Posts Tagged 'Caran D’Ache'

Compared: Water-Soluble Mediums

Gentian at Drawing With A Squirrel recently posted a delicious review of Faber-Castell Aquarelle sticks, and it reminded me that once upon a time, I had put together a comparison/review of water-soluble mediums lately that I never got around to posting.

I don’t know what it is about water-soluble mediums that I like so much. There’s something satisfying about the visual transformation from dry to wet, and the unpredictability of applying these mediums wet just turns me on, in an artsy sort of way. From watercolor pencils to water-soluble pastels, these tools are extremely versatile– a handy quality for any artist.

I decided that a good basis for this comparison would be, ahem, “regular” watercolors. My very first recommendation for anyone wanting to work with water-soluble art supplies is to play around with watercolors first. They’re of a much higher quality, and they offer a subtlety and spontaneity that pencils and crayons simply can’t provide. Water-soluble pencils and crayons should not be treated as an “easier” option for those who have difficulty with watercolors– they should be an extension of the skill and instinct that only gets built by using watercolors.

Schmincke Horadam Aquarelle

I use Schmincke Horadam Aquarelles. They’re extremely pigmented, have a thick, consistent texture, and a superb range of colors. I only use the pans, so I can’t say how the tube paints differ (though Handprint Review found them to be syrupy and sometimes separated). I’m hoping to try Daniel Smith watercolors, which have been excellently reviewed.

When it comes to the subtleties of blending, you can’t beat traditional watercolors. Other types of water-soluble drawing supplies leave marks on the paper even when wetted and blended– this won’t happen with watercolors. Traditional watercolor painting is also much more organic, and can range from the most delicate application to the most intensely rich styles. With a rigger or liner brush (a long, thin, flexible brush), you can achieve the same precision in line work as with pencils

The downside is that they don’t have the portability of pencils or crayons– although, with 24-pan travel palette, I’ve never had a problem taking them with me. The other thing to remember is that they require practice (doesn’t everything?). If you’re not very patient, this may be a downside for you as well. Varying the amount of water can lead to a smoother or a rougher application,  but because they don’t apply dry, traditional watercolors are not the best for mixed-media, collage techniques.

Watercolors have excellent transparency, so they can be beautiful layered in delicate glazes. However, they’re not permanent– they can be “re-worked” with a wet brush after they’ve dried. Also, you can’t use lighter watercolors to “cover up” darker layers underneath. So, consider layering and opacity when you choose to use traditional watercolors.

I won’t expand too much on watercolor technique– maybe in another post. But for the purposes of this comparison, watercolors rock. And none of these other products have as rich a tradition as watercolors, as Wikipedia’s article will attest.

Caran D’Ache NeoArt Watersoluble Wax Pastels

These fat, chunky pastels are the lesser-known older sibling to Caran D’Ache Neocolor II pastels (reviewed below). The big difference is that these pastels are wax-based, not oil-based like the Neocolor II’s. This means that they “spread” much more smoothly than the Neocolor II’s.

Mixed Media Artist Kelly Kilmer uses them a lot in her work– so needless to say, they’re good for mixed media work. They can be “smooshed” (Kilmer’s phrase) into the page as a foundation for working on top of, and I’ve seen artists scratch into a layer of them with a knife to create a textured/aged look. They dissolve easily, and can be blended out into more transparent layers. However, they’re definitely semi-opaque enough to layer on top of each other

Applied to a wet page

Applied to a wet page, they become much softer, but still opaque. The NeoArt pastels will last forever, and are definitely worth the initial cost (about $3 a pastel). The downside to such a chunky pastel is that they’re not great for detail work– but excellent for large work. One other thing to note: these pastels are not available in a wide color range– only 60 colors, maybe half of which are widely available on US websites.

Faber Castell Aquarelle Sticks

Unfortunately, these are discontinued, so I won’t spend too long reviewing them. (However, they’re still available on Cheap Joe’s Clearance section, so I thought they would be worth including). As a pastel, they’re most comparable to the NeoArt pastels– very chunky and bright, though it seems like the Aquarelles are slightly less pigmented than the NeoArt pastels (though this depends on the color– I found the lighter colors to be much less pigmented than darker ones).

I can’t for the life of me find out whether these are oil-based or wax-based. I’m going to guess wax, based on their similarity in performance to the NeoArt pastels. Still, they apply more like crayons than pastels– i.e. their consistency is waxier than the NeoArt. I think they’re more useful wet than dry– they dissolve easily, and are more transparent than NeoArt Pastels. They can be layered and blended quite easily.

Applied to wet paper

Applied wet, they don’t transform quite as much as NeoArt pastels. However, they do become brighter and smoother. Albert at Lung Sketching Scrolls has done extensive reviews on these pastels, so I’ll leave the demonstrations to him.

Caran D’Ache Neocolor II Artists Crayons

The product name describes them well– they look like crayons, feel like crayons, but are softer, extremely pigmented, and versatile in application. The fact that they’re oil-based makes them harder to writer over than the wax-based NeoArt pastels, so keep that in mind if you like to art journal. They’re available in a super-impressive 128-color range, including metallics. Unlike some of the other products reviewed here, the Neocolor II’s don’t become brighter with water; they’re equally pigmented whether wet or dry. And just to emphasize, the Neocolor II’s are extremely pigmented.

For some reason, I find that I use a wet brush on the crayon more often than applying them directly to the page. They apply a little like gouache– thick and opaque. Much of the time, the pieces that I create with Neocolor II’s end up looking like oil-paintings– they’re great, creamy texture, and blend beautifully. I would recommend blending rather than layering them, due to their opacity.

Applied to a wet page

Applied to a wet page, the Neocolor II’s become incredibly soft–perhaps as much as the NeoArt wax pastels. It seems like this product is one of the most popular with artists– I’ve seen some incredible techniques with these things, from melting them on quilts to scraping and engraving with them.

Water-Soluble Colored Pencils – Albrecht Durer and Supracolor

Watercolor pencils have the most similar application to traditional watercolors– very transparent and blendable. However, they often lack the pigmentation of traditional watercolors, or they fail to apply well as regular colored pencils. I’ve found two brands of watercolor pencils with great pigmentation and excellent application wet or dry: the Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer and Caran D’Ache Supracolor Soft Aquarelle pencils. I think I prefer the Caran D’ache only slightly; both are very smooth and pigmented. Unfortunately, the Supracolors have only an 80-color range, compared to Albrecht Durer’s 120-color range.

The great thing about watercolor pencils is that they can be used for much more detailed work than pastels. You might even be able to aim for (gasp!) realism. The most common technique is to lightly color a drawing, then brush over it with water. More densely colored penciling will create more pigmented washes. But however you use them, keep in mind that their transparency is comparable to traditional watercolors– so you can’t “hide” a layer by coloring over it. This will just create a wash.

Applied to a wet page. (Note the precision!)

I don’t really understand the technique of picking up color from the tip of the pencil with a brush– you might as well use regular watercolors. I suppose it would do in a pinch, if watercolors aren’t available, though. One useful thing about watercolor pencils is that, after drawing, wetting the drawing, and waiting for it to dry, you can go back and add even more subtlety with the dry pencil, using it like a regular colored pencil.

Caran D’Ache Museum Leads

Has it become apparent that I love Caran D’Ache products yet? They’re smoothest, most pigmented, generally lightfast, and…well, you get the picture. However, this means that they’re going to be more available online and in art supply stores, not in the “art supply” aisle of regular stores. Anyways.

I haven’t heard much about Museum Leads in the artist’s blogosphere– I received these as a birthday gift from my mother. These are 3.8 mm colored leads (to be used with Caran D’Ache’s Fixpencil 44 leadholder) which become drastically more intense when wetted. They dissolve instantly with water, and won’t leave behind any of the texture that the pastels sometimes will. Sure, they’re leads. They offer the precision of a colored pencil, and they can be applied like a colored pencil… but that’s not where this product shines. Despite only a color range of 18, the intensity of these pigments plus the unique shades offered allow for endless combinations and possibilities.

This is the only water-soluble medium in this review that is permanent when dry. At first, this was irksome because I kept thinking they would lift and blend like watercolors. However, I’ve found that the permanence actually allows for a whole new range of uses. The Museum Leads are highly pigmented, but also very transparent– and because they’re permanent when dry, you can create amazing glaze techniques. Instead of blending two shades, you would apply one, let it dry, and apply the second color overtop. The result is an amazing, luminous color, like stained glass. I’ve also broken off the last half-inch of every lead, and rolled them onto a wet page with my fingers– super cool abstract results.

Applied to a wet page. (Note the precision!)

I would suggest downloading the brochure from the Caran D’Ache website. It contains some amazing images of artists working with this medium. I have yet to try putting them on a page and misting them with water… but then again, I can’t afford to replace them every time I break them apart. However, taking a small section and dissolving it in water creates a permanent wash that can be applied traditionally with a brush. I’m still experimenting with these, and I promise future posts with demonstrations!


Phew. This review kind of burnt me out on art supplies… I may have to return to politics and farming for a few posts after this.

The big summary is: If you desire precision, go for Museum Leads or Watercolor Pencils. For subtlety, use traditional watercolor, or watercolor pencils. All of the pastels, both wax- and oil-based, are excellent for art journaling and collage techniques. Their opacity definitely creates a different style, though, so if you’re looking for transparency in glazing and washing, I recommend watercolor pencils, museum leads, or traditional watercolors.

Now gather ye spray bottle, brushes and paper, and be off! Experiment!


Everything is Better with a Waterbrush!

My Aunt-the-Artist gave me a few art supplies for christmas: a small sketchbook, a set of pencils, and a tin of Stabilo Pen 68’s. I have to admit I was a little disappointed– the Pen 68’s are really just fibre tip markers, and I definitely don’t work very often with markers. Stephanie at Spiritual Evolution of the Bean also gave these a mediocre review.

You can see in the image to the left that the size of the fibre tips vary a lot from pen to pen– the brown and red are a lot fatter and softer than the black and navy blue, for example. Frankly, I felt like I was just using cheap elementary school markers– they didn’t feel like something to be bought at an art supply store.

…BUT! A few weeks later, my aunt mentioned that she heard they worked well with a brush and some water– which makes sense, as most water-based markers are easily softened or blended with water.

I definitely wouldn’t categorize the Stabilo Pen 68 as a water-soluble medium: they’re not going to blend out very far, and the original markings with the pen tip will still be visible. However, I’ve found that they make a nice accent tool when used with a water brush. They feel less like children’s markers, and a little more grown up.

So as I played around with the Pen 68’s, my fondness for the waterbrush growing, I realized that it’s probably safe to say that many things are improved by a water brush. Caran D’ache Neocolor II’s? Check. Caran D’ache Museum leads? Check. Caran D’ache watersoluble wax pastels? Check.

…The one thing I won’t use a waterbrush for? Watercoloring. It takes discipline and time to work with good ol’ “dip and apply” brushes. And it’s totally worth it.

A Sunny Day Doodle

Becca on Lawn small

Becca on Ransom Lawn

Kenyon College

Caran D’ache Neoart Watersoluble Wax Pastels

Caran D’ache Supracolor Soft Watercolor Pencils

India Ink

Arches Aquarelle Hot Press Watercolor Block – 140lb

Paired: Neoart Pastels and Flexible Nibs

I’ve always felt that chalk pastels were a bit classier, I suppose. Maybe it’s because they feel less like crayons. They also allow a wider variation in texture and style– I’ve seen pastel paintings that look like they were done with oils, and others that utilize the a rougher “pastel-y” texture. And yes, oil pastels tend to be used more in the crafting and DIY world, particularly in textiles and art journals.

But it’s good for me. The same way that watercolors allow me to experiment with abstraction and accident, pastels are encouraging me to get a little messy.

I wanted to include some text on these pieces, and the only way I could think of doing that (besides Sharpies) was to use India ink with a dip nib. In a fortuitous coincidence, I’ve just received some beautiful nibs from a generous stranger in the mail!

I used Caran D’ache’s Neoart watersoluble pastels for the background (can you tell I only own two colors?), and then went back in with some Neocolor II’s. The Neocolor II’s are also wax pastels, but they’re oil-based, and I discovered that not only are they difficult to write over, but they dry to a waxy sheen which is much less pleasant than the Neoart pastels. I also have to give credit to The Blog Formerly Known As The Blue Cottage, for giving me the idea of scratching into the dried pastel work in order to give it more texture. These were all done in my handbound summer sketchbook, on Arches hot press watercolor paper.

The Hand

Details (click to view larger)

Hand  Detail 1Hand Detail2


Details (click to view larger)

Sunshine Detail1Sunshine Detail 2

Florida: A Pictoral


This page, from my handmade summer sketchbook, pretty much sums up my feelings about Florida tourist areas.

The heat and sand, for the record, are not a good setting to use Caran D’Ache Neocolor II wax pastels. The Neocolor II’s are very good, however, at forcing me to adopt a looser, more playful style. They’ve got such an interesting texture, as seen in the poolside sketches below:

IMG_0005IMG_0002IMG_0004 IMG_0003

I also kept a pictoral journal:


Click to see full size and read about my cartrip crush

And of course, I did some watercoloring:


Florida is nice, but I’m glad to have traveled back north so that I can be back in the South.

Caran D’Ache Neocolor II

I bought a set of Caran D’Ache Neocolor II watersoluble crayons. I bought the set of 10, but I’m wishing I had bought 10 individual colors instead. Damn that cute little tin. I’m finding that the 10-piece color selection seems a little too.. bright? They’re difficult to blend, much less look natural. I need to play with them some more. The Neocolor II’s are a strange texture.. most of my experiments have turned out looking like kindergarden drawings.


The left is a stamp that I carved, filled in with some watercolor pencils that I bought recently, and I think the green on the lower is one of the new crayons. The eggs (jelly beans?) on the right are the Neocolor II’s.

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