Barb Sotiropoulos

Cezanne vs Prismacolor

 I firmly believe that cost shouldn’t be a factor that stops you from trying a medium or creating art. One of the things I’m really passionate about it trying out brands outside of what I’m going to refer to as the “Big Three” colored pencil brands. If you aren’t familiar this is typically Prismacolor Premier, Faber-Castell Polychromos and Caran D’ache Luminance. It should be noted however that the new line of Derwent Lightfast is quickly making its name as a top contender as well.

My goal with these product reviews is to give an honest assessment of economically and mid-range priced brands in comparison to the popular, more well-known brands that are more expensive. My hope is that by showing a direct comparison of a lesser-known brand and one of the more popular ones, it will give beginner or hobbyist artists detailed information to consider in their decisions making process.

I was fortunate enough to receive this set of 72 P.Cezanne colored pencils from COLORED PENCIL Magazine as a gift to try out. Given the popularity of my Lyra vs Prismacolor blog post, I thought I would share my findings with all of you on this new-comer to the wonderful world of colored pencil.

Before I launch into my experience with these pencils in comparison to one another here are few keys points about P. Cezanne colored pencils by Creative Mark.

For the purpose of my experiment, I am using Strathmore Bristol Smooth Surface 300 Series paper. This is a favorite pairing of mine with Prismacolor. The Cezanne colored pencils boast that “If you Love Prismacolor, You will LOVE Cezanne® – The same if not better performance for a better value.” For this reason, I thought Prismacolor was clearly the best comparison brand to test this claim against.

I chose an image of a King Fisher bird that had a lot of the colors represented in the set of 72 Cezanne colored pencils. To also ensure as fair as possible of a comparison, I used similar pencil colors in both brands. Normally in a comparison of this type, I would complete one drawing in the one brand first entirely and then the next. For this review, I rendered them in equal steps, so that I could get a very direct comparison.

The packaging presentation in my opinion of this product is right on par with Faber-Castell Polychromos. The front cover has a beautiful cropped section of L’Estaque 2  by Paul Cezanne, the namesake of the product, and the back shows all of the swatches of the colors contained in the set. The overall feel is very premium and the inside also includes various little circle vignettes of Paul Cezanne’s work.

The inside cover of the tin also features a series of attributes of the product. I love the casing of the pencils themselves which contain a double-dipped colored end. I must have received an earlier prototype of the product because the number of each color while on the backside of the tin, does not appear on the pencil themselves. In my research on the Jerry’s Artarama website where you can purchase this product, one of the detail photos shows that there are in fact color number indicators stamped on each individual pencil. I’m glad to see that was corrected because it was going to be a really big criticism I had of this product.

While it isn’t a huge deal-breaker it is somewhat disappointing that a brand named after celebrated master artist wouldn’t have the colors named as opposed to numbered. This is mostly a personal preference though because I secretly (not so secretly) would love to have a job where I get to name colors…but that’s another blog post. The same silver foil logo stamp appears on every pencil and adds an additional premium feel to the product.

Another note about the casing, while beautiful and graphic, the color on the end of the barrel is not necessarily indicative of the actual color. They may have corrected this in the updated version of the product, however, as they do claim on the website that the color matching is meant to be quite close. I would still highly recommend doing a color chart ahead of time or at a minimum using a scrap piece of paper to test color before you create a drawing. You can download a color chart in the product description area on the Jerry’s Artarama website as well.

Another feature I like in the packaging is the finger holes on the side of the trays. This allows you to easily pinch each side of the tray and lift it out with ease to the tray below.

The overall feel of the Cezanne colored pencils was really nice and soft as it claims. I did find however in comparison to Prismacolor that some of the colors felt a scratchy at times and in some hues required a few more layers for comparable saturation of color.

The Cezanne pencils sharpened to a point well with minimal to no breakage.  I did feel, however like I needed to sharpen them quite often as the point didn’t seem to last long. I’m going to give the win to Cezanne in this category though because Prismacolor notoriously breaks a lot. Even in this experiment that I conducted, I had one Prismacolor pencil lead break on me 3 times in a row before I just used a different color instead of it.

The colors seemed to blend into one another quite well, however not quite as efficiently as Prismacolor. That said, of most of the brands I’ve tried this definitely came close. I also found when it came to white specifically, Cezanne was no match for the superior opaque quality of the same color in the Prismacolor Premier line.

Cezanne claims they have good to very good lightfast ratings however unlike some the competitor brands there are no indications of which color rates as what on the packaging. Typically pinks and purples don’t rate well so we can assume those are on the lower scale.
The fact that these results aren’t easily found, however, makes me suspect that some creative marketing language is being used here. They aren’t saying ALL of the pencils have good to very good lightfast ratings so this probably gets them out of making false claims legally.

Apart from not having quite the same colors for the background, on a glance, it would be hard to distinguish the difference between brands in each of these drawings. I used a selection of 24 colors to complete each drawing that represented all of the major color groups in the set.

The winner of this comparison battle is kind of tricky because is it was based on looks alone Cezanne might have a bit of an advantage. With its attention to detail in the packaging and comparable finish to Prismacolor Premier, I’m tempted to give it the win. Prismacolor’s advantage here is that they feature contemporary artists’ work on their packaging and offer a broader range of colors. They are also available in open stock and Cezanne to my knowledge is not. It makes sense that Cezanne would have the artist’s work who it’s named after on its product packaging, but given that Cezanne was not known as a colored pencil artist this is also slightly confusing.

From a technical perspective, the questionable lightfast ratings of Cezanne wouldn’t make this a replacement for artists planning to sell their work. This wouldn’t be as much of an issue for a beginner, but it’s a significant issue for the longevity of your work in general. I also felt like the white pencil in this set was extremely disappointing and to be honest, acted more like a blender than an opaque white pencil you could use for detailing. It may seem weird to judge a brand so harshly on whether their white pencil is good or not, but when you are making comparisons against a heavyweight like Prismacolor I expect it to deliver on the attributes that make Prismacolor so popular.

Oddly enough based on a few technicalities for either brand I’m giving this a tie with a slight advantage to Prismacolor Premier.

That being said, here’s a list of reasons why you should give Cezanne a chance:
– an extremely affordable price point for the quality
– closely comparable finish to Prismacolor Premier
– 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

For more on Cezanne:

For more on Prismacolor Premier:

Have you tried P. Cezanne colored pencils by Creative Mark? What was your experience? Share with me in the comments!

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