Winsor & Newton Colored Pencils

Winsor & Newton is a brand with a long-standing reputation for excellence dating back to its humble beginnings in 1832. That said, this reputation was built on watercolor not colored pencils. On a recent trip to my local Michaels, I noticed that Winsor & Newton had joined the colored pencil game. Already familiar with their reputation for awesomeness when it came to paint products, I was really curious if this would apply to what I now consider my primary medium to work in. I had a bit of hesitation due to the hefty price tag for a set of 24. Despite their reputation, I couldn’t justify the almost $60 CAD price tag for something I had heard little about. So like any good Michaels’ shopper, I used a discount coupon and made my way home to test these out.

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. Because this brand doesn’t have a direct brand comparison in its marketing, I’ve chosen to just evaluate the brand on its own. For context though, I do still make comparisons to other well-known brands throughout the course of my review.

Here are a few keys points about Winsor & Newton colored pencils.

  • lead sharpens to a clean and neat point
  • Available in a set of 12, 24 or 48 colors in a hinged metal tin
  • high-quality, smooth, responsive leads
  • soft, thick-core pencils
  • made with sustainably grown aromatic cedar wood from California

The packaging presentation is fairly basic with minimal graphics apart from the embossed Winsor & Newton logo and a paper band that slides over the packaging providing any relevant information. I like the idea of the tin being simple because it means you could reuse this for something else later if you chose to without it being a misleading reminder of its previous contents. That said, it’s unfortunate that the information is not printed directly on this tin for those that like to reference it. While fairly sturdy, the paper band could easily be lost or break over time.

The set of 24 features two plastic trays of 12 colors organized in typical fashion. These trays much like the packaging in the Cezanne colored pencils has a pinch-style tray to easily lift the top one out to reveal the bottom.

The pencil itself is a light grey color with a color-dipped end. I found the color fidelity to be quite good with the majority of the colors in the set. I also love that the colors were given actual names. I’m sure some of you know by now how important that is to me. In fact, I learned that it was apparently more important to me than even I realized!  Again, not a huge deal-breaker at the end of the day but I somehow feel like it gives the color a little more personality than just a number. The iconic Winsor & Newton logo and color name is debossed in silver foil on the barrel.

These pencils sharpened to a point well when they don’t break. I’m not sure if the set I had was dropped at some point or not, but I had a lot of trouble in particular with the Midnight Blue that is now much shorter than the rest of the pencils due to multiple, repeated breaks. The wood seemed to split easily but the point achieved was quite nice when it was achieved.

Something to take into account when judging sharpening is the type of sharpener you are using and if you are trying to achieve a short or long point.  Some hand-held sharpeners with dull blades can affect the quality of sharpen you are getting, so keep that in mind. Also of course, if they’ve been dropped or not.

The color application is smooth, creamy, and vibrant. It does, however, leave behind a lot of dust when a fair amount of pressure is applied. The pencils felt really nice to work with and seemed to blend together fairly well. I find the feel actually quite comparable to Cezanne, Prismacolor, and to some extent Lyra.

The colors seemed to blend into one another quite well. I used a Prismacolor colorless blender for most of the piece which worked wonderfully with these colors. I found that they also layered on top of one another well even after burnishing. I used a Canson XL Bristol for the paper and it seemed to respond well to multiple layers with this product. The white and black were both pretty good in this set, although I liked the white more like a blender than for using it as the color by itself.

Unfortunately, there are no lightfast ratings that I can find on this product. It could be because it’s still relatively new though. That said, the company doesn’t seem to be making any claims at all about the lightfast quality at all. The product is actually kind of hard to even find on their website without performing a search.

I was actually quite happy with the results I got from this product. They were buttery, smooth and the colors were very vibrant. I ended up using the majority of the colors in the 24 set apart from about 7 of them. Without having any sort of reference to lightfastness whatsoever, however, I can’t recommend these for uses other than practice, hobby, or sketchbook.

This product is also available in a watercolor pencil version. While I would say maybe they’re just dipping their toes in the water for this right now, they also seem to have gone as far as making a second line of colored pencil products so it puzzles me a little why it’s so hard to find. They have a fairly prominent spot in the Michaels art supply display aisle, and the price point is no joke.

I think if Winsor & Newton had the lightfast ratings to back up their product, I might be able to justify it as the product seems to perform fairly well. However, in comparison to its competitors, it’s missing that key component to make the price seem more palatable. At this point it also doesn’t seem to be available in open stock so what do you do when you start to run out of a color?

Overall, I think this is a good effort by Winsor & Newton in entering the colored pencil world. I would, however, like to see a few things improved and modified to push this product into the forefront as viable competition.

You can hear more about this product in my discussion with John Middick on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast here:

For more on Winsor & Newton:

Have you tried Winsor & Newton colored pencils? What was your experience? Share with me in the comments!

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.

2 Responses

  1. Thoughtful and complete review. I have also tried these and am finding similar results. Nice product that deserves more work by W&N. Open stock and some lightfast information is a must if you want to appeal to fine artists.

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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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