Review: Colleen Pencils.

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.

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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.

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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.

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The colours are amongst the most vibrant I have used from any set.

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.

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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.

 

30 Comments

  1. Melvina Grose

    How ironic that you did a review on these pencils. I just bought a single set of 60 through Amazon, and they just came into the mail earlier this week. I have not tried these pencils as of yet but it is on my to do list. If you are interested, I can send you a picture with my very own review on how I liked them. I am excited to see how I like these pencils. My dad gave me a set of 12 back from when he was in high school. I was interested if they still made those pencils since my dad is like 60 now. I was lucky to find that they do. I hope that once you finish your picture in Anamorphia, that we get to see the product with use of these pencils. I have seen reviews on Johanna Basfords YouTube channel of people having used these pencils, and I was very captivated with the vibrant color. I had to try it out myself. I am looking forward to more updates on your very stunning work Peta. I just love everything you do.

    From a very aspiring colourist
    Melvina Grose
    From Minnesota/U.S.of A

    Reply
    1. Chaypeta (Post author)

      Hi Melvina! I would love to hear your thoughts on the performance of these pencils and see what you come up with using them. Apart from the soft core issues I think they’re great.

      Reply
  2. AnnW

    Hi Peta,

    I have been deliberating about these pencils for a long time & even ordered them once only yo cancel before they arrived. I saw where someone had used them to color the fish in Lost Ocean & they looked very nice. I am so glad to see your review because I have een thinking again about ordering. The thing that has been holding me back is that they come in 787 & 785 and I can’t find out the difference, do you know what it is?

    As usual your work is inspiring!

    Reply
    1. Beverly

      Just checked Amazon. The 787 box includes the neon pencils.

      Reply
      1. AnnW

        I think I have just discovered the difference the 785 are round and the 787 are hexagonal.

        Reply
      2. AnnW

        Please show us what this pencil sharpener looks like.

        Reply
      3. AnnW

        So it does, mine just arrived today & includes the neon.

        Reply
    2. Nido

      Well….there is a huge difference between the round barrel and the hexagon barrel, not really which which code is which. Either way all are waxed based pencils.

      But the round barrel is made dated back to the time Colleens are listed as Japan Lead in on their boxes.
      And the Hexagon barrel specially their 72 colours range (less then 2 yrs i believe) is their latest release after Colleens change it to Japan Technique on their coloured pencil boxes.

      And neon colours is their latest addition after changing to Japan Technique and due to there wasnt any neon colours during the Japan Lead era of Colleen, so there is a huge quality difference between the neons and normal colours even their they are found in the same box.

      If you manage to find those vintage full length colleens pencils that comes in a metal box, those are made in Japan and also the best among all the Colleen range. And everytime colleen change their label their labeling there is always a slight quality drop in their products.

      And Colleen is a brand that some Asians used since their childhood, when they dont have high tech sharpeners, and yet there isnt much about lead breakage due to sharpening. As to that i have used about 7 boxes of 60 colours during my school days, and lead breakage only happens when the pencils keep getting dropped on the floor. And what we use are just blade sharpeners that only cost us 20 cents each and each of this lasted us for like 1 or 2 yrs.

      So i guess the core breakage is due to handling during shipping. Since even now i dont find them to have such an issues with store brought sets. So i think might be a good idea to left them under the hot sun for awhile just before sharpening them.

      Reply
  3. ChHolm

    I bought a set of 60 with code 775, full size hexagon. The set came with 10 neon colors,I have not use the neon ones though. This set I don’t have gold, silver, and all grey..hm..they took out 10 normal colors to 10 neon then.

    I found the same breakage problem. Could be from bad delivery or the quality of product itself. Anyway, I think they are cheaper than Marco Raffine and I prefer Colleen for the coloring book. I found I couldn’t make so many layers or have a good blend but after I see your coloring I might have to blame myself 😉

    Reply
  4. Samantha G.

    I bought a set of the 60 double ended pencils after reading your review. I got them from Amazon for $17.59 with free shipping. I got them today and sharpened them using my electric sharpener. I did not have any core breakage problems (at least not yet, anyway) and tried them out on a page in Escape To Wonderland and really love them. I believe you are not alone in terms of the breakage, as I read many of the Amazon reviews and some people mentioned this problem. I may have just been lucky, or mine were shipped from another batch that did not have this problem. I own a set of 48 Prismacolors, but I think the Prismas are more…waxy? Lipstick-like? Creamier, maybe, but I also have not had any sharpening issues with them either, so maybe it is the way I sharpen?? Anyway, thanks so much for the great review. I LOVE these pencils.

    Reply
  5. Chaypeta (Post author)

    It could well be the sharpener. My hubby just bought me a hand sharpener with a grinder instead of a blade, the Staedtler Mars one (the more expensive model). Suddenly almost all my Prismas sharpen effortlessly and so do these colleens. These pencils must be particularly sensitive to torquing which doesn’t happen with a grinder style sharpener.

    Reply
    1. AnnW

      Please show us what this pencil sharpener looks like.

      Reply
      1. Chaypeta (Post author)

        I have a Youtube video reviewing this sharpener which will go up next week. 🙂

        Reply
  6. AnnW

    Well today I sharpened my Colleen Pencils, it took me 1 hours & 15 minutes and I almost got a blister on my hand so I had to switch hands. Six of them broke while sharpening, I used a KUM long point sharpener that has two holes one is to first take the wood off & the other is to sharpen the lead. I am very frustrated because the name of the colors is not printed on the pencils nor on the box. There are six neon colors in the box, two pink, two green, one yellow & one orange. I have made a color chart and they do seem to lay down easily and smoothly. I have yet to color in a book with them though.

    Reply
    1. Chaypeta (Post author)

      Which product number is on the box? Mine is No. 785 (the round barrelled double ended pack of 30 pencils/60 colours no neons.) All my pencils have the colour names stamped onto them. I agree with the sharpening issues. it sounds like these pencils have delicate cores. My issues have been almost entirely resolved by using a hand cranked grinder sharpener which does not seem to twist the cores as much as a bladed sharpener.

      Reply
      1. AnnW

        My Colleen box has No. 787 & they are hexagonal shaped. There are 6 neon colors in the box but only have numbers printed on the pencils. I wish I had known that before I bought them but I made a color chart & found someone online who had made up a chart with the color names corresponding. With most of the colors. I may get a set of the 785s later. Right now I am saving up for a tin of 36 Derwent Inktense pencils so I can try your method in The Magical Cities book.

        I am looking forward to seeing your pencil sharpener!

        Ann

        Reply
  7. Brenna

    Interesting! I live in Thailand and had passed these up in favor of another Thai brand (MasterArt), but I do love bright colors, and they’re quite cheap here, so maybe I’ll try them out…

    Reply
    1. Shani

      I have the 787 Hexagonal pencils. They are by far my favourite pencils ( I only have budget pencils, Crayola, Raffine and Faber Castells). I haven’t had any issues with breakages using just a cheap hand held pencil sharpener and find they are the only pencils that don’t cause my hands to ache after colouring for a while. I think this is because they lay down so densely with hardly any pressure. I loved them so much I have ordered the full size versions so I can keep the double ended ones for traveling.

      Reply
  8. Pat

    I bought these based on your review and I love them. They have become my go to pencils. Thank you for reviewing them. Have not had any issues on breaking and they sharpen to a nice point.

    Reply
  9. Trent Morgan

    I am currently involved in an art challenge – doing a drawing each day for 30 days following a different given subject each day (as set by the art studio running it). I started with some water colour pencils (Derwent Inktense) but they are not accurate enough for fine detail for me, plus there are only 12 colours so I have been raiding my set of 36 Colleen pencils which I was given as a child in about 1976. After all that time (and I am not an artist) I still have 25 out of those 36 left. I went online to research about them because I like them very much. That’s how I found this review. I just spent most of yesterday colouring in a bright floral composition and I agree, the purples and greens are fantastic and the colours all round are very vibrant and the feel of using them is also really good. I still have 4 purples left and 5 greens. I have had no trouble with core breakages when using them 40 years after I first got them. These ones were from Japan. I don’t use a sharpener to sharpen them, rather a Stanley knife, which seems to work effectively. I have no black left so I have been using my daughter’s Faber Castell ‘Tri Colour’ and although it feels ok, it does not seem to be of the same quality as the Colleen in terms of feel (creaminess) and vibrancy (yet it seems like a good working pencil).
    So, whether the Colleen factory in Thailand is making the pencils to the same specifications as the earlier ones I’m not sure but it’s great to know that they are still being made, and with the same colour choices. I may get some new ones in the near future! Thanks for the chance to share my enthusiasm for the pencils I have had since I was 5.

    Reply
  10. Nido

    I believed all your breakage issues is due to shipping. I dont have such issue from my box that i brought from my local bookstore in Singapore. And they sold at about half the price of what was sold online. But they arent as good as back in those days when they uses Japan made leads or better, fully made in Japan for some of the tin box models.

    One huge difference between those that is made in Japan and Japan made lead compare to those fully made in Thailand is actually the wood to made the pencil itself, the new wood it very rough as compare to the old version. And the old version have a even creamier layering and the pigments were finer compare to the new one.

    Reply
  11. Stephanie

    i found this review comparing 785 & 787 …but i cant find any information regarding 775, anyone here have any idea?

    http://www.flawsperfect.com/flawsperfect/colleen-pencil/

    Reply
    1. Light

      I have a set of 60 coloured pencils of 775. It has hexagonal shaped and includes 10 neon.

      Reply
  12. She France

    does it have a low quality wood grade and color brilliancy? What kind of colored pencil is Colleen Brand, is it made of wax or oil based pigments? Please make also a review of Stabillo Colored Pencils and Staedler Colored Pencils if which is best among the 3 cheaper brands…Thank you 😀

    Reply
    1. Chaypeta (Post author)

      The colours are quite bright. the wood is not the best but does the job. I don’t have Stabilo coloured pencils but I will be reviewing Staedtler pencils in an up and coming video.

      Reply
  13. JoanKSX

    I like the rich pigment of Staedtler give, and soft cores, but the cores are always broken once they are drop on the floor… because the cores are quite soft therefore it’s kinda hard to colour when the lead sharpen to the sharpest point.

    I like the Stabilo because the core aren’t that easily broken but it’s kinda hard to make layers, sometimes like only 1 layer over 1 layer and that’s it. The density of the colour also is not as deep and rich as Staedtler’s for dark purple, dark red, indigo, dark blue but some colour like Cyan Blue (I suppose? It’s sort of bluish green) looks pretty nice =) And the best part is, if you weren’t colour too hard on the paper, it’s always easily been erased off using soft dust-free grade eraser, whereas Staedtler even though just a very light mistaken stroke, there will still having some trace over there and a cover up is must for the Staedtler’s error

    Reply
    1. JoanKSX

      But now I’m still in consideration of whether to take Colleen or Staedtler again as drawing in my study course is a must especially have to draw the pesky abnormal cells, parasites, tissues under microscopic view and so forth =S And Stabilo can’t satistisfied me as it can’t really give the deep dark pigment colour that I want T.T The ability to blend colour well will be the priority

      I’ll be using the dark purple, dark purplish blue, variety of pink, grey, bluish green, yellowish orange, maroon red, purplish red, reddish dark brown, bronze brown a lot

      Any suggestions? Preferable budget-type but yet nice quality of colour. If can, I would like to buy from Malaysia. Many thanks

      Reply
      1. Tammy

        Joan,
        If you have problems with core breakage, place your pencils in a sunny window, or outside, or even in the car on a warm day for a few hours, and then let the pencils cool down before using them again. The sun will warm the “lead” and melt it a bit, allowing any breakages to heal. I do this with my wax pencils all of the time, and I find it works really well. (Some people say put the pencils in the oven or the microwave, but this can cause a fire. The sun gets warm enough to melt the wax inside the pencil and fix any breakages. My friend and I ordered prismacolor pencils together from Amazon and both sets were shipped in the same box. I left mine in my car (in the tin) on a warm day before I used them, but my friend just used her pencils. She had a lot of broken cores, but my pencils were fine. I told her to let the sun warm her pencils, too, and she has not had any more problems.) even if you drop your pencil, let it warm in the sun before using it again. This should fix the core. I don’t worry about which brand to buy anymore, or if a brand might have “fragile” cores. I just buy the brand I like best. I hope that helps and works for you, too!

        Reply
      2. Nido

        I guess you can consider getting Macro Raffine, they arent really that budget, but more of a mid range pencils. not sure if you can find have in Malaysia physical shops, but should be pretty easy to get them online shops such as Lazada. Since they are oil based their lead is pretty hardy. but if you drop them too hard, the under the sun method wouldnt mane it back.

        Reply
  14. Rikki

    The 775 are full size pencils(neon)hexagon sold in different size sets. I have the 36 set.
    787, neon double ended hexagon and 785 round barrel. All the colours are slightly different. I have been really lucky to have these courtesy of a friends trip to Bangkok. Purchased in Office Mate there, much cheaper than on line.
    They work really well on books with poor quality paper and great for traveling.
    I’ve been having a lot of fun experimenting with these in Animorphia and Escape to Wonderland. Would have never known about these without the review.
    Thanks Peta.

    Reply

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