Today’s post will be a little longer than normal as l have spent the week trying out my new Chromaflow pencils. These are by Derwent who always produce exciting and innovative products.
These pencils though are from the more budget friendly end of the spectrum, so l thought it would be really interesting to see how they perform.
First, let me say that they are not light fast rated so if that is important to you, these are not the pencils for you.
But even those of us who prefer to work with lightfast pencils might like a few more budget friendly pencils on hand for our sketch books and ideas.
They come only in sets of either 12 or 24. I have the 24 set. Retailing currently at around $30 and only available in the USA at the moment.
I opened the tin with some trepidation as l wanted to work a complete piece using only these pencils. For once l was pleasantly surprised by the colors. Actually the biggest plus for me with such a small set is the colour choices. For once a company hasn’t put ten hideous and garish colours in a tin. It actually includes some of my most favorite colors. There is a color called Raisin (closest to Faber Castell Caput Mortem or Caput Mortem Violet), a beautiful Magenta, a pretty aqua, a decent purple, an olive green. So not the usual small tin colors. Of course the ubiquitous black and white are there.
I have a photo of all the colors here.
They sharpened to a nice fine point (although being soft this wears down very quickly, so detail takes a lot of sharpening).
Then l put pencil to paper. I decided to work on Stratmore Bristol Smooth for these. A more budget friendly paper in keeping with the pencils. For the first four hours l hated them. I found them really waxy and very nearly put my piece behind the cupboard of no return.
But l stuck with it, and at some point after the four hour mark l actually began to quite like them. I think if you like a soft core like Prismacolor you would love them. They certainly seem to have plenty of pigment and it is easy to get vibrant color. They blend into each other very smoothly, really, really easily in fact.
l couldn’t get anywhere near the number of layers l would normally use, but as the color choice is much more limited and the color saturated quite quickly, it didn’t seem to matter too much.
I don’t use blenders of any kind so the pencil must do it for me, and they did.
l did have the same problem l have with Prismacolor, l work standing up, and even though l have Glassene under my hand, lots of bits of pigment drop down and get under the Glassene and because they are waxy they stick to previous layers and some of them can’t be removed. I am not sure how l can stop this from happening. The pencil dust doesn’t seem to happen with oil based pencils.
They feel very, very nice to use on the smooth paper, the lay down is extremely smooth and the color glides on. There is something very relaxing about working with a pencil that is silky and creamy.
l would like to be able to get more layers. I think if l used oms or a fixative spray then this would be possible.
l couldn’t get the fine lines l get with Polychromos or Pablo’s. But l could get reasonably fine lines as long as l sharpened a lot.
l did have a few issues with the leads breaking and little bits coming loose from the core with a couple of the colors (brown, olive green and Magenta). I didn’t come across any where the whole core was lose like l have with other brands l have tried). Now it might be because the pencils are a little thin for my sharpener. But l don’t hold with the idea that you have to go out and buy a special sharpener or sharpen only in a certain way. Pencils should sharpen in standard sharpeners. A lot of them look like they will come loose, but they didn’t, and as long as they don’t, it doesn’t really matter what they look like.
The white pencil was about as good as most white pencils. So don’t hold your breath for brilliant white highlights! But it was decent and l could get it to show a little even over dark colours.
The black was a little disappointing, not black enough for me. But that may be just the way l work. I use very little black and when l do, l use it last over other colours and never just black on its own. So it may be that it just couldn’t do the really dark thing l wanted over all the other layers l had.
l was able to layer more than l thought l would be able to at first. But it does reach a point where trying to add more just creates tons of waxy dust. Again oms or a workable fixative would probably solve this.
l added a very tiny bumble bee to this piece, just to see how the pencils would cope with the tiny hairs and fine detail. They did pretty well. I was able to get finer detail than l thought l was going to get.
Below is a little snippet from the piece l am working on. A close up shot so that you can see the blending. Definitely smooth although l think l lose some definition with the softness of the core. Again this could be good or bad depending on the subject you are drawing and the effect you want to get.
Overall for a more budget friendly pencil they are pretty decent. If you like a wax based pencil you will probably like them a lot.
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