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The Art Gear Guide is your one stop shop for the most recent, up to date, honest reviews on all your favourite art supply products. 


Caran d'Ache Prismalo Aquarelle

Caran d'Ache Prismalo Aquarelle

Caran d'Ache Prismalo Aquarelle

If you have been watching or reading my reviews for any length of time now or you have been into colored pencils for a while, the name Caran d’Ache will be very familiar to you. To date I have reviewed most of the Caran d’Ache pencil line and now it is the time of the Prismalo.

I know this is going to sound really silly, however I have been incredibly enticed to buy the Prismalo line for such a long time now and it has been down to the image on the tin. I know this is crazy and the image on a tin of pencils has nothing to do with the performance of a pencil and under no circumstances should you ever by a set of pencils on this basis, but if anything it does go to show what a good marketing job Caran d’Ache are doing. I have actually had the Prismalo 80 set in my review collection for quite some time now but just hadn’t got round to reviewing them.

Caran d’Ache Prismalo Characteristics

I was once told by someone, that the Caran d’Ache Prismalo are the same pencil as the Supracolor Soft, I can tell you after considerable testing, and asking Caran d’Ache, this is absolutely not the case, they are very different pencils. After my testing, I didn’t really need for Caran d’Ache to confirm this as it was so clear just from the core consistency.

The first thing to note is that the Prismalo are the thinest colored pencils in the Caran d’Ache line. The Prismalo sport a hexagonal barrel and although this is going to sound strange, they don’t at all feel like a Caran d’Ache pencil, but I unfortunately can’t really explain that statement.

The core of the Prismalo is a slim 2.95mm, encapsulated in a 6.5mm barrel, every barrel of the Prismalo is lacquered the same color of the pigment in the core, making pigment identification really easy. The idea behind the core being so slim is to allow for detailed work in both dry form and wet.

the information along the barrel of the Prismalo is uncharacteristically scant for a Caran d’Ache product, however, it is useful to be mindful of the fact that the Prismalo is quite far down the list with regards to quality and I mean quality against other Caran d’Ache products. The Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle is right at the top of the quality list with regards to water soluble pencils, below them would be the Caran d’Ache Supracolor Soft followed by the Prismalo.

first printed along the barrel is the companies name “Caran d’Ache” followed by the companies origins “Swiss Made”. After this there is a paint brush icon, helping those using the pencils to know they are also water soluble pencils. Next to the icon is printed the pencil brand “Prismalo”, followed by the FSC standards mark.

Unfortunately there are no pigment names printed on the barrels, which I know can make a huge difference to a lot of colored pencil artists. There is however open stock numbers, which of course relates to the pigment names for reordering. As with most colored pencil sets, especially those from the big companies, if no pigment names are print on the actual pencils, you will still be able to locate a color chart and that is the case for the Caran d’Ache Prismalo.

The core of the Prismalo is a little bit chalky and I have noticed a slight issue with sharpening, I even went to the trouble of ordering brand new sharpener blades to make sure it wasn’t blunt blades, but I still experienced the same issues. It is worth mentioning that water soluble pencil cores have very different ingredients in them over conventional colored pencils, which can make they appear very dry or chalky. Also on the end of the Prismalo pencil, each one is capped with a white painted dot, which protects the inner core, there is something retro about this and it is yet another insignificant feature of the pencils that I find awesome.

Caran d’Ache Prismalo Sets Available

Caran d’Ache have a really good range available in the Prismalo line. First of all the Prismalo pencils are sold in open stock format which is so important to many artists. After this the Prismalo line comes in sets of 12, 18, 30, 40 and 80; not really your conventional 12, 24, 36, 48, 72 and 120, but I actually feel the set sizes for Prismalo work better.

Occasionally you will find small card sizes of 6 but I personally have only found a few of these on ebay or Amazon. Caran d’Ache also offer an 80 set of their Prismalo range in a wooden gift box. Although I have not got the wooden gift box set in the Prismalo range, I do have the Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle in the wooden box and I have to say it is a gorgeous box to store pencils.

Caran d’Ache Prismalo Performance

I have to admit and hand on heart say that I was a little bit disappointed with the performance of the Prismalo, however, I think some of that might have to do with the fact that I have been spoilt with amazing quality aquarelle pencils in the form of the Museum Aquarelle and the Supracolor Soft. So when I started to officially test them, I tried to set aside my feelings for the Museum and Supracolor and test them on their own merit.

The Caran d’Ache Prismalo are marketed as a student grade water soluble set of pencils, so it is important to test and view them with this in mind. One of the first things I done was to complete a swatch and as I completed the swatch, I watched the pigment disperse and started to compare to other student grade water soluble pencils and immediately seen the quality issues as less of an issue with the pencils and more of an issue with me. You can definitely tell the difference in pigment strength between the Caran d’Ache Supracolor Soft and Prismalo, which I guess is the whole point.

I started to complete some art work with the Prismalo and as I have always admired the image on the Prismalo tin so much, I thought I would give that ago, however I got half way through and I just wasn’t feeling it at all. I tried a new painting and this time I completed a bird and I hope that the speed painting helps to demonstrate just how rich and vibrant the pigments really are.

By the time I was starting my second painting, my initial disappointment with the Prismalo had rapidly disappeared and I really started to enjoy them, always keeping in the back of my mind that these were student grade pencils, albeit it high end student grade.

To best see the performance of the pencils, check out my YouTube video review of the pencils, here you will see how easily the pigments move and disperse once activated with water, this shows the quality of the pigments and the ingredients in the pencils as well.

When I was completing the second painting of the bird with the Caran d’Ache Prismalo, I used the ever faithful Caran d’Ache Palette. The Palette is a wonderful tool that simply transform watercolor pencils, it opens up so many more options and turns an already versatile art medium into amazingly versatile. The Palette is a Caran d’Ache product however it can be used for any water soluble pencil or crayon style art medium you may own. I personally could not be without the palette and it is always close by just incase I fancy using some watercolor pencils.

Caran d’Ache Prismalo Lightfast Ratings.

Ordinarily, lightfast ratings for Caran d’Ache products are really easy to find, however with the Prismalo it was a little bit more difficult, but the fact they are student grade pencils, I expected lightfast ratings to be difficult. I eventually tracked them down and was really surprised at how good they are considering they are student grade.

Of the 80 pigments available 20 are classified three star which is excellent, 54 are classified two star which is considered very good and 6 are classified one star which is considered fair. I am not suggesting that the Prismalo are the ideal water soluble pencils to use for your next commission or anything like that, however, they are perfect for almost everything else outside of the commission realm, which is quite a lot.

Caran d’Ache Prismalo Pricing

We all know the saying, “You get what you pay for” and nowhere is that more true than at the dizzy heights of Caran d’Ache Towers. The prices I have listed here are from Amazon and not directly from the Caran d’Ache website, although you can of course purchase directly from the Caran d’Ache website.

Here in the UK for the 12 set of Prismalo you can expect to pay £15, for the 18 set you can expect to pay approximately £24, the 30 set will cost about £36, the 40 set approximately £59 and the 80 set £117. If you wanted to be a bit more extravagant you could buy the 80 set of Prismalo in the wooden box for approximately £165 which considering the quality of the pencils and the gorgeous box they come in, this price is fantastic.

I took a look on the Amazon US website and the amount of sets available were surprisingly low, so I have only added the prices of those I could find. For the 30 set you can expect to pay approximately $45 and for the 80 set you can expect to pay approximately $115.

In beautiful Europe, you can expect to pay the following for the Caran d’Ache Prismalo sets, for the set of 12 Prismalo €14, for the set of 18 approximately €19, for the set of 30 approximately €46, for the set of 40 approximately €107 and for the largest set, the set of 80 €147. You could of course purchase the 80 set of Prismalo in the wooden box set which will cost €194. As you can see the prices for the Prismalo are excellent when you consider all you are getting for this.

Caran d’Ache Prismalo Conclusion

I got of to a shaky start with the Caran d’Ache Prismalo, but this was really my first lower grade Caran d’Ache product I had reviewed, I think I was expecting them to be just like the Museum or Supracolor but that would be silly. Never the less, once I started to test and review them properly and taking into consideration that they are student grade, I diverted a terrible review and I hopefully pulled it back to my usual honest and transparent reviews.

The failure of my first painting demonstration with the Prismalo was absolutely much more to do with me as opposed to the pencils, I just wasn’t in the zone and was dragging the pencils about the paper rather than letting them glide in the normal fashion. When I started my second painting, I wanted to paint something that was going to highlight the vibrancy of the Prismalo pigments and I think my final painting with the Prismalo really achieved this.

I will admit that I am not an expert with watercolor pencils, I find I have much more control with ordinary colored pencils, but once the introduction of the Caran d’Ache Palette is applied, so many more options become available. I know a some people think what is the point of using water soluble pencils if you are going to use in a similar fashion to pan watercolors, which I can understand. However, the palette is just a tool that adds many more options to an already versatile art medium and again you can see me demonstrate this on my YouTube video review of the Prismalo.

The Caran d’Ache Prismalo Aquarelle Colored Pencils are a fantastic choice for a watercolor enthusiast come pencil enthusiast. The price of the Prismalo allows for most of us to get our hands on a fine set of Caran d’Ache pencils. However, it is important to note that whilst the quality and price of the Prismalo is amazing, they are not the Supracolor Soft or Museum, but that is to be expected given the price difference.

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