Since I started working with colored pencil on drafting film, I’ve heard many opinions about which pencils brands work best on film. I’ve heard that certain brands create lots of crumbs, other brands can’t be layered, even that some pencils “don’t work at all.”
Recently gifted with a couple of new sets of pencils and on the hunt for consensus, I posting this question in a Facebook group for colored pencil artists who work on drafting film:
What are your favorite pencils to use on drafting film?
Are some types of pencils more compatible with film than others?
I received a lot of responses and a treasure trove of information. A huge thank you to everyone who commented. Some folks said they liked Polychromos better, and at least an equal amount of folks said they prefer Prismacolor. There were a couple of other brands mentioned once or twice and someone else really likes using graphite. A few people had directly opposite experiences with the same brands.
This was puzzling, so I decided to do a little experiment of my own. I grabbed seven sets of pencils and did my own testing. And the results are below.
For each test, I created a rosebud from my Rose Crush Workshop, matching the colors as closely as I could across the sets. I also did a smear test, a layer test, and a burnishing test, using a Derwent Blender (the top performer from my blender test).
For the layering test, I used a fairly light pressure, slightly lighter than writing pressure, and built colors up from lightest to darkest. (It may be difficult to see the burnishing results, as these are subtle.)
Your results with these pencils may vary from mine, but this gives you some at-a-glance visual info on how these pencils perform in a head-to-head test. Click on the images below for larger versions.
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Every colored pencil artist seems to have their favorite blender. I’ve never been very consistent in my choice of which blender to use for any given project, so today I created a set of charts to compare how each performs. I thought you might like to see the results.
During the last couple of years, I have collected and been gifted with a variety of blenders. To me, they are essential tools for creating really solid areas of color and, more importantly, creating that deep and rich multi-colored and layered look that takes colored pencil art from drawing to painting.
It’s pretty important to know your tools, so I decided it’s time to give them a real test drive.
The seven blenders tested are:
Figuring that the blenders of a certain brand would perform better with pencils of that same brand, I tested on color swatches of Prismacolor Premiers, Derwent Coloursoft, and Caran d’Ache Luminance 6901 pencils. To make the comparison as accurate as possible, I chose similar colors for each brand, and was careful to create swatches that, allowing for a bit of color variation, were as identical as possible.
Each swatch has four color layers: two in blue and two in violet, and the blending pencil was applied with a medium-heavy pressure.
And here are the charts. The left side of each swatch is unblended; the right side is blended.
Across all three samples, based on each blender’s ability to combine colors and cover-up background paper fibers, the Derwent Blender clearly performed best, followed by the Prismacolor and Koh-i-Noor blenders.
I was pleasantly surprised by the Koh-i-Noor, which is a new brand to me and I didn’t expect it to do such a great job.
The Caran d’Ache is unique among the blenders; it’s a blender stick, about the size of a pencil, and can be sharpened like a pencil. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed to find it a bit scratchy against the paper surface and not quite as effective as some of the others.
Although the Derwent Burnisher is technically not a blender and is marketed as providing a “rich, glossy finish to your art,” it also blends quite well.
The Prismacolor marker worked very well, but an important note: if you are creating art which might be entered in a show requiring “100% colored pencil,” using a marker may be outside the rules.
Also, I found that additional applications of the marker didn’t really result in a more blended look, but additional application of any of the pencils does.
The Lyra is the least aggressive blender in this comparison, but may be the perfect choice for lighter blending.
Happy blending. And of course, if you have any insights you’d like to share, use the comments form or dash me off an email.
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