Review – Crayola Erasable Colored Pencils

I’ve looked at Crayola’s regular colored pencils in the past, and I’ve been known to go into far too much detail about the color and quality of what are ostensibly children’s products. In this review of Crayola’s erasable colored pencils I will be concentrating on the “gimmick” as opposed to the colors (in other words, I won’t be looking at the 24 colors from my box individually). So, do erasable colored pencils do as they say on the tin?

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First, a quick note about the aesthetics, which have changed from your standard Crayola pencil. These retain their round form with the addition of a ferrule and color-coordinated eraser at one end. The name of each of the colors is printed on the barrel, but not embossed into it, and little white designs have been added to the front and back over the color-coded label. Each one also has a large uneven white patch in the middle containing a couple logos (and “f6b”, which I assume is the hardness). I think this re-design is poorly conceived, but it is a product for children, and doesn’t affect the use of the pencils.

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When put to paper, the pencils feel a bit more waxy than the standard set. It’s a kind of unnatural and unpleasant feeling with the colors being a little more faded and uneven than the regular pencils. There is a little bit of blending that can happen, but it is splotchy and sometimes one simply covers another (I didn’t test with mineral spirits for blending, so I don’t know how this formulation would react). And finally, the erasability is… better than one might expect. All of the colors erase to about the same degree, which is not totally, but there is only the faintest wisp of color left on the page. It’s pretty comparable to erasing your standard graphite pencils, and it seems to work with most erasers (even gum ones, though they don’t work as well), not just the strange cheap ones that come attached to the back of the pencils.

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So yeah, they work essentially as advertised. It’s not the best erasing experience but it beats not ever being able to change a mistake, and that, combined with the better blending, makes these, in my opinion, the better artist’s tool. But they’re still not comparable to higher-quality artist pencils. At school or whatnot, these work especially well as map colors (unfortunately, probably the most common use of colors in school), allowing you to fix minor mistakes. If that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for, these definitely fit the role (and they’re a couple bucks for 24, which is super cheap).

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Review – Art & Parcel (September 2016)

Art & Parcel is a monthly subscription service for art supplies from H. Blyth & Co. It’s like a Lootcrate, but for art supplies; so it’s way better than a Lootcrate (my opinion). But with so many of these monthly-blind-subscription-service things around, what makes this one special enough to look at? (Answer: Art supplies) And is it worth it to get one?

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(Couple of notes here: I got this parcel for free {and even though I got to pick one, I didn’t get the one I picked, so the picking part won’t influence the review} for review, and I live in the US where the “subscription” part of this service is unavailable. From what I can tell that means that I would have to pay up front as a lump sum to get my parcels, instead of being able to pay by the month, this also means that shipping cost is terrible to get them here, £16 (About $20) is a steal for these products, and the shipping in the UK is a great deal too, even throughout the rest of Europe it doesn’t exceed the price of the items like it does coming to the US)

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The one I am going to be looking at today is September’s parcel, which is focused mainly on colored pencils, but first I’ll talk quickly about the packaging. Mine was shipped in a bubble envelope, inside of which was a very nice cardboard box that was very well sealed with brown tape. On the top the Art & Parcel logo is printed very plainly, and on the bottom in pencil there is the month. (My box was a bit dented, but this is likely from the post office as, due to my schedule, the box had to be sent through the post twice) Inside is a nice packing slip that explains everything that is in the box along with its regular retail price (if that’s anything to go on you save a pound or two from buying the items individually in this set). All of the materials are neatly and securely wrapped in a newsprint/tracing paper that is sealed with a sticker of the Art & Parcel logo. It is all very well executed and nothing got damaged.

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The first items in this box were four Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils. I am no stranger to these pencils (they were the subject of one of my first {and not as well written} reviews), though I don’t have these particular colors: Naples Yellow, Light Phthalo Blue, Chrome Oxide Green Fiery (wonderful name that), and Red-Violet. I think the choice of colors is a bit strange, but they are definitely useful, and give a better representation of the pencils abilities than a plain RGB or RYB would have. There’s not much more to say there since they are some of the best colored pencils around. One thing I do really like about them is the fact that they layer so that some colors can somewhat be on top of other colors, unlike the cheaper colored pencils where they’re pretty mutually exclusive.

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Next is the KOH-I-NOOR Hardtmuth Magic pencil, which is basically a fat colored pencil that has a “lead” made up of the 3 RYB colors. This means that as you write or color with the pencil it changes, and the colors mix together to create a nice gradient effect. In practice the yellow mixing with both the red and blue works great, but the purple almost looks black and rarely shows up, and getting a nice solid version of one of the primary colors is very difficult, so the gradient looks more green and orange than anything else. I would bet that with some practice and odorless mineral spirits with a blending stick that it could produce wonderful effects, but I would still have trouble finding a use for it.

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Third up is another Faber-Castell product; one of their Pitt Artist Brush Pens, another item I’ve looked at in the past, though this is a different version. It’s a “big brush” and the body of the pen is over a half inch in diameter, a bit chunky for me but still very easy to hold on to and surprisingly comfortable. The color is “Cold Grey IV” which seems to be in the middle of the grey family, and the brush is very fat, going from lines of about ½mm to almost 5mm. It’s also got all of the stuff you want out of an ink: waterproof, lightfast, and archival quality. But I’m not really sold on how it fits with the rest of the stuff here. It is a grey, which makes it more like a pencil when sketching, but going over the same place multiple times does make it darker. It’s just strange to me, but then again I have a very different style to most people, and playing around with a new brush pen is always fun.

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And the final item included is a 10-sheet pad of watercolor paper. It’s made by Fabriano but has the Art & Parcel logo again on the front. It’s A5 size, which is about 6” x 8” and is a hefty 300gsm. It handily took everything I threw at it without flinching, bleeding, or feathering. Sharpies, calligraphy pens, and brush pens push most papers to the limit, but this stuff is truly meant for paint (watercolor at least), which I don’t have too much of lying around (in accessible areas, I did have some tempera and it handled that very well), but it seems easily capable of handling it. A liberal application of water will turn it in to one big slight buckle, but that’s about it. My only complaint is that there are only 10 sheets.

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Overall I’m very satisfied with this box. It’s well worth the money and provides several products that work in tandem, allowing you to start creating right out of the package without having to look for more materials. From what I can tell, this is true of the previous parcels as well, but each one comes based in a different medium. The subscription would be relatively inexpensive way to try out something that might not be in your comfort zone without having to do a lot of research or spend time picking out and ordering products. It was honestly really hard for me to try and pick out a parcel I wanted. The recent ones at least were all super cool (and they can be purchased even after the subscription goes out, so nobody needs to miss out like with other sub boxes) and I’d be signing up right now if shipping to the US didn’t more than double the price (damn the postal service(s)). I really like this box. It’s given me a bunch of cool stuff to play around with (and a Haribo candy to eat*) and if the idea of getting a bunch of high quality art goodies in the mail every month appeals to you I would recommend it.

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*I ate it; it was good (like a softer laffy-taffy).

Review – Masterpiece Odorless Paint Thinner

When looking for something as simple as paint thinner (mineral spirits), it can be tempting to go for the cheapest option in a given item’s range. And for odorless mineral spirits at my local store, Masterpiece was the cheapest brand there. Should I have gone with the more expensive option? Let’s see.

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The container is fairly standard for a quart size bottle. The front label doesn’t have much art but gives enough information, and the back label gives enough “if you destroy property or yourself with this it isn’t our fault” warnings that you get the point. I’m not here to give safety advice but it should be said this stuff is very flammable and could do damage to you if used in a non-ventilated area.

There is a handle on the container for east carry that works fine. The only problem I have with it is the seal and handle conspire to make pouring difficult. It tends to “glug” which is something I’d be wary of.

The thinner itself works very well. When used on colored pencils (a trick I just found out about recently), it dissolves the wax and allows for easy blending. When used with paint, it does indeed thin oil-based paint quickly and is good for cleaning brushes and facilitating mixing. In regards to it being odorless it is, basically, though you will be able to tell if you’re in a room with an open container of the stuff, which is good to prevent too much inhalation.

Overall, it works, and I don’t regret going with the least-expensive option. I like it, and it’s far superior to turpentine (which is the stuff of the devil). It might not be the purest form of mineral spirits, and some are likely better. But for a beginner it certainly is effective at what it is advertised to do.

Review – Faber Castell 24 Colour Pencils

Colored pencils have been around for a long time. And now most of them are very cheap and often associated with kids or school. However, if one does want to look into the more expensive world of colored pencils there are plenty to choose from. Let’s take a look at the Faber-Castell box of 24 Colour pencils.

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The pencils come in a nice, if easily dent-able metal case. Inside the case the pencils are stored in a row on a plastic tray. The pencils themselves are thicker than most pencils and nicely circular. They will sharpen in standard pencil sharpeners but be wary of the lead. On the side is a hard-to-read but nice logo and color information section. They are not slick and have a very matte finish that holds well in the hand. The color of this finish matches the color of the lead fairly well if not exactly.

The lead itself is hard and brittle. The colors are not nearly as vibrant as those of Crayola or other such colored pencils, giving them a much more realistic tone. The full range of colors is wonderful, with some very subtly different colors and some nice earth tones. The lead comes off well on paper and is quite opaque as most colored pencils are; they do not want to bleed or mix which is another reason why the full compliment of colors is nice. When drawing, it is best to watch how hard you push, as too hard can easily break the lead and not enough will lead to unsatisfactory coverage.

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These colors are a huge upgrade from the standard “map colors” and such. Though they may be a bit pricy, they are great drawing implements. They seem to carry a certain prestige that transfers onto the paper (or other mediums). If you are will to spend the money I would certainly recommend these pencils. They are quite superb

Review – 12 pack of Crayola Colored Pencils

Colored pencils, or map colors as they forced you to call them if you went to school in Texas. While they don’t give the most professional look they are still a widely used and a good tool. The variety I will be talking about is the simple 12 pack of Crayola colored pencils.

Most people know them, but for those who don’t, they come in a simple assortment of colors. The bodies are slick but grip-able as with most art utensils. The wood is splintery but easy to sharpen. And the “lead” is suitable, if a bit brittle and break prone.

The color of the pencils itself is nothing special. It is the standard bright and varied set of colors that comes in every school supply-esque box of colors. The mark is about that of a number two pencil and requires a good amount of force to be applied heavily. It leaves a waxy finish on the surface, preventing blending. Using them to color big blocks of the same color as is done in school is probably the best use for them. They have no where near the range of more expensive “art” colored pencils, and none of the blending or covering capabilities. That being said they are good for practicing and less “formal” images, working well in mixed media because of the waxy finish.

Overall, if you are looking for a good art colored pencil this is most likely not for you, and you probably didn’t even consider these. But they are still a useful tool for seeing what things will look like (drafting) or practicing technique. If you already have a set of art colored pencils you could also use these instead so you don’t use up your ludicrously priced coloring utensils.