I thought is was high time I did another art product review. This time I want to tell you about a set of pencils I recently received in the mail. These are a budget brand of pencils of a brand that I haven’t seen sold in Australia but, I believe, are very popular in Asia, Europe and Africa. They go by the name Colleen. They were until recently manufactured in Japan but now production has moved to Thailand and the factory sits somewhere outside Bangkok. These pencils interested me as they come not only as single colour pencils but also as double ended pencils with a different colour on either end. I though that would be a handy feature for travelling with pencils when you would want to maximise your colour choices but minimise the bulk of what you had to carry.
I received the 60 colour double ended set… a total of 30 pencils in the cardboard slip case. The first thing I discovered is that the pencils do not come pre-sharpened. This meant sitting down for a good hour with my sharpest sharpener to prepare the pencils for testing. And this is where the first (and only) disappointment came to light. These pencils are very fragile… Prismacolor fragile! So fragile that even careful sharpening still resulted in core breakage with several of the colours. As you can see in the picture the poor ‘carmine’ colour is only half as long as the others as it kept breaking. Yet it’s conjoined twin the ‘magenta’ colour had no issues.
Next I made a colour chart. Although several of the colours were almost identical to another in the box I am not unhappy with the colour range. There is a huge range of greens and some nice purples… I particularly like the lavender and wisteria violet. The blues are all a bit bright with many very similar colours. The gold is a bit odd, more of a bronze colour than a gold. Over all the selection is very bright and not what I would use if I was after a more realistic look for my pictures. But if I want lovely colourful pages then these will fit the bill perfectly.
I decided to test the pencils with a quick and easy picture from Millie Marotta’s ‘Animal Kingdom’. I was pleased with the very soft, creamy feel to all the colours I used. They went down densely very easily in a manner that reminded me a bit of Prismacolors without the pastel feel. The pencils managed to keep a sharp point for a fair amount of time before needing to be freshened up with a sharpener. Unfortunately the soft, fragile cores became all too apparent. When colouring with a sharp tip putting a little bit too much pressure on a few of the pencils would result in that heart sinking ‘click’ sound that tells you that you’ve just snapped the core. This happened with several colours: light pink, light blue and prussian blue. So sad as otherwise I think these pencils are marvelous for the price. I do not know whether the breakage issue is endemic with this product. I hope I just received a bad batch. Having said that, I think the pluses of these pencils… the low cost, beautiful, vibrant colours, smooth buttery lay down and good blending qualities, out way the breakage issues and I will consider replacing these pencils with their full sized versions when I start to run out.
I have started a second picture using Colleens, this time one from Animorphia to give them a really thorough work out. The bright, bright colours a great match for Kerby’s work.
If these pencils interest you you have a choice between 24, 36, 48 and 60 colour sets. The sets come as double ended and single colour pencils. There is also a 60 colour range with 6 neon colours if you like to use neons. I can buy them through Ebay for about $18-$22 Australian with free shipping for the set I have. The single colour 60 sets are around $26 to $34 again with free shipping. Unfortunately they do not come open stock so you will be stuck with purchasing a new set if your favourite colours run out. Alternately you could replace those colours with Lyra Rembrant pencils which has a similar feel to them and ARE available as open stock.
Overall I like these pencils. They are convenient for travel and lay down great colour. If you have a set let me know your thought on them in the comments below.