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Colour Pencil Supramacy : Caran D' Ache vs. Faber Castell Polychromos vs. Derwent Lightfast

In this post, Art Pandemic compares the top artist-grade coloured pencils - the Faber-Castell Polychromos from Germany, Caran d'Ache Luminance from Switzerland and Derwent Lightfast from the UK.

These three are the top range coloured pencils from possibly the three most respected coloured pencil brands, and most, if not all, coloured pencil artists use at least one of them. So how do they match up? Here's all the tea!


In terms of hardness, the three pencils are ranked as such (from hardest to softest): Polychromos, Lightfast, Luminance. The Polychromos and the Lightfast are both oil-based pencils, which is why you don't get that waxy look when you use them in drawings. The Luminance is an oil and wax blend.

Because the Faber-Castell Polychromos is so hard, it's great for detailed work. If you draw animals, drawing fur and whiskers is terrific with the Polychromos. You can get the finest lines that you can't get with other pencils. It also holds a sharp point for like forever. I'm amazed that I can draw and draw with it and it never seems to get blunt! (Sharpening these beauties is heartache)! However, the Polychromos is also the most translucent. It's good for artists who like to use many layers. Some artists use as many as 25 layers in their drawings, which is why they love the Polychromos because you can achieve the complexity of colour and not saturate the paper too quickly. Some may simply not have the patience for that.

For this reason, the Derwent Lightfast pencils are preferred. It holds the point of an oil-based pencil, but it's surprisingly soft to use, like a wax-based pencil. It goes on creamy and blends extremely well. The colour is more opaque than the Polychromos so it requires fewer layers to build up colour. Yet, it layers effortlessly as well.

Finally, the Caran d'Ache Luminance is the smoothest pencil. With even the lightest strokes, the colours glide beautifully on the paper in a soft and even blend. The colours are vibrant but not in a garish way. It's also a thicker pencil than the Polychromos so it feels more solid. We cannot begin to describe how wonderful it is to use the Luminance pencils.

However, the slight downside to the Luminance is that due to its creaminess, it's harder to draw fine details with these pencils. That's why many coloured pencil artists use the Luminance together with the Polychromos.

But all three coloured pencils don't break easily, which is wonderful.

Colour range The Faber-Castell Polychromos range is the most comprehensive, at a whopping 120 colours. If you want to have every shade at your disposal, this is it. That's probably because the Polychromos has been around for the longest - since 1908! The Polychromos is possibly the most popular coloured pencil among artists.

The Derwent Lightfast was only launched in 2018 but it has already put out 100 shades, which is very impressive. One reason that draws to the Lightfast was that it has a very good selection of earthy and neutral shades, which is good for artists who like to draw nature and wildlife. Considering it has such a wide range of colours, there are some odd gaps though. For example, there are only three light blue shades (one of which is almost white) and only two light green shades. This makes colouring sky and grass a big problem! But its range of browns and greys is unbeatable. The Caran d'Ache Luminance previously only had 76 colours but they released a new 24-pencil portrait set this year, so that brings their total to 100. I find the Luminance colours the most interesting. There are a lot of complex shades not found in other brands, like the soft, pastel shades.

Packaging and Aesthetics

True to its luxe branding, the Luminance has the most ostentatious packaging. Within the sturdy cardboard box, each pampered little pencil is cushioned in its very own foam well, protecting it from breakage. It has a pale wood coating, a colour strip at the end and words in white. Very, very classy and you feel like you're holding something really expensive. Take for example Quinacridone Purple, Dark Phthalocyanine Green and Chrysocolla Blue. (Drooling much. BRB)! The Lightfast and Polychromos come in your standard tin sets with slots for each pencil. The Lightfast pencil is also very nice. Like the Luminance, it's encased in wood with a colour strip at the end. Also very classy. And the shade name is easy to read. Conversely, the Polychromos looks the least luxe. The casing is fully coloured in the shade of the pencil and the lettering is in gold (which I don't like because it reflects light and is hard to read). It just feels cheaper, not like a high end coloured pencil. Price

You would think that price is straightforward, and for the most part, it is. Polychromos Individual Pencils start from - Rs. 180.00/- Derwent Lightfast Individual Pencils start from - Rs. 360.00/- Caran D Ache Individual Pencils start from - Rs. 360.00/- each For the various set prices you may refer to the links below: Polychromos Set of 120 Polychromos Set of 60 Caran D' Ache Set of 76 Wooden Box

Conclusion If the coloured pencils = desserts, the Caran d'Ache Luminance is like a very fancy unpronounceable tart made from 1,475 ingredients - the kind you see being made on Masterchef. It's a small sliver of something exquisite surrounded by decorative elements and looks like it's been plated by elves. And you have to sell a kidney to buy it. That's the Luminance. You want to hate it because it's posh and pretentious, but omigosh, once you try it, you hate yourself for loving it.

The Faber-Castell Polychromos is a slice of German chocolate cake. It uses the finest ingredients and is made with the same precision as it was 100 years ago. It's a little boring, but it's solid and dependable and you know it will taste the same each time you eat it.

The Derwent Lightfast is kind of an in-between. It's a classic English apple pie with a twist. You expect it to be boring and stodgy but it surprises you with a little something extra hidden beneath the crust. You wonder how a simple apple pie can taste this good.

Ok, poetry over. Honestly, you can't go wrong with any of them, they're all top performers. They all have excellent lightfast ratings (won't fade over time), have an excellent range of colours and are available open stock (can buy individual pencils). Do note that these are artist-grade coloured pencils. If you're just colouring as a hobby, you probably look at our range of fine quality yet economical coloured pencil sets here.

And it's gifting season, so you might ask for a Luminance set for Christmas though. It's just so darn pretty.


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