Holbein Artists’ Coloured Pencils are high-quality coloured pencils featuring a 3.8 mm thick lead. Ideal for drawing, sketching and mixed media work, and manufactured using reliable pigments with high lightfast ratings, the range offers a great variety of colours to choose from. Here, I’ll review a selection of colours along with the Holbein Meltz Pencil Blender.
Characteristics of High-quality Coloured Pencils
I use a lot of coloured pencils in my work. For me, the characteristics of a high quality pencil have a soft and buttery feel with a vibrant and even placement of colour. Holbein uses high grade pigments which exhibit little fading or discolouration by light.
The mix of oils, waxes and premium pigments results in a very thick layer of colour that is easily applied to the page. The colours are vivid and permanent. It’s important to note that these pencils are not vegan as they contain tallow fat – which is an animal-derived ingredient.
Holbein Artists Coloured Pencils:
Copper | Sand | Apricot | Ivory | Brick | Dandelion | Cork | Chartreuse Green | Olive Green | Colbalt Green | Spectrum Blue | Navy Blue | Evergreen | Smalt Blue | Rose Grey | Luminous Red | Warm Grey 3 | Burnt Umber | Khaki | Vermillion
Colour Pay Off
There’s 150 shades in the Holbein Colour Pencil range from white and very pale shades up to two types of black. The range also includes six metallic and six luminous shades too. Most are permanent colours except for the luminous shades which is often common across many art supplies. The colour pay off seems to be very good for all the pencils.
Pencil Lead Type
The lead is soft and buttery, and the colour goes down easily on the page. I used Jackson’s Watercolour Hot Pressed 300 gsm Block to test on, as well as my favourite sketchbook – Royal Talens Art Creation Smooth Paper 140 gsm. It was good to see the way it compared across the two paper types.
Compared to other high-quality pencils I own they stand up well. The full colour coded barrel means they are easy to reach for in a pot or pencil case and is a pretty true colour to the lead in most of the shades I tested. I like the full colour barrel – it makes it easier for me to grab the one I need in a hurry or see quickly when mixed up with lots of other materials in my pencil case out on location.
I use two different pencil sharpeners on location. The Derwent Pastel & Charcoal Sharpener and the M + R Sharpener as they manage a wide variety of media. For both sharpeners, they worked well. I like a long point so the M + R Sharpener works best for this. The Derwent Pastel Sharpener works best for the pastel pencils I take with me but does a pretty decent job too, although produces a shorter lead point. In the studio I have a Jakar Electric Sharpener for speed and that works really well on the Holbein Artists’ Coloured Pencils producing a clean and crisp long point in seconds.
Layering and Blending Colour with Holbein Artists’ Coloured Pencils
The Holbein Pencils blend well with each other, and you can achieve different tones and colours by layering. The buttery lead allows them to mix quite well on the paper even without the blender. They go over other materials well, Gouache (when dry), Viarco ArtGraf Drawing Putty and watercolour brush pens as part of a mixed media approach.
Using the Meltz Pencil Blender
The Meltz Pencil Blender is a water based, therefore non flammable blending thinner. It’s quite a small bottle at 35 ml, but it seems a little goes a long way and it’s also small enough to take on location drawing. It doesn’t have a smell to it which is great because I don’t like to use anything that might be toxic in my small studio space. It does come in a plastic bottle which is a shame, although I’m sure it can be recycled.
I tested a few ways to apply it. I’m not particularly loyal to my paint brushes and treat them quite badly! I preferred a scuffed-up paintbrush for texture. For this test, I used a Jackson’s Studio Synthetic Brush Size 8 and an Akoya Synthetic Brush Size 2.
I poured a little of the Meltz Pencil Blender into a plastic paint palette and dipped my brush into the liquid and moved it over the pencil colour I’d already applied to the page just to see how it changed the consistency. As a first test, it really does seem to blend the colours well. It seems to melt the wax pencil lifting it up so it can be moved about the page or dragged into other colours. It dries quickly – which I really like, I’m impatient and rarely use paint because I don’t want to wait for it to dry! You do need to push the paint around quite firmly, it doesn’t dissolve in the same way a small patch of watercolour pencil would. When it this dry it takes on a lovely texture a little like watercolour or a very thinned down oil paint perhaps. It didn’t bleed through the page, nor buckle my paper much – even on the thinner Royal Talens Sketchbook.
It’s not a seamless blending experience, you can see the pencil marks underneath – which is fine for me as I like that. Mixing colours on the page means you get slightly different results each time – it’s not like you can measure out the pencil colour like you would with paint. The Meltz Pencil Blender does work with a fine layer of pencil shading, but works much better, and the textures are nicer when the pencil colour is laid down in a more solid way.
You can work back over the top of the Meltz blended pencil when fully dry with the Holbein pencils again, and I also managed to get Tombow Brush Pens, Soft Pastel and Caran D’Ache Neocolor II to work as well.
I do not normally use a blender in my work, so I have nothing to compare the Meltz Pencil Blender to, but I am impressed it does so well for something that is water based and not a solvent. I used it in a recent life drawing class alongside my other materials and was pleased with the result.
It seemed to work ok with most of the colours – even the copper one. Some of the lighter colours like cobalt green and apricot didn’t seem to mix as well, but they all did soften or blur to some degree.
Overall the Holbein Artists’ Coloured Pencils are wonderful to use – the price point, although in the higher range, is fair. The colour range is excellent and they meet the high demands of exceptional performance and handling. They are among the top three of my favourite coloured pencils, and ones I reach for frequently in my personal practice.
The Meltz blender is a nice addition, and although not necessary to enjoy the pencils, it made some really beautiful textures. With the blender it almost made the Holbein pencils into water soluble pencils which would be great if you already really enjoy using Holbein pencils but you’d like to get a bit more for your money. I personally enjoy mixed media, layering and texture in my work so to be able to use the pencil with the blender was surprisingly enjoyable and I will be including it in my practice from now on.