Which make coloured pencils do I use?

Many people have asked which pencils I use and which ones I prefer.

In reality, I use the pencil from the range which has the colour nearest to what I want. None are good on their own in one flat colour as it then becomes as dead as black does by itself.

I find that Derwent pencils have a slightly chalky feel, but you just can’t do without some of the colours, particularly very pale and very dark ones. I use mostly Artist in this brand, but sometimes I will use Studio as they are a little harder and you can get a finer point than with Artist.

Faber Castell Polychromos are very good as is their range of colours. as they are neither soft nor very hard and the consistency of the colour core is even. There never seems to be any scratchy bits in them as you might find occasionally in other brands. They seem to have the best range of greens for botanical art, although you have to be a bit careful in mixing some of those which lean over to a bluey green, as they might become an unnatural green for flora. But this applies to any brand.

A slightly softer pencil than Polychromos is Caran d’Ache Pablo. They like Polychromos are oil based and not wax based like Derwent and Prismacolour. Their range of colours is very useful and the Luminance range seems to cross over with Pablo, although the range is limited. I find that Pablo pencils are creamy, you can get some detail, although I haven’t managed to get as much as with Polychromos. They too are a lovely pencil to use. One positive thing about Pablo pencils is that you can see at a glance how lightfast they are.

One make that is very useful is the Prismacolour Verithins. I had a few older ones and one of my students gave me a whole set of them. Lucky me! They are a hard thin lead, so you can do very fine detail with them. I often use them for cleaning up the edge of what I am painting (in coloured pencil). However, the greens are all bluey or too sharp in colour for botanical art. I would love to find a toned down green in that range.

The softest coloured pencils are Prismacolour and Caran d’Ache Luminance. Some of the colours in the last range are limited, but cross over with Pablo. Prismacolour have a bigger range of colours Including quite a few useful light and dark colours. I find that the very soft pencils are good as the final layer of colour, particularly if you are trying to get a nice sheen to something.

Unfortunately I only have a few Coloursoft, so it is difficult for me to compare those with the other soft Colour pencil makes, but I understand that they were produced by Derwent to try and replace Prismacolour ( Karisma as was), when they could no longer be sold in the UK. Hopefully at some point I will have more of this range so that I can make a reasonable comparison to the other makes – at least in relation to how I use colour pencils in botanical art.

We all paint differently and use our materials in different ways, but I hope this was useful. Please comment.


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