The coloured pencils which did NOT make the gradeLightfastness is a major issue for coloured pencils - as indeed it is for all artists' materials and colours.
My pencils which are NOT INCLUDED as 'lightfast' in the CPSA Lightfastness Workbook
My pencils which are NOT INCLUDED as 'lightfast' in the CPSA Lightfastness Workbook
I tested my coloured pencils recently against the ratings for lightfastness in the CPSA Lightfastness Workbook Version 4 - and got a very big surprise. You can see it above - these are all my coloured pencils which did NOT make the cut because they are NOT listed in the CPSA Lightfastness Workbook as having an acceptable level of lightfastness. These are the ones which were in use and the picture excludes those that were in reserve and those which I've left in their boxes. Overall, we're talking a LOT of pencils - and a lot of money which has been spent on them.
What is lightfastness and why is it important?Lightfastness relates to the chemical properties of organic and inorganic pigments used to create artists' paints and colours. In essence it's about how fast colours lose their colour integrity. 'Fugitive' materials are those that will either bleach white or radically change colour in less than 20 years when displayed in a normal home environment. Archival standards require colours to last for a very long time.
Lightfastness is certainly not an issue which is unique to coloured pencils. All art materials are derived from the same basic sources and so it also applies to all other media used to produce artists' materials. The difference between pigment, paint and colour is not always well understood.
Because most artists have been trained under the "color theory" dogma that paints are just "colors", even knowledgeable artists or authors.....do not always keep the distinction clear between pigments (colored powders), paints (mixtures of pigments and liquid vehicle) and "colors" (the product names given to paints). This results in frequent inaccuracies and outdated information in art instruction books.Not all pigments behave in the same way and have to be treated differently when making up colours. Concerns for artists arise when colours use pigments which are not lightfast or which have reduced lightfastness as they are weakened in strength - as in a watercolour wash or a pale tint of a colour.
Handprint - pigments, paints and colours
Why is lightfastness in coloured pencils important?
Historically coloured pencils have mainly been used by illustrators and consequently work was not being produced with a view to longevity and lightfastness in coloured pencils was not a major issue.
As illustrators have increasingly switched to the use of digital technology the market for coloured pencils has changed. I don't know the figures but my guess would be that professional, semi-professional and amateur artists now make up a much larger proportion of coloured pencil buyers.
Naturally, artists want to work with materials which will not deteriorate with age and coloured pencil manufacturers are beginning to understand that this is becoming a major issue in relation to product development.
What's the lighfastness standard?ASTM International (originally the American Society for Testing Materials) has a committee - ASTM D01.57. - which has developed and published eleven standards covering such topics as testing of pigments for lightfastness, labeling content, paint performance criteria, and the health hazard labeling of art materials. Three additional standards are currently in development.
It has a published statement about lightfastness which is applicable to all artists' materials. ASTM D4303-06 Standard Test Methods for Lightfastness of Colorants Used in Artists' Materials is highly technical.
ASTM D 4303 Standard Test Methods for Lightfastness of Pigments Used in Artists' PaintsThe ASTM apply this standard when testing the lightfastness of all different types of artists materials and it forms part of the composite standard for each type of material. For example these are the latest standard specifications for:
This is a highly technical method that describes the ways in which pigments used in artists' paints (any kind of artists' paint) can be tested for relative lightfastness. It requires the use of color measuring instruments and instrumentally monitored exposure equipment. It details the preparation of test specimens and controls, describes the four types of simulated daylight exposures used in the method, and details how the test results are to be evaluated in order to place products on one of five lightfastness Categories.
- coloured pencils
- artists' watercolour paints
- artists' acrylic dispersion paints
- Artists' Oil, Resin-Oil, and Alkyd Paints
A further standard has also been published for use as a method which is simple and can be performed without instrumentation in a comparatively short length of time. I believe this is the one used by CPSA for its lightfastness workbook results.
ASTM D 5383 Standard Practice for the Visual Determination of the Lightfastness of Art Materials by Art Technologists
This practice describes a method for testing the relative lightfastness of art materials not covered by D 4302, D 5067, D 5098, and D 5724: non-traditional materials like colored markers, pastels, inks, colored pencils, and so on. The practice uses Blue Wool textile fading cards as controls to determine when the proper amount of natural daylight exposure has been reached. D 5383 does not require the sophisticated instrumentation of D 4302 to evaluate the results, but it is a less strenuous and less definitive test than D 4302. It does, however, reveal products that will fade or otherwise change if used, and enables the user to communicate the test results to others with a good degree of confidence.
How has lightfastness of coloured pencils been determined?
The Coloured Pencil Society of America are to be very much applauded for recognising early on that lightfastness would be an important issue for getting artwork in coloured pencil accepted by the art world and galleries generally. Accordingly around 1993 CPSA began to work with the ASTM on this issue with a view to developing a quality standard for coloured pencils.
In 2003, ASTM D6901-06 Standard Specification for Artists' Colored Pencils - which covered lightfastness ratings and labelling - was agreed and published. However, it was recognised that it would take a bit of time to implement.
Because ASTM D6901 is so recent, no colored pencil manufacturer has yet had time to officially comply with it, although the two companies mentioned prior have manufactured and tested pencils which will be able to comply when officially tested. When companies do comply, colored pencils will be marked with Lightfastness I and II symbols, allowing artists to choose lightfast colors.In November 2003, CPSA identified the benefits of the new standard as follows
CPSA Press Release 2003
Major advantages of this new colored pencil lightfastness standard are:Since the early 80s, work has been done in various places to determine lightfastness of coloured pencils on a formal and informal basis. Indeed it's perfectly possible for you to conduct tests and I've included a lot of links to information about lightfastness in my information site Coloured Pencils - Resources for Artists in three sections.
CPSA Press Release COLORED PENCIL LIGHTFASTNESS STANDARD HAS BEEN ACHIEVED (ASTM D6901) November 2003
- Artists choosing lightfast colored pencils as their medium can now work with confidence in knowing that their art will not fade. Public awareness of this fact will increase their artworks value and profitability.
- Collectors are becoming increasingly aware of the archival aspects of their artworks. Their interest is in the art’s lightfastness of medium, and the archival quality of the surface. Colored pencil art now ranks high in longevity of the medium, which is the ultimate asset for the collector.
- Museum Conservators search for methods to make artwork last through the ages. As colored pencil is a viable fine art medium, it is imperative that ASTM D6901 addressed the issue of lightfastness. Brilliant works created by contemporary masters using colored pencil will be safely preserved because materials used were in compliance with the standard. This option is far better than salvaging a faded piece of work.
- Prices for colored pencil art by renowned artists will command the same as for other mediums because of the advent of this lightfastness standard.
- Retailer advantage lies in their ability to stock and sell quality higher-priced colored pencils that comply with ASTM D6901 to artists wanting their finished art to last.
- Coloured Pencils - Lightfastness (Tests)
- Coloured Pencils - Lightfastness (Brands)
- the latest edition of the CPSA - Lightfastness Test Result Workbook
- The original work done to produce the first standard for coloured pencils. This involved the following manufacturers - Sanford (Prismacolor), Talens (Van Gogh) and Derwent
- the testing done by Rhonda Farfan on behalf of CPSA and reproduced in the CPSA lightfastness workbook which I believe followed the art technologist standard.
How can I get hold of the lightfastness workbook?
The CPSA Lightfastness Workbook is only available to members of the Coloured Pencil Society of America. I joined as an International Member for two reasons (1) to go to the convention in the USA in 2006 and (2) to get my hands on the lightfastness workbook. Having said that I kept forgetting to order it!
When I finally placed my order, the website indicated that a new version is due out Spring 2005 and all orders would be held for that. Which was fine with me as Version 5 and the new test results for 2005-2007 contains the results for the following brands. Since Derwent Coloursoft is aimed at the Karisma (UK version of Prismacolor - now discontinued) market I was happy to wait.
- Prismacolor Premier Lightfast
- new Prismacolors
- Caran d'Ache Neocolors
- Derwent Coloursoft
- Derwent Graphitint
- Derwent Inktense
- Fantasia Premium Artist Colour
- Koh-I-Noor Progresso Woodless
- Daler-Rowney Artists' Watercolor
- Blick Studio Artists' Colored
- AW Faber Castell Polychromos
- Bruynzeel Design Fullcolour
- Caran d'Ache Pablo
- Derwent Artist series
- Derwent Signature
- Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor
- Royal Talens Van Gogh
- Sanford Prismacolor
- Sanford Prismacolor Premier Lightfast (I'm assuming this relates to the initial batch of colours)
- Stabilo Softcolor (discontinued)
- Sanford Verithins
- Metallics (all brands)
- Water-soluble Pencils
- Caran d'Ache Supracolor Aquarelle
- Bruynzeel Aquarell
- General Kimberley's Thin Lead Watercolor
- Sanford Prismacolor Watercolor
- AW Faber-Castell Design Watercolour
- Derwent Art Sticks
- Derwent watercolour
- Derwent Metallic pencils
- Derwent Signature Watercolour
- Lyra Rembrandt Aquarell
- Royal Talens Van Gogh Aquarelle
- Cretacolor Aquamonoliths
Reader - I could not resist! After checking I'd still be getting Version 5 as well, one weekend before Christmas I sat down and worked my way through my entire collection and completed the CPSA Lightfastness workbook.
I was absolutely staggered - gobsmacked even! - at just how many pencils across various brands failed to make it into the book. My pinks, reds, crimsons, purples, violets, blues, lime greens and pale coloured greys were completely decimated. The image you see at the top are all the "rejects". On the other hand these are exactly the same colours which have problems in other media.
By the time I got to the end only one make/brand had a really good track record for the percentage of pencils accepted as lightfast and 'approved' and included in the book. Now as it happens I own a virtually complete set of that brand so it came as something of a relief. Anybody want to take a guess which one it was?
I'm making it a rule from now on that all my original artwork must use lightfast pencils. I refuse to throw my 'reject' pencils away. What I'm going to do is keep them entirely separate and only use them for work which will be produced as prints - the original will never be sold. In terms of existing artwork, I'm going to withhold it from sale only if I know I used a lot of particular colours with particularly weak ratings and/or protect it in other ways.
The other great thing about the CPSA workbook though is that I can now photocopy the pages to take out with me and use as a checklist for when I'm doing any buying. The workbook format means that I can also easily see where I am missing colours which are considered lightfast according to the blue wool tests. However a list of names as a pdf file on the CPSA website would be very helpful as well.
The way forward
The ASTM D6901 Standard actually requires that manufacturers put the Colour Index Name on pencils in order for them to claim compliance with the Lightfastness Standard. We fought very hard to have that requirement in the Standard, and we need to make sure the manufacturers know that it is important to all of us.I have two major quibbles about the current state of affairs.
Betsy Holster, Director of Product Research
Kay Schmidt, President
Vera Curnow, Founder
Rhonda Farfan, Vice President of Consumer Standards Emeritus
- Not all manufacturers produce clear statements of compliance with the standard and ratings of pencils - this means artists are not well informed about the particular lightfastness ratings of different colours in different brands of coloured pencils
- lightfastness test results and the CPSA workbook are only available to CPSA members. Given the lack of progress with testing and labelling by manufacturers, knowledge about lightfastness issues cannot be reserved for CPSA members only - even if the book is sold by the CPSA. It's my belief that products only become responsive to buyer requirements when buyer behaviour changes - and for that buyers need better information to effect that change.
It makes me wonder whether a case can be made for having an International Forum for Coloured Pencil artists on which universal matters of importance could be discussed and progressed. After all, lightfastness is a matter of international significance and the benefits identified by CPSA when the lightfastness standard for coloured pencils was produced cannot be achieved unless all CP artists - including non-CPSA members - have better information.
My RecommendationsHow can we all help to change the current state of affairs? Well if you are a member of CPSA then I definitely recommend that you order the lightfastness results and also get hold of a copy of Version 5 of the Lightfastness Workbook when it is published
Here are a few other suggestions which I'm currently working on....
- Lobby ALL the CP manufacturers for better and more accessible information about lightfastness. Five years on from the publication of the standard I expect to see more progress.
- all pencils now need proper labelling. If they are not properly labelled one has to question whether they can be referred to as artist standard.
- In the interim, I'd like to see colour charts published on websites that have each colour with a rating validated using ASTM D4303 (which is the standard which applies to manufacturers) and a clear statement as to the pigments used. This is already available for other artists' materials - why not artist grade coloured pencils?
- Coloured Pencils - Resources for Artists
- CPSA - Product research
- standard for artists' colored pencils
- Lightfastness Standard
- Lightfastness test results - available to CPSA members only
- Lightfastness rating and pigment identification project - how it's done
- Lightfastness Workbook
- CPSA Contacts
- ASTM - lightfastness standard