Pablo Colored Pencils Review

Caran D’Ache is a formidable player in the colored pencil world. Their attention to quality shows in every aspect of their products and they certainly have the price tag to match. For those who may still be dreaming of the day when they can own a coveted set of Luminance, the slightly more affordable Pablo line is arguably the next best thing. Make no mistake though, while they are made from the same company the product lines offer a different feel and experience to the user.

Disclaimer:
The opinions expressed in this blogpost are my own and I have not been paid to give a favourable review. I, like many of you, rely on the reviews and feedback of people I respect and trust and there is no value to me to provide a review that is misleading or coerced. 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.

PRODUCT FEATURES:

  • Available in 120 colors
  • Premium FSC™ certified cedar wood pencil
  • Hexagonal and encapsulated body
  • Diameter Ø 3.8 mm for clean and accurate lines
  • Dry, water resistant lead
  • Excellent light resistance
  • Superior covering power

PACKAGING

No surprises here with the standard metal hinged tin that is seen in many colored pencil brands. One notable difference on the set I purchased however is that the the hinge opens to the right instead of the left. I believe this is also the old packaging and logo as the website shows updated packaging.

The front graphics show images of the pencil colours included as well as the product name, and the words “top quality water-resistant colour pencils” in 4 additional languages. The back side features a short description of the product in 18 languages. That’s definitely the most I’ve seen and it takes up a fair amount of space. 

The multi-language inclusion is interesting to me from a design and marketing perspective. Some companies would choose a singular language or only the languages required for a certain location in favour of including more marketing language or product features on the outside of the tin. The multiple languages to me, speaks to a company who is acknowledging and inclusive of its customers. That said, it’s also probably a cost savings from a manufacturing perspective because they likely print this one package design for all countries it sells in, or the majority of.

Inside the tin, the inner lid has the Caran D’ache logo and multi folded paper insert that shows small diagrams of how you can use the product; once again in multiple languages. 

The pencils themselves are sturdy and feature a hexagonal shape which feels ergonomic in the hand and also is great for not rolling way on you! The remaining information and logo are in gold foil. The words ‘permanent colour’, the Pablo logo, brand name and ‘Swiss Made’ appear on one of the sides. A white or black barcode, and the colour name appear in French and English in gold as well as the colour number and lightfast rating.

Color accuracy vs the color barrel is fairly good. Similar to other brands the barrel colour is darker than the colour appears on paper. The relative tone is very similar though so the full colour dipped barrel will still give you a roughly accurate visual reference. 

The colour selection for the 12 set is pretty typical, although I find the inclusion of a grey pencil interesting as opposed to another green or brown. This is one of the few 12 sets where I feel like the inclusion of the white pencil is worth your money. While not quite as opaque as the Luminance pencil, the Pablo version is formidable in its own right and a staple for me in my range of white pencils.

LIGHTFAST RATINGS

Caran D’Ache is known for its impeccable lightfast ratings so it’s not a far stretch to think that the Pablo line would also have great ratings. The only problem is that you need to seek that information out on their website. The lightfast rating legend does not appear on the packaging or even the paper insert. If this was your first introduction to this brand of coloured pencils that could be confusing. The set of 12 is also not cheap so to me, that was a miss on the company’s part to not include that information. As much as I’m a fan of negative space there are multiple place where this information could have been included from a design perspective. 

Luckily a chart is available on their website explaining the rating system. You can find that chart here or you can purchase one of my custom charts and fill them in with your own pencils for greater colour Accuracy here. You can learn more about the benefits of using colour charts in my blog post Why I Create Colour Charts.




SHARPENING AND BREAKAGE

These pencils sharpen really well and hold a great point. The lead is sturdy in the wood encasing and while breakage can occurs it tends to be rare in my experience. They sharpen especially well in a long-point sharpener. You can see the results in my review for the AFMAT Long Point Sharpener.

PERFORMANCE

Artwork image ©Barb Sotiropoulos

INITIAL FEEL

These pencils in my opinion feel very different compared to their sibling brand Luminance. The Pablo pencils have more of a harder chalky feel.  I used Legion Stonehenge paper for my demo piece and I found that was a great combination for this pencil. The colour lay down was smooth and saturated.

Artwork image ©Barb Sotiropoulos

DETAILS & BLENDING

Getting a sharp point and creating fine details with this pencil was really effortless. It reminded me a lot of Faber-Castell Polychromos in that regard. I actually like this pencil a little bit better for fine details than Luminance because the lead feels harder and less waxy-soft comparatively. The colours blend into one another very well and I didn’t feel like I had to lay down a lot of colour for maximum coverage.

Artwork image ©Barb Sotiropoulos

ADVANCED BLENDING & DETAILS

I used a variety of pencil-only blending techniques, including slow-builds and burnishing. In both cases this pencil met my expectations. The paper type I chose is slightly toothier than I would normally use, but I think it shows the richness of the pigments really well here. I didn’t experience wax bloom which is always a plus. The white pencil had great opaque qualities for using alone and as a blending tool.

Artwork image ©Barb Sotiropoulos

FINAL RESULT

Before this review I had only used black and white Pablo pencils due to their superior coverage and highly opaque qualities. I’m happy to report the colour versions are just as impressive and perform beautifully. The pigment is very dense and rich which makes it easy to use for blending and large area colour applications. I will likely try this product on different papers in the future to see the type of results that I get since that was one aspect I wasn’t 100% happy with, but that is not the fault of the pencil or paper. Overall, I would recommend this product as an upgrade from a less expensive practice brand and alternative to the price tag of Luminance.

PROS & CONS OVERVIEW

As with any product, there is always room for some improvement so let’s look at a quick recap:

PROS
– available in 120 colours
– variety of sets sizes available
– premium feeling
– sturdy sharp lines
– nice range of colours available
– high quality pigment
– available in open stock
– superior opaque qualities especially with the white pencil

CONS
– lightfast ratings legend that is not available on that packaging
– gold foil can be hard to read at times
– expensive price point for a beginner or hobbyist
– lightfast ratings are not as high across all colours compared to Luminance for the price
– some pigment transfer or smudging can occur with heavier applications

For more information on Caran D’Ache you can visit their website at: https://www.carandache.com



Barb Sotiropoulos

Barb Sotiropoulos

I’m a Canadian artist and designer specializing in coloured pencil and mixed media. When I’m not creating art, I love helping other artists by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me. You can find me on all of my social channels @barbsotiart or check out my past Q&A articles for COLORED PENCIL Magazine or my co-hosting appearances on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast.

10 Responses

  1. G’day Barb-

    Thanks for the review. I recently found another Canadian artist’s practical lightfast test they did on the Pablo. Their results weren’t inspiring as an Aussie with harsh light being my reality. (The results were a decade ago. Their website is in French.) Has your test work faded at all in a year?

    I am a recent convert to the Pablo but I only grabbed them in singles to bulk out my collection. They were acquired for detail and seem slightly better for me than Polychromos (Poly is even harder but not as opaque?). Pablo’re so much easier to hold as a hexagonal not round pencil! I prefer softer pencils for background work.

    My pencil swatching has now changed to include opacity tests so I’m basically doing paint swatches. I’ll also be doing my own lightfast testing so will do this all twice… It’s also tricky to find a lot of products where I live- Faber-Castell is everywhere and so too Derwent to a point (bar their Lightfast range).

    Even the Prisma took a lot to track down but I was so disappointed I left with the Pablo’s instead. All the single Prisma stock I saw had leads that were off-centre, partially falling out or even the wood case wasn’t glued properly and they were 30c cheaper than a Polychromos pencil! (Polychromos are maybe $3.80 a pencil, a Pablo $4.60 at this specialty shop.)

    The art shop staffer I mentioned this to said it’s why they display the Prisma range end first- they said not to ask what the tin quality was like. If that’s American artist quality (?!) I can see why noone I know uses them.

    Big office supply chain shops sell the school ranges and singles pretty cheap so you don’t need an art shop (most schools teach art here with Derwent Artist or Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils from primary school ie 8yo up and have for the past 30 odd years).

    It’s month two of spring here so a LOT of colour to be inspired by in Oz. Enjoy your Autumn! Thanks for the review!

    1. Hi Max,
      No, I haven’t experienced any fading with the drawing but it is also kept in a display binder away from sunlight. I did have it up on my wall for a period of about 6 months or so and didn’t notice any issues.

      Polychromos is definitely my go-to pencil, but that has a lot to do with the feel, and because I tend to use it with other mediums underneath so I feel like it is one of the better-performing pencils I have. I do like these Pablos they are just a bit expensive for me. It took a lot for me to even buy the Luminance at the price they are at.

      I’ve heard from a lot of people and experienced the issue with the cores being off-center as well with Prismacolor. It’s unfortunate because they used to be the gold standard for colored pencils but the quality seems to have slipped. That said, it doesn’t seem like they are worried about it which is also unfortunate.

      Hope the Spring is lovely there, I’m looking forward to Autumn after an extremely hot summer here!

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Hey, I'm Barb!

I’m a Canadian artist and designer specializing in coloured pencil and mixed media. When I’m not creating art, I love helping other artists by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me. You can find me on all of my social channels @barbsotiart or check out my past Q&A articles for COLORED PENCIL Magazine or my co-hosting appearances on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast.

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