The wide range of Cretacolor pencils from Austria, offer traditional wood cased pencils along with a wood free version. Not all of their pencils are imported into the UK.
Peter sampled the two standard options - the Marino Aquarelles and the Karmina dry point coloured pencils.
These watercolour pencils are excellent for a beginner. The colour range is modest - only 36 in the set - but there are some huge advantages in use.
The chart above, from Peter's working set, give him an instant check on any changes between dry colour and the same pencil after water has been added. There is little alteration in colour between the two states.
Most colours offer a degree of lightfastness not often found in pencils in this price range.
Firstly, whilst the colour selection is limited with the small set, the actual colours are all lightfast to either ASTMS D4303 - LF1 ( highest ) or LF2 ( of 5 levels of standard ). This puts the pencils on a par with Caran d’Ache Luminance for stability at a fraction of the price.
Each pencil is labeled with the LF rating and the name of the colour in English, which is nice.
The second benefit for a beginner is the way the colours behave. They are easy to lay down - though perhaps not as free in the lay down of colour as some brands.
When wet, the colour is pretty much identical to the dry version - save that the pigment is now a smooth even tint to the paper.
There are no surprises. There is nothing to encourage a new user of watercolour pencils to scream and pack the box away in a cupboard. What you put down on the paper is what you get.
After checking with a representative of the manufacturer, they confirmed that the pigments in the Marino selection are identical to those in the woodless Monolith variety.
The Karmina line of Cretacolor pencils are a similar set of 36.
I don’t know whether they are wax or oil based, but they handle well and for a starter set at around (or below) £1 a pencil they are good and should encourage a user to extend their use of the medium.
In the UK they only appear in sets, which would make individual replacement a problem. But despite this I would still recommend them for an absolute beginner.
The wood free Aquarelle version is effectively a 7mm diameter watercolour crayon with a lacquered film to protect the hand.
They are quite firm (not waxy) and will lay down a large amount of colour in a short time.
They dissolve reasonably well, though not as easily as some brands of watercolour pencils, and any shavings from sharpening are all pigment and can be used for making watercolour washes.
On the basis that the recipe is the same for these as for the Marino pencils I would expect the pigments here to also meet ASTMS - D 4303 for lightfastness - at least for 36 of the colours. The company doesn’t, however, state the lightfastness ratings of these cretacolor pencils.
The noteworthy factor is that there is very little noticeable difference between the colour laid down dry and the same colour after water has been added. The darker colours show up better on watercolour paper because the paper grain has all been filled with pigment after water treatment. The paler colours can appear slightly lighter where the pigment has been evened out with the brush and water. There is no major colour shift though.
Sets of up to 72 colours are sold at around £150 on Amazon so they are comparable with other quality pencils on price, but the amount of pigment you will get for your money is much greater than the average pencil.
Watch out if you drop them as they tend to break easily ( no wood protection )But all the pieces can still be used. I think they may prove to be excellent on grit papers but have yet to test them on this medium.
Availability is scattered and your best option is to buy over the Internet. The suppliers below sell smaller sets of colours if you should wish to try them out before buying a full set.
As far as I know the Pastel Pencils are the only ones available as singles in the UK, but an extended search may find a supplier.
The Cretacolor website is at www.cretacolor.com
Cretacolor also market an excellent range of Pastel pencils which are reviewed in the Pastel Pencil section.
Amazon has stocks of pastel sets from time to time and Jacksons art supplies will stock them.
The Cretacolor pastel pencils and carre pastels are in Peter's regularly used combined box of pastels.