Choosing art materials is as personal as choosing friends. What works for me might not work for you. However, here is a page showing you the art materials I use. It is not a page which compares all brands of coloured pencils. When I come across new products which I like, I add the information to the page.
My favourite paper is Arches Aquarelle hot-pressed watercolour paper 300 and 356 gsm. This is a wonderfully strong paper which suits coloured pencils very well. “Enchanted April ” is drawn on Arches Aquarelle.
As well as single sheets, Arches Aquarelle also comes in blocks of 20 sheets. Below is the largest size block (18 x 24 inches). Parkers Sydney Fine Arts Supplies Pty Ltd stocks it. parkersartsupplies.com They post Australia-wide.
“Irresistible Blanche” was drawn on a page from the Arches Aquarelle block. I now have blocks in several sizes, purchased from Parkers Sydney Fine Arts Supplies Pty Ltd.
In 2013 I joined CPSA (Colored Pencil Society of America). One of the main reasons I joined was to gain access to their “Lightfastness Test Result Workbook”. CPSA has independently tested many brands of pencils to see how resistant they are to fading. Within each brand, some pencils are very lightfast and some are extremely prone to fading – or they even change colour over time (known as fugitive). Learn which colours are safe to use and which colours to absolutely avoid by joining CPSA and accessing their test results. The information within the book is copyrighted so I am not allowed to share it with you. [January 2017: CPSA have just released their 8th version of this workbook.] All I can do is to urge you, if you are serious about being a coloured pencil artist, to join CPSA. http://www.cpsa.org
Only one brand of pencils has the highest lightfast rating throughout its whole colour range. This is Luminance 6901 made by Caran d’Ache, a Swiss company. You can happily pick out any pencil in the set and use it with impunity. Other brands I use are Holbein Artists Pencils (not easy to get outside Japan), Derwent Drawing and Caran d’Ache Pablos. Apart from Luminance pencils which are all lightfast, I am careful to only use other brands’ colours which are proven by CPSA (or by myself – see Holbein test below) to be light-resistant.
Colored Pencil Association of America hasn’t tested Holbein pencils because they are not easily purchased outside of Japan. So I did my own lightfast test. I only use the colours that stood up to five months of full Australian summer sunlight (in a north-facing window).
I use a Faber Castell Art Eraser which is kneadable. The sharpener I use is a plastic one by Faber Castell which I simply replace when it gets blunt. I don’t bother with electric pencil sharpeners though many colour pencil artists wouldn’t be without theirs. My plastic sharpener is fine for me.
Two tools I use with my pencils are 1: a pencil extender. I use this to lengthen my pencil so that I can use it in a painterly loose way. (See photo below to see how I am holding it.) The best pencil extender in my opinion is made by Generals. I bought my supply on-line from Dick Blick in USA. Generals ‘The Miser’ Pencil Extender
2: A blender stick made of oils and wax, without any pigment in. It is made by Caran d’Ache. The idea is that it blends layers of colour together and burnishes them. It even provides protection against ultraviolet light. (Derwent also make blenders and burnishers, both of which I like and use.)
Sometimes my drawings are not straight coloured pencils but also a mix of Neocolor II wax pastels and Neopastels both from Caran d’Ache. These work beautifully in tandem with pencils.
(A suggestion: If you have to do a large area of one colour – such as the sky in “Surveillance” – it is very tedious to do with coloured pencils alone. Before you put any pencils on, put a light layer of Neocolor I or II on the paper. Once you have covered the area with Neocolor, you can layer over with your pencils. This gives the pencils something to grab on to. It saves time and creates a nice even area of a colour.)
“Step by Step”(below) is drawn with a mix of coloured pencils and Caran d’Ache Neocolor II and Neopastels.
I have recently discovered Sennelier oil pastels. These are smooth and creamy. I used them as an undercoat in the drawing “Sideshow Alley”. I worked coloured pencils over the top of them. Together, pastels and pencils gave me deep rich colours. I will be using them a lot more from now on. You can buy boxed sets and open stock of Sennelier oil pastels within Australia either from art shops or on-line.
If you happen to be in Kyoto, there is a great art shop where you can buy open stock of many coloured pencil ranges, including – of course – the Japanese pencil Holbein. The shop is called Gwasendo Art Supplies. The address is 5 Kawaramachi dori. It doesn’t look like an art shop from the outside so here is a photo of it. It is opposite “Rich Hotel” (a good landmark). Inside, the shop is huge and filled with wonderful things for artists!
Update: August 2014. A lovely pencil range is the Derwent Drawing Pencil which comes in 24 colours. On the lightfast scale of 1 to 8 (8 being most lightfast) every pencil in the range is an 8 except for ink blue which is a 7. NB: anything over 6 is considered lightfast in the Derwent testing lab. The pencils are all quite earthy in colour ie muted greys/blues/browns plus black and white. They are so rich and thick that they cover the paper very quickly.
Update: March 2016: While in Sydney recently I came upon Kadmium Art + Design supplies, a very well-stocked shop which sells OPEN STOCK of all of my favourite Caran d’Ache products; Luminance, Museum Aquarelle, Neocolor 1 and 2, Supracolor Soft, Pablos, Neopastels and more. They also sell open stock of Sennelier oil pastels. They ship Australia-wide. Here are their details: 80b Bay Street, BROADWAY NSW 2007. website Kadmium.com.au or phone: +61 (0)2 9212 2669
Derwent: www.pencils.co.uk – British coloured pencils
Caran d’Ache: www.carandache.com – Swiss coloured pencils
Holbein: www.holbein-works.co.jp – Japanese coloured pencils
Faber Castell: http://www.faber-castell.com/ German coloured pencils
Arches Aquarelle paper – Arches Aquarelle is my favourite paper for coloured pencil work
Dick Blick Art Materials Dick Blick supply artists world-wide.
Kadmium.com.au Kadmium Art + Design supplies in Sydney. They sell open stock and boxed sets of Caran d’Ache products and ship Australia-wide.
Melbourne Etching Supplies www.mes.net.au A Melbourne stockist of art papers. They ship Australia-wide.
artsupplies.co.uk Ken Bromley Art Stockists in the United Kingdom ship world-wide.
parkersartsupplies Parkers Sydney Fine Arts Supplies in Sydney – A treasure-trove of a shop where I buy my Arches Aquarelle blocks, plus Sennelier and Holbein oil pastels.
You might like to check out my post Caran d’Ache Open Stock Available in Australia
Thanks for looking at my Art Materials page. If you would like to peruse my other blog posts about coloured pencils, photography and art, please take a look at the Contents of Posts Index