Yellow Ochre 183
TARGET COLOUR White ( to blend) Bright Scarlet Red Darker Orange red Light Mid Blue Darker Green Blue Light Yellow Yellow Ochre
KARISMA SET White 938 Scarlet Red 422 Henna  1031 Ultramarine 902 Indigo Blue 901 Lemon Yellow 915 Yellow Ochre 942
LUMINANCE SET White 001 Permanent Red 061 Russet  065 Middle Cobalt Blue 660 Prussian Blue  159 Bismuth Yellow  810 Yellow Ochre 04
FOR MY BASE PICTURE, I am starting off with Caran d’Ache Luminance. These lightfast pencils with a high wax content have a soft touch and handle smoothly on the 300gsm hot pressed surface.  I start with several light layers of permanent red to the roof, then adding a layer of russet and some Prussian blue to the edges to darken for shadow.   I apply white to the shadowed wall ( the lighter wall is left the white of the paper) and then lightly work some cobalt blue into the white. It needs a second layer of white to even it out as some lines still show even, though I have worked with a very light touch.
With a very sharp point I complete the wheel over the door, and apply Prussian blue to the door edges to enable me to get a dark shadow when the red goes on top. To complete the door, I work Permanent red over the door in three thin layers working across each other to keep the strokes even. I then burnish the red with the white pencil which presses the colour into the paper, and finally work a top layer of the light red back over the door surface.  This gives an even and strong red finish. I now go to look at the green areas, and start with the foreground grass as I need to get a measure over how the green will develop from the colours I am using.  I work light layers alternately of the Prussion blue and the Yellow ochre keeping the shading from being regular. I leave the shadowed area beside the hut with little or none of the dark yellow so that it shows nearly blue. The left hand side of the grass in the image above shows this.  I continue to work very light layers over the whole foreground grass and then burnish with white ( see middle section of grass)  finally I work back over the waxy surface with my dark blue and yellow again ( see right hand side ). The posts are dark red over dark blue ( three layers ), The background hillside is mostly the lighter yellow and  the lighter Cobalt blue. The water has a base of white to protect the paper surface and a thin layer of light blue with a further white layer over.  Finally the road consists of light layers of a combination of all six colours worked in succession and is not burnished so that the grain of the paper still shows.
CONCLUSION. Luminance pencils are soft, waxy, well pigmented and are very ready to leave a mark on the paper.  Light layers of colour can be more difficult than with a harder pencil.  They layer well and also burnish and blend using a lighter shade of colour or white. In my view, these pencils are best in a top layer of colour if there is a choice.  The lightfastness is comforting as you don’t need to worry about the stability of any of the colours.  A nice pencil and in my view worth the extra cost.  A good result.
THIS TEST WILL FORM THE BASIS OF ALL THE OTHERS IN THIS COMPARISON.  THE FURTHER NOTES WILL BE LESS COMPREHENSIVE AS THE PROCESS EACH TIME WILL BE IDENTICAL For your aid, a PDF file is included here with two images of the picture ready for you to print off
7 5 6 8 6 5 8
There is some debate at present ( August 2017)  about the lightfastness ratings of the new Procolour pencils. For this reason Blue Wool scale ratings are shown against colours selected (left) as quoted by Derwent.  All the selected colours are reasonably lightfast
NOTES Karisma is an old production by Prismacolor using same formula and colour range as most modern Prisma pencils. Originally manufactured for sale in Europe, they give a fair reflection of the handling of Prismacolor. However, colours may not match those now available in the full Prisma range
September 2nd 2017     Still work in progress……  more information still to come here
December 2017 UK Internet pencil retailer, PENCILS4ARTISTS have introduced a range of different types of COMPARISON pencil packs to enable artists to compare brands without having to buy whole sets