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Holbein Artist Colored Pencil

Holbein Artist Colored Pencil

Holbein Artists Colored Pencils

Before reading this review, I would like to inform you that as of November 27th it was brought to my attention that the Holbein Colored Pencils have not been fully tested for sale in the US. 

I cant tell you how excited I have been regarding this review, I heard about Holbein colored pencils just over a year and a half ago and back then I had read reviews claiming amazing things. I finally purchased a set obviously because I was so intrigued but also because I had received so many emails and messages asking me to review them. I actually purchased this 36 set of Holbein Artists Colored Pencils back in January of this year, 2017 and despite terrible urges to use them, I only opened and used them two weeks ago. 

Originally, The Art Gear Guide and COLORED PENCIL Magazine had arranged to feature the Holbein Artists Colored Pencils in the August issue, however, due to unforeseen circumstances, the Holbein review had to be temporarily put on hold. Despite this, I have finally got round to reviewing the Holbein colored pencil, so here it is and I hope it has been worth the delay. 

I have to say right out of the gate, there are some absolutely amazing features surrounding the Holbein Colored Pencils but unfortunately there are equally some incredibly restricting factors to these pencils. Either way, we will highlight the best and worst of the Holbein and let you decide. 

Holbein Origins

Holbein is an incredibly formidable and respected name in the art world, mainly for their wonderful paints, inks and pastels. Although their colored pencils may not carry the same reputation throughout the art community, I can hand on heart tell you that they certainly deliver the same amazingly high quality results. 

Holbein are a Japanese company and whilst almost everything and anything manufactured in Japan is of exceptional quality, for artists in Europe, North and South America and Canada, on this occasion, location may be a downfall of this product. But we shall discuss this further into the review. 

Holbein Colored Pencil Features. 

The Holbein colored pencil is a thing of beauty and I know some of you may be thinking, "how much beauty can a barrel of wood possess?" but I am sure there is an equal amount of you know exactly what I mean. 

The Holbein is an ample 7.8mm, round barrel, housing a lush 3.8mm, pigment filled core. The actual core is a mixture of wax, fat and oil, it is a strange consistency, never the less, on Holbein's own web site, they describe the core as a mixture of wax, fat and oil, which when using the pencil, this is an accurate description of the core consistency. I know a lot of colored pencil enthusiasts are convinced that pencils are either wax or oil and nothing in between, during my research on this subject, which includes discussions with many representatives from colored pencil companies, I have learnt that this is not always the case. 

Along one side of the barrel, is printed in gold lettering "Holbein Artists Colored Pencil" followed by a thin decorative gold band and capped off with the word "Japan" on the very end, obviously representing the companies origins. 

On the opposite side of the barrel we have printed the Holbein logo, followed by "Holbein Works Ltd." further along the barrel toward the end is a star system number from one to three, this indicating the lightfastness of the pigment within that individual pencil. Beside the lightfast information is the name of the pigment, although the barrel is painted the same color as the pigment, it is always beneficial for the artist to have the pigment name printed on the barrel. Again the thin gold band separates between the pigment name and an alpha numerical code which corresponds to the pigment of that pencil. 

The pencil is weighted well and feels good in the hand, with a glossy lacquered barrel making comfort and functionality paramount to the pencil. 

Holbein Artist Colored Pencil Sets 

Holbein have quite an extensive range in this collection which is always beneficial to the colored pencil artist. The largest set available is 150, however, there are also three sets of 12, each set offering a different color palette. Next is the 24 set, 36 set, 50 set, 100 set and of course the 150 set. With the 100 set, there are two versions available, the original cardboard and then a wooden gift box set, this is also the case for the largest of the sets, the 150. 

Holbein Performance 

Given the core ingredients previously mentioned, the consistency of the Holbein core is simply gorgeous. Smooth and creamy, but with the addition of oils and wax combined, the core is strong enough to maintain a decent point after sharpening. The pencil will not maintain a point quite as long as an oil only pencil, never the less, I was impressed with the longevity of the core throughout various tests. 

As you can see from the images below and also on the YouTube video review of the Holbein pencil, I have drew two very simple spheres. I used four blues in the 36 set that I have and layer the objects accordingly. The first sphere has been blended using odourless mineral spirits, I used Zest-It and the second object was blended using only the white Holbein colored pencil. Personally I was impressed with both tests, the pigment reacted very well with the OMS and also blended effortlessly with the dry blending technique of using a white pencil. 

Next I conducted my normal testing of four colors, with the first row a single light layer of all pigments, the middle row consists of the same colors only this time five light layers being applied. You can perhaps see better on the video the effect of this test. The final row is again the same four colors and a single heavy application, simply displaying the pigment richness. 

Finally the mixing and blending of colors also worked incredibly well, allowing for two colors to seamlessly integrate and change color according to pigments, in this case the red and yellow to make orange and the same yellow and blue to create a rich grass green. 

I personally found all test to work incredibly well and leaving me to conclude that I absolutely love the Holbein colored pencils. I understand this is not a very scientific or academic manner in which to describe something, however, this is were the problems begin. 

Holbein Pros and Cons

So once you have discovered a pencil you absolutely love, it is with a heavy heart that I have to burst this bubble of pencil love, especially if you live in the areas of the world I've already alluded to, Europe, North and South America and Canada. 

I'd like to mention before delivering my findings, that I have tried on a number of occasions to contact Holbein, I even asked my Son who writes and speaks a little bit of Japanese, to help me compose an email, thinking this would get recognition, which it didn't, I've unfortunately never heard back from them. 

It would appear that anyone living outside of Japan is out of luck when it comes to ordering and sourcing the Holbein Colored Pencils. Perhaps artists in Australia, may find it easier what with the geographical location, however for us in the UK and other areas, it is incredibly difficult. 

Once you do locate a seller on Amazon or E-bay, you will most likely have to wait a few weeks for delivery, if you are lucky. Then on top of this, you are going to have shipping costs. From the best of my research, I cannot find anywhere in the afore mentioned areas, where you can order Holbein colored pencils from. There are Holbein stockiest supply Holbein pastels, paints and inks, but not colored pencils. If however, you know of somewhere, please let me know so that I can pass this information on. 

Another problem which of course falls under the availability issue is the open stock nature of the pencils. I am guessing, that in Japan, Holbein Colored Pencils are sold open stock, but again, this is something that will cause issues when reordering and if Europe, America and Canada can't get open stock pencils at all, then that really is the end of the beautiful Holbein dream. 

Just before writing this review, I noticed on a blog post that an unconfirmed seller in the US was selling Holbein colored pencils, but unfortunately I was unable to confirm this. I did find two open stock Holbein colored pencils on the US Amazon. For a single black pencil it was $14 and for a single Ash Rose Holbein pencil it was being sold for $34. I really love the Holbein pencils but not that much. 

Unfortunately, the availability is a massive issue and one that cannot be over looked considering the cost of the sets. 

Holbein Colored Pencil Set Costs 

The prices I am listing are that from Amazon, but buying from a seller in Japan, so in most of the cases you will need to add shipping to wherever you live and in some cases also add customs charges. 

For a set of any of the three 12 sets, between £26 and £32, the 24 set is £45, the 36 set which is the set I purchased, costs £76. Next is the 50 set at £82, the 100 cardboard set at £170 or the wooden box 100 set at £300, or if you want the largest set of 150, again the cardboard set will cost £268 or the wooden gift set £369. 

At the time of writing this review, the only sets I could find in the US were as follows. The 50 set priced at $154, the 100 wooden box set $299, the 150 cardboard set $305 and the 150 wooden box set $519. Of course not forgetting the two individual pencils I mentioned. 

So with the availability and pricing combined, these are both real issues that will hinder any artist from considering the Holbein colored pencils as their everyday colored pencils or for use when doing commissions. If access to replacement pencils is not a simple process, then this is a major factor. It really is a shame as the Holbein Colored Pencils are one of the nicest pencils I've used and their lightfastness is of a very high standard also. 

I would love for Holbein to branch out across the world as they have done with their paints etc, who knows, perhaps with the vast growth of colored pencil art, companies like Holbein may agree to sell further than their back yard. As I mentioned previously, I have asked these questions with regards to future plans of expanding, but unfortunately I was unable to get a reply. I don't know if this was due to a language barrier or simply the fact that the areas mentioned are just not on their radar so to speak. 

So I will plead to them now, should the see my review. Please find a retailer in the UK, US, Europe and Canada, a retailer that can sell the sets and the pencils open stock, this is a brand of pencil I think would sell very well indeed, if all issues mentioned didn't exist. 

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