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Be inspired by Caran d’Ache sketching sets with Tim Fisher

Posted on Fri 03 Nov 2017

It is always a pleasure to receive Caran d’Ache products. The name is synonymous with quality, and both its Sketching and Light and Shade sets do not disappoint. The Sketching set comprises 14 complementary drawing items, including a range of six Grafwood pencils from 9B to 4H, a Grafstone solid graphite pencil, a 3B water-soluble pencil, charcoal pencil and two Grafcube solid graphite squares in 9B and 3B. In addition, the set provides an extra soft rubber, pencil sharpener and sandpaper for shaping the pencils.


Dungeness Huts, Caran d’Ache sketching materials on steel grey Stonehenge 250gsm paper, (12.5x30.5cm)

I like to experiment with different sketching techniques as the design and shape of a drawing instrument often influences the outcome of the finished work. After a recent visit to Dungeness, I was inspired by the shapes and profiles made by some of the old wooden houses that occupy this area of shingle (see above).

I broke a 1in. section from the end of the 3B Grafcube to allow me to work from the side as if I were using a soft pastel. I used the square edge to describe the shape of the buildings, varying the pressure applied for can always be found to add the numerous telegraph poles that dot this site. This grade of Grafcube is soft and velvety, and it allowed me to work easily to create the forms I required. I picked up the softer 9B Grafcube to create the darkest tones within the sketch. I was pleased that I could achieve such a wide range of tones with these sticks. Their shape also offers the freedom of a much looser approach.


I progressed onto the range of Grafwood pencils. Although the grades are clearly printed on the barrel, they are also innovatively colour coded from light grey for hard (4H), progressing through a range of shades to almost black for the extra soft (9B). The pencils are a little thicker than normal and the hand-held sharpener provided works cleanly on these pencils and can be used to create a good point for fine detail drawing.

To put the pencils through their paces I drew a twin portrait, Archie and Grandad (see below. I chose pearl grey Stonehenge paper and outlined the subjects with a sharp 4H Grafwood. Working initially on the faces, I was able to build up the form of the two heads quickly without the pencil biting into the paper. I kept working with progressively softer pencils H and 2B; much softer and you lose the subtlety of the flesh tones.

I moved onto the clothing by using the 4B pencil to develop Archie’s sweatshirt. I then developed Grandad’s shirt and achieved a darker tone by working over with a 6B. Finally, I added the darks with the 9B. Working the pencils from hard to soft reduces the smudging that can spoil a finished sketch.

To finish, I took the Chinese white pastel pencil from the Light and Shade set and added a highlight to the profile of the two figures after forming a sharp point with the sandpaper.

Grandad and Archie, Caran d’Ache sketching materials on pearl grey Stonehenge 250gsm paper, (35.5x25.5cm)


Port Isaac, Caran d’Ache sketching materials on cartridge, (23x20cm)

There is also a water-soluble 3B Technalo pencil provided. This is one of the most versatile drawing instruments within the set, as the graphite will dissolve readily with water for numerous effects and techniques.

I drew the buildings and cliff tops (see above) with the 3B Technalo, adding fine parallel lines to represent shading. Taking a brush pen, I wetted these areas to create shadow; I was pleased to see that most of the drawn marks disappeared into the wash. For creating more tones over a larger area I scribbled pencil onto scrap paper, diluted and transferred it into the sketch. When stronger washes were required, I used a brush to pick up the graphite directly from the tip of the pencil. The surrounding cliffs and hills were darkened with washes of graphite.

To create something with more mood and atmosphere I chose the Grafstone 6B solid graphite pencil. The advantage of this drawing tool is that more work can be done from the side as well as the tip, helping to create soft atmospheric effects (see below). I was more interested in the tonal shapes of the buildings and church rather that hard outlined edges and proceeded to form the shapes of the buildings with the side of the pencil. The atmospheric distant tree line was also created using the same technique.

I wanted darker tones in the foreground and changed to using the tip of the pencil. I then used the soft rubber to sharpen up the faces of the buildings catching the light.

Norfolk Hamlet, Caran d’Ache sketching materials on cartridge, (12.5x30.5cm)

Light and shade

The Street, Dilham, Caran d’Ache sketching materials on Fisher 400, (23x25.5cm)

The Light and Shade set contains six pastel pencils along with five pastel cubes of slightly darker shades, a charcoal pencil, kneaded rubber, blender and sandpaper. The Street, Dilham (see above) was created on Fisher 400 Art Paper, using a pencil sketch as reference. I used the pastel cubes, which offer numerous effects, as well as having really good lightfastness and the softness of dry pastel. The sandpaper is provided to shape the cubes for more detail work.

Breaking a short length of cube, I mapped out the shapes using 808 French grey. I darkened some areas using the 009 black pencil, and when I needed more subtle tones I chose the slate grey 495 and greyish black 008 pencils. The charcoal pencil was perfect for defining the fence and fine branches. I added more interest to the foreground by working over with the cube Payne’s grey 506 to add long shadows across the road. The pale yellow 011 pencil was added to the windows of the far building. I finished by picking out lighter areas with 802 French grey cube and 901 Chinese white pencil.

Having tried most of the items within these sets for this report, I find the dry pastels work well on most types of surfaces, from rough textured to wood-grained papers and coloured velour. Coloured backgrounds are worth trying as these help to emphasise the colours provided. Overall, Caran d’Ache offers a very flexible range of drawing sets, which will meet most artists’ needs for anything they should desire to sketch.

Caran d’Ache sketching materials on cartridge, (25.5x20.5cm)

I created this scene above using strong washes from the 3B Technalo pencil to outline my ideas, just focusing on tone rather than line. Once dry, I worked the charcoal over, gently rubbing with the blending stump from the Light and Shade set in places for a softer effect. I used the kneaded rubber from the same set to lift out highlights and reflections to

This product report is taken from the November 2017 issue of Leisure Painter

Click here to purchase your copy

Be inspired by Caran d’Ache sketching sets with Tim Fisher


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