After months of research, asking numerous other artists online, and clicking them in and out of my online shopping basket, I finally took the plunge and invested in a set of 60 Faber-Castell Polychromos. I’ve had them for four months now, created many artworks and a few portrait commissions with them, so I feel I can give a bluntly honest review of what I think about these oil-based beauties.
If you’re an eager beaver and can’t be bothered to go into the details, here are my top Pros and Cons:
Good choice of colours, lots of vibrant shades
Super great for fine detailed work
Allow for the gradual build-up of many layers
Good for blending
Are fairly strong and do not break easily, so can last a long time
Don’t hurt your hands to use if you use lots of light layers
Not a huge range of skin colours
The smaller sets don’t have a great range of colours – you’ll probably need to buy individual pencils to top up
Some pencils don’t blend well
The white pencil isn’t very bright
The black pencil isn’t very dark
They are expensive
If you’re still with me, let’s go into some detail on a few points:
I love the vibrant colours in my Polychromos set, and I never have any problem finding the right shades of blue, green, yellow, orange, red, pink, grey or brown. If anything, there is TOO MUCH choice for these colours. (Personally I don’t think you need so many colours to create highly detailed and realistic drawings – so definitely don’t be pressured into buying a larger set.)
The reason I went for the 60 set is because I wanted a big range of colours, and the smaller sets just didn’t seem to have the colours I regularly use for portrait work, and not enough variety. They also don’t do a good range of skin colours unless you go for the 120 set, so I’ve had to adapt by buying individual pencils and blending colours together to get close to the shade I need.
The white pencil also isn’t very bright, and the black pencil isn’t hugely dark. When I need to draw super bright white detail, I currently use Caran D’Ache Museum Aquaelle Watercolour pencil, Caran D’Ache Luminance or a white gel pen. For a deeper black, I always create depth using red and blue shades, and I find the Caran D’Ache black pencil works better when I need to achieve super dark detail.
Layering and Blending:
Quick Note – layering does hugely depend on what kind of paper you’re using, and how much tooth (‘hills and valleys’ in the surface of the paper) the paper has. For reference, I currently use Clairefontaine Pastelmat.
These pencils are a pleasure to layer with, especially when working on a paper with a lot of tooth. They allow for multiple layers, and I don’t find it difficult to layer light on dark as long as I am using light pressure. Most shades blend really wonderfully together.
Some of these pencils just really do not blend nicely. I highly recommend the cinnamon or nougat shades (will have to buy these individually unless you purchase the 120 set) as these are lovely for helping to blend colours together. You’ll quickly find out which pencils blend better than others through practise.
One thing I LOVE about Faber-Castell Polychromos is that they very rarely break in the pencil sharpener!!! Can you tell how happy I am about this by the amount of punctuation I’m using here!!??
The last thing you want when you invest in high-quality coloured pencils is for them to constantly break whenever you go to sharpen them. You don’t want to be terrified of your sharpener and have your artwork suffer in quality as a result. For detailed work, you need a sharp pencil, so a strong pencil and a decent pencil sharpener are a must.
A pencil may eventually break or be difficult to sharpen – it happens. In my experience, this has happened once in four months, so isn’t a deal breaker for me.
These pencils are not cheap. In fact, they’re one of the most expensive coloured pencil brands to buy. And if you’re a portrait artist or do a lot of detailed work, you need to keep them sharp… which inevitably means certain pencils need replacing regularly.
I’m a professional portrait artist and I personally want to use only the best materials, which is why the cost is worth it for me. If you’d like to give these pencils a try but don’t have a big budget, I don’t think it’s necessary to invest in the larger sets straight away, as I believe you can achieve amazing results with a limited colour palette.
Overall, I love these pencils! I’d love to hear what you think or what your experience of Faber-Castell Polychromos has been, drop me an email or message me on my social media 😊