Caran d’Ache Graphite Line box sets

Susie Hodge tests these three new box sets and finds them perfect for use on location or in the studio

For this article I tested the following three sets

Multi-Techniques Sketching Set, containing 11 tools: Grafwood pencils in HB, 2B, 6B and 9B; a Grafstone in 6B; a charcoal pencil; two chunky Grafcubes in 6B and 9B; a blending stump; kneadable eraser and a metal sharpener.

Multi-Techniques Water-soluble Set, containing 13 tools: Technalo pencils in 3B and 6B; Technalo RGB in blue, green and red; Museum Aquarelles in russet and yellow ochre, Grafcubes RGB in blue, green and red; a water brush, an eraser and a sharpener.

Technalo Set, containing 7 tools: Technalo watersoluble graphite pencils in B, 3B and 6B; Technalo RGB in blue, green and red and a water brush.

Caran d’Ache has become known for its high-quality materials. Graphite Line is a range of different products that fulfil specific requirements. Each box contains a number of materials carefully selected to suit different specialisms or needs, and because they're in sturdy tin boxes, they're handy to use anywhere – to take on location or work with in the studio or at home.

Smooth and dense

Everything is soft and smooth, so firm or light pressure, shading large expanses, or outlining, hatching, or stippling is smooth and dense; there is nothing scratchy or grainy about any of them. Some of the products are grey to black and others are subtly coloured. These appear greyish, but the colours become clearer – in both senses – once water is added. Some of the materials are surprisingly water-soluble, such as the Technalo pencils and the Grafcubes RGB; they are so fluid once water is added – really fun to use and so versatile. In the sets that contain watersoluble items there are handy water brushes containing a water reservoir, meaning that you can quickly transform your dry image to a watercolour one. Every pencil, graphite stick or charcoal pencil is smooth and dense and can be used to create thick and thin lines, gradations, flat washes and blurring or watercolour effects.

Fruit Still Life, Caran d’Ache Multi-Techniques Water-soluble Set on A4 Not paper, 350gsm.

I drew the outlines with the 3B Technalo pencil. Then I added some touches here and there with my own watercolour pencils, including some red on the apple, orange on the oranges and touches of violet on the grapes – not much, I wasn't aiming for bright colour, just some accents. Then I began using the Museum Aquarelles in yellow ochre and russet, and the green, blue and red Technalo RGBs on the oranges, bananas, melon and apples, and then deepened the shadows with the 6B Technalo pencil. Once everything was in place, I used the water brush to pick up, deepen and spread the colours

Grafcubes are chunky sticks that feel solid and are made up of a mixture of graphite, in 6B and 9B; both smooth and dense to use, great for tonal gradations, although like charcoal and graphite sticks, beware that they can smudge easily, both on your hands and on your work. Grafcubes work particularly well for large-scale drawings. In the Multi-Techniques Water-soluble Set, there are three, in dark shades of red, green and blue. Grafwood are solid, pure graphite woodless pencils, effective for outlines, creating tonal contrasts or for filling in large surfaces. In the Multi-Techniques Sketching Set there are four in varying softnesses.

Apple and Pear, Caran d’Ache Technalo RGB on A4 white cartridge paper, 110gsm.

I drew this arrangement fairly quickly, using the Technalo RGB in red and green. Initially, I intended to add some water, but instead, I deepened some of the darkest areas using the Technalo 6B and no water. Overall, I used the lightest of applications and a minimum of marks and I chose to leave the sketchy, directional lines to create a sense of animation

Technalo watersoluble graphite pencils are in the Multi-Techniques Water-soluble and the Technalo Sets. They can be blended dry or diluted, and used as a wash or to create interesting tones with strong or delicate marks, or mixed with other materials, such as watercolour pencils or Grafcubes for instance. In the sets, they come either in B, 3B and 6B or 3B and 6B. Also in the Multi-Techniques Sketching Set is a soft black charcoal pencil – once again, not at all scratchy.

Bottles, Caran d’Ache Multi-Techniques Sketching Set on A4 white cartridge paper, 150gsm.

Starting with a light touch, I used the Grafwood pencil in 2B to mark the structure and shapes. The white of the paper was used for highlights on the three bottles. As in several of the drawings here, this was a fairly quick drawing. As the materials were so smooth, it felt comfortable. The outlines of the bottles were drawn first, and then I began building up mid-tones using 2B, 6B and the 9B pencils. By squinting to see where the darkest areas were, I added small touches with the charcoal pencil

The firm density of the pencils and cubes means that depending on how you apply them, they can create opaque coverage or lighter, less dense, more atmospheric impressions. You can break the cubes if you prefer to use smaller pieces, or you can use their corners or the length of their sides or keep them whole.

It's always valuable to try different tools and materials to find what suits you best or discover new ways of working. I had fun sketching – sometimes quickly, occasionally slowly, adding colour, adding water, drawing on top of colour, and generally trying out the various materials. My conclusion is that the effects that can be achieved with all of these sets are fairly wideranging. All the drawing implements can be used for making thin, thick, continuous or broken marks, for smooth or textural blending, creating tints and tonal ranges, applying firm or light pressure, or using water to change drawings into paintings.

Roses, Caran d’Ache Multi-Techniques Watersoluble Set on A4 white cartridge paper, 110gsm.

I used the Technalo RGB in red, green and blue, and the water brush to add a little sense of blurring. The roses were drawn with the carmine lake, which is a deep, greyish red; the leaves, stalk and shadow at the bottom of the vase are in dark phythalocyanine green, and the water and glass are in Prussian blue.

This article was published in the May 2019 issue of The Artist

Click here to purchase a copy of the May 2019 issue.