White Nights watercolours from St Petersburg in Russia have been well known for many years, so the arrival on the UK scene of watercolour pencils is of some interest. They are marketed through the SAS in the UK at a low, but not cheap, price point.
I don't usually buy pencils to test, but as a user of white nights watercolours in the past (which are excellent) I was interested to see if these new arrivals were of note. They are sold in sets of 12, 24, and 48 in a tin as shown below.
Before we look at performance, it is worth noting that these pencils are more expensive than many of the low price brands on sale at present even though the SAA price comes in at just under £1 a pencil. Cheaper brands can be found at 30-40p a pencil. At this price they need to be as good as, or better than their price point competitors, Staedtler Karat Aquarelles.
Whilst they are described in the promotional paperwork online and in the SAA catalogue as for 'Professional use' I would take this with a pinch of salt.
As there is no indication of what colour is on the pencils, watercolour artists have no idea what pigments might be in them. There is also no way to know which pencil has run out and needs to be replaced without a mark on the pencil or a chart. The individual pencils are simply coloured at the end. No indication of lightfastness is given either.
The free brush is worth every penny it cost!
The colour range of the 48 set looks useful. I did note that the very small label that came on the outer wrap indicated that the pencils were made in China, which came as a slight surprise as I was expecting the manufacture to be in line with the company's excellent watercolour paints which are still made in Russia.
So how do they perform?
I tested the new White Nights against Staedtler Karat and a more recent arrival here, the Faber Castell Albrecht Durer Magnus Aquarelles.
As a dry pencil, White Nights perform well, they lay down a smooth layer of dry colour on watercolour paper and this can be blended in a limited way as dry colour. The pigment level is not strong for a soft feeling pencil.
When water is added, it is notable that the Karat and Magnus aquarelles dissolve more quickly and the White Nights require more work to get a blended effect.
While the Staedtler appear to be a hard pencil they have a good lay down of colour and the core takes a fine point. The White Nights brand are inferior in the handling and the way the colour dissolves. Pigment levels are much lower and they appear a much cheaper pencil than the others.
The Albrecht Durer Magnus give a much higher level of colour from a much thicker core. They handle well and are lightfast. The only downside on the Magnus pencils is the limited colour range from the small set available. Watercolour pencils do not need to have a vast range of colours though, as the benefit is in the blending.
If we knew what the lightfast ratings of the White Nights pencils were, it might be possible to reconsider their value.
They are certainly not a 'Professional use' watercolour pencil and until we have more information supplied to buyers, I would say they are only useful for craft use and 'colouring in'.
When I get a further opportunity, I will compare these pencils with a cheap brand of the 40p variety and report further. At the moment White Nights don't justify their cost when compared with the Staedtler who are marketing the 60 set at around £55 on Amazon.co.uk.
I suspect they are bought from a Chinese manufacturer and are of similar quality to other much cheaper pencils.
A shame, as the White Nights watercolours have a good reputation but these pencils do not look to be anything special.
I took up the lack of a colour chart and lightfastness data with the importer, the SAA. They replied:
Thank you for your question regarding the White Night Watercolour Pencils.
I am sorry you feel there is not enough information on the website regarding the lightfastness on the sets. Unfortunately the supplier has not yet provided us with a colour chart. As soon as this information has been provided we will update the website.
By October 2019 the SAA had still not provided any pigment or lightfastness information and their website gives no information or working colour chart (just a picture of the pencils).
The availability appears to now be only the boxes of 24 and still priced around the £1 each level.
There are better watercolour pencils out there at lower prices. These pencils are not recommended.