Helen Martell tests out a set of 12 Caran d’Ache Supracolor Soft Aquarelle pencils.

First impressions

I was sent the Caran d’Ache Supracolor Soft Aquarelle, set of 12, to road test and was impressed by the smart packaging and somewhat amused by the box opening left to right, rather than right to left like a book (see image above).

There was a set of stickers inside which I assumed I was to stick the relevant pencil type sticker to the box, as the cardboard sleeve I was now encouraged to cut open.

Inside the cardboard sleeve was a colour chart template, ready for you to fill in with your colours if you wished to - so I did.

The packaging is of a high quality. There is no danger of the pencil tin opening by itself as it closes tightly.

This was a set of 12 pencils - nine colours plus white, grey and black. The information on the packaging tells me they do 120 pencil colours in this range (bright and opaque) which is impressive!

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Top features:

  • Good for beginners
  • Easy to sharpen
  • Perfect for a wide range of mark making
  • Bright, clean colours
  • Can be used both wet and dry
  • 120 colours available
  • Suitable for a wide range of grounds

Price: £28.89 for a set of 12. Larger sets are also available and colours can be purchased individually.

Where to buy: Art Supplies with Painters Online


Using Supracolor Soft Aquarelle

Having never painted in watercolour, I had no idea how these pencils would behave, so I began with a few colour swatches, to find out how they reacted with water, creating both dense and lightly shaded blocks.

I used Winsor & Newton mixed media paper and found the colours to be much brighter with water added.

Once my swatches were bone dry, I tested to find out if an eraser would be effective. I found that the eraser worked better on some colours than it did others, and I thought this could be a useful effect in some paintings.

Testing the pencils

Being primarily an acrylic painter, I found that I had to rethink the painting process.

After an unsuccessful initial attempt at painting the cup of tea in front of me (see above), I decided to try a portrait.

I found a photo I had taken of my husband, on holiday, with strong light and dark shapes, and began...

Initial sketch

I first sketched out the picture in pencil.

Building up the shapes and colours

Then I began to darken the background and block in some of the shapes and shadows. 

Adding the details

I used the pencils with water, and then dry, without water, to put in details in the face (beard etc) and shape his hat.

As the pencils are quite soft, I found it difficult to draw fine details with the dry pencil. I was hoping to highlight some areas with the white pencil, but this was not effective at all.

The finished portrait

Overall I was really pleased with how the portrait turned out.

Having got used to using the pencils I did another portrait, this time of my grand daughter (see above).

By now I was more aware of leaving white spaces where I wanted them and I found the white pencil slightly more successful too. I used it to pick out some wispy hairs in the light.


The set contains all the primary colours, plus a few additional colours, plus white, grey and black. So, with practice, you can achieve all the range of colours that you would need.

As a watercolour novice, I found it easy to create a pleasing painting using this medium.

About Helen Martell

Helen is a gardener from Lincolnshire, who also paints. Her primary medium is acrylics, which she has been painting with for about 13 years. Helen has won awards in our annual TALP Open art competitions and has written an article on acrylic mediums which can be read by


See more from Helen in the gallery by


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