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SPECTRUM NOIR & SPECTRUM COLOURBLEND
These low cost coloured pencils were introduced on to the UK and US market during the early part of 2015
They are designed to meet the need of the craft market and in particular those who hand craft greetings cards.
The early version ( Spectrum Noir ) proved to be subject to manufacturing faults with buyers reporting broken leads, gritty pigment strips and cores not centred -
The Spectrum Noir pencils were manufactured in China to a low price point and sold in 5 sets of 24 non-
(120 pencils in all) around £70.
Colours were not available singly, so replacements required a box of 24 to be purchased.
No indication of lightfastness was given, but bearing in mind the chosen market for the pencils, the artwork is probably not intended for long term display.
The distributors in the UK ( Crafters Companion) were invited to provide Pencil Topics with sample pencils for testing but no samples appeared.
Readers of the site here have critiqued the pencils from their own purchases and suggest that they are ‘good for the price’.
In September 2015 I had the opportunity to test some from a full collection brought to a course by one of my students. We did a test jointly and compared the Spectrum Noir with Derwent Coloursoft and Caran d’Ache Luminance. This appeared to be a fair test as the Spectrum Noir pencils were described as wax based and we were comparing like with like.
At the time of this test I noted:
The Spectrum pencils are priced at approximately a quarter of the price of the Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils. Testing them side by side on cartridge paper, the difference was not as extreme as the price difference might indicate, though the Luminance were clearly head a shoulders above the other brands and the SN branded pencils very much the underdog..
The Spectrum pencils behaved reasonably well. The layering quality was acceptable. One or two of the pencils revealed the gritty feel that our previous critique noted. All the pencils appeared to have centred cores and none of those tested appeared to have broken successively down the pencil.
No indication was given on the side of the pencil, or on the box, about lightfastness ( I suspect that no tests have been carried out ).
However, my conclusion is that these pencils would be acceptable for a student on a budget, who was not concerned with the pictures lasting and who was only concerned with developing technical skills.
If you take price into account, the Spectrum Noir were a reasonable buy for the low price. I have handled far worse pencils. In comparison with the other two main brands, the difference in quality was obvious. I would not describe them as a ‘good’ pencil, merely ‘ good for the purpose they appeared to be designed for’.
The Spectrum pencils are designed to be used with solvent to work and blend the colours laid down, and Spectrum Noir market a solvent to do just this.
I have a caution to make on the solvent.
The small bottles are expensive to buy compared with the amount of liquid, the warning notes on the side of the bottle about danger to health and danger of fire are almost illegible. The liquid is hydrocarbon based and without smell
I understand it is manufactured by Gamblin who also make Gamsol solvent. Gamsol carries comprehensive warnings which you can read if you wish to follow this link.
The solvent works, and leaves no apparent residue. It was sold in the bottle I purchased without a controlled method of using and it would be easy to spill the liquid or use too much. The recommended use of this type of solvent is through a pad holding a small amount of liquid which is taken up by a brush from the pad. If the makers intend this to be the method of use, nothing is stated on the bottle.
If you wish to use a solvent with these (or any other wax based pencils), The alternative Zest-
This colour card was kindly provided by a reader in Finland who sampled the pencils. The set is only a part of the full colour collection and is from two sets of 24. There are some interesting colours.
In December 2015 it was noted that Dick Blick in the USA was selling what appears to be an improved version of the Spectrum pencils. They are named Spectrum ‘Colourblend’ and are sold in the same type of 24 pencil sets as the older version. The price is higher than the Spectrum Noir pencils, and it may well be that the Crafters Companion marketing firm have decided to aim for a better quality pencil replacing the Spectrum Noir brand.
The new Colourblend pencils are starting to appear in craft stores in the UK in December 2015 and a full set of 120 pencils will sell for the order of £90 rather than £70. At this price they are starting to approach the prices of pencils like Polychromos when sold on special offer. HOWEVER whilst initially dearer, the higher quality Polychromos are available singly to enable you to re-
I have chosen to match the Colourblend pencils to Polychromos as both are sold in a range of 120 colours.
The alternative on price, Derwent Coloursoft wax pencils are sold in sets or 72, and whilst they can appear in shops at bargain prices from time to time which bring them into the Spectrum orbit, the Derwent colour range is more restricted and the colour sets are more suited to landscape images than decorative art.
As of December 2015 the new pencils have not been seen or handled here. If we have an opportunity to test the pencils we will do so and report. Any readers buying the Colourblend pencils are invited to test and compare with other brands and let us have their opinions.
There is clearly a market opportunity for a low cost pencil that is of good enough quality. This web site is not in the business of making recommendations and we are cautious over coloured pencils that do not have any indication of lightfastness, as colour fade in normal daylight can be a real problem to finished artwork.
I suspect that there will be further notes on this page in coming months
USING SOLVENTS TO BLEND WAX PENCIL PIGMENT
SPECTRUM NOIR ( and I suspect the new SPECTRUM COLOURBLEND pencils ) are designed to be used with solvents to merge and mix the colours laid down on the paper. Solvents are an area that needs care as many solvents are a fire risk and can also be injurious to health. Some solvent manufacturers take care to sell their product in containers that control the amount of liquid available by using a pad or wick to draw the fluid up to be available to use either directly or by means of a brush. Some Solvents leave a small residue on the paper and some can take time to dry off.
One of the best solvents for art use is the safe fluid ‘ZEST-
For more information see the page on this site covering solvents.
I have a problem with the solvent sold for use with Spectrum Noir pencils. Not only is is expensive ( about twice the price of Zest-
The enlarged lable on the SN solvent reads as follows:
The actual size of the lable you read above is 1 inch high by 2 inches wide
My recommendation is that if you wish to blend wax pencil, you use a safe product like Zest-
There is a more comprehensive item about this ( and the SN Blender) on the page of the site covering Solvents
This is a petroleum based product, and as such is inflammable
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