Product Review: Faber-Castell Polychromos

It’s been a while since I did a product review, so I think it’s about time I did another one. My last review focused on Prismacolor Premier coloured pencils. Since that post, I’ve done a lot of work in coloured pencil, and the main brand that I use has shifted. So today I thought I’d review my new favourite pencils, Faber-Castell Polychromos. 

Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils come in a range of 120 colours, which is more than enough to create pretty much any colour you can think of. They are sold in sets of various sizes, but also as individual pencils. I love brands where I can buy individual pencils, because I tend to use certain colours much more than others (not a lot of call for bright pinks or greens in pet portraits). This means that when one of my pencils runs low, I don’t have to buy a whole tin just to get the colour I need. 

A small sample of some of my Polychromos pencils.

Polychromos pencils are bright, vibrant pencils that produce amazing colours. I love how easy it is to get deep, rich pigment on the paper with these pencils. Another great thing about Polychromos pencils is their lightfastness. Out of 120 pencils, 102 are rated at maximum lightfastness, and only two are rated as ‘good’, which is the lowest rating. Lightfastness isn’t the most important thing if you’re drawing for yourself or making prints, but for a pet portrait artist, it’s very important to have pigments that won’t fade over time. 

One of my very first drawings using Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils. I was thrilled with how vibrant the colours were.

If you’ve ever held a Faber-Castell pencil next to another brand, you’ll notice that the Faber-Castell pencil is bigger. The wood surrounding the pencil core is thicker than most other pencils, which is wonderful if you’re like me, and drop your pencils constantly. This extra wood helps protect the core from breaking, meaning you don’t have as much chance of damaging the pencil if you drop it.

One of the other great things about Faber-Castell pencils is they can sharpen to fine points, which is great for details and fur. Though there are harder pencils out there that are better for details, I find I rarely have to use them and the Polychromos are perfectly suitable for portraits. 

Now, on to the not-so-good stuff. Polychromos are not particularly cheap, though they are not crazy expensive (as these things go) among artist pencils. I built my collection gradually, buying individual colours as I needed them. I do like sets in their beautiful tins, so I totally understand the allure of getting one of the premade sets. Just be prepared to spend quite a bit! 

Another interesting thing about Polychromos pencils is the binder used in the pigment, which is primarily oil based, rather than wax based like other pencils. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does make these pencils different. While it avoids things like wax bloom, I did find the oil-based Faber-Castells very hard to blend when I first started working with them. The key is layering, but until I figured that out, I was at a bit of a loss with these guys. 

Overall, I love my Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils. They are versatile, vibrant, and have become the pencil I rely on above all others. 

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