Oil-based pencils

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

Kutsuwa Stad T’Gaal Adjustable Pencil Sharpener – A Review

This is my first ever review of a pencil sharpener and potentially my last too because this one is so fantastic. I’ve never had issues with sharpeners and have always just used cheap, standard ones, including my favourite which is a Lego sharpener from a kids’ stationery set, but I didn’t realise what I was missing out on, until now! The T’Gaal sharpener has incredible reviews within the colouring community and I can vouch for these because it’s amazing, easy to use, and adjustable for all of your sharpening needs. I was very kindly supplied with this sharpener by Cult Pens, in exchange for an honest review.

The sharpener is available in a number of colours including: black, pink, blue, orange and green. It is small, but larger than a regular sharpener and has a dial on the front with numbers to adjust the length of the point. It has a small plastic shutter which goes over the pencil opening to keep it closed (mine is very loose and when tipped it moves and allows small pencil shavings out so do be careful if transporting it). The dial is numbered from 1 to 5 and this indicates the length of the point you’ll get, from 1 which is a short point that doesn’t cause you to lose lots of the wood of the pencil, all the way up to 5 which is a much longer point with more of the wood coating sharpened away.

The T’Gaal sharpener is by far the smoothest and easiest to use sharpener I’ve come across. There’s no dragging or catching which means it’ll be ideal for your tricky pencils that are prone to breakage. It’s almost silent to use because there’s so little friction and my only slight criticism is that it doesn’t have a clear viewing window so you can’t see when to stop sharpening but this isn’t a major problem and with practice you do work out when it’s roughly ready. Unfortunately you can’t replace the blade when it eventually blunts but the sharpener is a very reasonable price and it’s so fabulous that you truly won’t mind purchasing a new one when you eventually have to. One tip I’ve read online that’s meant to help prolong the life of sharpener blades is to regularly sharpen a normal graphite pencil which will help keep the blade sharp. I’ve no idea if this works but have been reliably informed it does so grab yourself some cheap graphite pencils and sharpen them after every few coloured pencils to keep your T’Gaal in the best shape possible!

Another great feature of this sharpener is that it contains a compartment to hold sharpenings, it’s not very big so won’t last more than a few pencils at a time but it is much more convenient than having to hunt down a bin every time you want some pointy pencils. The compartment has a slide cover which closes firmly which is a welcome change from most sharpeners which have a pull off lid (we’ve all experienced the heartbreak of throwing sharpenings all over the floor when the lid has been too stiff to easily pull off). If you’re still not convinced, check out the pictures below of the silver pencils – the first was sharpened with a cheap Derwent sharpener (yes that’s as sharp as it got), the middle one was sharpened with my favourite Lego sharpener, and the final one was sharpened with the T’Gaal (soon to be known as King of Sharpeners). The points this sharpener creates are almost painfully sharp and are absolutely ideal for using in even the most intricate colouring books. The picture below showing 5/6 pencils shows before and after shots of some blunt pencils that I’ve then sharpened using the 5 different settings of point length so you can really see the difference between setting 1 and setting 5. You can also see the difference in amounts of wood casing that are lost which is worth noting and bearing in mind when choosing what setting to sharpen your pencils with. This sharpener is a great size to hold because it’s not tiny or difficult to grip if you have joint problems. The smoothness and ease of sharpening also means that it’ll be ideal for those of you who struggle with standard pencil sharpeners because this is just so easy to use and needs barely any strength at all!

All in all, this is genuinely the best pencil sharpener I’ve used by a country mile, and judging by other reports and reviews, it’s the best on the market. If you have pencils that you’re struggling to sharpen without breakage, or you’re wanting needle-sharp points, or the ability to adjust the length of your points then this is absolutely the sharpener for you. I can’t rave about it enough, I now love sharpening my pencils and it’s so satisfying getting a perfect point on your beautiful pencils.

If you would like to purchase the only pencil sharpener you’ll ever need, it’s available here from Cult Pens – https://www.cultpens.com/i/q/KT29109/kutsuwa-stad-tgaal-adjustable-pencil-sharpener

Wings & Things: Colouring For Grown Ups – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
wings and things: art therapy is illustrated and was kindly sent to me for review by Edwina Mc Namee. This gorgeous book is filled with 50 images of all things winged, feathery, mystical and magical. The book is paperback, glue-bound and printed single-sided with no border so a little of each image is lost into the spine but this really is only a little.  The book is slightly smaller than A4 and has a gorgeous aqua coloured cover that can almost certainly be coloured in so you’ve practically got an extra colouring page on the front and it also has a lovely “This book belongs to” page. Almost all of the images are portrait but a few are printed landscape so that more can be fitted onto the page. The book has a lovely cohesive image style because it’s all been hand-drawn by the very talented Edwina who clearly has a love of all things feathery. The images include all sorts of birds, headdresses, bats, butterflies, insects and unicorns. They are drawn with varying line thicknesses from thin to thick with most being medium/thick, they don’t look overly heavy though. The paper is bright white and pretty thin, my fibre-tip pens which hardly ever bleed did bleed through all over the back of the page so if you’re using anything that bleeds do put a scrap sheet behind your work so that you don’t ruin the next picture.

In terms of mental health, this book is great because it’s grounded in nature and while it contains images of fantastical things, the majority are birds and feathered creatures. I found this book really calming and relaxing to colour, so much so that I coloured two full pages instead of the usual one. The images are fairly detailed but not overly intricate so they’re really well suited to anybody because you don’t need perfect vision or fine motor control in order to be able to enjoy it. The spaces are large enough that you can practice shading and blending but not so large that the book feels basic or childish. The images feel very positive and the level of complexity varies meaning the book can be used on good and bad days as your concentration comes and goes. The images in this book are well-suited to any colouring medium and I found it lovely to use pens and pencils on. The images below were coloured using Staedtler Fibre-tip pens and Marco Raffine Oil-based pencils which were really easy to shade and layer on the paper.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who like animals or birds and anyone who struggles to colour the very intricate books but doesn’t want to colour very basic images. The images are lovely, calming and very charming and being printed one-sided means that you can use any medium you like without having to worry about ruining any images. In my opinion it’s great for mental health and well worth adding to your collection. Thank you very much to Edwina for sending me a copy of her gorgeous book and if you’d like to get your hands on a copy, head over to her Etsy shop where you can find the book in two parts: part 1 and part 2. It is also available on Amazon here wings and things: art therapy

Marco Raffine Fine Art Oil-Based Coloured Pencils – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Before I start reviewing let me first state that I am NOT an artist, I have no art training, not even an art GCSE and only started using coloured pencils again 2 months ago. This review is from a beginner’s perspective  and the colouring I’ve done has been based on learning techniques from YouTube tutorials which are linked below. These pencils are from my personal collection and I’ll tell you right now, I LOVE THEM! I bought a pack of Crayolas and despite others managing to get truly beautiful effects from them I managed a vague bit of shading, no blending and just got blisters because I found them so hard and almost impossible to get a deep and vibrant colour from. I scoured the internet and found all of the artist grade pencils were over a £1 a pencil which I couldn’t possibly afford at the time and I thought all was lost and that I’d never be able to use pencils unless I won the lottery. However, I persevered and happened upon the Marco pencils on Ebay and was shocked at how cheap they were for oil-based pencils which sounded like the type I needed. I looked for reviews and found a measly two on Amazon both of which said they were amazing so I went for it and began my long wait for them to arrive from China.

So after nearly 3 weeks they arrived and I’m so glad I found them and ordered the largest set they make. They come in sets of 24,36,48 and 72 and personally I’d recommend just going all out and getting the set of 72 because they’re under £20 including postage and that’s just a bargain! The pencils are soft, not scratchy and lay down colour easily and smoothly on all of the paper types I’ve come across so far in my colouring books. They are great for layering, shading, blending or just giving smooth, vibrant colour without hurting your hand from pressing too hard. Each pencil gives a huge range of hues from the palest hint of colour to a bright, bold, dense pigment depending on layering and pressure. The colours in the box of 72 cover a great range with a lot of emphasis on greens (11 in total) and browns (6 in total) which is ideal for all of those nature colouring books like Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest, Animal Kingdom and Tropical Wonderland. There are a few too many greys for my liking (7 seems excessive) and not enough shades of pink (6 – not including the 3 flesh tones but these 6 include some purple colours). However, all in all, it’s a great range that is really versatile because of the ability to shade and blend thus creating more effects and colours and making the possibilities pretty much endless!

The box they come in isn’t a great storage solution because as soon as you’ve sharpened the pencils a few times they become too short to dig out with your fingers and if you tip the box up you either get stabbed with a whole load of sharpened pencils or accidentally tip half of the contents on the floor (not advised!). I would definitely suggest getting jars, a pencil case or a pencil carrier to store them in so that you can avoid the above! Since writing this review originally, I have been sent a set to review which come with a pencil roll to store the pencils in and this is a much better solution (more info at the bottom of the review). I would also strongly advise creating a colour chart with the number of each pencil and a shaded section from light to dark so that you have it to hand (see mine below). As with many coloured pencils, the end of the pencil is coloured but this isn’t always an accurate portrayal of the colour you’ll lay down and this often leads to some very strange colour combinations due to “accidents”. It’s also difficult to replicate colours without this if you’re half way through a project and don’t remember what colour you used. Making and colouring the chart can be time consuming but it’s absolutely worth it and will save you getting frustrated in the future or constantly having to scribble on scrap paper and wasting your precious leads!

As for using these pencils, they’re a dream! I’ve had various friends try them out, all of whom are novices like me and all of them have loved them and commented on how smooth they are to use and how vibrant the colours are and just how different they are from the pencils we all used at school. They sharpen beautifully without the need for an expensive sharpener (I currently use a Lego one from a kids’ stationery set) and have had very few problems with breakages or not being able to get a proper point. They last ages and honestly I’ve had absolutely no problems with them! They behave in exactly the same way as premium oil-based pencils so you can use blender pencils, burnishers, baby oil and other products to give you a more professional look but all of the images below have been completed with just the Marco pencils, without any other products.

I would highly recommend these pencils to anybody. Those of you who are just starting out and learning to use pencils, these are great because they’re soft, versatile, behave in much the same way as premium products but because of the miniscule price tag you won’t be afraid of getting stuck in and using them and learning how they work together and what effects you can get. For those of you with more experience, these are great for a travel set and for creating beautiful images with and the range of colours is ideal for almost any project if you get the largest set of 72 pencils. I am now lucky enough to own a set of 120 Faber Castell Polychromos pencils which I love but I have to say I like the Marco Raffines almost as much. The range of colours of Polychromos is much better, obviously because there are almost double the number of shades, but the Marco pencils really are up there for ease of use and ability to create amazing effects and I just can’t get over the price! If you’ve been umming and ahhing over whether you should click buy then my recommendation would be DO IT! They’re super cheap and as yet, I’ve not found anyone that regretted buying them or didn’t like them. Happy Colouring!

Pencil Wrap/Roll – The wrap contains 72 elasticated slots for the pencils (and these are a perfect fit, not too tight or too loose) as well as 2 extra pencil slots, perfect for blending or burnishing pencils, and 4 larger elasticated slots that could be used to store erasers or pencil sharpeners. There is a leather flap at the top and bottom to cover up the leads of the pencils to prevent them being broken when transported and the case folds over to half the size and can then be rolled up and safely kept closed with a leather strip and a secure popper (press stud). The pencils aren’t pre-added to the wrap so it’s easy to put them into it in whatever order suits you, I went for number order as that’s easiest to match up with my colour chart.

If you’d like to purchase these pencils then you can purchase sets through the links below.
72 set including a pencil roll – GHB Colouring Pencils 72-Colour Assorted Colours with Pencil Pouch
72 set in cardboard box:
NIUTOP 72 Colored Pencils, Marco Raffine fine art Drawing Pencils For Artist Sketch / Adult Coloring Books/Secret Garden Coloring Book (72 Colored Pencils)
Erofa 72 Color Art Colour Pencils Drawing Pencils for Secret Garden Pencil Pouch colored pencil Artist Sketch Set
SUMNACON Set of 72 Colour Pencils Colour Marco Fine Art Drawing Oil Base Non-toxic Pencils Set For Artist Sketch
Wiysond Set of 72 Color Pencil Colour Marco Fine Art Drawing Oil Base Non-toxic Pencils Set For Artist Sketch

These are the links to the videos I used to learn to blend and shade. Happy Colouring!