Holbein colored pencils are a Japanese product from a 120-year-old company focused on producing quality art materials.
The pencils were initially only available in Japan, causing a severe case of FOMO for artists based elsewhere. Tempering this desire to own and handle these expensive pencils were questions over their lightfastness and blendability.
Holbein colored pencils come in impressive sets of up to 150 colors. One tray contains a wonderful array of pastels along with a small selection of fluorescents. Pastels are difficult to find in many brands so this is a bonus!
Holbein seemed reluctant, at first, to provide the information that artists requested. Using these pencils for commissioned art pieces wasn't ideal without knowing how long the colors would last. This limited their use to adult coloring books and crafters or those artists who sold prints, rather than originals.
This didn't stop me from ordering a selection of individual pencils once they became available from Jacksons in the UK. After all, I needed to test them out for the site, didn't I? That was my excuse anyway.
Once I got my hands on my first Holbein colored pencils, I found them delightful. They reminded me more of Prismacolor Premier than my usual Polychromos brand having a soft core.
The cores have a diameter of 3.9 mm, supported inside a 7.8 mm wood casing which Holbein state is Forest Protection Certified.
Although soft, the cores seem more robust than other soft pencils. I could sharpen them in both my hand crank and electric sharpeners with one exception...
There are two white pencils in the range. The regular white OP500 and a Soft White OP501. As shown in the photo below, there is a warning on the barrel to "Use knife to sharpen." It pays to take heed as if you use a sharpener the core will likely break.
The pencil is a dream to use, so it's well worth following the instructions.
As I got used to the Holbein colored pencils, I used them more and more. I still had concerns over lightfastness, however. Until I watched a review on YouTube where the new owner read through documentation included in her full box of luscious colors.
This precious piece of paper was headed Holbein Artists Colored Pencils. It stated that they were tested to the ASTM D6901 lightfast standard. The ASTM is an American standard for industrial materials and test methods.
The documentation outlined the testing methodology and ended with the all-important data.
The pencils are divided into five groups. Of the 150 colors, the split is as follows...
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Permanent LF1 (the highest level of lightfastness)
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Permanent LF II
⭐️⭐️ Moderately Durable Colors LF III
⭐️ Fugitive colors LF IV
no star LF V
Armed with this information, I was happy to jump in with both feet and order the complete set once they were in stock at https://www.jacksonsart.com/.
The set came in a sturdy cardboard box with three trays. Each tray had ribbon handles to enable it to be lifted out easily. That bottom tray of pastels is beautiful, but I also enjoy the dark tones.
When ordering (Autumn 2022), the set cost me £360.
If you enjoy a soft core pencil, fancy a large selection of different colors, and are prepared for the investment, you may find Holbein colored pencils your perfect choice.
We would appreciate it if you have tried these pencils if you would share your thoughts on how they perform.
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