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A pastel dream: Holbein artist colored pencils

Some art supplies are just irresistible. Is it the pretty box they come in? The shiny lettering of the packaging? The high quality of the materials? Or the yummy unique color selection? In the case of the pastel colored Holbein pencils, it was all of the above for me!

Two years ago I got a small set of 12 pastel colored Holbein pencils and I shared my first impression. When webshop Splendith put the set with all 50 pastel colors on sale this summer, I just couldn't contain myself anymore. So what is it about these pencils that make them so irresistible? I’ll break it down for you in this new blog!

NienkeVletter blog x Holbein pencils_header square

Judging a book by its cover

Let’s start at the beginning: the packaging. Obviously 99% of the time it’s not the reason why you buy a pencil set, but let’s be honest: it does help. The pastel set comes in a cardboard box that is the dream of the 7-year-old my-little-pony-loving version of myself. A soft pink base, with subtle colored lines and the lettering in gold foil on top of it. I wanna put it on display in my studio, because stashing this in a drawer is just a waste of good design.

The box has a plastic inlay, so all pencils stay in their individual place. This could have been a little fancier for my taste, but the outside and the pencils make up for it :-). Plus: it comes with a nice swatch card of slightly textured paper. A good swatching card is for sure the way to my heart.

NienkeVletter blog x Holbein pencils_swatch card
I did rearrange the colors to having similar colors together :)

So how about them colors?

I already own quite a lot of pencils, so you might wonder why I wanted to get this set? Or as my fiancee put it: “Oh, what did you buy now that you don’t need but really wanted?” It’s all about the color selection!

Most pencil sets have a range of mostly mid tone and dark values, with only a few really light colors in the selection. Of course you can choose to add light layers of a mid tone to get a lighter color. But then you will still see the white of the paper shining through, and I like a full coverage of the paper. You could also choose to blend a color with a white pencil. But that takes up more time and effort and doesn’t always have the same result as a light colored pencil would have. That’s why I added this set to my collection. I wanted a bigger range of lighter colors. I do own the Tombow Irojiten collection, which has ‘pale tones’ to ‘very pale tones’ sets. But their color application is also really light, making them more difficult to show on paper.

The pastel colored Holbein pencils offer that combination of light colors and a great color application (more on that in the next paragraph). I must be honest: I was hoping for some colors to be even lighter, especially some more lighter blues and greens. How light? Well, maybe as light as the first pink- and orangey tones, which are so lovely and soft. But I do really like the colors that are in this set. Those minty greens, that forgot-me-not-blue, the Coral and Pink. And I love that there are also several grey toned colors, like the muted greens and colors like Ash Rose and Smoke Blue. Okay, as you can tell, I could go on and on about the colors, let’s get to coloring!

The best part: artist quality pencils!

As Splendith says: art supplies are for using, not for collecting. So let’s use these babies! What makes them such great pencils? Why are these artist grade pencils? Mostly because Holbein uses “high-grade pigments with excellent light resistance”. I couldn't find any lightfastness rating on their packaging or website, but the easy color application definitely underlines their statement of high quality materials.

NienkeVletter blog x Holbein pencils versus Polychromos

I read before that Holbein pencils were made from a blend of wax, fats and oil , but the packaging and website state that it’s an oil-based pencil. A little background information: most pencils are either wax- or oil based. Wax based pencils tend to be softer (like the Luminance), oil based pencils somewhat harder (like the Faber Castell Polychromos).

Fun fact: the look & feel of both Polychromos and Holbein pencils is VERY similar. But there definitely is a difference between the two: the Holbein pencils are a bit softer than the Polychromos. The Holbein pencils have a lovely buttery feel to them, making them really enjoyable to work with! Blending colors also works wonderful with these pencils.

Another pro: the outside of the pencils perfectly match the actual color of the pencil, making it easy to choose the color you want out of the set. This sounds like an obvious thing, but in a lot of cheaper sets, the color of the barrel can differ from the actual color on paper.

The color number and name is all the way at the bottom of the barrel. Which is actually very convenient: even if your pencil is almost gone, you’ll still know which color it is if you wanna replace it. Which you can, because the Holbein are also available individually.

NienkeVletter blog x Holbein pencils_swatches on black

The ultimate quality test: going dark

A great test for the quality of these pencils is testing them on black paper. A lot of colored pencils fall flat when applied to dark paper. Well, not the Holbein ones. Some colors lose a bit of their nuance, but they still perform very well! I made a sketch on gray toned paper as well (see below), and the colors still pop off the page

Any cons?

Well, that would be the price. The individual pencils cost 3,95 euro each. This makes them a touch more expensive than the Caran d’Ache Luminance (3,75 euro per pencil), one of my other favorites. Buying a set is definitely more economical, but also a bigger investment. My tip: first buy a few individual pencils in similar colors from different brands (like the Polychromos, Luminance and Holbein). Try them for a while and see which brand you navigate to every time. Pencil preference really is a matter of individual taste, so that way you can see which brand wins the way to your heart :).

Put them on your wishlist?

So the dilemma you’re now faced with: should you get these pencils? If this is the first full set you’re buying, I would advise you to maybe get the set with more regular colors first. But if you already own a set with more regular colors, this really is a wonderful addition to your collection! Due to the price it’s not something you might just buy on a whim, but it would be a wonderful set to save up for or ask as a special birthday gift. And pssst...they're currently still on sale, as well as the complete Holbein set of 150 colors ;-)

Wanna treat yourself to new colored pencils?

This article was written in collaboration with one of my favorite webshops: Splendith. The links in this article are affiliate. Which means you really help me if you use these links when you are going to purchase products. It won’t cost you anything extra, but I do earn a small percentage. It allows me to write many more of these blogs, so thank you for your support!

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