I'm happy to say the summer issue of CardMaker Magazine has just been released, so definitely check it out! Both digital and print versions are available here.
My article was about colored pencil techniques, and I have some supplemental info below for those who are interested!
I’ll be discussing ColourBlend by Spectrum Noir, Prismacolor Premier, and Faber-Castell’s Polychromos colored pencils because they represent the best array of choices for cardmakers, IMHO.
Please note that each brand’s color pencil line has been designed to coordinate with its other product lines (markers, paints, etc.). However, I successfully mix-and-match all of these product lines on a regular basis, so don’t be afraid to experiment yourself!
I've put together a Downloadable Colored Pencils Comparison that compares the following: open stock choices, available colors, set costs, base ingredient, number of colors, lightfastness, softness, availability, blendability, color vibrancy, pigment saturation, and depletion rate.
ColourBlend by Spectrum Noir
The Audience. Manufactured by Crafter’s Companion, this brand is a great option for the fledgling colored pencil artist as well as the more experienced user.
The Options. Originally marketed as Spectrum Noir Blendable Colored Pencils, these pencils had some quality issues (broken leads, grittiness, off-centered cores) when first released. However, they have been improved and re-released in 2015 as ColourBlend Pencils by Spectrum Noir. There are 120 colors available, divided into five sets of 24 coordinating colors. Each set contains light, medium, and dark trios to assist with highlighting and shading. The two core collections are Essentials (covering a basic ROY G. BIV range and classic neutrals) and Primaries (a natural extension of Essentials). The three themed collections are Nature (predominantly composed of greens with a nice variety of additional colors); Marine (blues, purples, browns, and greys); and Floral (pinks, reds, oranges, and yellows).
These pencils are wax-based, pre-sharpened, and embossed with an identifying number (names are not assigned, sadly). The barrels are black with color-coordinated tops. All sets come in an attractive tin box with a single-layer cradling tray for safe storage and easy selection. No colors are repeated, so you must purchase all five sets to if you want all of them. If you break, lose, or consume a pencil, you’ll have to buy another entire set to replace it. There is no lightfastness rating for this product. (Given the temporary nature of card art, color fading over time may be a moot point.)
The Price. Online pricing for a set ranges from $27-$34 (averaging about $1.21 - $1.41 per pencil). Open stock purchasing is not available. Now sold at chain retailers, you can use a coupon to reduce the cost.
The Experience. These pencils feel the “waxiest” – less creamy and drier than the other two brands. Wax-bloom is inevitable. Blending is trickier because the pigment doesn’t respond as well to a build-up of color. For best results, apply all layers of color lightly, blending gently in the last pass. In general, the colors are deep and vivid but not all colors perform equally well. The lead is the hardest of the three, prolonging its life because it holds a point better and requires less sharpening. Overall, these pencils are a good investment for the novice and amateur artist.
Prismacolor Premier Softcore Colored Pencils
The Audience. Prismacolors are a perennial favorite of both amateur and professional artists.
The Options. There are 150 beautiful, deep, rich colors available individually or in sets of 12, 24, 36, 48, 72, 132, and 150. The hexagon-shaped pencils are wax-based, name embossed, and lacquered to match their pigments. Sets have pre-sharpened pencils and come in a tin box except for the largest set that comes in a durable cardboard box with a magnetic closure. All sets have multi-layer cradling trays for safe storage and transport. (Trays are tiered for easy removal, but I eventually collected all 150 colors and prefer to keep them in a vertical caddy for easy access.) These pencils have lightfastness ratings (available in a chart here) but the individual scores are all over the place.
The Price. The average online price for a set of 24 is $15 with open stock pricing at about $1.30 per pencil. Buying pencils individually is pricier, but you have freedom of choice and a minimal cash outlay if you’re test-driving. Also, if you consume or lose a pencil, you can easily replace it. Both sets and open stock are available at art supply stores and chain retailers (open stock inventory is usually limited, though). Again, coupons can further reduce the price.
The Performance. During application, a creamy flow of rich pigment allows multi-layering and increasing intensity, so blending is fairly easy. The colors are all of equal quality and consistency. Wax-bloom is, again, inevitable. Prismacolor’s softer lead quickly loses its point, so frequent sharpening is required which, in turn, hastens depletion. My only criticism concerns how easily the leads break or crumble – especially if you don’t use a rotary sharpener. In the end, these pencils are a terrific investment for users of all skill levels.
The Audience. If you’re a professional artist or love colored pencils and crave an upgrade, Polychromos are the Mercedes-Benz of the three brands.
The Options. There are 120 colors, available individually or in sets of 12, 24, 36, 60, and 120. All sets come in a tin box with multi-layer cradling trays. The largest set also has a deluxe option: a stained, heirloom-quality wooden box with two, hinged tiers, accessory storage, and a sturdy metal latch and handle for easy transport. (Sehr schick!) German quality control is evident in this brand. Each pencil has a thicker (3.8 mm) core of pigment entirely bonded to its cedar sheathing, thereby minimizing breakage and waste. Each color’s name and lightfast rating are gold-embossed on the coordinating lacquered barrel. The lightfastness rating is excellent: 103 colors (3 stars), fifteen colors (2 stars), and two colors (1 star).
The Price. The average online price for a set of 24 is $39 with open stock pricing at about $1.75 per pencil. Polychromos are not typically carried in big box stores, but many brick-and-mortar art supply stores sell both set and open stock inventory. I found the best online pricing at dickblick.com.
The Performance. The rich, deep, vibrancy – as well as the spectrum – of pigments is fantastic – not a muddy one in the bunch. Every color spreads like butter on a biscuit; blending is fun. Wax bloom is not an issue. When sharpened, the thicker, stabilized core resists crumbling and breaking (minimizing waste and frustration). In short, these pencils are an artist’s dream: a large spectrum of easily manipulated, brilliant colors. Although they’re the most expensive option, paying an additional 40¢ per pencil seems like a small price to pay for the heightened tactile experience and end result.
Some Useful Terms
Wax bloom is the white haze that appears on colored pencil drawings, especially when heavily worked, as a layer of the wax medium rises to the surface. It can be wiped away or prevented altogether with a spray fixative.
Lightfastness is the ability of a color to retain its original characteristics and/or withstand the effects of light over time.
Thanks for stopping and have a blessed day!