Monday, August 04, 2008

Which is your favourite make of artist grade coloured pencil?

Faber Castell Polychromos is your favourite brand of artist grade coloured pencil - by a whisker. That's the current result according to my poll which asks "Which is your favourite make of artist grade coloured pencil?"

This is an update on the progress of one of the polls on Coloured Pencils - Resources for Artists - my coloured pencils information site - as at the end of July 2008.

What follows is an overview and commentary on the results to date.

177 people have responded so far. Now I may be wrong but I think that's larger than any other poll of this kind that I've seen elsewhere. (Do let me know if you know of another with a bigger response rate).

Essentially, the poll is demonstrating that the market for coloured pencils is an oligopoly and some might call it a duopoly. In this poll, it's clear that two firms and two brands alone account for very nearly 60% of the market - in terms of brand preference. Three firms account for over 78% while 87% of those who have voted so far identified their favourite brands as coming from just four firms.

Overall people appear to be split more or less evenly between oil-based and wax-based coloured pencils.

Faber Castell Polychromos are currently very slightly ahead of Sanford Prismacolor in terms of which pencil is the favourite brand. To date, these two brands have attracted 29.9% and 28.8% of the votes respectively. Personally I don't find this result surprising at all although I think it might surprise those who think all coloured pencil artists use Prismacolor (a wax based pencil). Polychromos is an oil-based pencil and is the pencil of choice for a very large number of coloured pencil artists - not least because it avoids the problems with wax bloom, sharpens extremely well and has none of the problems with breakages which has dogged the Prismacolor brand.

Derwent Coloursoft is doing extremely well for such a new product and is currently coming third with 11.3% of the vote. This is the brand which Derwent positioned to replace the very popular Karisma pencil. This was the European equivalent of Prismacolor but was discontinued in 2004 as the marketplace changed due to the switch to digital illustration. Derwent have certainly achieved the degree of softness which a lot of coloured pencil artists like.

Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor is in 4th place with 9%. This is also an oil based pencil like the Polychromos and the two work well together. It's a brand which always finds a home in my pencil tubs and it also does pretty well on the lightfastness tests.

Derwent Artists - this is a long established brand which I have grown to like a lot. It's in 5th place with 8.5% of the votes and one might have expected it to be higher.

Caran d'Ache Pablo comes next (7.3%) - I've not yet seen a lot of evidence of the new Luminance lightfast range in art shops and I'd expect this percentage to rise as this new brand gets off the ground - although current pricing suggests this might take some time.

Talens Van Gogh pencils have attracted few votes. I'm surprised by this as these are excellent pencils with the bonus of also being lighfast. (Talens and Derwent were the two manufacturers who developed lightfast pencils first). I rather suspect this placement might be due to the availability of this brand in open stock - it's not easy to find. In my view it's very likely that better distribution would help to boost market share.

Both Bruynzeel Design Fullcolour and Derwent Signature have attracted very few votes. It's very difficult to find any information about the former on the web and Derwent have announced that the latter brand is being discontinued.

This poll continues indefinitely and if you're interested in coloured pencil brands and have a distinct preference and have not yet voted then then I suggest you pay a visit to the poll and vote!

I've included links (at the end) to posts on this blog about the different brands of artist grade coloured pencils. At which point I realised that I've never done a post about Polychromos - which needs to be remedied.

Finally - a question. Is anybody interested in me doing a poll of the watercolour coloured pencils? If so, can you please suggest brands which should be included via the comments function.



  1. I'd love to see a poll on watercolour pencils. I have tried Derwent Inktense, Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer, Caran d'Ache Aquarelle and Lyra Rembrant Aquyarell. I am trying to find some Cretacolor Aquarellith at the moment but they're hard to find here in New Zealand.

  2. Yes, I'd be interested in a poll on wc pencils. I like the Albrecht Durer and Cretacolor pencils but the latter are as not bright and saturated as most others so I doubt they have many fans - I like them as they are so hard but am moving away from them now as I try out more brands.

    I wonder if other brands (other than Prismacolors) were more widely available in the US, would the results of the poll be the same? I have Prismacolors too but they don't feel like a quality brand at all. All the reports of breakages makes me wonder if they are even meant to be. I noticed that all the pencil brands (bar Berol Venus graphite pencils) I prefer are German!

  3. That's a really good point Felicity. I do think distribution has a huge impact on sales and popularity.

    I know I tend to do 'impulse' stock ups on Caran d'Ache when I'm in France or Italy as I find them in open stock more often in Europe than England.

    Plus my fridge freezer and washing machine are both German and I've always loved German shoes - because they are all incredibly well made and very reliable!

    Then there's the fact that the two really nice art shops in London - Cornelissen's and Green & Stone both have German pencils in open stock (Faber Castell and Lyra respectively)

    I used to think at least some of the reports about breakages with Prismacolor must be about seconds somehow coming into the marketplace. At that point I really don't understand why any company would undermine their reputation by having a product which broke so much. Then I got a freebie gift of new colours from Prismacolor at the 2006 CPSA convention - and two of the pencils broke repeatedly! I think that was the point when I decided maybe it wasn't an issue about disposal of "seconds" - it was actually about the bottom line - consistency of product quality.

  4. I'm keeping a note of all the brands you're mentioning and will make sure they're included in a future poll.

  5. What a fantastic resource your blog is and this is exactly the kind of info I'm looking for right now. Thanks!

  6. Oh what a great poll - Basically, I love all that you posted, but I have to say, I love Prismacolor and my
    Caran d'ache too. When I find something new, I just have to add it to my collection. I love "Pelikan" water-colors too. Hard to find but I have several sets.

  7. Interesting that my favourites were top/scored highly - Polychromos and Lyra :>)

    I think doing one on watercolour pencils would be a good idea - but include the crayons as well - Caran d'Ache Neocolor II and Inktense and Graphitint.

    It would be interesting to compare the effects of each - I like the translucency of the inktense and the ease of covering large areas quickly of the Neocolor's.

  8. Hi Katherine,
    I looked for the brand I use and didn't see it: Faber Castell Albrecht Durer and then realized they're watercolor pencils. I tried all the other brands of watercolor pencils and these were the only ones I liked.

  9. Thanks for all the comments - I'll refer back to this when I set up the poll re which is your favourite brand of watercolour pencils

  10. I would love to see a comparison: I have Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer, Caran d'Ache Supracolor (newly purchased), and Cretacolor Aquamonolith, among others. The Aquamonoliths are woodless pencils, not crayons. I think they are wonderful, less staining than some, but they are hard to get at least in open stock and they do break easily.

  11. Marion - I've got a separate poll for watercolour pencils but I don`t think I've posted the poll results on this blog as yet - so good reminder to do so!


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