There are brands of luxury wood pencils sold in boxes of 12 for around twenty to thirty dollars, and those are the lower end of the luxury spectrum. Just look up Blackwing, Hi Uni, and Mitsubishi pencils some time, and you will see what I mean. They are not even marketed towards artists, which I would expect for that kind of dough. I have not tried these brands, but it's pretty tempting considering how much I love graphite. For now, I will just have to review the brands I have on hand: Staedtler, Prismacolor, Koh-I-Noor, Royal & Langnickel, Daler Rowney, Dixon Ticonderoga, Art Alternatives, and Portfolio Series by Crayola.
Today's post is covering Staedtler, Prismacolor, and Koh-I-Noor.
|a little neater now!|
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To date, my most extravagant graphite purchase has been a set of Staedtler Mars Lumograph drawing pencils, which cost around $25 for a set of all sixteen degrees. They are the best drawing pencils I have ever used, but also the most expensive. The store where I bought them had only the 16-piece set, and the markup there is ridiculous, so I had to shell out a few more dollars than I expected. I am not bitter about it, of course, since I am singing their praises, but I wish I could have bought only the soft degree set, which is available at most art stores and Amazon.com. There are several smaller sets, and you can buy boxes of 12 in any degree.
Why Lumograph pencils Rock:
- Smooth, velvety texture- blends beautifully
- Solid core rarely breaks, even on softer degrees
- High quality wood for casing (important for pencil's longevity)
- Very nice value range achieved with middle grades (HB, B, 2B) alone
- Degrees range from 8B (very soft) to 6H (rather hard)
|small pic of the swatches|
- They don't- the price is higher, but, again, I can see why.
Prismacolor Turquoise Drawing Pencils
I say "almost" because I noticed inconsistencies in the Turquoise H degrees when I tested them on the cheap paper. The most striking oddity was that 6H was darker than 4H, and it should be lighter. I double-checked to make sure my pressure was consistent for both grades. I also noticed that the B grades are not as dark as I would like when used on smooth paper. There is little difference between the 6B and 2B in the Turquoise line. I used the woodless 6B and Premier Ebony pencils to add the darkest values to my test sketch. One caveat: When I made swatches with the Prismas on the rougher paper in my sketchbook, I was able to get a better range of values.
Even though the Prisma Turquoise pencils do not perform as well on slicker paper, the graphite quality is very good. You don't have to worry about grainy or streaky bits when laying down solid areas of tone or when making subtle gradients.
|I wish I had noticed the |
smudge before taking pics
My Prismacolor Premier Graphite set included six Turquoise pencils, four woodless graphite pencils in HB and 2B, 4B, and 6B, and a few water soluble graphite pencils. I have used the woodless pencils to tiny nubs, so I had to guess the degree on two of them- the only one still labelled is the 6B. I rarely use the water soluble pencils. They are fine for dry sketching, but I cannot comment on their properties when used for washes.
Why Prismacolor Premier Turquoise Pencils Rock:
- Smooth, consistent graphite content
- Produce good value range on papers with at least a little bit of texture
- Blend nicely, probably won't need a stump or tortillion
- Good range of degrees from 9H to 9B (Ebony is very close to 9B in other brands)
- Price is more affordable than Lumograph
- Smooth paper seems to inhibit Prisma value range dramatically
- Good quality, consistent graphite content
- Blends well, rarely need a stump or tortillion
- Progresso Woodless graphite pencils available in HB through 9B (No Hs)
- Koh-I-Noor Professional Drawing Pencils available in 5H through 9B
- Koh-I-Noor Gioconda Graphite available in 2B. 4B, 6B (leads, Aquarelle, and sticks)
- The sticks and leads only come in three degrees- yeah I have that in the "rocks" section because at least there are choices, but I would like more B grades in the leads and sticks.
- Kinda pricey (just "kinda" though)
- Confusing product names and descriptions- some are from Austria, some made in Czech, brand names seem to change, what is up with that? (see my post on charcoal brands for more info).
None of these brands really suck. I just wanted to do something different than the boring "pros" and "cons" headings I see everywhere. I think all three companies offer higher quality products on the whole, but they are also at the upper end of my raggedy artist budget.
Part II in the graphite series will cover cheaper brands and a few stragglers that I think are worth mentioning.