Caran D’Ache Pablo review

So, next up, Caran D’Ache Pablo. You can read the previous Faber-Castell Polychromos review HERE.

Caran D’Ache was born in 1915, so it’s a very old company (101, yay!), it’s located in Switzerland and they also produce their pencils there in what they call a workshop, not a factory. As a bit of a geek factor, Caran D’Ache has quite a few firsts, most interestingly for us, the first water soluble colored pencils ever, Prismalos, first produced in 1931. But today we won’t go into water solubles, today is all about mister Pablo and the awesome 120 friends in a tin box.pablo1

Pablo comes in a variety of counts, 12, 18, 30, 40, 80 and 120. They are wax based (however they don’t feel like regular wax, they’re much more similar to oil in performance) and have a cedar casing. The casing is hexagonal and colored according to the lead color.pablo2

The pencil has the name of the color, color number and lightfastness rating on it. Most come with a pretty good lightfastness rating, some fall short. In general, it’s not bad.pablo3

Anyway. These pencils are awesome, lets just start with that. But lets get straight to business as to why.


  • Strong, durable lead and casing, I don’t have a single broken pencil in my case
  • Vibrant colors, good selection, wide range
  • Blend extremely well
  • Lightfastness rating on the pencils
  • Hexagonal barrel is good on an angled table, doesn’t slide off
  • Excellent choice for nature scenes, being strong in cooler hues and natural tones, specially nice choice of blues
  • Nice thick 3,8mm lead
  • Will fit in standard sharpeners
  • Premium cedar casing
  • Available open stock in some art stores and Amazon


  • Well, price for one. But then again, they are really worth it, plus it could be worse (yes, looking at you, Luminance)
  • The naming convention is not fun. They don’t use pigment names too much for some odd reason so among other things you get pencils named “Blue” and “Yellow”. Most people wouldn’t mind though, I think.
  • Hexagonal thinner barrel can be uncomfortable to hold for long drawing/coloring stretches
  • I’d like a few more peachy tones for skin

I really don’t want to compare these to wax pencils (not even Caran D’Ache Luminance) since to me the performance and use of oil and wax is so different that they’re really hard to compare. Now I stand corrected by the kind miss Lipner that these, despite the whole of internet saying they’re oil, really aren’t, they’re wax still but produced in a much different way which leads to them feeling pretty much identical to oil, except that they do produce a more sort of liquid look. So comparing this to Faber-Castell Polychromos since that’s all I have regarding oil pencils for now. I do intend to someday get my hands on Lyra Rembrandt Polycolors but that’s far in the future for now.
As for Faber-Castells and Pablos, I’d be hard pressed to tell you which ones I’d prefer. Both if I could. They’re quite similar in performance with Pablos being a tiny bit softer and they blend with each other beautifully so they are nice complements. Pablos are strong in blues, greens and cool tones in general while Polychromos loves its warm hues, specially the yellow-orange-red spectrum. In any case, I’d say it’s really hard to compare them and it does boil down to personal preference, they’re both excellent pencils.

Color chart:
You can find better ones online, where people have a handwriting that you can actually read 😀 But well, to give you an idea:

Official color chart:
kleurenkaart pablo
coloring piece using Pablos:_DSC3438
Picture: Sommarnatt by Hanna Karlzon

If anything should ever happen to my Pablos (knock wood), I’d get them again. And again. And then once more. Because they’re fabulous, it’s as simple as that. Get a few open stock if you can or the 12 count tin and try them, you’ll know what I mean. Pablos are also great multitaskers like Polychromos, doing large areas and tiny details equally well (see above, the big bold brown background and yet the tiny intricate details of the door lock). So if you ask me which ones to get, both! 😀 Did I mention I’m a real bad enabler?

Next in reviews I’ll be looking at wax pencils. Of those I have three for now, Caran D’Ache Luminance, Prismacolor Premier and Derwent Coloursoft. And then we’ll move to water solubles so stay tuned!

Disclaimer: all of the above opinions are mine, you might have a different experience with these pencils

4 thoughts on “Caran D’Ache Pablo review

  1. Great review… I finally visited the blog after seeing it posted in a few groups we mutually belong to. I really appreciate your steps in writing this, for me, it hit home perfectly on every single comparison point. Also, REALLY like the way you compared the spectrum to Poly’s- that is exactly how I think after the initial “feel” of using the pencils- what other colors do they bring to the table. When you find one with a good “Brown/Tree Trunk” focus, please share! 🙂 Just wanted to pass that along, great review- will definitely be visiting more to read more posts/reviews! Thanks!


    1. Thank you! I’m glad you liked it! For browns, I think Polychromos is probably one of the strongest when it comes to a wide selection. But if talking of natural muted colors in general, there’s nothing like Caran D’Ache Luminance in my opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great reviews your site. Love the white pencil review.

    I love pablos but have to add here that I think their range of reds are appalling for such an expensive set. There is a weak, orangey scarlet, some browny dull reds, some quite dusty wine colours lacking punch and more oranges that are called red. There isn’t a single red I use in the whole set for when I want red. Some even look pink. I did try to make a red with the orangey colours and winey colours but couldn’t get one. They really need one good crimson red, postbox red and scarlet. I can’t believe they sell this without a proper red.

    I do adore the ice blue ‘blueish pale’ colour though and some of the greens. The ice blue colour I use all the time, it’s unique and very opaque.


    1. Thanks 🙂 And thank you for the input, it’s true there is an issue with reds with Pablos and I think there are way too many blues but I don’t use blues all that much anyway so that might be my personal problem. The blueish pale is indeed gorgeous.


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