Spectrum Noir Aqua Blend
Spectrum Noir Aqua Blend
Spectrum Noir is a British born company, run by parent company Crafters Companion. On the grand scheme of things and in comparison to other colored pencil manufacturers or art suppliers in general, Spectrum Noir are relatively new to the scene. However, they have absolutely made up for lost time and now pack a metaphorical punch in this industry.
They have recently, improved their colored pencil line, their marker pen line and now their watercolour pencil line. The AquaBlend are the new water soluble pencils, which is the product I will be reviewing for you today.
Available Spectrum Noir AquaBlend Sets.
One of the many things I love about Spectrum Noir is the way in which they categorise their pencils. for example, most companies supply sets of pencils in numbers, 12, 24, 36 etc and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, Spectrum Noir, make getting started and growing a little bit easier.
With the Spectrum Noir AquaBlend, there is four sets of 24, making it a total palette of 96 colors. Each of the four sets is broken down into specific color groups. The first and what I like to refer to as the starter set, is the Primaries. The Primaries set gives you a beautiful selection of 24 colors and with the selected color palette you can pretty much mix them to fulfil any color desired; not forgetting that these pencils behave like watercolor paints, ensuring the mixing and blending process is simple and straight forward.
The next set of 24 is the Florals, this set is primarily aimed at those artists with a particular interest in botanical art. The palette in this set is blooming with pinks, magentas, yellows, purples etc, all the colors you'd expect to see in a beautiful fully bloomed garden.
The next set of 24 is the Essentials, this set focuses on portraiture, artists with a keen eye for detail and realism would be suited to this set. The palette in the Essentials, as you may image is littered with flesh tones, greys and some light browns and ochres, perfect array of colors for hair, shadows etc.
The final set is guided nicely toward the landscape or marine wildlife artist. The Naturals set has perfectly selected greens, blues, aquas, earth reds and deep browns, allowing any artist the freedom to paint anything from landscape to seascape.
Of course, individually, the sets give you a wonderful accompaniment of colors to paint your preferred genre of art, however collectively, you have the color palette to create and paint whatever you heart desires.
The pencils themselves deliver a very capable 4mm core, allowing for an ample layering of pigment, the core is housed within an 8mm Californian Cedar wood case and lacquered with a matt pale blue coloring, making the Spectrum Noir AquaBlend pencils quite a unique pencil. The AquaBlend sports a round barrel which is a love hate relationship between colored pencil artists, with a percentage preferring hexagonal barrels over the round barrels. This of course is purely cosmetic and does not affect the over all performance.
Along the shaft of the pencil, the company name "Spectrum" is stamped and inlayed with silver leaf, next to which is the brand of the pencil "AquaBlend". Further along the shaft of the pencil towards the end is the color name, which of course is a welcomed feature for most artists. Finally finishing the pencil off is a half inch flash of color, depicting the actual pigment present in the core, this is separated with a silver band ensuring no confusion is caused with the blue pigments.
Unfortunately the Spectrum Noir AquaBlend pencils are not sold in Open Stock, this is the same for the Spectrum Noir ColourBlend range. It would appear that given the uniqueness of Spectrum Noir's set arrangement, they have opted not to supply open stock pencils. For some colored pencil artists this may cause an issue but for others, not so much.
The lightfastness is a slight issue with the Spectrum Noir AquaBlend. As far as Spectrum Noir are concerned, the AquaBlend are very lightfast and there is absolutely no reason to doubt this, However, more specific information would be ideal.
When colored pencil artists begin creating a commission, the archival quality of the supplies being used is absolutely critical. Although all the pencils are classed as lightfast, there will undoubtedly be colors more lightfast than others. It is essential that the artists know exactly which individual pencils are the most lightfast and which are the least.
It's difficult to describe exactly how a pencil performs in writing, which is why I always provide a video review in conjunction with these written reviews, however, I will be the best I can. One of the problems I often hear with regards to people using watercolor pencils is the ability sharpen and I am happy to report that the Spectrum Noir AquaBlend sharpen perfectly. I tried to sharpen the pencils with a number of sharpeners and much to my surprise, the pencils sharpened well with all sharpeners.
Next is the vibrancy of the pigment, the real magic with watercolor pencils happens, as you would expect, when the pigments are activated with water. The Spectrum Noir AquaBlend are no different, Using the pencils dry you can see straightaway that the pigment is vibrant, however, once you add water the marks laid down turn immediately into a rich watercolor paint.
As you can see from the sample color swatch below, I have applied four colors in their dry format and then activated them with water. One the of the tell tail signs of good quality pigment and binders being used in watercolor pencils is when you activate with water, no pencil lines are visible. With some pencils of the cheaper and lower quality, pencil lines are still present once the pigment is turned into paint.
I love this line of water soluble pencils from Spectrum Noir, the pencil feels good in the hand, well made and I personally have had no issues what so ever with sharpening. Each pencil lays down a vibrant layer of pigment and when activate with water, the magic really begins. I would highly recommend the Spectrum Noir Aquablend water soluble pencils, however, be careful if using these for a commission given the lack of lightfast information for individual pencils. These pencils are lightfast but just no specific details on individual pencils.
All pricing is taken from Amazon, however, if you are located in a country where Amazon does not stock these pencils, the best place to get them is directly from Crafters Companion or Spectrum Noir.
All sets are pretty much the same pricing, here in the UK, either of the 24 sets will cost you approximate £23 - £25
In the US, the prices are very similar, with a 24 pack costing $27. In Europe the sets will cost you approximately €29, however I was unable to locate a price for Australia, which is not to say that you can't get them in Australia, just that I simply could not find them.