Two super popular coloured pencil brands, two of my personal favourites. But which pencils are BETTER?
Whether you’re a professional looking for the highest quality materials, a hobby artist just intrigued to try something new, or a beginner wanting to get your first coloured pencils… BOTH these pencils are awesome options. There are, of course, many other options – these are just two I have a lot of experience with.
So, read below for pros and cons, in-depth details about price, colour options, blending ability, quality control, and my personal top tips for using both these pencils for amazing results. This entire article is obviously purely my own opinion and I can only share what I like to do and how I work 🙂
You can watch this article in video form on my YouTube here:
Luminance VS Polychromos: PRICE
Neither of these pencils come cheap. Coloured pencils are, unfortunately, not a cheap investment if you want high quality stuff. I always recommend starting SMALL (ironic I wrote that in large caps, I know), buying individual pencils first and building your collection slowly. Unless you have lots of money to burn, I don’t want you to end with a large pencil set you hate using. Experiment and see what you like first!
If you’ve Googled these pencils, you’ll probably notice that Caran d’Ache Luminance are almost TWICE the price of Faber-Castell Polychromos. A 12 set of Polychromos on Amazon cost me around £14, whereas a 12 set of Luminance cost me £29. The sets are more expensive in art stores, whereas I’ve found the individual pencils are cheaper in art shops and online art stores (I like to get individual pencils from Jackson’s Art supplies, or Hobbycraft if I’m desperate).
Definitely something to consider if you’re on a budget. You can absolutely create amazing artwork with a limited amount of colours, you definitely do not need to buy a huge set unless you want to! I’ve created loads of drawings just with a 12 set, and I’ve never bought anything larger than a 60 set. If you’re looking to create realism, tone is way more important than colour in my opinion.
Luminance VS Polychromos: COLOURS
Both brands have lovely, vibrant selection of colours and come out really nicely. The smaller sets available are fairly similar in the range of colours they offer, and I really like the choices. The only colours not available in the 12 sets that I use all the time are rich browns and greys. It obviously depends what you’re drawing (I draw natural subjects mostly) and you can kind of get round it by blending colours together if you can only afford the 12 set.
I prefer the skin tones available in the Caran d’Ache Luminance, they just have a much better range of colours suitable for drawing realistic skin for human portraits. This isn’t to say you can’t do awesome human portraits with the Polychromos, I just prefer the skin tone choices in the Luminance personally.
To sum up, I recommend investing in smaller sets, and buying individual pencils when you know if you like them and what colours you need. If I was to buy the 120 set, I would have loads of spare reds, for example, that I would never use because I hardly ever need reds for the art I create. And I am always having to top up my blacks, whites, greys and browns as these go down a lot quicker than other colours.
A final note – the Luminance white is a lot brighter than the Polychromos I’ve found, so if you get some Polychromos pencils and are looking for a brighter white coloured pencil, maybe buy an individual White Luminance pencil and see if it makes a difference.
Luminance VS Polychromos: BLENDING
To be honest, a lot of good blending comes from the surface being used, technique and how you layer. Coloured pencils are mostly about layering.
Both pencil brands blend really nicely, and also work really nicely blended together. Caran d’Ache is definitely softer, wax-based, and almost feels creamy especially on smoother papers with a little less tooth. I personally love to use my Caran d’Ache on Strathmore Bristol Vellum paper, and I find this combination amazing for blending skin especially.
Polychromos are a bit harder, oil-based, but do blend really nice still on both smoother and rougher papers. I’ve noticed that my Polychromos don’t wear down as much on rougher papers with a lot of tooth like Clairefontaine Pastelmat, which I use for most of my animal drawings.
Both work nice with solvents, although I’d say that if you love to use solvents a lot, the Polychromos work a bit better with them. Both also work well with the burnishing technique, and here I would say that the Caran d’Ache Luminance are great for this and you can get a really smooth finish with them using the burnishing technique especially on smoother papers.
Some particular colours in both sets naturally blend better than others, it’s just one of those things unfortunately – you’ll come to learn which ones blend nicer through practise and trial and error. In general, the lighter colours blend better than the darker colours I’ve noticed.
Luminance VS Polychromos: QUALITY
Both are super high quality pencils in my opinion, and great for beginners to professionals.
Both have a high lightfastness rating, meaning they won’t fade quickly or easily. I could tell they were high-quality as soon as I started layering, and all my artwork using them have remained bright and intact without fixative.
Both sharpen easily to a fine point (as long as I use a decent pencil sharpener haha). The quality control for the Luminance and Polychromos are both good, both rarely break on me and I have only had a few issues with the Polychromos and occassional pencil breakage when sharpening – not enough to be frustrating though.
Are the Caran d’Ache worth the extra price? Yes, they are lovely. If I had more money I’d buy more, I just don’t use them as much at the moment because they’re expensive and they wear down more on the paper I use most of the time (Pastelmat). I LOVE using them on smoother papers.
My TOP TIPS:
I recommend Caran d’Ache Luminace for use on smoother papers, I just find they blend SO nicely and they can wear down quickly on rougher papers
I would also recommend the Caran d’Ache if you love to draw lots of human portraits due to the smooth blending and colour choices for skin tones (again, I’ve drawn human portraits with Polychromos and loved the results, just if I had a choice I’d prefer using the Luminace! I’ve also drawn some using 80% Polychromos and 20% Luminance)
Blend them together! They work really nicely together. If there’s a colour you can’t find in one brand, buy that colour in the other brand. You don’t need to stick to just one brand
Polychromos are a fab mid-range price and if you’re new to coloured pencils or on a tight budget and looking to get the most for your money, I would recommend starting with these. You can always slowly buy other brands and buy individual pencils to experiment with 🙂
Any questions please ask. Happy drawing!