Today, pencil day! Faber-Castell Polychromos are one of the most popular pencils out there. Lets take a closer look, shall we?
As always, you can find all pencil reviews under the Product Reviews tab or click HERE.
Faber-Castell is a German brand, an ancient one at that. Polychromos is their artist range for colored pencils. Or coloured pencils, depends on which side of the ocean you reside. Or have learned English from, in my case, I tend to go the “wrong” route for a European person, as you might have noticed. Old habit, that’s all.
These are oil based pencils with a round cedar casing, which by the way have the EcoPencil label, always a plus in my eyes. The lead is 3,8mm in diameter. The whole range is 120 pencils but there are several counts available (12, 24, 36, 60 and 120 in both tin and wood case). The pencil casings are colored according to their color:The side of the pencil has loads of information, the name of the color, number and a lightfastness rating (sorry for the blurry picture):
Now to me, oil and wax pencils seem quite different from each other, even though both do contain wax, oil pencils just have more oil in them but that does affect performance as well. Oil is generally drier and more fragile in a way, not in the sense that they’re more breakable but the result is generally somehow softer. Oil is very good for fine details since they keep a point well. Polychromos is no exception to this. I find they don’t break easily. I have ONE from this entire set that has a broken core and that one I dropped on concrete from a bit of a height. They can take a bit of beating, though you really shouldn’t try it. They sharpen to a very good point and keep it pretty well.
- Intense colors
- Good color selection, wide range
- Durable, don’t break easily
- Blend exceptionally well (without a blender)
- Lightfastness rating on the pencils is always a good thing
- Good naming convention, a lot of pencils named after the pigments used (sienna, ochre etc). This is relevant when trying to match up with some other brand or other media altogether, makes for easier finding of the necessary colors when standardized. Also more material-savvy artists can get other useful information out of it, like staining, lightfastness (though this is marked as well) and knowledge for color mixing
- Good greyscale choices, systematic choice of cool and warm greys
- Nice thick 3,8mm lead (the barrel itself is 8mm, will fit in all standard sharpeners)
- Available open stock in some art stores and Amazon
- Heavier on warm tones like reds and yellows, also a very good selection of grey tones. Not so many greens and blues but a good choice of tones for both, very nice natural greens. I haven’t found this set to be lacking in any area when it comes to colors
- Round barrel is comfortable to hold BUT not too cool if you’re working on an angled drafting table, they will slide off
- They’re not wax so if you’re planning to use soft pastels to do a background after you’ve finished the piece, these will not work for that, unlike with wax pencils, pastels will stick to colored bits over these pencils
Today lets see how FC Polychromos vs Caran D’Ache Pablos fare. Polys have a round barrel, Pablos hexagonal. Pablos are thinner (though the lead is roughly the same width). Polys are more comfortable to hold for long periods of time. Polychromos is strong in the warm spectrum, reds, oranges, browns and yellows, Pablo has a wider range of cooler tones, blues and greens. Performance is relatively similar with Pablos being just a smidgeon softer and they also blend well with each other so if 120 Polychromos (or Pablos) is not enough of a color choice, they don’t overlap too much, rather compliment each other. If you want to choose one, I’d suggest thinking about the color range, whether you need more cool or warm tones. Also whether you work on an angled surface or flat and if pencils sliding around is an issue. If you have issues with hands, like carpal tunnel or such, Polychromos might be a better choice due to its more comfortable barrel. Other than that, it really is a personal preference.
Color chart: I use these all the time, one thing is the barrel color, another the real color, it will improve your art ten times if you bother to go through the trouble to chart your colors out once and keep it close for reference, even if you make them as wonky and crazy as mine are:
Official color chart with lightfastness ratings:
Example coloring piece I’ve done with these:
Picture: Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford
I definitely suggest these. I’d say that if you want ONE set of amazing pencils for coloring or art in general, this is a strong contender for being that one. They’re a good choice for multitaskers as they can do fine detail and fuzzy stuff as well and have a good range of vibrant hues and muted ones. The price is also nice for what you get for it. So yes, thumbs up!
Disclaimer: all of the above opinions are mine, you might have a different experience with these pencils