Colour Charts: CarbOthello, Derwent Studio and Friends

9 November 2015

(aka things you write in January and find on your hard drive while doing backups)

The first thing everyone does when they get a new set of pencils is test all the colours out. I’ve always done this but never kept the list; every time I draw stuff I test colours on a small A6 sketchbook as I go and I’ve almost filled the entire thing with random testing scribbles. I also don’t mix ranges often; this means I’ve got loads more colours than I realise I have.

So I decided to make some colour charts, and I got something out of it that I wasn’t expecting; using all your pencils together is a great way to compare them.

CarbOthello and Pitt Pastel Colour Chart

Stabilo CarbOthello Pastel Pencils put down an even block of colour; using pressure doesn’t change the shade much, and you get towards white by dragging pigment around, smudging and blending rather than using techniques with the pencil itself. Some of the shades are very bright and Magenta goes for miles. Getting a smooth gradient is easy; the nature of chalk pastel does half the work for you. I think they’re better for larger drawings than small ones, which give you the space to work the colours in properly. They’re a completely different beast to most of the other pencils I have so it’s not really fair to compare them as such, but when you have both it’s helpful to work out which pencils will be better suited to a particular drawing.

I bought the Faber Castell Pitt Pastels to fill in some gaps in my CarbOthello set when I couldn’t find them for sale individually. I really didn’t notice much difference between them when using them. Their colour naming is completely different; CarbOthello 770 Payne’s grey has a lot more blue in it than Pitt 181 (which I suspect is closer to 760 Lamp Black but I didn’t buy that one to find out). Dark Sepia looks like a shade of brown on the colour charts but I couldn’t see any brown in it at all, it’s more like a Dark Warm Grey that’s almost black. Warm Grey IV on the other hand is identical in both ranges.

Derwent Studio Coloursoft and Polychromos Colour Chart

Derwent Studio I’m beginning to love more now that I’m using them properly. They’re not designed to cover large areas but for fine details and smallish drawings they’re brilliant. They stay sharp for a long time so you can get really niggly details in with them. They are duller than the other pencil ranges; the colours are a lot more muted but if you press really hard you can get a decent shade out of them (though flooding the grain of the paper won’t let you get much more on top), and the odd pencil will really surprise you. Doing gradients with them was pretty easy. I haven’t tried layering or blending here, but I’d imagine blending very different colours is somewhat difficult. I have two Derwent Artists thrown in there and didn’t really notice the difference; they are the same lead after all.

Derwent Metallic in Silver: didn’t notice anything special about this one; it’s shinier when you get it under the light. The more exotic colours might be more interesting.

I found the Faber Castell Polychromos the hardest to use. The pigment was sticking to the paper too easily even with light pressure, so while the colours are bright I found it difficult to keep the white shade in towards the right. When I noticed a jump in the gradient it was hard to smooth it out without putting too much colour down and making it worse. You can get some really bright colours out of them easily. These pencils are oil based so maybe that’s the difference; I never liked oil pastels either.

Derwent Coloursoft are lovely. If I was to throw a pin inbetween CarbOthello and Studio this’ where it’d land. Varying shade with pressure is easy, as is building up an even gradient. If you press really hard dust starts to fly off much like the pastels would. You can probably drag this about a tiny bit but I don’t think it’d go far. Colours are pretty intense. If I had to describe them in one word it’d be ‘creamy’. I’d rather like to get a proper set of these… but I think I have enough pencils aready :) (total lie; I’m probably going to cave and get some at some point… when I can actually find them. The Usual Suspects in Central London don’t stock them, my local art shop is the only place I’ve ever seen loose stock but their sets are expensive. I wouldn’t dare attempting to order a large set of soft pencils through the post).

I didn’t plan on doing all of the Artist’s Grade ones in one day but that’s kinda how it happened. 111 down, 116 to go.

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