Revised with improved content and images – August 2022
I’ve been using colored pencils long enough now that I have a healthy amount of skepticism when I come across a brand that is very inexpensive. Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor, however, seems to have a great reputation amongst artists. One of the comparisons is often draws, is to heavyweight favourite Prismacolor Premier. I first purchased a set of these pencils back in 2017 when I originally reviewed them to see what all of the hype was about.
It made sense to me then, since artist were claiming this could be a replacement to Prismacolor to do a direct comparison. I had just started doing product reviews back in 2017 so I didn’t have a set list of test attributes I wanted to run the product through. With a bit more experience under my belt now, I bring you the revised, and improved content version of my original review on Lyra vs Prismacolor.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blogpost are my own and I have not been paid to give a favourable review. Please do however feel free to try this product for yourself and form your own opinions, as every artist will have slightly different preferences.
Please also note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.
- Lyra is a German-based company in association with the FILA group of companies
- Rembrandt Polycolor sets come in 78 colors in a hinged metal tin
- Light and water resistance
- 4mm leads with a cedar barrel
- Excellent lightfast rating amongst almost all of the colors (in the 24 set)
The company has taken the time to put a premium effort into the packaging and presentation of this product even though its price is quite economical. Normally a metal tin is something you would see and expect from the higher price point colored pencil brands. For me, that is an attention to detail element that I appreciate about this company and makes me interested to see how this product may evolve. Although I love the cardboard sleeve with the beautiful pomegranate illustration and color chart on the back, this is the only feature I find a little disappointing.
If you chose to discard this sleeve, you lose all the product information with it. Sure you could look it up online, but it’s nice to have right there on the container. Also, I found it hard to source this information on Lyra’s website. This can be very frustrating especially if you are intending to use these for artwork you want to sell or have some sort of longevity.
The information on the backside of the packaging appears in 3 different languages – English, French and Spanish. I’m a big fan of brands being inclusive with languages, although I’m surprised that the product’s native country of Germany is not represented here with German text. Likely different packaging is being manufactured specific to that language depending on the region in which it’s being distributed.
Comparing the two pencil barrels of both Prismacolor and Lyra you’ll see that companies are both taking very different approaches. One is opting for a natural wood barrel with a dipped end while the other is fully colour dipped. I have to say while the natural wood is nice I much prefer the full colour dip for ease of finding the colour I want quickly.
Lyra has black screen printed information showing the Logo, product name, and where it’s made on side and the product number, barcode, and name in both German and English on the other side. Interesting that the pencils themselves are where the German appears. I suspect that is because the pencils themselves aren’t being manufactured according to selling region like the packaging is. Prismacolor by comparison has its information inlayed with silver foil which can be hard to read at times.
I want to also make a quality note here that the sample pencil in my photograph is bowed compared to the prismacolor. When I first purchased these pencils I didn’t notice this issue and they have remained in the case the entire time. This is something that would normally not make it past factory inspections for most brands.
The Prismacolor sample by contrast has a crack starting to run through the wood at the end of the pencil. Wood is susceptible to these type of issues but to be honest I rarely see it in some other brands highly rated brands.
Colour fidelity is key when you are using colored pencils. Because it can be hard to erase this medium you don’t want to have to second guess your choice when grabbing a pencil. Lyra in this pencil sample seen above scores lower for me than the Prismacolor pencil. The dipped end, pencil lead and the actual colour on paper all have a visual difference. Prismacolor by contrast has a stronger consistency between those three factors.
One of the ways I take the guess work out of my colour choices has been by using colour charts. Not every pencil brand is consistent across all of its hues. By having a chart that you can reference that is filled in with the colours YOU OWN, you can get accurate choices and results every time.
Each company uses their own rating system and it’s hard to tell with most whether they are following the ATSM Standard D6901 or perhaps something else. Compliance is also not mandatory. Lyra uses a three star system, to rate their pencils which is typically based on the 3 Star Blue Wool Scale.
The majority of the pencils in this set apart from one are all rated three stars or extremely good lightfastness. Two stars indicates good lightfastness and one satisfying lightfastness. While the company makes this claim of extreme lightfastness, independent studies such as that conducted by the Colored Pencil Society of America contradict this in their findings.
If you purchase these with the intention of selling the original art you created with them, you may not be able to guarantee against fading if you use colors that are lower rated. It is also debatable as to whether the claim on the lightfast ratings is correct or not. I don’t personally have enough experience with these pencils to say whether they will fade or not so I would proceed with caution if selling your artwork made with them.
SHARPENING & BREAKAGE
The Lyra pencils sharpened to a point well and held that point with minimal breakage. This is an important consideration especially in comparison to Prismacolor Premier. Unfortunately, the latter has a notorious reputation for breakage. This very well could be the tipping point for someone considering to purchase this brand.
It’s important to also note that every pencil brand and type is susceptible to breakage if your pencil sharpener is dull. Make sure you are either replacing the blade often or try a different sharpener to tule out if it is the pencil or the sharpener causing the issue.
SINGLE COLOUR APPLICATION
To also ensure as fair as possible of a comparison, I used similar pencil colors in both brands as well as the same paper. The only blending aid used was a Caran D’Ache colourless blender on both. Normally in a comparison of this type, I would complete one drawing in the one brand first entirely and then the next. This time, I rendered them in equal steps, so that I could get a very direct comparison.
After applying the black areas first I noticed a couple of things. The Lyra black has a warmer hue to it than the Prismacolor Premier black does. The Lyra pencils had a very buttery and softer feel as well compared to the Prismacolor. It was actually quite a noticeable difference for me, similar to the difference between Prismacolor and Faber-Castell Polychromos, with the latter having a noticeably harder lead.
The black coverage was pretty good with the Lyra pencils but I definitely felt like the Prismacolor pencils have more overall saturation to the pigment. By this, I mean that it seemed to take fewer strokes to fill the paper tooth with color with Prismacolor compared to Lyra. The pigment in general on Prismacolor feels more saturated.
DETAILS & BLENDING
In my next applications of color, I noticed that the colors got a little muddy if they came in too close of contact with the black on the Lyra example. This was not the case on the Prismacolor version. With detailed, color applications over other colors, the Lyra again didn’t seem to have as crisp of an application, even when sharpened to a point.
Blending was pretty good with the Lyras, but I found it seemed problematic when trying to use a burnishing technique to blend two or more colors together. I think this type of pencil might be better using a slow blend or build up method. Both brands responded very well to the Caran D’Ache colourless blender.
Despite some technical differences, the colors are very vibrant and at a glance, you wouldn’t really notice a huge difference in the result. As I mentioned earlier, I did find that blending with Prismacolor was a lot nicer and I didn’t get any muddying of my colours when getting close to the darker hues with the lighter hues.
My overall winner in this battle was Prismacolor Premier based on feel and technical application. With that said, Lyra is a formidable opponent in its own way. Having a lot of experience with Prismacolor, I know it’s strengths and weaknesses. In a direct comparison with another product, those qualities become more pronounced on either side. For me, the Lyra pencils will most likely be my go-to for sketchbook studies.
WHY YOU SHOULD PURCHASE LYRA VS PRISMACOLOR
– an extremely affordable price point for the quality
– great range of available colors
– clear outer marking of the color name and color label
– comes with a metal tin for safe storage
– great sharpening consistency and point
If you are new to colored pencil or are on a strict budget for your art materials, Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor is an excellent choice to get you started. Though I personally found some of the application of the product not to my preference, it’s worth trying it yourself with your specific techniques and paper choice.
For more on Lyra: https://www.fila.it/de/de/produkt/lyra-rembrandt-polycolor-set/
For more on Prismacolor Premier: http://www.prismacolor.com/products/colored-pencils
Have you tried Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor colored pencils? What was your experience? Share with me in the comments!