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Caran d'Ache Pastel Pencil Review

Caran d'Ache Pastel Pencil Review

Caran d'Ache Pastel Pencil Review

I was fortunate enough to have been bought, by my wonderful family, a 76 set of Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils for my Birthday in November and an early Christmas present. If you have been following me for a while, you will have noticed that in the past six or seven months, I have become particularly enamoured with pastels. I have seen so many wonderful works of art from some of you guys on Instagram and Pinterest that I really wanted to give it a try, hence the Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils.

So in this review I will take a look at the Caran d’Ache Pastel pencil and as always, I have full real time demonstration of the pencils in my as well as a speed painting video of my first ever pastel landscape art. If speed videos are not your thing, I have also included a page with still images of my pastel art at various stages of completion from start to finish.

Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils

Before I get into the actual review I would just like to say something about this particular review. There is no doubt that the pastel pencils I am review from Caran d’Ache are a high end luxury art as far as art supplies are concerned. It has always been my goal, when adding reviews to The Art Gear Guide, to add reviews right the way across the art supply spectrum, from the most expensive to the least expensive. I am actually in the process of making video about impulse buying and trying to help those who watch reviews like mine and feel they must buy what I have reviewed, because they enjoyed the review, I feel I have a responsibility to add these reviews with some level of assistance, so watch out for that video.

When it comes to most art supplies, Caran d’Ache offer the most expensive sets about, however, there is a very good reason for this expense and so long as you understand this, it will help you make a better decision when it comes to buying a set. With Caran d’Aches top end sets, the pigment levels and craftsmanship incorporated into the items is impressive to say the very least. If you research about pigments, you will discover a lot of information about the various grades of pigment, which also leads to expense. The richer the pigment or the availability of a pigment etc will help determine cost. In all of Caran d’Aches top end items, even the Neocolor II, which are essentially water soluble crayons, almost like a child’s art supply, the pigments explode when they hit your art surface.

Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencil Sets

I don’t normally start with sets available, however, with the Caran d’Ache Pastel pencils, we are really spoilt for choice, so I thought I would get this out of the way first before getting into the actual pastel pencils.

Although I am reviewing the 76 Set of Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils, it is important to note that Caran d’Ache also make pastel cubes. The pigments in the pastel cubes are exactly the same as that of the pencils, they are of the exact same high quality.

For the Pastel Pencils, you can purchase a set of 12, 20, 40, 76 and the wooden gift box set of 84, not forgetting that the 84 set does provide a few additional pigments not in the 76 set according to their Lightfast Chart and additional pencils such as Grafwood and Charcoal.

As I previously mentioned, Caran d’Ache sell the Pastel Cubes in sets of 6 ranging from Earth Tones, Portraiture etc, however, as with the Pastel Pencils, you can also purchase the Cubes in open stock. This is excellent for those just wanting to purchase a few samples of both Cubes and Pencils, reviews such as this one can help artists fantastically, but there is no substitute at all to holding the testing the item yourself.

Caran d’Ache also offer sets that mix both Pastel and Cubes, they is a Landscape and Portrait set of 20, however, just to clarify, that is 20 Pastel Pencils and 20 Cubes. They also provide a 40 set of assorted pigments, again, this is 40 Pastel Pencils and 40 Cubes and the smaller sets of 6 Pastel Pencils and 6 Cubes.

Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencil Characteristics.

The first thing to note about the actual pencils is their chunky barrel, which I personally love, there is a feel of real quality to the pencil in the hand. The Barrel encapsulates a gorgeous 4.7mm highly pigmented core, the barrel itself is hexagonal in shape, which is super helpful to artists, making the possibility of a pencil rolling of your desk onto the floor less likely. The Barrel is 8mm in dimension however I am unsure about the origin of the wood, most of the pencils at Caran d’Ache are Californian Cedar Wood, however, I know that recently Caran d’Ache invested a lot into Swiss sourced wood, of which I think they mentioned 20% of production to be Swiss and the remainder 80% to be Californian Cedar, either way the barrel has beautiful exposed wood grain, making it aesthetically pleasing to even non pencil enthusiasts, such as my wife.

As I mentioned, I have been fortunate to get the 76 for this review, however, within the set, there are two different types of information on the pencils, on with the pigment names printed on the barrel and one without. This has just been due to the phasing out of one pencil and the introduction of another and it is the pencil with the printed pigment name being introduced.

Along one side of the barrel printed in clear white font, “Pastel Pencil”, this is followed by the company name and logo “Caran d’Ache” and ending with “Swiss Made”. On the very end of the pencil, there is painted a 3cm or Inch and a quarter pigment indicator, I tested most of the pencils for accuracy regarding actual pigment in accordance to the indicator and the results were excellent, almost identical in every test.

Printed actually on the pigment indicator is a 6 digit number, all of them start with the same first three digits, 788 and this lets both retailer and consumer know it is a pastel pencil. The next three digits refer to the pigment for open stock value, when re-ordering a new pigment, you can quote the last three digits and receive the pencil you require.

On the opposite side of the barrel, the pigment name has been printed in two languages, French and English. Of course as I mention, throughout my 76 set, there were a few of the pencils without this information, making the pigment number on the end of the pencil vital for reordering open stock replacements.

Finally on another of the barrels sides is the lightfast information, this is depicted in the form of a star system, however I will add the lightfast chart further into the review.

I don’t normally discuss art supplies packaging, however, in my opinion, Caran d’Ache have really nailed it just as many people think Apple cornered the market in packaging. When you are spending a lot of money on anything, especially if it is going to be in transit, you need to know it is protected and well looked after, Caran d’Ache have practically made their high end products bomb proof.

They are made from a tough cardboard, each tray that holds the pencils, has a rubber foam base, with slots cut out for the pencils to be held. None of the pencils touch each other, they are firmly held in place by the rubber foam. On the underside of the pencil trays, a layer of rubber foam is placed, ensuring that when placed on top of the layer below, again the pencils below are protected by that rubber layer. It is full all round protection of your precious and expensive Caran d’Ache pencils, which can also be kept and used throughout the life of your art career or enthusiasm.

Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencil Performance

I have completed my own art work with these beautiful pastel pencils, I wanted to complete a landscape painting of a place close to the hearts of my wife and I, called Grange in Keswick, The Lake District. My wife and I would take our children to this place and sit by the river on hot sunny days while the children played in the river and pools. There is only a few houses, a church and cafe in Grange and a beautiful hump bridge to cross. I completed my drawing from many photos I have taken over the years, however, one area of the painting is actually a small car park, space for about four cars, but I changed it to just a grass area, a little bit of artistic license. I completed the drawing on Clairefontaine Pastelmat and this is my own personal preferred surface to paint with pastels on and the tests I have conducted have also been done on this surface.

As you can see from the test below, I have taken a few pigments from the set and applied them to the light grey pastelmat, a very light application and one heavy application. When applying the light application, I held the pencil as far back as I could and almost allowed the weight for the pencil only to move across the pastelmat. As you can clearly see from the images and you can also see the test in real time on my YouTube video, the pigments are so bright and vibrant, absolutely gorgeous, the pastelmat grips hold of the pigment well allowing very little to fall of the paper when the painting is moved.

I added the white and black pigments, but more importantly I added a few of the pigments considered flesh tones and I did this because in the 76 set, I don’t think there is a genre of art that you could not complete, but for portrait artists, you are spoilt for choice. I have seen many pastel portraits and often marvel at the work completed by these amazing artists, pastel lends itself so well to this genre I think, however, in the Caran d’Ache 76 set, you have every pigment needed to crate such wonderful work.

When the pastels are dragged across the pastelmat, it is like butter a slice of toast, the rough pastelmat the toast and the Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils the butter. With some other pastel pencils, you can occasionally get a slight gritty consistency, by this is not the case at all with the Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils.

Blending the pastels is effortless, now, blending pastels for the most part is a pretty enjoyable and effortless task, however, with the gorgeous buttery consistency of the Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils, blending is a dream. Due to the strength of the pigments, this also make color theory and mixing really easy.

Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencil Lightfast Information.

It is an important distinction to make about lightfast testing, this is not the be all and end all for all artists. There are many artists out there, such as myself, adult colorists and crafters, who are not necessarily looking to sell their art and for those artists, lightfastness is not such a huge deal. On the other hand, for any artist who is trying to make a living by selling their work, Lightfast information will be of the upmost importance an will also allow you to put a much higher value to your work than with non-lightfast supplies. High lightfast supplies means that your work will stay bright and colorful for a 100 years plus.

Caran d’Ache take lightfast very seriously with their high end products, such as the Pastel Pencils on review here. Caran d’Ache use a star system for lightfastness, the rating is out of 5 with five or 4 stars considered good enough for Professional use, the highest grade, 3 stars are considered good but your work would require UV glass protection or something similar for longevity. Two and One stars are obviously the lowest and not considered good enough for work that is to be on display in a museum or hung on a wall.

Of the entire 84 pigments in the Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencil range, 37 are considered 5 Star, 24 and 4 Star, 19 are 3 Star and only 4 are considered 2 Star on the Lightfast ratings, which is pretty excellent.

Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencil Prices

I am only going to submit the price for the Pastel Pencil Sets as this is what the review is about, however, in the section of the review about the sets available, I have added links to the pastel cubes and sets for Amazon should you wish to purchase any of those sets.

Here in the UK, for the 12 set of Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils it will cost £38, for the 20 Set it will cost £47.05, for the 40 set it will cost £89.03, for the 76 set it will cost £203.98 and for the largest 84 wooden gift box set it will cost £258.50.

In the US, I was really surprised to find a lack of Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencil sets on sale via Amazon, so I apologise for the fact that I don’t have all the prices, however, as and when they arrive on Amazon I will of course update this page. For the 20 set of Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils in the US, you will pay $140, for the 76 set you will pay approx $399.

In Europe, the Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencil sets will cost approximately the following, for the set of 12 pastel pencils you will pay €42 , for the 40 set you will pay €115 and for the largest 84 wooden gift box set you will pay approximately €349. As with the US Amazon, I was unable to find all sets at the time of writing this review however I will update as and when they do become available.

Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencil Conclusion

As I mentioned at the very beginning of the review, the Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils are what I would consider a high end art supply purchase. They are expensive, much more expensive than other pastel pencils on the market, however, as I hope I have demonstrated throughout this written review and my video review, the reasons for the extra expense.

A high end art supply such as these Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils are not for everyone and what I mean by that is expense. Don’t think for one second that if you want to create beautiful art you need these pastel pencils, if you are a colourist and enjoy using adult colouring books or you are like myself, love creating pastel art for just yourself, a set like this is not a necessity but more a luxury. If on the other hand you do sell your work and would like it to be entered into competitions and galleries, then a set such as these would not only enhance your work slightly due to such rich pigments, but you could also ask for a higher price tag on your own work due to the excellent lightfast ratings.

I absolutely adored using the Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils and I think the only reason my very first pastel landscape came out so nice was because the quality of the pencils. If your budget can stretch to a set of Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils and you know you will get some benefit from having them; by the way, benefit does not just mean monetary, your mental state of mind, increased joy when using beautiful art supplies is a huge benefit, then I would say go for a set. Also consider purchasing a few of the Pastel pencils or cubes open stock if you are unsure, as I mentioned, reviews such as mine are helpful guides, but there is nothing that beats actually using the products and testing your own individual skills with them.

Don’t forget, you can check out my real time YouTube video review of the Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils, as well as my speed painting using the pencils or if speed videos are not your thing, check out my page of still images of the art at various stages of completion from start to finish.

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