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Sprookjesbos - written review, video review, and photos of the Dutch edition of Croatian book, Vilin San by Tomislav Tomic

Sprookjesbos (Dutch Edition of Vilin San) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Sprookjesbos is published and very kindly sent to me to review by BBNC Uitgevers. Sprookjesbos is the Dutch edition of the Croatian book, Vilin San, a comparison post and video of the two can be found here. It is the second book by Tomislav Tomic, illustrator of Zemlja Snova. The title translates to Fairytale Forest. This book sadly only has half the number of images although they are equally, if not even more beautiful than Zemlja Snova. The book itself is 25cm square, paperback with flexible card covers, the cover shows a partially coloured image from inside the book and the inside covers are plain white. The spine is glue and string-bound and seems quite sturdy and durable and with a bit of work it’ll open up pretty flat, especially over time. The book has 68 pages (37 pages of images). The paper is cream, thick and lightly textured, it’s the same paper as this publisher always uses, it’s great for pencils though it can be a bit tricky with oil-based pencils like Faber-Castell Polychromos and Holbeins but Prismacolor Premiers work brilliantly. Water-based pens don’t shadow or bleed though do test in an inconspicuous area because we all colour differently and you don’t want to ruin a picture if there’s one on the reverse. The majority of the pages in this edition are printed single-sided; the double-page spreads are kept that way and therefore 12 of the pages (6 pairs) are printed double-sided but the rest are all printed single-sided meaning that you can use heavier mediums without worrying about bleed through, just pop a protective sheet behind your work to prevent any damage to the proceeding pages. Vilin San had a loose fold-out poster included but sadly, Sprookjesbos doesn’t include the poster or the imagery from it and so you’re only able to get that by purchasing Vilin San. The images themselves are very similar to those found in Zemlja Snova/Dromenvanger so if you liked that book then you’ll love this one too, all of the artwork is original and new to this book (its identical to Vilin San) though it feels familiar because of the content being similar. The illustrations contain fairies, dragons, mushrooms, butterflies, gnomes, birds, sea creatures, mice, palaces and more. The pages are all drawn as scenes and range from underwater scenes to dragons flying, fairies sleeping to hedgehogs being led through a mushroom-lined path, palace scenescapes to fantastical flying birds and so much more. Tomislav has created the drawings very considerately by leaving borders around many and those spanning a double-page having little content near the spine making it much easier to fully colour the page without any frustration of trying to access imagery in the book gutter. The illustrations are all very ornate and really beautiful to look at, this illustrator’s work really is some of the best in the world! As with Vilin San, there are no issues with images being incorrectly paired up, one of the double-page spreads is placed in a different place in the book compared to Vilin San but this has absolutely no impact on the enjoyment of the book.

In terms of mental health, this book is great for those with a good attention span. If you get overwhelmed by busy or intricate images then this won’t be for you but if you love immersive imagery that truly transports you to another place then look no further, this book is absolutely perfect. It offers so much to look at that it’s the perfect distraction for even the most persistent symptoms and it just draws you in to a magical fantastical world filled with mythical creatures, princes and princesses, castles, fairies and more. This book will be ideal for those of you who love fantasy colouring and also nature because so much of it is animal and scene-based so it’s combined two of our favourite things into one incredible book! The smaller number of pages means that it’s less daunting for those wanting to complete a whole book. The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains thin with some spindly thin details. The intricacy and detail levels remain very high throughout so you will certainly need very good vision and fine motor control to enjoy this book if you’re wanting to colour within each outlined section though it won’t need to be quite so good if you’re wanting to colour over some areas and leave the lines underneath as texture. I would highly recommend investing in a T’Gaal sharpener so that you can keep your pencils as sharp as possible! The illustrations are absolutely packed with detail and things to look at and notice, despite having Zemlja Snova for almost two years now, I’m still noticing new things and spot things I’ve never seen before when looking at other people’s finished pages and I’m absolutely certain this will be the case with Sprookjesbos too. The imagery is honestly spectacular, there aren’t many books I’m blown away by now but this one really is incredible, each image is a work of art, there are no filler pages, no random half-finished art, each page has clearly been painstakingly created and each will take hours, if not days to complete. The pages in this book aren’t quick to finish but there are lots of natural stopping points within each image so that you still get a sense of accomplishment without managing to finish a page in one sitting and these all range in size from a tiny bird or gnome all the way up to a forest of trees or giant dragon so you can pick a project of the right size for each colouring session! I adore this book, even just flicking through the pages gets me out of my head and calms my anxiety down and colouring it is just so much fun because you can use any colours you fancy from more natural colours to fantastical colours like blue for tree trunks and oranges or purples for leaves, in a fantasy world the only limit is your imagination and these images will look amazing no matter what colours you choose!

Overall, I can’t recommend this book highly enough, it’s a shame that it’s half the number of pages and even more of a shame that the poster imagery isn’t included this time and that the price doesn’t reflect this and is the same as Dromenvanger but those criticisms aside, the book and the artwork itself is truly perfect and gorgeous in every way. Tomislav’s artwork is some of the best I’ve ever seen and I really hope he’ll continue to make many more books because no matter how many times I flip through the same pages, I’m still as drawn in and transported as I was the first time I saw each illustration and that’s a really impressive feat!

If you’d like to purchase a copy then you can order it from the publisher’s site here or from any of the other Dutch sites below, not all of them ship everywhere so you might have to do a bit research. The easiest way to access these sites if you don’t read Dutch is to access them though Google Chrome and then hit the translate button on each page, it makes it really quick and easy to understand. It’s not currently available to purchase on Amazon UK but the listing can be found here and you can sign up for email alerts to be the first to know if it becomes available – Sprookjesbos
https://www.bbnc.nl/sprookjesbos?search=sprookjesbos
https://www.bol.com/nl/p/sprookjesbos/9200000095550239/?suggestionType=browse&bltgh=imC0m1ReS55T4YWuif5OWg.1.2.ProductTitle
https://www.bookspot.nl/boeken/sprookjesbos-tomislav-tomic-9789045323527
https://www.boekhandelsmit.nl/9789045323527/tomic-tomislav/sprookjesbos/
https://www.libris.nl/boek/?authortitle=tomislav-tomic/sprookjesbos–9789045323527/
http://www.dinternet.nl/Boek/Tomislav–Tomic/Sprookjesbos/9789045323527.html

Video Review and Flip Through

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Vilin San (Fairy’s Dream) – A Review and WORLDWIDE GIVEAWAY

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Vilin San is published and very kindly sent to me to review by Fokus, they have also sent me a second copy to give away and you can enter my Worldwide Giveaway until 23.59 GMT on the 31st of January by clicking this link and following the instructions. Vilin San is a Croatian book and the title translates to Fairy’s Dream, it’s illustrated by Tomislav Tomic, the illustrator of hugely popular Zemlja Snova (Dreamland) and the Dutch edition, Dromenvanger. This book sadly only has half the number of pages but it does come with an exciting added extra and is equally if not even more beautiful than Zemlja Snova. It arrives wrapped in plastic to keep it protected from damage and to keep all parts together (more on this later). The book itself is 25cm square, paperback with flexible card covers, (these are a little thinner and much bendier than Zemlja Snova’s covers) and two-third French flaps which open out to reveal a white line drawing on a blue/purple background, the cover shows a partially coloured image from inside the book. The spine is glue and string-bound and seems quite sturdy and durable and with a bit of work it’ll open up pretty flat, especially over time. The book only has 40 pages, Zemlja Snova had 84, oddly, it’s less than half the thickness, the publishers have said that the paper is identical in both books however it does seem a little whiter, especially than my original edition of Zemlja Snova (the one with the pages out of order) but paper stocks do visually differ sometimes and it does feel and behave the same way so I’m fairly confident in saying the paper is identical. The paper is bright white, thick and lightly textured, water-based pens shadow heavily and may even bleed through so I’d steer clear of these and stick to watercolours with very sparing amounts of water and mostly pastels and pencils which work really well on this paper. The pages are printed double-sided and are a mixture of single (23) and double-page spreads (7 = 14 pages) and also contained is a loose 4 page fold-out poster which is the same size as 2 double-page spreads joined together end to end (see photo below). The images themselves are very similar to those found in Zemlja Snova so if you liked that book then you’ll love this one too, all of the artwork is original and new to this book though it feels familiar because of the content being similar. The illustrations contain fairies, dragons, mushrooms, butterflies, gnomes, birds, sea creatures, mice, palaces and more. The pages are all drawn as scenes and range from underwater scenes to dragons flying, fairies sleeping to hedgehogs being led through a mushroom-lined path, palace scenescapes to fantastical flying birds and so much more. Tomislav has created the drawings very considerately by leaving borders around many and those spanning a double-page having little content near the spine making it much easier to fully colour the page without any frustration of trying to access imagery in the book gutter. The illustrations are all very ornate and really beautiful to look at, this illustrator’s work really is some of the best in the world! For those who are wondering about the image order, there was an issue with 3 double-page spreads being split up in the first edition of Zemlja Snova, this has since been corrected in subsequent editions and I’m pleased to confirm that there are no issues with image order in Vilin San, all of the double-page spreads are matched up as they should be so there’s no need to worry.

In terms of mental health, this book is great for those with a good attention span. If you get overwhelmed by busy or intricate images then this won’t be for you but if you love immersive imagery that truly transports you to another place then look no further, this book is absolutely perfect. It offers so much to look at that it’s the perfect distraction for even the most persistent symptoms and it just draws you in to a magical fantastical world filled with mythical creatures, princes and princesses, castles, fairies and more. This book will be ideal for those of you who love fantasy colouring and also nature because so much of it is animal and scene-based so it’s combined 2 of our favourite things into one incredible book! The smaller number of pages means that it’s less daunting for those wanting to complete a whole book and the poster is great for those who like to work on a much larger project and display it afterwards as it would look fabulous framed once finished and it easily folds away to be tucked into the back of the book away from any damage which is really handy whilst you’re working on it! The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains thin with some spindly thin details. The intricacy and detail levels remain very high throughout so you will certainly need very good vision and fine motor control to enjoy this book if you’re wanting to colour within each outlined section though it won’t need to be quite so good if you’re wanting to colour over some areas and leave the lines underneath as texture. I would highly recommend investing in a T’Gaal sharpener so that you can keep your pencils as sharp as possible! The illustrations are absolutely packed with detail and things to look at and notice, despite having Zemlja Snova for over a year now, I’m still noticing new things and spot things I’ve never seen before when looking at other people’s finished pages and I’m absolutely certain this will be the case with Vilin San too. The imagery is honestly spectacular, there aren’t many books I’m blown away by now but this one really is incredible, each image is a work of art, there are no filler pages, no random half-finished art, each page has clearly been painstakingly created and each will take hours if not days to complete. The pages in this book aren’t quick to finish but there are lots of natural stopping points within each image so that you still get a sense of accomplishment without managing to finish a page in one sitting and these all range in size from a tiny bird or gnome all the way up to a forest of trees or giant dragon so you can pick a project of the right size for each colouring session! I adore this book, even just flicking through the pages gets me out of my head and calms my anxiety down and colouring it is just so much fun because you can use any colours you fancy from more natural colours to fantastical colours like blue for tree trunks and oranges or purples for leaves, in a fantasy world the only limit is your imagination and these images will look amazing no matter what colours you choose!

Overall, I can’t recommend this book highly enough, it’s a shame that it’s half the number of pages and even more of a shame that the price doesn’t reflect this and is the same as Zemlja Snova but those criticisms aside, the book and the artwork itself is truly perfect and gorgeous in every way. Tomislav’s artwork is some of the best I’ve ever seen and I really hope he’ll continue to make many more books because no matter how many times I flip through the same pages, I’m still as drawn in and transported as I was the first time I saw each illustration and that’s a really impressive feat!

If you’d like to purchase a copy then you can order it from the publisher’s site here. I would strongly advise against ordering from Etsy or third-party Amazon sellers because the prices there seem to be extortionate. The easiest and cheapest way of getting hold of a copy is to join a group order as this reduces the cost of shipping per book to a more reasonable level. I run a FB fan group for Tomislav’s work and there we also organise a lot of group orders to various countries worldwide including the UK, many other European countries, the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, please do join the group if you’d like to sign up to one of these orders or just to share your coloured pages or look for inspiration, we’d love to have you!

Don’t forget, I’m currently running a Worldwide Giveaway for a copy of this book, to enter click here and follow the instructions before it closes at 23.59 GMT on the 31st of January.

Photos of the book can be found directly below the videos.

Unboxing, Flip Through and Review

Silent Flip Through

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.

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.

Zemlja Snova (Land of Dreams) – A Review

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

Zemlja Snova roughly translates as Land of Dreams or Dreamland, it’s a Croatian book which is notoriously difficult to get hold of and the methods keep changing. Detailed information can be found below the review, above the photos and I’ll keep this updated as best I can, for the most up to date information, please join my dedicated fan group on Facebook where we run international group orders.

This book is one of the best I’ve ever seen. After reviewing over 200 books, there aren’t that many that manage to take my breath away, but this one does, it’s stunning and the illustrations are just incredible! Before requesting it I saw a flick-through of it and was absolutely hooked but once it arrived I was completely blown away so before I combust with compliments for this book, let me tell you about it. The book is just over 25cm square, the same size as the UK bestsellers, paperback, with flexible card covers and two-third French flaps which open out to reveal a white line drawing on a purple background, colourable black line drawings on the flaps themselves, and a partially coloured image from inside the book on the front cover. The spine is glue and string-bound and the binding is fairly tight on arrival meaning that it’s durable and hard-wearing but also a bit tricky to get to the very centre of some of the images. The images are a mixture of single and double-page spreads and are printed double-sided. The paper is bright white and thick with a light texture, it’s perfect for pencils and my Prismacolor Premier pencils went on like a dream but sadly water-based pens do heavily shadow so this is definitely a book best kept for pencils and the illustrations certainly lend themselves well to beautiful blending and shading. The book contains 81 pages of illustrations and they are genuinely incredible! The images are all fantasy-based and include lots of dragons, mermaids, unicorns, fairies, tree-men, and so much more. Over half of the spreads are double-page designs which are either scenes, depicting all manner of things from castles to sea voyages, gnome villages to woodland, dragons to underwater scenes, or paired images that can be coloured separately but are strongly linked with the opposite page (see photos below). I could go on for days describing the imagery, there is just so much to look at, when you first look at each image you start to get a feel for the general theme of the spread whether it be a castle, village or underwater scene, but as you look closer you discover lots of hidden things from gnomes to mermaid tails, working animals or birds’ nests, flowers growing off dragons and even hidden villages. The illustrations are just packed full with details and stories and they will take you ages to colour so this book is certainly good value for money! The ink is very permanent and doesn’t transfer even with very hard pressure from pencils and the paper doesn’t dent or curl either so it’s very good quality. The line print quality is good too with smooth lines throughout and no pixelation to be found! While a few of the spreads do enter the spine, care has been taken in the majority for them to not enter it, or for there to not be much detail there which is ideal for people who can’t bear to break the spine in order to colour the entire page.

In terms of mental health, wowee, I found this book exceptional! It offers so much to look at that it’s the perfect distraction for even the most persistent symptoms and it just draws you in to a magical fantastical world filled with mythical creatures, princes and princesses, castles, fairies and more. The more you look at the images, the more you see and the more you get drawn in and it’s done wonders for my anxiety during what has been a very challenging and anxiety-filled week. This book will be ideal for those of you who love fantasy colouring and also nature because so much of it is animal and scene-based so it’s combined 2 of our favourite things into one incredible book! The line thickness is consistent throughout and is thin with spindly thin details (it’s pretty similar to the linework in Johanna Basford’s books), the illustrations are very detailed and intricate so there are lots of tiny spaces which you can colour within or colour over if you prefer to use them as texture underneath your colour. You will need pretty good vision and fine motor control in order to enjoy this book and you’ll need some good sharp pencils so that you don’t go over the lines too much. I would highly recommend investing in a T’Gaal sharpener so that you can keep your pencils as sharp as possible! There are plenty of natural stopping points so this book is ideal for those with fluctuating conditions or concentration levels as you can colour one flower, all of the bricks or an entire dragon, you can also focus on a single page or go all out on a double-page spread. The pages for the most part are pretty busy and there’s loads to see so it can be a little tricky at times to identify all of the parts and sections so you will need good concentration for that part to ensure that you’re colouring a petal and not a foot accidentally! The content of the illustrations is totally absorbing and this book will look just incredible when it’s finished cover to cover. I adore this book, even just flicking through the pages gets me out of my head and calms my anxiety down and colouring it is just so much fun because you can use any colours you fancy from more natural colours to fantastical colours like blue for tree trunks and oranges or purples for leaves, in a fantasy world the only limit is your imagination and these images will look amazing no matter what colours you choose!

Overall, I can’t recommend this book highly enough, it’s a genuine work of art and while it’s a shame that pens can’t be used without shadowing, these illustrations lend themselves brilliantly to beautifully blended pencils. The artwork would appeal to male and female colourists and is highly fantasy-based with a strong storybook theme and lots of natural imagery. The drawings are incredible and you’ll be hooked once you’ve seen inside! I’ve included lots of images from inside below as usual but this book really has to be seen to be believed so I’ve also recorded a silent video flick-through which can be found HERE.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s currently available to be purchased from the Croatian publisher, Fokus. Shipping from Croatia is very expensive and therefore it’s best to place orders as a group with one person ordering a number of books to their address and then separately shipping them out to others in their country. My Facebook group is the best place to do this as we have the largest community of Zemlja Snova fans in one place and we regularly run group orders to various countries around the world. A Dutch publisher has also acquired the rights and will be publishing copies later in the year (around mid October 2017) with the title Dromenvanger and this is available to pre-order on Book Depository where you can benefit from free worldwide shipping; this appears to be the cheapest option if you can bear to wait that long!
Dutch edition on Book Depository with free worldwide delivery – https://www.bookdepository.com/book/9789045321868/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Fans of Zemlja Snova Facebook Group

The image below was coloured using Prismacolor Premier Coloured Pencils. I tested Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners which heavily shadowed.

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