I recently reviewed Stabilo's Aquarelle colored pencils and if you have seen that review or read it here on The Art Gear Guide, you will know that I was incredibly surprised at just how good they were and how much I loved them. The same has to be said for the Stabilo Original pencils that I will be reviewing here for you today.
I have fallen into the trap of prematurely judging a pencils performance purely based on the fact that they are not from one of the bigger well known names in the world of colored pencils. Reviewing pencils such as the Stabilo range has really shown me how wrong I can be.
There is no doubt about it, Stabilo is a huge name when it comes to stationary and back to school supplies, highlighters, fineliners, graphite pencils etc, however, regarding artist quality pencils they are not so well known. I hope that this review will go a small way to changing this and bringing the Stabilo colored pencil line to the minds of colored pencil artists, colorists and colored pencil enthusiasts alike.
Stabilo Sets Available
If I had to pick one fault with the Stabilo Original, it would be that there are not enough of them and so in a round about way, this is a compliment to the pencils.
The Stabilo Original are available in tin sets of 12, 24 and 38, they are also available in open stock which goes a long way to making them a pencil very worth while using. If a colored pencil artist is unable to obtain a brand of pencils in open stock, they are more than likely going to avoid them.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this section, I would love to see perhaps a 72 set of the Stabilo Original as I have really enjoyed using them.
Stabilo Original Characteristics
The Stabilo Original is a slimline pencil, excellent for detailed work according to Stabilo and I would agree with this claim. The Core is an accurate 2.5mm with a 7.8mm barrel, the barrel is also hexagonal in shape which I know is another major tick in the box for some artists.
Along one side of the barrel, working from the tip to the barrel end, the Stabilo logo and name is printed, next to this is the pencil brand which for this review is the "Original". Following on from the brand name is a number which is for open stock reference purpose, 87/100, the first part of the number is the same on all Stabilo Original pencils and that first number lets the manufacture know exactly what pencil you are ordering i.e. Original, Aquarelle etc. The second part of the number refers to the actual pigment.
Unfortunately there is no pigment name printed on the barrel, however, I feel with so many brands on the market and each brand having a different name for the same color, it might do us good to move away from fixating on pigment names and more on the color theory side of things,
After the number printed on the barrel is the Lightfast rating of each individual pencil. I have to admit I was blown away when I first noticed this, there are of course some of the more well known brands of colored pencils that don't display on the individual pencils the lightfast rating. Again for colored pencil artists the lightfast rating of a pencil is incredibly important.
The actual barrel is painted the same color as the core pigment which obviously makes identification quick and easy. There is however one other feature of the Stabilo Original that I really loved. On the very end of the pencils, there is a small Stabilo Logo which is of course the Swan, there is something incredibly retro about this appearance which is perhaps why I love it so much. Of course this has no bearing on the pencil performance, never the less, it was something I had never seen before on a pencil.
Stabilo Original Performance
Before getting into the actual performance of the pencil, it is important to discuss the core ingredients. When I was first using the pencils, there were times I thought the core was oil based due to the cores ability to hold a point for a considerable time and rarely breaking under heavy pressure.
However there were other occasions when the core felt wax based on account of the smooth lay down of pigment. It was really difficult to work out the main ingredient of the Stabilo Original, but it soon became clear why that was the case. I conducted further research into the pencils and discovered that the core is a Kaolin material, which as far as I can understand is like a clay based material. This might also account for the different smell emanating from the set when first opened. Ordinarily when you open a set of colored pencils for the first time there is a distinct smell of wood from the Cedar wood casings, this was not the case with the Stabilo Original. It was not a bad odour, simply different and I can only describe it as a familiar smell which I know does not help, never the less this must be on account of the Kaolin based core.
The really strange but amazing part of these pencils has been left for the end, on the tins of the Stabilo Aquarelle, it is indicated that although not advertised as Aquarelle pencils, they do possess watercolor properties, but with a specific difference. I would advise watching my video review of the Stabilo Original to get a good understanding of this property. Simply put, when testing aquarelle type pencils, I always look for the pigment to fully dissolve and become paint leaving no pencil marks under the paint. However, Stabilo have created the Original with this feature in specific. When you lay down the pigment from the Stabilo Original, you can use a watercolor brush to thin and spread the pigment about, however the pencil strokes from the original application will remain visible under the paint. This has been done on purpose and sold as a feature of the pencil.
I created my own color swatch with the 24 set I have and you can clearly see how bright and vibrant the pigments are, if I really had to nit pick I would say that the black is the only pencil that is not packed with pigment. I found the black a little too light for my liking, however I know many artists prefer a more muted black. It is worth mentioning that it is not actually advised to use black alone as this can create a flat look to the art and so when I added a dark red or purple to the black it became much darker and richer.
I also used the Stabilo Original on black paper and was really pleased with the out come, the colors remained bright and vibrant, however it was the white pencil that I really loved. When I was using it on the art work I completed, I didn't really notice just how opaque the white was however it was amazing for blending and burnishing. It wasn't until I used it on the black paper that I seen the full potential of this pencil, really excellent pencil and can be seen on my video review.
I did create a simple speed drawing of a Disney character just to help demonstrate the richness of the pigments, it is only a simple drawing but I hope you like it and can see the pencils in use.
I absolutely loved using the Stabilo Original colored pencils and was really taken back by some of the features and characteristics I have highlighted in this review.
Stabilo Original Lightfast Information
As I mentioned in the characteristics section of this review, each individual pencil has a number of stars printed on the barrel indicating the lightfast rating of that particular pigment. The most lightfast pencil is rated five stars and the least rated with no stars at all. this is the first time I have seen no stars being used as a rating in my time reviewing pencils, normally the lowest rated is one star.
I couldn't find a definitive lightfast chart online for the Stabilo Original and so spoke to Stabilo about this and this was their response.
"We do not measure exactly the color fastness DIN EN ISO 105-B02 (ISO 105-B02:2014), but in dependence on it. We have our own STABILO-standard"
Stabilo Original Pricing
For colored pencil artists in the UK, the prices for the Stabilo Original are as follows. The tin set of 12 will cost £16 the 24 tin set will cost £26 and the 38 set tin will cost £51. Finally if you want to purchase a pencil open stock they will cost £2.90 a piece.
In the USA, a set of 12 Stabilo Original will cost $17, the 24 set will cost $41 and the 38 set will cost you $61, I wasn't able to find a price on Amazon.com for a single pencil however as and when one becomes available I will update the site.
For those of you in Europe a 12 tin set of Stabilo Original will cost €21, the 24 set will cost €28 and the largest set of 38 will cost €43 and finally for the single Stabilo Original it will cost €1.64
I am sure, especially in the UK, some of you will be surprised at the price of the Stabilo Original, however, just because they are not mentioned as much as some of the others in Colored Pencil circles, try not to dismiss them. The Stabilo Original have all the characteristics need to make an excellent artist quality colored pencil.
I really loved using the Stabilo Original, I would however love to see a 72 set of the Stabilo Original colored pencils and only because I loved them so much. Whilst 38 is a decent size set, I think in order to complete a full commissioned piece, more pencils are needed, but the pencils as they stand are fantastic and I loved using them.