l am very excited today because l have been testing out some new pencils. The excitement of new pencils never wears off! I have only worked a tiny piece of the picture yet but l wanted to share with you my initial thoughts.
l will tell you that Arteza very kindly sent these to me to try and that l told them, the same as l tell everyone that l will be totally honest in giving my opinions on a product. After all if l am not going to be honest what is the point in writing a review of anything!
Well, first things first. These are very affordable pencils. Under $30 for the full set. The pencils come in a nice tin. I hate my pencils arriving in boxes, simply because they do not wear as well as tins. There are 72 colors.There are some really nice and unusual colors in there (not many pales which is typical of most brands) and the colors are both numbered and named.
l was particularly excited about these pencils as not only are they very affordable but they are, so Arteza say, lightfast tested. This is a huge deal in an affordable pencil. Neither the tin nor their on line descriptions say they are tested. Those descriptions say that they are made using lightfast pigments. Call me pedantic, but being made with lightfast pigments is slightly different to being lightfast tested. (For example l can make a cake with 20 delicious ingredients but it doesn’t follow that my cake will be delicious, especially if the 21st ingredient is a teaspoon of curry powder!). I queried this with Arteza who have told me that they are lightfast tested. They have the standard star markings on the barrels. One star is the lowest and three the highest.
I am really interested in this because they have a number of pinks with three star ratings. Pink is notoriously unstable and of all the professional brands l own only Caran D’ache Luminance has a three star pink (and that is not a great pink).
So onto the most interesting thing. How do they perform?
First things first, they sharpen to a beautiful point. They hold that point well. I read some reviews saying they had problems with them breaking as they were sharpened. I use a Carl Angel 5 sharpener and even my Prismacolors don’t break when l use that! I had no breakage at all. The lead is harder than Prismacolor but not as hard as Polychromos. Polychromos still hold the best point. But you can get pretty good detail with these. Certainly you can get detail far more easily than with Prismacolor.
The laydown is very waxy, and l found it hard to get the many layers that l like to get. I quickly got wax build up. But the color is reasonably vibrant and l think for the amount of layers that most people do this would not be a problem. And if you use a little OMS you could probably add more layers. I did get the vibrancy and saturation l wanted in the end, it just took a little more work than the more expensive pencils.
I did find l got a lot of stray color dust, it blew off quite easily, but you definitely need to be vigilant about blowing or brushing it away.
When it came to blending l had very contrasting results depending on how l was using the pencils. For ordinary shading, like the wing of the butterfly above, l struggled at first. They reminded me of working with Prismacolors and l struggle with those too. So this could be me and not the pencils. The annoying white dots were hard to cover and the blending was not smooth. So l tried a little OMS and this worked beautifully, the colors blended together like paint. (I had not yet used any OMS in the shot above).
Strangely though, working the fluffier parts like the body (which you can’t really see in this shot) the pencils worked amazingly well, the fine lines blended beautifully with each other whilst keeping the definition l wanted. I really enjoyed working the little fine hairs with these pencils.
l completed this whole piece using only the Arteza pencils, apart from using one black Polychromos to sharpen the edges. (And to be honest l use Polychromos to sharpen the edges with all the other brands l use).
Overall they require a bit more work to achieve the results, but then they are only a tenth of the price of the top brands. And l do think that it is important to remember that.
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