Barb Sotiropoulos

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.

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.



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.


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.


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.


Artwork image ©Barb Sotiropoulos


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


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


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


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.


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

– 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

– 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:

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