Spectrum Noir ColourBlend
Spectrum Noir ColourBlend
As always, before reading this review, if you haven't already done so, you can check out my YouTube video review of the Spectrum Noir ColourBlend pencils. I have found over the time of reviewing art supplies that some people prefer video reviews, seeing the products work in real time, whereas others prefer to read the detailed account of a product. So I offer both accounts and let you chose which or both reviews to help you decide.
Crafters Companion & Spectrum Noir
This review is of the Spectrum Noir ColourBlend. Spectrum Noir is part of the Crafters Companion group, which is run by a wonderful lady called Sara Davies, Sara is from here in the North East of England and is actually from the City Of Durham which is where I live. Sara started Crafters Companion and Spectrum Noir back in 2005 and due to her amazing contribution to the British business, creating wonderful products and employment for local people, she was awarded an MBE this year (2016). For those of you not aware of what an MBE is, it means Member Of The British Empire and it is recognition from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for services rendered to the United Kingdom. This is an incredible achievement in such a short period of time.
However, lets get into the review of the Spectrum Noir ColourBlend pencil. The ColourBlend range is the second style of colored pencil produced by Spectrum Noir. There is another set in black tins and the pencil shaft is painted black also. I have never used this particular pencil and so cannot compare them to the new ColourBlend's.
Spectrum Noir ColourBlend Sets
The ColourBlends has a total color range of 120 pencils, which is broken down into five, twenty four set tins. Each tin is aimed at a particular genre and so therefore the colors in the set represent this genre best. For example, the five sets are as follows, the Essentials, Florals, Shade and Tone, Naturals and finally Primaries. No color is replicated in any of the sets, they all contain their own colors and total 120 colored pencils.
The nice thing about this format is if you are more inclined to draw botanical art, then the Florals set would be a fantastic place for you to start. If you don't yet have a specific style of art yet you can get the Essentials or Primaries sets to start of with, giving you a good all round selection of colors. Unfortunately the Spectrum Noir ColourBlend are not available in open stock, which means they are not sold individually. I know this can be problematic for some people so it is worth noting this, however the next paragraph may soften the blow for you if you really want to get these pencils and the open stock situation is a deal breaker for you.
One of the reasons Sara was selected for an MBE was the fact that she wanted to create and make available to low income families, artist grade products. Thats where the ColourBlend pencils really raise their game and lift them to a higher level on the colored pencil top ten list. Obviously depending on where you buy the sets from, you can pick up a set of twenty four pencils up for approximately £19.99 or £25, which is an outstanding price range.
So, do the ColourBlend live up to the claim of providing artist grade products at low cost without compromising the quality? The pencil itself sports a round barrel, housed in this Cedar Wood barrel is a highly pigmented 4mm core, making the barrel approximately 6-8mm in diameter. This is a sturdy pencil and feels fantastic in the hand, well balanced, if you have used the Derwent Coloursoft or Derwent Artist pencils, the ColourBlend, with regards to feel and dimensions are very similar.
They are a wax based pencil, although when you use them they hold a point more like an oil based pencil. They sharpen really well, I have all 120 pencils and have sharpened everyone of them without a single pencil splitting or breaking, which is awesome and testament to the quality of the pencils cedar wood shaft and strong core. as I have mentioned, the core is strong and holds a point well, however, the pigment lays down beautifully. With most of the colors, they very much lay down like Prismacolor, I was so surprised at how soft they were and one of the reasons for my surprise to this softness was due to the fact the pencil holds such a fantastic point for quite a considerable amount of time.
Along the side of the pencils is the lettering "Spectrum ColourBlend" in gold leaf which looks striking against the regal Burgundy color of the painted Cedar Wood casing. Further along is the name of the color, which is always a fantastic addition for colored pencil artists. Then a gold band separates the burgundy shaft to the colored end cap indicating the pigment in the core of the pencil.
With regards to the lightfastness of the pencils, for me this is the only area they slightly slip up on, but this is the same with so many pencil manufactures at the minute. Spectrum Noir say the pencils are very lightfast, which I have no problem believing, it is not like the company are going to make such a claim only for it to be false. However, with even the most lightfast pencils on the market, the Caran D'Ache Luminance, some of them are more lightfast than others. This is indicated directly on each individual pencil and on some occasions, if at all possible, the colored pencil artist will try to avoid the least lightfast pencils. So, when a pencil company says that their pencils are lightfast, I feel it is important they give specifics. I personally feel that the popularity of the colored pencil medium is growing exponentially all the time and as a result I feel matters such as lightfast ratings will be more front and centre with artist grade pencils.
I have included a swatch of the colors included in the entire 120 pencils. I think you can tell fairly clearly just how beautifully creamy these spectrum Noir ColourBlend pencils are. Also, with a 120 colors in the line up, there is a color for every eventuality and some of the colors are just exquisite. As usual I conducted a few simple test and the following images show how well the ColourBlend performed.
The first test was to take the primary colors and with the lightest touch, lay a single layer down. As you can see from the image, the colors are so vibrant, I was so pleasantly surprised. Next, with the exact same amount of pressure, I applied five layers, just as a colored pencil artist would do on a project. Again, as you can see from the image, the color vibrancy is just amazing and despite the ColourBlend being a wax based I found very little blooming.
The next test I done was blending, again I used the red, yellow and blue, laying the red next to the yellow I was able create a rich orange and laying the blue next to the yellow created a bright grass green. This was done using just the pencils as the blending agent. The following test was exactly the same only using a solvent, again you can see that the pigment in the ColourBlend blended well using both methods. Finally I laid a light and heavy application of pigment and tried to erase the pigment using both a Derwent Battery Eraser and a Faber Castell Pencil Eraser with both test's working well.
Adult Coloring Books
As promised, I tried the Spectrum Noir ColourBlend on an Adult Coloring Book, now when I first mentioned this, I got some excellent advice from some seasoned adult coloring book users, so I tried to follow that advice to the best of my ability. One thing I immediately found out was the vast array of difference in the hundreds of coloring books available, meaning that although I am trying to answer some of your questions regarding pencil application on coloring books, my answer wont be the same for every coloring book. The book I purchased was Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford. I did try to get hold of Alyona Nickelsen's adult coloring books, however I was unable to get one here in the UK, at least in the shops I went to. The Spectrum Noir ColourBlend worked fantastic in the coloring book as I expected to be quite honest, every test so far had been amazing and so I had no reason to think this one would be any different; after all Spectrum Noir was originally set up for the crafting community and those guys create magic from all manners off art supplies.
ColourBlend Art Work
Something that I am also going to try and add in all my reviews is a sample of art work using the products I am actually reviewing. This time I drew Judy Hopps from Zotopia and I really enjoyed using the pencils.
My final test was testing the same colors as used for the blending test on some Winsor and Newton black paper. Despite the rich creamy appearance of the ColourBlend on white paper, they had a very translucent appearance on the black paper, which is neither a good or a bad thing, just simply a personal preference.
I was actually really surprised with the Spectrum Noir ColourBlend and I mean incredibly pleasantly surprised. I had watched reviews of Spectrum Noir products before, and to be honest, the only reason I had stayed away from them for this long was on account of most reviews being middle of the road. Nobody seemed to be pushing the boat out for these pencils, which I just thought was down to them being of inferior quality. This was absolutely not the case with my review and I am kicking myself that I stayed away from them for so long.
When you consider just how cheap the Spectrum Noir ColourBlend are, I guess you could be forgiven for thinking that they are going to be cheap rubbish, but this couldn't be further from the truth. In fact I would love to have a coffee with Sara Davies and ask her how she is making a profit from these pencils given the excellent quality put into them.
If you can over look the open stock issue and accept the fact that the majority of the pencil are lightfast two star and above, then I would definitely say these pencils are for you and you will love them. You could end up with a set of 120 amazing colored pencils for as little as £75 here on the UK Amazon. I love the Spectrum Noir ColourBlend and highly recommend them, I think they are an excellent first place to start for beginners, especially the way the pencils are divided into specific sets.