Goldfaber vs Polychromos

One of the most beloved brands in the colored pencil world is easily Faber-Castell. With a reputation dating back to 1761 in Stein, Germany, they are assuredly experts in their ability to craft a pencil worthy of the most discerning of artists. The company released the newest edition to their colored pencil collection, Goldfaber, in January of 2018. Marketed for the hobbyist and entry-level artist, I had to see for myself if this new edition was a viable option for those turned off by Polychromos’ price point.

PRE-TEST DISCLAIMER
To ensure as fair as possible of a comparison, I used the same pencil colors and paper for both Goldfaber and Polychromos. In fact, because both products are from the same company I was able to use the exact same color numbers from both sets with the exception of the light blue I use in my initial color application. The only blending aid used was a Caran D’Ache colorless blender on both. I also rendered each drawing in equal steps, so that I could get a very direct comparison.

PRODUCT SPECS

  • Available in 48 colors
  • bright, ultra-lightfast colors (more on this later)
  • 3.3mm, highly pigmented lead
  • break and water-resistant due to lead being glued into the entire length of the pencil
  • water-based varnish and sustainably forested wood used in manufacturing

For detailed information on Faber-Castell Polychromos, you can read my blog post HERE

PACKAGING
The Goldfaber packaging comes in a metal tin and a plastic tray with elastic handles on either side to easily lift the tray out and reveal the one underneath. The quality of this packaging is similar to that of Polychoromos, and in that respect, there is no difference. Both also come with a little information leaflet.

The backside of the packaging, much like the Polychromos, has the product features and a color chart with numbers associated with the color. It’s interesting to note that these color numbers coincide with every other product Faber-Castell makes. So, for example, the color and number in Goldfaber is the same color and number in Polychromos and in their Artist PITT pens.

On the Polychromos pencil, the entire length of the barrel is coated in the color of the pencil. Gold debossed markings indicate the country in which it’s manufactured, company logo, SV Bonding demarkation, as well as the name in both German and English. The color number and lightfast rating based on Faber-Castell’s star system also appears on the barrel. The color of the paint is pretty close in most cases to the actual color of the lead.

On the Goldfaber pencil, only the tip end is colored and the rest of the barrel is an indigo blue color. White debossed logo, product name, Made in Germany, barcode, and color number also appear on the barrel. The design of the Goldfaber pencil has a much more utilitarian feel as opposed to the Polychromos which is very clearly trying to convey a sense of opulence to the product.

LIGHTFAST RATINGS
Faber-Castell claims that Goldfaber has excellent lightfast ratings however, I wasn’t able to actually find a chart or rating system for the colors. One could assume that given Faber-Castell use of a color matching system across its products that the pigments would be made similarly, however until there is proper documentation proving their claim it’s best not to assume anything. Also, on Faber-Castell’s blog on their website comparing these two products they discuss how different binders were used in the process of each pencil, which very clearly would play a role in how the product performs.

You can read more on their post HERE.

Another interesting thing about this product is why the lightfast ratings are mentioned at all. Typically hobbyists don’t need to worry about lightfast ratings as much because they aren’t typically selling their work. That’s not to say that they don’t want to have longevity in their work but generally speaking its not something that would need to be a selling feature for a product not directed at professional artists specifically.

SHARPENING & BREAKAGE
Faber-Castell is concerned about using sustainable forestry and eco-friendly practices in their manufacturing. The pine wood used in the Goldfaber line is certainly softer than the premium cedar wood being used in Polychromos, so I found that there was more wood splintering during sharpening comparatively. Because the leads are softer than the Polychromos line they did break a little more easily as well. Both held a point well when sharp.

INITIAL FEEL
There is definitely a difference in the feel between the two products. The Goldfaber is waxier and softer in feel while the Polychromos is harder but still smooth. My initial impression is that the Goldfaber feels a lot more like Prismacolor than its Polychomos sibling.

SINGLE COLOR APPLICATION
In a single color application, the differences in these products become even more pronounced. The Polychomos seems to fill the tooth of the paper with a rich, consistent amount of pigment, while the Goldfaber requires more layers to achieve the same density and the pigment quality appears chunkier and inconsistent. It’s almost more apparent that the pigment has been mixed with other binders and ingredients whereas the Polychromos performs seamlessly as if the hue was compressed into the lead in its pure form without the aid of anything else.

DETAILS & BLENDING
Blending and details were achieved easily with the Goldfaber pencil. The buttery feel of both products allows for a rich experience and color application. Polychromos excels at great slow builds for blending and sharp details. This is where I find Goldfaber differs. I found the blending process more like a wax-based Prismacolor than a Polychromos. While you can use a slow build application to achieve blending the Polychromos version is more suited to that technique.

ADVANCED BLENDING AND DETAILS
On this particular drawing, more layers and blending didn’t result in a better result with the Goldfaber. The chunkiness of the pigment is more apparent even when using a heavier handed burnishing style while the Polychromos blended into itself more cohesively. Details added in afterward however even after multiple layer applications performed well on both.


FINAL RESULT
Because I was able to use the exact same colors for both drawings the results from that perspective are virtually identical. The Polychromos version has a noticeably smoother blend to the colors and less unwanted texturing created by the product itself. Both pencils did well with sharp detail over multiple layers of color.

OVERALL WINNER
It’s no surprise that Polychromos is the winner here. The two products are intended for different experience level users, so by that virtue alone, one is going to perform better than the other. It’s important to note, however, that the paper type that you pair these products with is critical in the result you’re going to get from them. I used an Arches Hot Press watercolor paper for both of these drawings and I can say that I would not recommend it for the Goldfaber. In earlier experiments with this product, I used smoother, bristol type papers and found I had a better result. Some of the pigment quality issues were still there but I find certain papers will emphasize some of these flaws more than others.

WHY YOU SHOULD PURCHASE GOLDFABER
Faber-Castell’s attention to detail and standard for quality makes Goldfaber a worthy entry-level product to this brand. If you’re just starting out with a colored pencil, the Goldfaber line is a great way to get your feet wet without the commitment of the price tag Polychromos comes with.

Another advantage as using this as a starter product is that, if and when you decide to upgrade to a better quality set, you will have similar colors to work with within the Faber-Castell line. Many of us get attached to favorite colors that just seem to work well for multiple applications and this will allow you little to no shift in your expectations for colors.

FOR A MORE IN-DEPTH CONVERSATION ABOUT THESE PRODUCTS LISTEN TO MY CONVERSATION WITH JOHN MIDDICK ON THE SHARPENED ARTIST COLORED PENCIL PODCAST: https://sharpenedartist.com/podcast/254

FORE MORE ON FABER-CASTELL PRODUCTS: https://www.fabercastell.com/

Have you used Faber-Castell Goldfaber colored pencils? What was your experience?
Share with me in the comments below!

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