Donna Terry explores mixed media using pastel and coloured pencils as she reviews sets of Caran d'Ache pastel pencils and Polychromos coloured pencils from Faber-Castell.

Polychromos Coloured pencils

I was sent a set of 12 Polychromos pencils, containing the following colours:

White 101, Cadmium Yellow 107, Dark Cadmium Orange 115, Deep Scarlet Red 219, Magenta 133, Light Ultramarine 140, Phthalo Blue 110, Emerald Green 163, Light Green 171, Burnt Ochre 187, Walnut Brown 177, Black 199.

Price: £25.99 for a set of 12.

Larger sets are also available and the pencils can be purchased individually.

Where to buy: Art Supplies with Painters Online


Polychromos colour swatch

Polychromos pencils come in a full range of 120 colours so there is plenty of choice for professional and amateur artists.

Set sizes start from 12 and increase up to a full set of 120 as well as being available to purchase as individual pencils.

Faber-Castell are a respected brand who have been producing quality pencils since 1908.

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Key Features:

  • Pencils are packaged well and come in a metal tin or a wooden box depending on the set.
  • The tin was easy to open and can be stored conveniently.
  • Out of all 120 colours 102 of them have the maximum lightfastness of 100+ years.
  • Colours blend well and can be layered.
  • Water resistant and smudge proof.
  • A 3.8mm oil-based core with round barrel.
  • The pencils sharpen well with a decent quality sharpener (I use a Faber Castell one but any excellent quality one will do).

My findings

Polychromos are the premium option for coloured pencil artists with their versatility, superb colour choice and ease of use. They are a premium brand in terms of coloured pencils but they are worth the investment.

Caran d'Ache Pastel Pencils

The set of 12 Caran d’Ache pastel pencils I was sent for review contained the following colours:

Flesh 788-042, Burnt sienna 788-069, Dark sepia 788-408, Black 788-009, Dark phthalocyanine green 788-719, Light olive 40% 788-245, Light blue 788-161, Light ultramarine violet 788-631, Scarlet 788-070, Fast orange 788-300, Golden bismuth yellow 788-820, Chinese white 788-901.

Price: £44.99 for a set of 12.

Larger sets are also available and the pastel pencils can be purchased individually.

Where to buy: Art Supplies with Painters Online


Caran d'Ache pastel pencil colour swatch

Key features:

  • The pencils are packaged very well in a durable cardboard box with foam inserts for protection.
  • Of the full range of 84 pencils 80 of them are 3 stars and above for lightfastness rating which is excellent.
  • The pencils are excellent for adding detail over soft pastels and blend very well.
  • They sharpen well. I would recommend using a manual pastel pencil sharpener or craft knife rather than an electric sharpener.
  • Water soluble.
  • Thicker core for broader colour lay down.

My findings

The 8mm thickness of the hexagonal pencils are comfortable to hold and comparable with other pencils but one very noticeable thing is the core which is 4.7mm thick. This enables a good lay-down of colour.

Details can still be achieved with a very sharp point.

Caran d’Ache pastel pencils have extremely bright pigments and are particularly good on dark papers as the colours really ‘pop.’

As a premium brand they live up to their reputation and can help an artist to push to the next level.

Working with Polychromos and Caran d'Ache Pastel Pencils

For this review I have produced a piece of work using mixed media, utilising both Polychromos and the Caran d’Ache pastel pencils.

The subject matter has leant itself perfectly to the two mediums as I have achieved the precision, softness and depth of colour that is needed for the eye and fur.

I decided to do a small portrait of my cat, Ivy using a reference photo (see below) taken myself.

Reference photo

Demonstration: Ivy

Stage one

After sketching a basic outline, I started with the Polychromos coloured pencils with very light pressure using the white, yellow, burnt ochre and dark cadmium yellow.

I built up the layers of colour slowly until the desired effect was achieved.

Stage two

Once I was happy, I then went on to the outer area of the eye using the Caran d'Ache pastel pencils. I used the dark sepia and black to get a crisp outline to the eye and then used pan pastels to underpaint larger areas of colour.

Stage three

As you can see the pastel pencils lay down beautifully over the pan pastels.

I love the Caran d’Ache pencils as the colours are very vibrant and when used over soft pastels they give a lovely depth to the piece. They are reasonably soft so regular sharpening is necessary to maintain a good point for getting details, but I think they are worth the effort.

The finished drawing

Ivy, mixed media


The Polychromos coloured pencils are a definite staple in any coloured pencil artist's studio, they have good colour lay down and blend well. They are a premium brand, but they can be purchased in smaller sets or as individual pencils making them accessible for amateur artists and professionals alike.

As I hope I've shown, the Caran d’Ache pencils perform well with vibrant colour lay down and versatility. There is an extensive range of colours to choose from in sets of 12 up to the full range of 84 and the option to buy individual pencils.

They are premium pastel pencil and as such come with a price tag to match but I wouldn’t be without them in my studio. They have given a quality to my work that I haven't managed to get from other pencils.

Why don’t you try them for yourself?

About Donna Terry

I am a self-taught wildlife and pet portrait artist. My work is highly detailed, I use coloured pencils and pastels. I have been an artist for over 30 years during which time I have developed my skills using the highest quality materials.

Donna has had work exhibited in our TALP Open Art Exhibitions and you can see more of her work in the gallery by


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