Faber-Castell Polychromos

Mermaids in Wonderland: A Coloring and Puzzle-Solving Adventure for All Ages – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Mermaids in Wonderland: A Coloring and Puzzle-Solving Adventure for All Ages is published by Harper Design and illustrated and kindly sent to me for review by Marcos Chin. This is the second book my Marcos who illustrated Fairies in Wonderland last year, this book is identical in format and therefore much of my review is the same, for information on the content in this book, please skip to paragraph two. This book is square, the same size as the bestsellers and paperback with a card cover with 2/3 French flaps which open out to reveal a white background mermaid design inside the front cover, and a black background mermaid design inside the back cover. The paper is bright white and medium thickness, it doesn’t bleed with water-based pens but does shadow sometimes so do be careful. The paper is smooth with no visible tooth at all, it is a bit tricky to blend and layer with pencil but if you work slowly and remain patient then it is possible to get some lovely effects, I have had to press harder for block colouring than I’m used to in most books but overall, it’s not too bad. The spine is glue and string-bound this time and the images are borderless so a little of each image is lost into it, the spine does ease up with use and unlike with purely glue-bound spines, the pages don’t fall out when they’re also stitch-bound which is a welcome change! The images are printed double-sided and a large number of them are double-page spreads but there are a large number of single pages too.

The book contains 96 pages and the images contain a number of written riddles with keys hidden throughout the illustrations which spell out the next clue when unscrambled correctly so this is kind of a treasure hunt, set of riddles and colouring book in one. The riddles cleverly arrange each section of images into a ‘chapter’ because they’re each set in a different place and also run from day to night, with a whopping 37 pages having black backgrounds to indicate night time. The images are beautifully drawn and pretty but not girly, they’re very delicate and contain lots of natural elements like sea creatures, plants and corals. The images are set in a variety of places including the sea bed, an underwater hair salon, a dance performance, a carousel, a Chinese dragon procession, an archery lesson, a cocktail party, and more! There is a whole heap of content with a huge variety of things pictured including winged mermaids, hot air balloons, starfish, lobsters, dolphins, whales, crabs, corals, shoals of fish, swordfish, jellyfish, just to name a few! The mermaids also vary throughout from beautiful mermaid ladies adorned in jewellery to dancing and gymnastic mermaids and those flying hot air balloons, the majority are female but there are a few males pictured too. The images are beautifully cohesive and stunningly drawn with a great deal of detail and thought. At the back of the book are two perforated half pages, each with two postcards on them which can be removed and coloured, these are a great addition to the book but sadly, they are identical to four of the postcards that are printed in the 20 set of colouring postcards that accompany this book, this isn’t a problem, it’s just a shame that they aren’t different.

In terms of mental health, this book is really calming and beautiful because it’s so grounded in nature whilst also being wonderfully fantastical. There is a huge amount of intricacy and detail so this is definitely a book for those of you with good vision and fine motor control as the line thickness is also thin, verging on spindly thin at points. There are some large spaces in the images including the hot air balloons, some fish and the mermaid tails if you colour over the scales rather than colouring each individually but mostly the images consist of lots of teeny tiny bits and most aspects are surrounded by a thin border so you will certainly need some fineliners or well-sharpened pencils for this book. Most of the images are of scenes and these don’t have a lot of space for you to add your own drawings or backgrounds, but a few of the images are of centralised illustrations with large spaces left around them where you could create your own backgrounds and scenes if you wished. There are no written hints so this is by no means obligatory and the artwork looks finished as it is but there is space to add your own bits if you wish. I found this book particularly calming and absorbing and the mermaid world really does draw you in and offers wonderful escapism. The illustrations are beautiful and you’re sure to spend hours lost in a faraway miniature land where symptoms of mental illness melt away and dark or anxious thoughts are left at the door.

I would highly recommend this book to all mermaid-lovers and those who like intricate and detailed pages to colour. You will need good vision and fine motor control and pencils and fineliners are a must for this book to be able to complete the stunning images. Get lost in Marcos’s Mermaid Wonderland, you may never want to leave!

If you’d like to purchase a copy of this book, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Mermaids in Wonderland: A Coloring and Puzzle-Solving Adventure for All Ages
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Mermaids-in-Wonderland-Marcos-Chin/9780062465603/?a_aid=colouringitmom

There is also a set of 20 accompanying postcards which are also currently available:
Review –
Amazon UK – Mermaids in Wonderland 20 Colouring Postcards
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Mermaids-in-Wonderland-20-Postcards-Marcos-Chin/9780062565662/?a_aid=colouringitmom

My video flick-through of the book can be found here.

The image below was coloured using Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners, Stabilo 68 Fibre-Tips and Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils.

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Droomreis (Dream Trip) Kleurboek by Maria Trolle - Click through to read my review of this Dutch edition and my comparison to the original Swedish edition, there are LOTS of differences and some new content!

Droomreis (Dream Trip) Kleurboek: Dutch edition of Vivi Söker en Vän (Vivi’s looking for a friend) – A Review and Comparison

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Droomreis Kleurboek is published and kindly sent to me to review by BBNC Utigevers. This book is illustrated by Maria Trolle and was originally published in Sweden by Printworks with the title Vivi Söker en Vän (Vivi’s looking for a friend), as many of you will already know this book was originally published as a full colour children’s book with an accompanying story (read the quote below from Maria herself describing the story and purpose of the book) and Maria created a colouring book of the uncoloured illustrations, this new Dutch version has the same beautiful images but quite a different publication format so read on to find out about the book itself and the similarities and differences between it and the Swedish edition.

“The story of the book in short is this: “When Vivi woke at dawn the walls were darker than usual and the house felt cramped. I want a friend, someone who is just mine, she thought. Vivi lives in a tree house in the woods. One day she goes on an adventure to find herself a friend.
Vivi takes a ride with a bird and fly up into the sky where she meets the Cloudbear. She goes deep into the ocean where she meets ta mermaid. In the oak, she becomes friends with the tree spirit. Vivi looks into hollows in the ground where the voles live. But who can be her very own friend who is hers always…
The Miniwolf are also looking for a friend. He is curious about Vivi and wonders if she’ll ever see him …
Vivi meets a friend is about finding your place in the world and to find yourself and meet the right person. A best friend.”

The book itself is 21.7 x 25.6cm, it’s hardback with a partially coloured image from inside on the cover and a black and white illustration on the back cover, also from inside the book with gold foil on Vivi’s dress. The spine is glue and string bound and attached to tape within the hardback binding so it’s very durable but a little tricky to get the book to lie flat and reach the very edge of the image in the gutter. The majority of the pages are printed single-sided and aren’t perforated, five of the pages span onto the left page either creating complete double-page spreads or partial ones where a third of the page is filled with illustration. The paper is cream, thick and very lightly textured, it doesn’t bleed with water-based pens but will bleed with alcohol markers so make sure you pop a protective sheet behind your work. Pencils go on smoothly but oil-based pencils can be a little tricky to blend and layer due to lack of tooth, experienced colourists will manage to get stunning results though I’m sure and my Prismacolor Premiers worked very well. The images themselves are a great mix of adult level colouring but with childlike charm. The illustrations tell the story of Vivi as she goes in search of a friend and she travels to different environments and meets different creatures which means you’re offered a huge variety of things to colour from practising skin tones and fur to feathers and clouds, if you want a book to challenge you out of your comfort zone then this is ideal. Equally though, this would look gorgeous block coloured or with minimal blending and shading, or with a touch of added sparkle from some glitter gel pens so don’t be put off if you’ve not mastered fur, I haven’t yet but I’ve given it a go in this book. A few of the images have dots on to indicate shading and these are very useful, especially for beginner colourists to learn where light and shade can be placed in an image. As with Maria’s other books, a total of 8 images have a black background which is a lovely touch and will make the colours really pop on those pages. There are almost 50 images which are really varied in content and there is a beautiful map at the back showing all of the different places Vivi travels to within the story.

In terms of mental health, this book is wonderful, the storytelling aspect is lovely because it offers escapism and Maria’s images are so evocative and charming that you can’t help but become immersed in Vivi’s world and your worries and symptoms soon melt away. The childlike quality of the images is very nostalgic and really transports you back to simpler times and happy days as a child. The line thickness is consistent throughout and is thin. The intricacy and detail levels vary from large open spaces of a fox or whale to much smaller details of leaves, flower centres and butterflies, and everything in between. You will need fairly good vision and fine motor control to keep within the lines but they don’t need to be perfect so don’t be put off, just check the images below to decide if they’re suitable or not. This book offers a huge amount of scope for the imagination, while the pictures do tell the story very well, you could easily add your own written story on the blank left-hand pages throughout the book and once coloured you could gift it to a child or read it to your own children. You could even colour Vivi to look like a little girl you know and get her to wear their favourite colour so that it’s like that child is in the story, this would make the most wonderful personalised gift! The variance in image content means that this book is ideal for those with fluctuating conditions and concentration levels, on bad days you can colour just one cloud or acorn and on better days you could colour a whole image, there are loads of natural stopping points so you can get the satisfaction of finishing something without it having to be the entire page which can often be quite daunting and off-putting!  This book really is another beautiful creation which is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Maria, it’s a really different premise from most adult colouring books but I personally love it and even though I don’t have children myself, or really anyone to gift it to, I’m still loving colouring in it and imagining myself on Vivi’s journey as she meets cloud bears, mermaids and woodland creatures.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book, it offers so much escapism and the artwork is just charming. It would make a wonderful gift fully coloured, with a written story added, or even a framed page and Vivi is sure to become a family favourite!

 

Comparison of Droomreis and Vivi Söker en Vän

  • Droomreis is hardback, Vivi Söker en Vän is paperback
  • Droomreis has glue and string-bound pages which are non-perforated, Vivi Söker en Vän has glue and string-bound pages which are perforated and therefore removable.
  • The paper is the same colour in both books and is a creamy off-white colour, it is thicker and almost card-like in Vivi Söker en Vän and the paper in the Dutch edition seems identical to the paper used in the majority of Swedish books.
  • The language throughout the book, including all text in images has been changed from Swedish to Dutch.
  • A few of the images in Droomreis are double-page spreads or partial double-page spreads where the image reaches across some of the left page, these images are all single pages in Vivi Söker en Vän so you do get a few unseen pages to colour in Droomreis and some of the single page spreads in Vivi have been slightly re-jigged to include a bit more content (see photos below for comparisons).
  • The front and back cover and the text on the spine of Droomreis has gold foiling accents, Vivi Söker en Vän has no gold foiling.
  • The covers are completely different and both depict different internal images that are partially coloured.
  • Droomreis is slightly larger than Vivi but the pages inside the covers are a little smaller overall.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of the book it’s available below though it is often out of stock on Book Depository so you may want to sign up for email alerts with them so you know as soon as it’s available again!
Amazon UK – Droomreis Kleurboek
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Droomreis-kleurboek-Mari-Trolle/9789045321875/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils.

Birdtopia 2018 Colouring Calendar – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Birdtopia 2018 Colouring Calendar is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Laurence King Publishing. This calendar contains images from Daisy Fletcher’s gorgeous colouring book, Birdtopia. This calendar is huge, it’s 30.5cm wide by 35.5cm long, when closed, making it a whopping 71cms long when it’s opened and hung on the wall so it really will be pride of place no matter where you hang it. It is significantly larger than the book (see photos below) and contains 12 of the images, each enlarged to fit the larger pages, one for each month of the year. I have included pictures of all of the calendar pages below so that you can decide if this is for you, as well as comparison photos of the book and calendar image sizes. The images are printed a fair bit larger in the calendar than in the book so this is a great purchase for those of you who found Daisy’s illustrations just a little too detailed and small, under each illustration is a small note stating what birds are drawn so that you can easily identify them and colour them realistically if you wish. The cover of the calendar is yellowy-cream card with the same images and design as the book cover, the title is printed in gold foil lettering and on the back are thumbnail pictures of all of the images inside; the calendar arrives wrapped in protective plastic wrap so you can’t look inside. The paper is cream and medium weight with a little bit of tooth and it’s perfectly possible to get a number of layers and to blend well, I tested Holbein and Polychromos pencils and these worked really well; water-based pens don’t bleed and will only shadow if you press too hard but do be sure to test in an inconspicuous area. I completed my page using Derwent Inktense Pencils activated with minimal water and the paper held up very well to this with minimal warping or buckling. You definitely can’t use alcohol markers because the images are all printed double-sided with the dates for the previous month on the back of the page which will get ruined by bleed-through if you colour ahead but would be fine if you colour month by month. As with the Birdtopia book, this calendar has the quirky feature of having white colouring spaces but cream background printed throughout (except for the peacock page which is entirely white due to being a full page design), this isn’t a bad thing and many people think that this feature was one of the things that made Birdtopia so special but it’s worth mentioning and taking note of my photos below as it doesn’t suit everyone and is a bit of a surprise when you first look through the calendar.

The calendar pages themselves are beautifully arranged with a large month title at the top and the dates all neatly spaced in a grid. There is plenty of space to write plans into each box and a notes section at the bottom consisting of five lines. The calendar lists all major holidays and dates as well as the country that celebrates them in brackets and the moon phases are also shown. At the bottom of each calendar page is a small coloured bird illustration, sometimes accompanied by a flower or plant. When writing on the calendar I’d strongly advise using pencil so that you don’t get bleed through onto the next month’s image, or indentation from using a biro. The calendar is stitch-bound so you can easily fold it back on itself for easier colouring as it’s a little unmanageable when it’s not folded in half. Each page has a hole at the top that you can either hang directly on a nail or thread string through to hang on a hook.

In terms of mental health, this calendar is ideal because not only does it give you hours of colouring fun and distraction, you can also easily display it on your wall to brighten up even the darkest of days and you’ll get satisfaction every day looking at all of your beautiful hard work. The larger image size means it’s more suitable for those of you who don’t have perfect vision or fine motor control, there are still some small and intricate sections but these are much more manageable. It’s a great project that will help motivate you with a deadline of making sure each image is ready for the first day of the following month. The pages could also be removed at the end of the year once you’re done with the calendar and could be easily framed or gifted to others to bring enjoyment for years to come. The majority of Daisy’s images are intricate and detailed and do require a fair amount of concentration which is great for keeping you occupied when you’re feeling anxious or low, they’re also nature-themed, realistically drawn (though not realistically composed in terms of accurate plants or comparative sizes of things) and truly beautiful and just looking through the calendar is sure to lift your mood. These images are really good for practising mindfulness techniques because they require a lot of focus and time to complete meaning this calendar is ideal for those of us who are mentally ill and needing to zone out. The line thickness is thin and spindly thin throughout so you’ll need to colour slowly in order to keep within the lines but this is perfectly doable if you’re patient.

I would highly recommend this for any colouring fan who needs a calendar in their life. If you like Daisy’s previous work, or if it’s new to you and you love birds and nature then this calendar will be perfect for you, it’s an absolute joy to colour and it looks amazing when you finish a page. With its beautiful selection of designs and great paper quality, it will brighten up the darkest of rooms and moods. It would also make a fabulous gift either as it is, or fully coloured for someone and it’s not only useful for the coming year as a calendar, but for years to come when you can frame your pictures to continue the joy.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it can be found here:
Amazon UK – Birdtopia 2018 Colouring Calendar
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Birdtopi-2018-Colouring-Calendar-Daisy-Fletcher/9781786270498/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Derwent Inktense Pencils activated with minimal water.

Floribunda 2018 Colouring Calendar – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Floribunda 2018 Colouring Calendar is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Laurence King Publishing. This calendar contains images from Leila Duly’s fabulous colouring book, Floribunda. This calendar is huge, it’s 30.5cm wide by 35.5cm long, when closed, making it a whopping 71cms long when it’s opened and hung on the wall so it really will be pride of place no matter where you hang it. It is significantly larger than the book (see photos below) and contains 12 of the images, each enlarged to fit the larger pages, one for each month of the year. I have included pictures of all of the calendar pages below so that you can decide if this is for you, as well as comparison photos of the book and calendar image sizes. The images are printed a fair bit larger in the calendar than in the book so this is a great purchase for those of you who found Leila’s illustrations just a little too detailed and small, each page has a beautifully written list of the flowers included, just like in the original book. The cover of the calendar is made of pale peachy-pink card with the same black line-drawn design as the book cover on the front, the title is in a large box at the top with pink foiled lettering and edging and on the back are thumbnail pictures of all of the images inside, the calendar arrives wrapped in protective plastic wrap so you can’t look inside. The paper is cream and medium weight with a little bit of tooth and it’s perfectly possible to get a number of layers and to blend well, I used Holbein and Polychromos pencils and these worked really well; water-based pens don’t bleed and will only shadow if you press too hard but do be sure to test in an inconspicuous area. Do bear in mind, when writing on the calendar I’d strongly advise using pencil so that you don’t get bleed through onto the next month’s image, or indentation from using a biro. You definitely can’t use alcohol markers because the images are all printed double-sided with the dates for the previous month on the back of the page which will get ruined by bleed-through if you colour ahead but would be fine if you colour month by month. The calendar is stitch-bound so you can easily fold it back on itself for easier colouring as it’s a little unmanageable when it’s not folded in half. Each page has a hole at the top that you can either hang directly on a nail or thread string through to hang on a hook.

The calendar pages themselves are beautifully arranged with a large month title at the top and the dates all neatly spaced in a grid. There is plenty of space to write plans into each box and a notes section at the bottom consisting of five lines. The calendar lists all major holidays and dates as well as the country that celebrates them in brackets and the moon phases are also shown. At the bottom of each calendar page is a small coloured flower illustration from the inside covers of Floribunda.

In terms of mental health, this calendar is ideal because not only does it give you hours of colouring fun and distraction, you can also easily display it on your wall to brighten up even the darkest of days and you’ll get satisfaction every day looking at all of your beautiful hard work. The larger image size means it’s more suitable for those of you who don’t have perfect vision or fine motor control, there are still some small and intricate sections but these are much more manageable. It’s a great project that will help motivate you with a deadline of making sure each image is ready for the first day of the following month. The pages could also be removed at the end of the year once you’re done with the calendar and could be easily framed or gifted to others to bring enjoyment for years to come. As with all of Leila’s images, they are intricate and detailed and do require a fair amount of concentration which is great for keeping you occupied when you’re feeling anxious or low, they’re also nature-themed, realistic and truly beautiful and just looking through the calendar is sure to lift your mood. Leila’s images are really good for practising mindfulness techniques because they require a lot of focus and time to complete meaning this calendar is ideal for those of us who are mentally ill and needing to zone out. The line thickness is very thin throughout  so you’ll need to colour slowly in order to keep within the lines but this is perfectly doable if you’re patient.

I would highly recommend this for any colouring fan who needs a calendar in their life. If you like Leila’s previous work, or if it’s new to you and you love flowers then this calendar will be perfect for you, it’s an absolute joy to colour and it looks amazing when you finish a page. With its beautiful selection of designs and great paper quality, it will brighten up the darkest of rooms and moods. It would also make a fabulous gift either as it is, or fully coloured for someone and it’s not only useful for the coming year as a calendar, but for years to come when you can frame your pictures to continue the joy.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it can be found here:
Amazon UK – Floribunda 2018 Colouring Calendar
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Floribund-2018-Colouring-Calendar-Leil-Duly/9781786270474/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Holbein Artists’ Colored Pencils and Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils.

Twilight Garden Artist’s Edition (Blomstermandala Tavelbok) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Twilight Garden Artist’s Edition is published and very kindly sent to me to review by Gibbs Smith Publishing. Twilight Garden is the English title of the hugely successful series of colouring books called Blomstermandala by Swedish artist, Maria Trolle. I have previously reviewed the Blomstermandala Colouring Book HERE and this is the Artist’s Edition of that book, it’s identical in format to other Artist’s Editions published by Gibbs Smith and Pagina (the Swedish publisher of all of these books) and therefore much of my review is identical to those, this Artist’s Edition is also identical to the Swedish version of it apart from the language. The book measures 29.5x21cm (A4), it’s paperback with thick but flexible card covers which are black with muted coloured flowers from inside the book and gold foiled text on the front, back, and spine. The book has a matte gold tape binding meaning the pages lie completely flat when the book is open and they can be removed for framing. The pages are made of thick cream card which is lightly textured and absolutely fabulous for using pencils on as they layer really well and blend seamlessly. Water-based pens also work really well on this card and don’t bleed through or sideways and there isn’t even a hint of shadowing either. For my page I used Derwent Inktense Pencils activated with minimal water which worked brilliantly with absolutely no buckling or warping at all. The illustrations are all single-page designs and are printed single-sided so you can use whatever medium you fancy without worrying about bleed-through.

The content is a little strange, the book contains 20 pages, 16 of which are illustrations from the original book, 1 is a floral alphabet where each letter shape consists of a single flower (oddly the letter W is missing), and 3 of which are black-background images with full colour printing of what look to be photographed petals, leaves and flowers so these 3 pages are unable to be coloured, a strange choice I feel. However, the other 17 images are lovely choices and are all single-page spreads from the book printed either the same size as the originals or a little larger. 7 of the images have white backgrounds and 10 have black backgrounds (some of these were printed with white backgrounds in the original book). The images are all of flowers and plants and none contain any animals, birds or objects so if those were you favourites then this Artist’s Edition may not be for you. A huge range of flowers are included from daffodils to tulips, lupins to forget-me-nots, foxgloves to grape hyacinths, and fuchsias to peonies and so many more! I’ve included photos of all of the pages below so that you can see the range and make an informed choice. None of the images reach the edges of the page and those with a white background have space where you could add your own backgrounds or imagery if you wish, though this is by no means a requirement, and this will make all of them very easy to frame for yourself or to gift to others.

In terms of mental health, this book is just wonderful, seasoned readers of my blog will know that I strongly believe that natural images, and those depicting nature are the best for mental health and calming you down and this book is no exception, the images are very relaxing and very realistic and details have been added to these that weren’t in the original illustrations (see photo comparisons below). The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains medium/thin so it’s definitely manageable to colour. The intricacy and detail vary throughout from medium to high and this is higher than the original book due to the added details in the larger spaces of each section, these are easily coloured over if you prefer larger sections to colour or they’re manageable to colour within so this book is good for a range of levels of vision and fine motor control depending on how you want to use it. I found this book and the illustrations within it great for my mood, just looking through it and noticing all of the different flowers and leaves made me feel calmer and the images are just beautiful so they’re sure to lift your mood and keep you distracted from any difficult thoughts or persistent symptoms. The images do vary a little in size and difficulty and they mostly consist of a collection of components which is ideal for good and bad days because you can work on one tiny flower or leaf on a bad day, or a whole page on a good day so it’s ideal for those with fluctuating conditions or concentration levels. The fact that the pages are printed single-sided and are removable is fantastic because it means you can remove your works of art and frame them or gift them which is a great way of reminding yourself of what you can achieve and brighten up the darkest of days.

I would highly recommend this book (despite the inclusion of three uncolourable images) to those of you who like to colour flowers and plants, those who have the original book, those who love to gift or frame their colouring, and those who like to use alcohol markers or wet media as there’s no worry about ruining any reverse images. The illustrations chosen are beautiful and very calming.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Twilight Garden Artist’s Edition
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Twilight-Garden-Mari-Trolle/9781423647072/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Derwent Inktense Pencils activated with water.

Fairy Tales Coloring Book (Sagolikt) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Fairy Tales Coloring Book is a Swedish book illustrated by Emelie Lidehall Oberg, originally published with the title Sagolikt and published and kindly sent to me to review by Gibbs Smith. I reviewed the original book, Sagolikt, HERE and this English language edition is identical in all respects apart from the language it’s written in and very subtle cosmetic differences with slightly different colour shades used on the covers for example but nothing that affects the use or enjoyment of the book, therefore the rest of my review is identical.

The book is 25cm square, paperback with flexible card covers that are cream with mint green and pale pink coloured illustrations with gold foiling accents on the front and back making it a really pretty and luxurious looking book. The covers have ¾ flaps which both have fully colourable black line drawings from within the book. The spine is glue and string-bound so it’s fairly durable but this does mean a little of each image is lost into it. The paper is cream, thick and lightly textured, it doesn’t bleed or shadow with water-based pens unless you press too hard in one spot, it works well with pencils and you can build up a good number of layers for blending and shading. The book contains 96 pages of double-sided images which are all single page spreads. The image content is really varied and contains all sorts of aspects from different fairy tales without being specific or telling any stories, each picture is a stand-alone piece though some content is similar. So many different things are pictured from all sorts of furry animals and birds to doll-like people and treehouses, gramophones and teapots to cupcakes and bunting, glass jars and flowers to tepees and underwater scenes. Some of the images are of more realistic scenes and others are purely fantasy-based from a tea party scene with cuddly toys to a family of clothed rabbits moving house; a glass fish bowl to a teacup village; and a beautiful country house to a city contained within a lightbulb. The images are really pretty and this book is absolutely ideal for anyone who likes fantasy, whimsy and images that are filled with childlike charm (not childish) but with adult levels of intricacy. The images are also really cohesive and I didn’t feel that any of the pages contained filler images, each has definitely earnt its place and they look beautiful together.

In terms of mental health, this book is lovely because it’s based around fairy tale imagery which is full of charm and whimsy. The images aren’t overly realistic so there’s no need to use realistic colour schemes unless you want to and the animals pictured could be coloured as if they’re real, or as if they’re cuddly toys that have come to life so the possibilities are endless! The line thickness is consistent throughout and is medium/thin so it’s perfectly colourable for almost anyone and there is a little leeway to prevent you accidentally going over the lines. The intricacy and detail levels vary throughout and while the majority of the images are very detailed, hardly any of this is particularly intricate so this book will suit most people apart from those with particularly poor vision or fine motor control. The variance in difficulty level means that there is something suitable for your good days, bad days, and everything in between so this is an ideal book for those or you with fluctuating conditions or changeable concentration levels. The book offers huge amounts of escapism and truly transports you to a far off land where you can get out of your head, away from your thoughts and lost into a place filled with friendly fluffy animals, beautiful doll-like people, and quirky, whimsical landscapes. There are plenty of fairly large spaces where you can really practice your blending and shading and there are a number of pages with jewels on for those of you who are currently obsessed with the gem-colouring that has swept through the colouring groups. The images are really pretty, so varied and just lovely to look at and to colour! There is plenty of space to add your own backgrounds or details if you wish but all of these pages look finished and there are no hints or written suggestions so there’s absolutely no need to be able to draw if you don’t want to.

I would highly recommend this book to those who like fairy tales, charming and cute imagery, and Swedish artwork because this book is beautiful and one I’m really pleased to now own. It’s a really pretty book with plenty of detail and interesting imagery, the paper is ideal for pen and pencil lovers and it really has a good feel about it.

If you’d like to pre-order a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Fairy Tales Coloring Book
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Fairy-Tales-Coloring-Book/9781423646624/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Stabilo 68 Fibre-tips and Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners.

The Flower Year: A Colouring Book – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
The Flower Year: A Colouring Book is published and very kindly sent to me to review by Laurence King Publishing. This book is the second colouring book offering from Leila Duly who illustrated the hugely successful and utterly stunning, Floribunda, reviewed by me here. This new book is a different format, with somewhat different content and very different production however, rest assured, it’s equally beautiful and an absolute must-have! Below the review are photos of inside so you can have a sneak-peek and if you want to view the whole thing you can see my silent video flick-through here.

This book is quite small at 23 x 18cm, it’s hardback with a pale pink linen-style cover in a slightly different shade from Floribunda, with black floral line drawings on the front and back covers and beautiful moss green interior and first and last pages. The spine of the book is stitch-bound and it is glued onto a flexible fabric tape strip which makes it easier to access the gutter in the center of the pages though in some cases this is still tricky and you’ll lose a little of some of the images. The illustrations are printed double-sided and are a mixture of single and double-page spreads. The paper is medium/thick, cream and very smooth, it’s similar to the paper used in Swedish colouring books though it has less texture; it’s ideal for water-based pens which apply smoothly and don’t bleed or shadow (do always test in an inconspicuous place as we all colour differently), I coloured my page with oil-based pencils (Holbeins and Polychromos’s) and found that I struggled to get even coverage as they didn’t want to blend very well and I was left with a slightly patchy appearance, even without any visible tooth to the paper, until I used a blending pencil (see photos below), this may be user error, but as many of us know, certain papers work better with certain types of pencils and I found that it performed much better with wax-based pencils when testing my Prismacolor Premier Pencils. The book contains a sage green satin ribbon bookmark which is very handy for keeping your page and really adds an extra touch of luxury in addition to the pale pink foiling which adorns the title on the cover and the spine.

The illustrations contain images of flowers from throughout the year with a title page for each month, starting with January and ending in December, each bordered with plants and flowers from that month, following each are 7 pages of floral illustrations containing a range of content styles including double-page spreads, single page spreads, collections of individual flower images and 7 pages with a written quote and a smaller flower image. There is a huge variety of content from birds to butterflies, dragonflies to berries and of course, heaps and heaps of flowers including, a dog rose, foxglove, bluebells, fuchsia, hellebore and plants including mistletoe, holly, horse chestnut and English oak. Some of the pages show small scenes of a zoomed in flowering plant or birds perched on branches, others show a small section of a whole plant, similar to images found in spotters guides and old-fashioned nature books, these collections have the flower’s name added on the page so they’re easy to identify. One of the best things about this book is that all of the pages are shown as thumbnails in the index and underneath each is a list of all of the flowers and birds depicted meaning that those of us who wish to colour the flowers realistically can, with great ease. A number of the pages have centralized images or sweeping spreads with large spaces left where you could add your own backgrounds or imagery if you wish, however this is by no means necessary and the pages will look finished and stunning, regardless of whether you add extras or not.

In terms of mental health, this book is wonderful, just as Floribunda was. The images are so realistic and they’re just packed with detail so even just looking through the pages is very calming and it really feels like you’re taken on a journey through the flowers and plants of the British seasons. I particularly like the way the book is split into months and that all of the illustrations are grouped together in this way, it means that you could just work through it in order or even colour the pages from each month as you go through the calendar year and see if you can spot some of those flowers when you’re out and about, I’ve certainly been noticing lots of crocuses (apparently January flowers) and daffodils outside my flat recently, as well as lots of birds, though I’ve not seen any wrens which are pictured for March, maybe I’ll see one soon. Nature-themed imagery is one of the best types for mental health because it’s so innately soothing and calming, even with no colour added, Leila’s illustrations are an absolute work of art and they are truly brought to life once coloured. The line thickness is spindly thin throughout, and while this does make it quite tricky to colour the images, they just wouldn’t look right with a thicker line, their beauty is in their delicacy. The intricacy and detail levels do vary from larger open spaces on periwinkles and bindweed to much smaller spaces of berries and lily-of-the-valley, but really you will need very good vision and fine motor control to get the most out of this book; I have good levels of both and it required a lot of time and patience to stay within the lines, even whilst colouring over many of the detailed sections. You will also need a good level of concentration to enjoy this book, while it will certainly cheer you up and calm you down on your worse days, it requires a lot of focus in order to stay within the lines and identify each section so that you’re not accidentally colouring a petal in leaf colours so this book is one to keep for your better days. That being said, when you’re well enough to colour it, it offers wonderful escapism and is extremely absorbing, leafing through the pages is like taking a garden walk, it really transports you outdoors and through forests, meadows and hedgerows.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to nature-lovers and those with very good vision and fine motor control, Leila’s illustrations are second to none and while this book is absolutely beautiful as it is, it’ll be an absolute stunner when it’s full to the brim with colour. This is one book that I really hope I can colour from cover to cover in my lifetime because the end result will be incredible. While the paper can be a bit tricky with certain pencils, do persevere, I promise it’s worth the effort!

If you’d like to purchase a copy of The Flower Year, it’s available to pre-order here:
Amazon UK – The Flower Year: A Colouring Book
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Flower-Year/9781780679532/?a_aid=colouringitmom

If you’d like to purchase a copy of Floribunda it’s available here:
Review – Floribunda: A Flower Colouring Book
Amazon UK – Floribunda: A Flower Colouring Book (Colouring Books)
Book Depository Worldwide – http://www.bookdepository.com/Floribund-Leil-Duly/9781780677767/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using a combination of Holbein Artist’s Coloured Pencils and Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils. I also used a Caran d’Ache Blender.

Sudee Stile 120 Coloured Pencils: The New Marco Raffines? – A Review and Comparison

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.

EDIT: Since writing this post a set of 150 individual colours has been released in the UK and US. I don’t have this set yet and at the time of writing and photographing the maximum set size was 120. If and when I get the full 150 set I will update the whole review but in the meantime I have just added this edit and a purchase link here and at the bottom for the full 150 set.

These pencils were kindly sent to me free in exchange for an honest review, I jumped at the chance as I’ve been hearing about these pencils increasingly often in the Facebook colouring groups and I wanted to see what they were like. The biggest and most common claim I’ve seen made about them is that they’re the new Marco Raffines and on a par with their quality, but with a whopping 48 extra colours is this true? Read on to find out what I think.

One thing worth mentioning before I continue is that I’ve extensively read the reviews of these pencils on both the UK and US Amazon sites and it appears that while the majority of people love them, a few hate them due to there being some significant production issues with some sets having shattered leads, arriving dirty or used, with the incorrect packaging etc. I can only review the one set that I’ve got and the only real issue I’ve had is that I received a duplicate pencil and was missing one. Please do bear in mind that this review is just my opinion of my set and obviously isn’t representative of those sets that have arrived broken or badly damaged.

Availability, Cost and Set Sizes
The pencils are not available in stores and are currently only available on Amazon. They are not available in open stock, neither are the Marco Raffines, so you will sadly have to buy a new set when you start running low on some colours, however, the price of these pencils is brilliant, at 30p a pencil, they’re a bargain and while they’re not the cheapest option of pencils, this is by far the best quality, largest range of colours for the least amount of money that’s available. They’re currently £35 for the full 120 set and have been as low as £27 though that listing has been unavailable for a while, do hunt around for the best price! The pencils are available in 120 colours and in sets of 24, 48, 72, 96 and the full 120 set.

Colour Range and Presentation
On first inspection these pencils are identical to the Marco Raffiines apart from the writing on them which obviously says Sudee Stile rather than Marco Raffine. I assumed, like many others, that these were just Marco Raffine pencils re-branded with a different name printed on them but they’re definitely not. Marco Raffines have an oil-based lead whereas the Sudee Stiles are almost certainly wax, it doesn’t say anywhere on them or the Amazon listings what the lead is made of and I originally thought they were oil-based because they behave so similarly to the Marco Raffines, however, I noticed a few days after colouring that a slight wax bloom had built up on my heavily burnished coloured areas and this has never happened with my finished Marco Raffine pages. This wax bloom isn’t a problem and is very common with any wax-based coloured pencils, it can usually be avoided by spraying your finished work with a fixative spray, many people use hairspray as a cheap option, please avoid doing this as it can yellow over time and ruin all of your hard work! The pencils themselves are hexagonal with a silver barrel and a colour-dipped end which is relatively true to the colour of the lead, but not so in all cases so do make a colour chart! Each pencil has black text on it stating Sudee Stile Color and a unique identifying number but these are not done in any sensible colour order so you’ll need to try and create your own or copy my order on the photo of the colour chart I created below. The pencils are available in 120 unique and individual colours, sadly my set arrived with one missing and a duplicate of the number 39 pencil but the colours cover a great range of shades and hues and are a really good selection with no specific colour being over-represented like in some sets. A lot of the colours are pretty similar to the Marco Raffines but you get so many more colours that even if you already have those, these are absolutely worth having too and I would highly recommend getting the full set as you’ll only wish for more if you get the smaller sets. There is another set of Sudee Stile pencils which is externally different but the colours and leads are reportedly exactly the same (information taken from the seller in the questions section on the pencil listing). This other set has a full colour barrel with a gold-dipped end and the writing on the pencils is written in gold rather than black. The Amazon listings have altered over time so sometimes both sets are available, often for different prices from each other, and currently only the silver set I have is available, don’t be alarmed, they’re both the same so just go for the cheapest version of the set size you wish to purchase unless you have a particular preference for the external look of the pencils. There is no mention of lightfastness and due to it being Winter here in the UK I can’t test this currently, the Marco Raffines aren’t very lightfast, especially the light shades so I would expect these to be the same due to the price point so I’d avoid using these to colour pictures that you’re wanting to display rather than keeping in the book.

Packaging
Originally, these were all packaged in a plastic screw-lid tub and they are pretty wedged in against some bubblewrap, this tub will surely last a while but is likely to break with a lot of use and it’s very difficult to identify the pencil or even pick one out, especially once you’ve started sharpening them and they become shorter so I’d strongly advise investing in a pencil case or pencil wrap for ease of use. The 120 set is now available in a thick cardboard box with three trays of pencils and two pencil sharpeners inside. There are reports of them occasionally arriving with no packaging in just a plastic bag, in this case always contact the seller or Amazon and I’m sure they’ll get it resolved.

Sharpening
The pencils arrive pre-sharpened with a blunted point. One thing to note is that they really need sharpening before use, for some reason there seems to be some sort of coating on them which makes them a bit scratchy to start with but this pretty much goes as soon as you sharpen them so don’t lose hope, they’re completely different once sharpened! None of my pencils arrived with broken leads. They have strong leads and sharpen well. I use a T’Gaal adjustable pencil sharpener which is known to be very good for not breaking leads but these are well-made pencils with nice smooth wooden barrels so there shouldn’t be any sharpening issues, regardless of what you use, I’ve had absolutely no breakages so far. The pencils can be used to colour very intricate images because they sharpen to such a good point which is really handy for some of the more detailed adult colouring books out there! They work well on lots of different types of paper and I really haven’t had any issues with them, a few of them feel a little gritty and scratchy at points but that’s something you expect when buying pencils for these kinds of prices and usually it’s a fragment of grit which will sharpen out and then the pencil is fine again (I have also found this to be the case with Marco Raffines).

Blending
The leads aren’t super soft but they’re not hard either, they’re most similar to Faber Castell Polychromos in terms of hardness, and they’re almost identical in feel to the Marco Raffines. They provide very vibrant and even coverage with no need to press hard, they are really easy to blend and shade with, very comparable to Marco Raffines, and they keep a good point so you don’t have to sharpen too regularly. Do check out the comparison blending photos below, the only visible differences are due to my changes in technique rather than the pencils.

Erasing and Smudging
The pigment does erase pretty well (see photo below), especially with a battery-operated eraser so these are ideal for those of you who frequently colour over the lines and want to clean up the edges, as well as for creating highlights that aren’t that uncoloured white type! Obviously, you’ll never be able to completely remove all of the pigment, especially when burnished, but a surprising amount does come off. I haven’t noticed these pencils crumbling at all so you’re unlikely to get any pencil dust, if you rub hard on the pigment it does smudge but this is always the case with a pencil that blends well.

Overall, I fully expected to use these pencils once and then never again because I have full sets of Faber Castell Polychromos, Prismacolor Premier, and Holbein Artists’ Colored Pencils, however, I’ve already used these to colour images in 3 different book reviews because I love them so much! The pencils are really versatile and if used properly you can get the palest hint of colour all the way up to a completely filled vibrant colour, they can be used to blend and shade or for block colouring and it’s easy to colour without streaks if you’re careful. They are really pigmented so even light colouring gives a good level of colour without hurting your hands, I have very problematic joints in my hands and end up in a lot of pain if I have to grip or press too hard whilst colouring, I’m also currently suffering from repetitive strain injury in my right thumb, however, these pencils really haven’t exacerbated any of this because they’re soft enough and give a good vibrant coverage without having to force the lead into the paper, this is great for books with thinner paper that you don’t want to create identation on. These pencils would be ideal for beginner colourists all the way up to experts and artists. The colours are a fantastic range, there’s a really good mix of light, bright, pale, and dark shades within each colour group and none are over-represented. The leads are hard enough to keep a good point and not need sharpening too often, but soft enough that they’ll be suitable for the elderly, those with weak grip, and those suffering from arthritis, sore joints, and any other hand complaints (they can be made even more comfortable and chunky by adding pencil grips when colouring). Marco Raffines are the go-to budget pencil option for most people and the Sudee Stile pencils give them a really good run for their money and with the addition of 48 more colours what’s stopping you? These pencils are easy to use, great value for money, and honestly, they’re just a joy to colour with, I love them, they’re a bit more expensive than the Marcos for a 72 set but most of us have been craving more colours in Marcos and now you have the option of 48+ extras in the Sudee Stiles!

If you’d like to purchase a set then they’re available here:
Sudee Stile 24 (Silver) 3 Pack
Sudee Stile 24 (Colour) 3 Pack
Sudee Stile 48 (Silver)
Sudee Stile 48 (Colour)
Sudee Stile 72 (Silver)
Sudee Stile 72 (Colour)
Sudee Stile 96
Sudee Stile 120 Set
Sudee Stile 150 Full Set

The images below were all coloured using Sudee Stile Coloured Pencils.

Vivi Söker en Vän Målarbok (Vivi’s Looking for a Friend) – A Review

Vivi Söker en Vän Målarbok, which translates into English as Vivi’s Looking for a Friend, is illustrated by Maria Trolle, who has also illustrated Blomstermandala and I Bring You Flowers Postcards, and is published and kindly sent to me to review by Pagina Förlag. This book is Swedish and currently only published there, it’s available for International purchase using the links at the bottom of this review just above the photos. Maria has created a children’s story book with these illustrations in full colour and an adult’s colouring book (reviewed here) where the story is removed. Maria has posted a short description of the story on her Facebook page which I’ve quoted directly below.

“The story of the book in short is this: “When Vivi woke at dawn the walls were darker than usual and the house felt cramped. I want a friend, someone who is just mine, she thought. Vivi lives in a tree house in the woods. One day she goes on an adventure to find herself a friend.
Vivi takes a ride with a bird and fly up into the sky where she meets the Cloudbear. She goes deep into the ocean where she meets ta mermaid. In the oak, she becomes friends with the tree spirit. Vivi looks into hollows in the ground where the voles live. But who can be her very own friend who is hers always…
The Miniwolf are also looking for a friend. He is curious about Vivi and wonders if she’ll ever see him …
Vivi meets a friend is about finding your place in the world and to find yourself and meet the right person. A best friend.”

The book itself is 21.5 x 25.4cm, it’s paperback with a partially coloured image from inside on the cover (the storybook has a fully coloured image on the front so be sure you’re ordering the correct one) wrapped around both flexible card covers, there are small colourable images from inside the book on the insides of both covers. The spine is glue and string bound so it’s very durable but a little tricky to get the book to lie flat at first. The pages are printed single-sided onto perforated pages which are sturdy enough to hold them in the book if you wish to keep it complete, but these do allow you to remove pages before or after colouring if you wish. The paper is cream, thick and very lightly textured, it doesn’t bleed with water-based pens but does bleed with alcohol markers so make sure you pop a protective sheet behind your work. Pencils go on smoothly but are a little tricky to blend and layer due to lack of tooth, experienced colourists will manage to get stunning results though I’m sure! The images themselves are a great mix of adult level colouring but with childlike charm. The illustrations tell the story of Vivi as she goes in search of a friend and she travels to different environments and meets different creatures which means you’re offered a huge variety of things to colour from practising skin tones and fur to feathers and clouds, if you want a book to challenge you out of your comfort zone then this is ideal. Equally though, this would look gorgeous block coloured or with minimal blending and shading, or with a touch of added sparkle from some glitter gel pens so don’t be put off if you’ve not mastered fur, I haven’t yet but I’ll be giving it a go in this book. A few of the images have dots on to indicate shading and these are very useful, especially for beginner colourists to learn where light and shade can be placed in an image. As with Maria’s other books, a total of 8 images have a black background which is a lovely touch and will make the colours really pop on those pages. There are almost 50 images which are really varied in content and there is a beautiful map at the back showing all of the different places Vivi travels to within the story.

In terms of mental health, this book is wonderful, the storytelling aspect is lovely because it offers escapism and Maria’s images are so evocative and charming that you can’t help but become immersed in Vivi’s world and your worries and symptoms soon melt away. The childlike quality of the images is very nostalgic and really transports you back to simpler times and happy days as a child. The line thickness is consistent throughout and is thin. The intricacy and detail levels vary from large open spaces of a fox or whale to much smaller details of leaves, flower centres and butterflies, and everything in between. You will need fairly good vision and fine motor control to keep within the lines but they don’t need to be perfect so don’t be put off, just check the images below to decide if they’re suitable or not. This book offers a huge amount of scope for the imagination, while the pictures do tell the story very well, you could easily add your own written story on the blank left-hand pages throughout the book and once coloured you could gift it to a child or read it to your own children. You could even colour Vivi to look like a little girl you know and get her to wear their favourite colour so that it’s like that child is in the story, this would make the most wonderful personalised gift! Equally, you could remove the pages and frame them for a child’s bedroom, they’d be a wonderful addition with their whimsical content. The variance in image content means that this book is ideal for those with fluctuating conditions and concentration levels, on bad days you can colour just one cloud or acorn and on better days you could colour a whole image, there are loads of natural stopping points so you can get the satisfaction of finishing something without it having to be the entire page which can often be quite daunting and off-putting!  This book really is another beautiful creation which is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Maria, it’s a really different premise from most adult colouring books but I personally love it and even though I don’t have children myself, or really anyone to gift it to, I’m still loving colouring in it and imagining myself on Vivi’s journey as she meets cloud bears, mermaids and woodland creatures.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book, it offers so much escapism and the artwork is just charming. It would make a wonderful gift fully coloured, with a written story added, or even a framed page and Vivi is sure to become a family favourite!

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available to order below though you may need to be patient as it’s very popular and often out of stock.
Pen Store – https://www.penstore.com/art-design/vivi-soker-en-van
Bokus – http://www.bokus.com/bok/9789163612695/vivi-soker-en-van-malarbok/

If you’d also like to purchase a copy of the Vivi storybook with fully coloured illustrations then it’s available from Bokus here – http://www.bokus.com/bok/9789163612718/vivi-soker-en-van-sagobok/

The image below was coloured using Sharpie Fine Point Alcohol Markers.

Holbein Artists' Colored Pencils 150 Set - Possibly my favourite pencils, a cross between Prismacolor Premiers and Faber-Castell Polychromos, these pencils are the best of both worlds and those pastel colours?! They're Perfect!

Holbein Artists’ Colored Pencils 150 Set – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Holbein Artists’ Colored Pencils aren’t very well known yet, but they really should be! These pencils are from my personal collection and I purchased them just a few weeks ago, since then, I’ve used them every chance I’ve had and I have to say, I love them, they’re quite possibly my favourite pencils! It was quite a risk clicking the buy button because they’re pretty expensive and I could find very few reviews so it was a bit of a leap of faith but the completed pages I’d seen were so beautiful that I just had to have them and see what they were like.

Availability, Cost and Set Sizes
The pencils are Japanese and are available in open stock in Japan but almost impossible to find out of sets anywhere else in the world, they’re also not available in shops worldwide and can therefore only be bought online outside Japan. There is a huge variety of set sizes and palettes ranging from a set of 12 all the way up to the full 150 set which is available either in a sturdy cardboard box (this is the set I bought and am reviewing), or in an incredibly beautiful looking wooden box with trays in wooden drawers. These pencils are expensive so they’re a real investment and it’s really worth shopping around as the set I bought I’ve seen ranging from £227 all the way up to well over £300, some places to look for them are Ebay, Amazon UK and US (check the US ships to you) and Amazon Japan which was where I bought my set (see bottom of post above photos for info about how to order from Amazon Japan and a direct link to the set).

Colour Range and Presentation
The pencils are available in 150 colours and what sets these apart from any other set I’ve seen is the sheer variety and range of pastel colours, you also get 6 metallic colours and 6 fluorescents as well. The colour range is very varied and doesn’t feel shade-heavy in any shades and I haven’t particularly found it lacking in colours either though I do always hanker for more browns but this is one of the easiest colours to make when mixing other shades together, I’ve just not got around to making a colour mixing chart yet. The pencils themselves look most similar to the Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils, they have a full colour round barrel which is thick and feels very well made, the wood casing is perfectly formed on all 150 of my pencils with no scratches, splits or off-centre leads. The non-colouring end is rounded and also coloured so your pencil lead can’t come loose from the casing and be pushed out the end like Prismas have been known to do. The pencils have gold writing, and a gold ring, similar to that on the Polychromos pencils but it’s much further from the end (see photos below), so they’re easy to tell apart. The pencils themselves are thicker than normal, the same thickness as Polychromos and they have a substantial, thick lead. Each pencil has a unique colour name and number printed on it and the lightfastness star rating.

Packaging
The packaging is superb and possibly the best I’ve seen for pencils (excluding the extortionately priced wooden box/drawer sets you can buy), the box is made of very thick cardboard and it doesn’t warp or twist at all, inside the lid it lists all of the pencils with their English and Japanese colour names, their unique colour number which is what they’re ordered by on this list and a chart with dots indicating which sets each pencil can be found in which is very useful for discovering the differences between sets and also being able to buy the smallest possible set when you start running low on certain colours! Each layer of pencils has a sheet of packing foam over it which helps absorb vibrations during transit, there is also an instruction manual which is sadly written in Japanese, though there are a lot of pictures so you can mostly guess at the techniques it’s teaching, and a small booklet containing the same packaging information as the box lid and opening out to show a colour sample of each pencil. The box contains three thick cardboard trays of pencils, each has a plastic insert that has individual slots for each pencil to sit in, the edges of two of my plastic inserts did arrive a bit broken however this isn’t affecting use, the cardboard trays have well-attached blue ribbon loops to aid lifting them out and this prevents warping and twisting of the trays. The pencils arrive pre-sharpened but not to a fine point, they all have a flattened end as if the tip has been cut off or they’ve been sharpened against something (see photo below), I’ve never seen this in a set of pencils before. A number of them also arrived with a strange residue on them that seemed a bit waxy, odd as the pencils are oil-based, this easily rubs, sands, or sharpens off though and it’s visible on the pencils it affects as the tip looks cloudy (see photo below) so there’s no reason to ruin your colouring page, just check the tip and clean it first and then you’re good to go.

Sharpening
The pencils sharpen beautifully, I use a T’Gaal Adjustable Pencil Sharpener which is arguably the best sharpener around (read my review of it here) and I’ve had no breakages and they sharpen to a nice point. The leads are relatively hard, significantly harder than Prismacolor Premiers and a tad softer than Faber-Castell Polychromos so they keep sharp for a good while during colouring and the tips don’t crumble. I personally use the “1” setting on my sharpener as I hate losing lots of wood at once and prefer to use a shorter point which is why in the photos below the point is short, these pencils hold up well on all of the T’Gaal’s settings including the longest point.

Blending
The pencils blend like a dream! Prismacolor Premiers are arguably the best and easiest pencils to blend due to their soft core but these Holbein pencils are a pretty close second and I found them a little bit easier to blend than Faber-Castell Polychromos. As yet, the only time I’ve needed to use a blending pencil has been when I’ve wanted to fade to white but haven’t wanted to lighten the colour by blending with a white pencil (see the blue, purple and pink gems in the photo below). They are really easy to layer, giving a good even coverage and being very sensitive to pressure, they have a beautiful vibrant pigment as you can see from the photographs of my colour charts below which I’ve not filtered or edited in any way, that’s truly how they look in real life! The pencil barrel colour is very similar and pretty accurate to the lead colour, but as always, I would still recommend creating a colour chart, it’s a great way of getting used to the pencils and how they perform on paper/card and it’s a really handy resource to have so that you can easily compare within and between brands so you can make perfect colour choices!

Erasing and Smudging
The pigment of the pencils erases pretty well, even when fully burnished, obviously you’ll never be able to completely remove all of the pigment, especially when burnished, but a surprising amount does come off, particularly when using a battery operated eraser which was what I used for the test below. As with all pencil pigments, it does smudge a little with pressure however, the smudge below was only created from deliberately rubbing at the pencil with my finger and will only smudge during normal use if you get any pencil “dust” which happens very little in use as these pencils really don’t crumble.

Overall, these are expensive and they’re not an item to purchase lightly, however, I can’t recommend them highly enough, there are no production issues at all in my set and none that I’ve heard of within the colouring community, the colour choices are unique and vibrant, they blend beautifully and are a great addition for those looking for more colours who already have any other pencil sets as these don’t contain a huge number of duplicate colour options. They sharpen well, with no issues and the packaging protects them well and makes them really easy to use without needing to decant them elsewhere unless you want to. These pencils would be a wonderful first artist’s grade set, or in addition to others and the pastel colours are just incredible! If you’re wanting to splash out on a new set then you should definitely consider these, I was so anxious about purchasing them but as soon as they arrived and I finished stroking the pretty colours and actually started using them, my fears were allayed and I instantly fell in love with them as has everyone else I’ve seen using them!

Purchasing
If you’d like to purchase a set then you could try out a set of 12 though these are still just over £2 per pencil but at least you’ll then know if you like them and have spares if you then splurge on the full set.

Amazon UK:
12 Colour Pastel Shade Set
12 Colour Basic Shade Set
24 Colour Set in Tin
36 Colour Set in Tin
50 Colour Set in Cardboard Box
100 Colour Set in Cardboard Box
100 Colour Set in Wooden Box with Drawers
150 Colour Set (as reviewed here) in Cardboard Box
150 Colour Set in Wooden Box with Drawers

Amazon Japan
150 Colour Set (as bought by me and reviewed here) in Cardboard Box
All Holbein Pencil listings on Amazon Japan

Amazon Japan ordering instructions
Google Chrome has a pretty accurate page translate tool which I used, you’ll first need to set up an Amazon Japan account and add your payment details and postal address, do this first or it’s really difficult to accurately find out prices. Don’t get too excited when you discover the pencils are mega cheap, the postage and import duties are an absolute killer, this set of pencils worked out at about £165 but the postage and import taxes left me paying another £60, this is all calculated by Amazon and paid upfront so there should be no unexpected fees when they arrive with you though I can’t guarantee this but I didn’t pay anything extra for mine. They also arrived ridiculously quickly, I was told it would take 7 days from Japan to the UK with standard delivery and in fact they took just 4 which is quicker than some UK deliveries I’ve had! The delivery packaging wasn’t great, just a thin bit of paper wedged in the box with no bubble-wrap or anything but my pencils seem to be absolutely fine and the set packaging itself is really good and protective which will help avoid any damage.