Faber Castell Polychromos
Faber Castell Polychromos
I wasn't going to do a review of the Faber Castell Polychromos, I simply thought, naively, that everything there was to say about these amazing pencils, had already been said by other artists or reviewers. However, I have been receiving a significant number of requests, one such requester has been leaving requests for me to review the polychromos on all my social networking platforms. However, I discovered this wonderful person is seeking a set for Christmas and is hoping the review will nudge Santa in the right direction. So; who am I to stand in the way of someone getting a wonderful set of Faber Castell Polychromos for Christmas, besides, I am sure that perhaps younger viewers or just new people to the colored pencil medium, would like a new and fresh up to date information on the pencils.
Faber Castell is a German company and creators of incredibly fine art products, art products ranging from supplies for the very young, students and for the incredibly experienced professional artist.
Faber Castell started production of pencils as far back as 1861 and so any company with a rich vibrant history spanning as many decades, is going to be in the category of masters. Of course, once you actually experience such high quality products for yourself, the historical value is evident within the use of the product.
If you talk to all the high end colored pencil artists advertising their work online today, you will discover that the vast majority of the them, if not all of them, will be using the Faber Castell Polychromos pencil or the Caran d'Ache Luminance. you will find that they use either of the two sets or both, as both the Polychromos and Luminance are very different pencils which happen to compliment each other incredibly well.
So with such pedigree artists using the Polychromos as their go to pencil for all of their commissioned work, one really must consider this pencil if you are interested in the colored pencil medium. However, although it is clear that the elite within the colored pencil art community use the Polychromos, that is not to say that crafters, adult coloring book lovers and mixed media artist cant or don't use them either. The Polychromos is such a versatile pencil that although elite in its class, should not just be pigeoned holed as such and should be allowed in the the hands of all creative minds.
Faber Castell Polychromos Specifications
The Faber Castell Polychromos is a round barrel pencil, crafted from the finest American Cedar wood. Held snuggly within the 8mm Cedar Wood barrel, is a robust, yet pigment wielding 3.8mm core, just begging to be used, dying to show the user how bright and vibrant it is when applied to a surface.
This is an oil based pencil, as we know, there are three types of colored pencil cores, they are Wax, Oil and Water Soluble. It tends to be the norm, that oil based pencils provide a harder core, making them the ideal pencil for detail, however, stereotypically a harder core can sometimes mean a less generous core delivery of pigment. With the Faber Castell Polychromos, this is most certainly not the case. The punch packed from the Polychromos core is "just perfeck", as Pa Larkin would say.
Faber Castell also inject a resin of some description into the mixture of pigment and binder to held strengthen the core, protecting it from the daily process of sharpening. As we all know, colored pencils are amazing and we all love them, however, it is no secret that certain pencils go to war with you when you show them a glimpse of sharpener. With the Polychromos, the resin is designed to prevent such battles yet not compromising the pigment vibrancy, which the folks at Faber Castell have certainly accomplished with the Polychromos.
All pencils have information and symbology printed along the barrel and for the colored pencil artist, this information can be pretty vital information. The Polychromos is no exception and ye I am aware that a circular barrel does not have sides, so in the name of political correctness gone bonkers, I will refer to them as viewing angles. So along one viewing angle of the Polychromos is the following information. The origin of the pencil, in this case "Germany" is printed, next is two small icons seperating the gold leaf lettering of the pencil brand, which is in this instance "Polychromos". Further along the pencil toward the end cap, is the Faber Castell logo, along with "Faber Castell" printed.
Rolling the pencil over, you are presented with another viewing angle, whereupon you are presented with the pigment name of the individual pencil and with the Faber Castell Polychromos, the pigment name is written in two languages, German and English, "Tiefront and Deep Red" beside which is printed a numerical code, correlating to the color of the pencil should you wish to order that particular color. Finally, perhaps the most vital information printed on any colored pencil, is a star charting system relating to the lightfastness of each individual pencil. On the image below you can see the blue pencil has three stars and the red pencil has two stars, this shows the artist that the blue pencil has the highest lightfast rating.
The Faber Castell Polychromos performance is outstanding on every test I completed. From what I understand, each artist has their own technique and methods when they come to completing a colored pencil project. Some colored pencil artists prefer to layer the pigment in many light layers, slowly building up the values and colors, whereas other colored pencil artists prefer to simply lay down the required colour with a relatively heavy application. Certain pencils are better for each preferred application, however, the Faber Castell Polychromos lends itself incredibly well to both methods, in fact, some would say that the Polychromos pigment performs better in layers but in my testing of the pencils I found they performed excellent in both.
As you can see from the image of my testing results, the layering of the pigment results in beautiful vibrant color and the same situation in the testing of one heavy layer application. With regards to blending, again, different colored pencil artist prefer different blending techniques, but the polychromos, true to its versatile reputation, tested well on both methods. The first blending technique I tried was dry blending, simply applying a few layers of pigment and blending them together using pencils. As you can see the result was favourable. The second method was using solvent and again, as you can see from the results, the pigment melted and blended well.
As always, commenting on pricing is best left, due to the vast array of pricing depending on so many variables, such as location, store and time, however, I will provide some indication of pricing via Amazon as this is perhaps the most global system to use where most people have access.
For the Polychromos colored pencils, they are available in tins of 12, 24, 36, 60 and 120, however, if you are incredibly lucky and have a large budget at your disposal, Faber Castell are amazing at producing limited edition sets. One such set has just this year been released and is called the Karl. This set is a sight to behold, with 2,500 limited sets available, you will need to get in there quick if you want to get your artistic little mitts on one, also if you do get one, please do not tell me as I will become incredibly jealous and cry. A few years ago Faber Castell released another beautiful limited edition set, however, to get one of these for your studio, you need to hire Indiana Jones and his Dad Dr. Jones Senior and hope that they can get hold of one before the Grail, mind you, I think at this stage, locating the Grail would be easier than one of the Faber Castell set.
There is a reason why the finest colored pencil artist around the world use the Faber Castell Polychromos. The Polychromos is not only a robust and versatile pencil, but is also elegant and finely crafted artist tool, that requires the respect and desire it commands. I am sure that few reading this piece may think that the language I use is perhaps a tad exaggerative, however, when passion runs deep and you come into contact with a product, finely tuned and expertly crafted, only then can one understand such terms.
The Faber Castell Polychromos is without a doubt among the very finest colored pencils in the world, which I understand is a bold statement, but one I am confident standing by given the extent of colored pencils I have come into contact with and reviewed. If you are passionate about the medium of colored pencil, then the Polychromos are a fine choice and will stand you in good stead. My suggestion would be to purchase the largest set you can afford, preferably the 120 set and the reasons are as follows.
First of all I do not get paid by Faber Castell so if you buy them I don't get a penny, I am simply advising on this matter because I feel it will be a better investment for you in the long run. Although the 120 set is going to cost you more, once you have the set, you have all the colors for the rest of your life. Because Polychromos are sold open stock, as soon as you run one pencil down, you simply replace it. With my 120 set, despite the fact I have run out of colors many times, my set still looks new and complete. Even if it means holding off purchasing a set at all for another month or so while you save the extra cash, the pain of waiting will be worth it in the long run.
I personally purchased the 60 set and a week later I purchased the 120 set. I couldn't stand the thought of not owning the largest set once I started using the Polychromos. It wasn't really a waste of money because I will always still use the colors in the 60 set, however, at the time it was an unnecessary purchase all because I didn't want to wait another few weeks to save my money. So from a lesson learnt on my behalf, think carefully before you buy a set. Of course, if you really feel that you will never use 120 colors, then get the appropriate set for you, but remember, whilst you can blend colors with colored pencils, it is not like watercolors, were you can make several new colors with four or five watercolour pans, pencils are not quite the same.
Thank you so much for reading of watching this review, I also have a YouTube video review of the Faber Castell Polychromos, you can see this review by clicking the link. If you think this review might be of help or benefit to someone you know, please by all means share, also if you have any questions either relating to this review or any other art products, drop my a line or comment and I will always reply to you, hopefully being able to help.