Ivy and the Battle of the Pencils

I have a favorite coloring book, and that’s Ivy. I have this week started in the 4th copy of this book. I love the paper, I love the pictures, and I love that it’s a story book. 

I was flipping through the pages, and decided I would do a test page to see which materials work nicest in this book. And not just a test page, I would do the a flower for every pencil brand I own so that I could always go back and compare nicely. 

And you know what it turned out pretty awesome!

In this page I have used the following brands of pencils:

  1. Caran ‘d Ache Luminance
  2. Holbein
  3. Caran d’Ache Pablo
  4. Faber Castel Polychromos
  5. Prismacolor Premier
  6. Brutfuner Square
  7. Star Joy Gold
  8. Koh I Noor
  9. Karismas
  10. Arteza Expert
  11. Lyra Polycolor
  12. Bruynzeel
  13. Kalour
  14. Chameleon
  15. Steadler Super Soft
  16. Conté
  17. Steadler Buntstifte
  18. Derwent Colorsoft
  19. Derwent Inktense
  20. Faber Castel Albrecht Durer
  21. Van Gogh Watercolor Pencils
  22. Caran d’Ache Supracolor Soft

1. Caran d’Ache Luminance

112, 115, 001
€3,50 per pencil

I started off with the luminance, I generally follow my feeling about pencils, and I felt like coloring with the Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils. While I normally love these pencils, on this paper they felt hard and scratchy. I tried layering the pencils back to a smoot layer, since normally these pencils do really well with a layering technique, but for some reason I did not get the layers smooth at all. 

The end result is somewhat scratchy and I’m not very much in love with it. I will be stubborn and try these again in this book somewhere, but for now …eh

Buy them here:
2. Holbein

443, 441, 422, 500
€2,30 per pencil

As with all of the flowers I started with a lilac purple, than searched for a reddish purple, blended with the white and then finish off with darkening the reddish purple and filling in the tips with a darker bluish purple. The Holbeins feel waxy on this paper, less smooth than normal, but still quite nice. 

The colors also turn out quite intense and I’m quite happy with the result and how I can (even after the last layer) still add more color towards the end, but chose to not add more. They are available through amazon, but the better deal is to get them through a Japanese website directly. If you want the exact address shoot me a message and I’ll get you the website I got them from. 

3. Caran d’Ache Pablo

111, 110, 001
€2,00 per pencil

The Pablos feel hard and somewhat scratchy on this paper. This is normally a hard pencil, but I sort of suspected already that they would not perform too well on this paper. I was right unfortunately. 

Not only do they feel too hard on this paper, I also have to work quite hard to get color down, and the end result is a bit scratchy and not as intense as I would like. 

Buy them here:-

Faber Castell Polychromos

135, 133, 249, 101
€1,24 per pencil

One of my favorite pencils. The first pencil brand I ever bought even, at the time it won out against the Pablos. And it still does. 

I do use a 4th pencil color to finish this flower off, and it ends up a bit darker than the other colors, but it lays down smoothly. Already with the first layer this pencil simply feels nice on the paper. 

Once again I am finding myself thinking that maybe I should use this pencil more to lay down the first layer, because the end result is unfortunately always a little less bright than some of the competitors, but this pencil feels super nice to work with. 

Buy them here:

Prismacolor Premier

932, 1003, 109, 938
€1,04 per pencil

The Prismacolor Premiers lay down smoothly on this paper, al be it a bit messy because this paper has quite a bit of tooth. But if you make sure to blow away the pencil dust every time it does become a nice smooth layer. The colors blend super nice on this paper, but as always with this pencil it feels a little greasy. 

What I do like about this pencil is that you can use it as a layering and as a blending pencil. And of course, the end result is as always super intense and the colors feel just that tiny bit brighter than those from the other pencils.

In the Netherlands these are sold for around 250,- euros for a set of 150 pencils. 

You can get them cheaper by going through Amazon.com

…or if you’re not happy to do that let me know and I can get them for you and you’ll still be cheaper than those 250,- euros. 

Brutfuner Square 

120019, 113, 153, 032, 014
€0,25 per pencil

I used 5 colors of this pencil, but mostly because I just don’t know the set as well. Once again I am pleasantly surprised with how easy this pencil glides over the paper though. No scratchiness, and little resistance. I can work with only light pressure, and the colors blend beautifully. 

This budget pencil out performs some of the more expensive professional pencils on this paper, and I’m once again thinking I should be using these pencils a lot more. Also the end result is just super nice, especially for a pencil at this price point. 

Buy them here:

Star Joy Gold

51, 64, 49, 46, Prismacolor white
€ 0.33 per pencil

I have always loved the philosophy behind these pencils. The design is pretty damn good, and in that way it’s actually better designed than most other expensive brand pencils. The letters are much, much better readable than on the luminance for example where I always need to grab my glasses to make sure I have the right number. 

The fact that the pencil number is at the end so you don’t sharpen it away (like with the Polychromos) is also well thought out. And the realization that a budget white pencil would never be as good as the Prismacolor so they put in no white and went for another colored pencil….brilliant. However, the performance of these pencils is just not as good. 

They do simply have less pigment and so I have to work far harder to try and get the same intensity of color on the paper, and in the end the flower still looks somewhat faded. 

I got these from Amazon.com and had them sent over to me since Amazon.nl does not have them. 

Koh I Noor

655, 179, 13, 1
€0,86 per pencil

It took me forever to find this 144 set at a nice price point. I absolutely wanted to have the full set, but since I already had many pencils at that point I refused to pay full price. So I waited until I found a set second hand. 

These pencils are the uber hard pencils. They feel nice to lay down on the paper, but to get any intensity of color you have to layer, and layer, and layer and be super patient. I sometimes am, sometimes I am not. In general I am not. 

They do sharpen to a nice point, hold their point really well, and feel really nice to hold. They are a hard pencil and you need to work to get that pigment down, once you have done so however, they do have a nice intense end result. 

Buy them here:

Arteza Expert

410, 414, 417, 001
€0,33 per pencil (with the 72 set)

The Arteza surprise me every time I use them with how nice they feel on the paper. They are also not badly pigmented. As I put my layers down I am noticing that I have to work harder than with some of the higher end brands to get the pigments down once I get to multiple layers. 

Which is odd because so far I have not really put any pressure on so the tooth of the paper cannot be full yet. I do however have trouble putting the last, darker layer on. The end result is pretty ok, and I do absolutely adore the color selection of this pencil set. 

I have the 120 set, but you can only get that from the USA now. If you want to try them out first, perhaps get the 72 set. 

Buy them here:

Lyra Polycolor

39, 34, 36, 01
€1.33 per pencil

I love the look of the Polycolors, I do however prefer a fully colored barrel. While I think it looks less nice, it is just so handy to pick up the colors in the midst of coloring. 

The lyra’s lay down really smoothly for the first layer and I know these pencils keep their point really well. As I continue and put the next layer down I am reminded again why I don’t work with these super often. 

The third layer is a lot harder work on my hands. And I’m unsure why they have a white pencil since I had to grab the Prismacolor white to blend out the purples. This however leads to having the tooth of the paper fairly filled up and the harder lyra pencil then has trouble to lay down the last, darker layer. I like this pencil, but it takes a bit of patience…and a white from a different set. The end result is a nice evenly colored flower. 

Buy them here:

Bruynzeel Design

56, 57, 01
€0,57 per pencil

I have a rare 100 set, but since this one is no longer available I decide to stick with the still available 48 set, and make due with those colors. The first layer of these pencils goes down really nicely, but as I continue coloring I can feel that I need to put more effort into getting the pigments down. Once again I am left wondering as to why a pencil set contains a white, must be if you want to color on black paper…or because it’s supposed to have a white or something, but the white in this pencil set also doesn’t do much as far as blending goes. 

I don’t grab the Prismacolor this time and that allows me to at least put the last, darker layer down properly. This pencil is very similar to the lyra pencils, and if you have to chose one of these I would definitely go for the Lyras. Also because this is not even a super cheap pencil, but the performance is ok…just not stellar. Because I couldn’t blend out as nicely with the white pencil the end result stays a bit scratchy. 

Buy them here:


65, 179, 154, 002
€0,33 per pencil

The first layer goes down quite smoothly, but immediately I can see that this pencil holds less pigment. Even the first layer is less intense and somewhat dull. I put down the second layer and the pencil feels somewhat scratchy as well. As I’m trying to blend with the white pencil I am wondering why I’m even trying. All that this pencil does is press down the tooth of the paper, because there is no blending whatsoever, when I go back to my last two layers I can however put some color down still. 

What I am noticing is that I have to keep a sharp point, but that’s ok and somewhat inherent to this being a budget pencil. And I have to say, I am somewhat impressed by the end result. 
I bought these pencils for €18,82 I just checked on amazon and they went up to 60,- euros for the same package….whoa…so perhaps not get these at the moment at all…

If you’re stubborn, you can buy them here:

Derwent Coloursoft

240, 270, 720
€1,45 per pencil

I’m not a big fan of the Derwent pencils. They have a slightly bigger barrel than most pencils, and I think this is the reason that when I try to color a full picture with them I always end up with tired hands. (this is also an issue for the square Brutfuners for me btw!). 

You can buy them here: (and for some reason the pretty wooden box is cheaper than the tin)

Derwent Inktense

610, 740, 800, 230
€1,45 per pencil

Since this started as a quest to identify the materials best used in the Ivy book I decided that I also wanted to throw my watercolor pencils in the mix. Generally I use these pencils as a first layer on backgrounds, not to color the whole picture. I find the fact that they change color so much with water somewhat annoying. It means that you cannot color with a swatch chart next to it basically. And then of course that it takes an extra thing to do, namely adding water…yeah. Less is more I would say. 

That said. I do like the intensity of the colors and how easy it is on the hands. You do not have to put any pressure on these pencils at any moment, and while I was putting the colors down I was somewhat surprised that the white from the Inktense does a better job blending than half of the normal pencils. Adding water made it a tiny bit blotchy, but the color intensity of the end result is nice. 

Buy them here:

Faber Castel Albrecht Durer

138, 133, 137, 101
€1,15 per pencil

These are my favorite watercolor pencils. The color range matches the Polychomos exactly, and while they are too big for half the pencil sharpeners and therefore annoying to a lot of people, my Dahle doesn’t care about the size. I like how they lay down and because they match the Polychromos so precisely they are a perfect choice to put down an underlayer for backgrounds or larger areas. 

This book can take a little water, but not too much so I carefully use my water brush to activate the pigments. I like how the colors work out, but I have far less control over where my pigments go with a watercolor pencil. The intensity is nice, though there are some of the other pencils that have performed better. The end result is a bit blotchy. 

Buy these here:

Van Gogh watercolor pencils

568, 507, 537, 105
€1,91 per pencil

I have a rare 60 in a wooden box set, but the same pencils are still available in the metal tin. They work really nicely, and their greatest down side is basically that there are only 60 colors. 

I know you can blend to make other colors, but I simply like a larger selection. That said these pencils lay down nicely, blend nicely once wet, and have quite an intense color. So much even that the dark tip I wanted to give the ends of the flower leaves sort of muddle the whole petal. I’m too proud of my full wooden box to put these in my rotation, but I did want to put them into the comparison mix. 

Buy them here:

Chameleon Color Tones

1101, 1102, 1202, 101
€2,63 per pencil

I still love the design of this set, but I dislike how expensive they are relative to how much pigment they do NOT possess. These pencils are a nice holiday set, but they are a bit too expensive for that. I absolutely adore the design, and the color selection is pretty good. 

The case is absolutely brilliant, but let’s face it…these are gimmicky pencils. If you want to actually do some coloring you want to work with a different set. I did want to add them to the mix though, because they are nice to work with, they put down on the paper smoothly, it’s simply hard work to get much color out of them. 

Steadler Super Soft

€0,70 per pencil

There are no color numbers on these pencils. Perhaps that’s because there is no color in these pencils either…I have no clue who decided to call these super soft, they should’ve named them hard as rock. The are expensive for what they are and if I had know I would never have spent the money. 

But hey, I am stubborn and curious so I got them. Just if you want to continue liking coloring…don’t use these pencils. And oh…compare the price per pencil to the Brutfuners…yeah…

At amazon: 


I got these pencils at a store somewhere in France years ago. I was on holiday and I wasn’t as much into coloring, but I decided that I wanted to do some coloring. 

So I got a tiny set of 12 for 3,- euro at the supermarket. I threw them into this comparison for fun and giggles…and well because I have them, but I am somewhat surprised that they didn’t even do too badly. I wonder now if I have to get a full set of Conté aquarel somewhere….

Steadler Buntstifte

€0,16 per pencil

Marketed at kids…but honestly don’t buy them for your kids unless you really don’t want them to do
anything with art later. I think these pencils exist of plastic for 90% . They don’t break…granted..but they also don’t color…just don’t spend money on them. I had them lying around, because…well I am who I am, but yeah, not worth the money at any point.  

If you’re stubborn: 

Supracolor Soft

131, 120, 133, 001
€1,90 per pencil

I always forget how much I like these pencils. They lay down nicely dry, and do even nicer stuff wet. The colors are pretty intense and an exact match for the Pablos. The negative is of course the extra action you have to take to add water, but the colors of these pencils are nice. Yet, as with all watercolor pencils here too there is less control over where the pigment goes, and for coloring I always manage to end up a bit blotchy. 

The end result is pretty ok though, and I think I need to use these more often in the book, mostly as a first layer in backgrounds. I also think that I should simply not use whites when working with watercolor pencils, because all of them have become a bit muddled in the areas where the white pencils were used.
Buy them here

The verdict

In the end I have a few materials that I really enjoyed working with and a couple that I know that I would never recommend to anybody.

High end pencils:

  1. Prismacolor Premier
  2. Polychromos
  3. Holbein

Please don’t use these:

  1. Steadler
  2. Chameleon

Best Budget Pencils:

  • Brutfuner Square !!! By far the best pencil for this book for a super nice price!

In the end I will probably use all of these materials again at some point in this book, I simply enjoy switching up the pencils, and I also like the mixed media, and to be honest, if you look at the picture below….were you surprised at the end result of some? I know I was.

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