Holbein is a Japanese manufacturer of art supplies and materials and a respected name in the art world known for the exceptional quality of paints, pastels, and inks. Until recently, its products were unavailable for sale in the United States. They were banned because they didn’t correspond to the ACMI safety standards. To the delight of most U.S. artists, Holbein pencils are now certified as non-toxic.
There is a lot of buzz around these media because they are considered to have unsurpassed coloring quality. In this Holbein colored pencils review, I’m going to figure out why people are so excited about these pencils and if the media are worth your investment.
Features of Holbein Pencils
The pencils feature a 7.8 mm (0.3’’) wooden barrel, which is round. The pigment-filled core is 3.8 mm (0.15’’) in diameter. It has a glossy lacquered housing. The barrel is fully color-dipped. The color of the housing is very close to the color code but a little darker.
One side of the barrel indicates the name of the pencil brand, its logo, the pigment name in English, and the coded color number. All is written in gold print. The other side of the housing has the name of the pencil collection and the word “Japan” (the company’s origin) also stamped in gold lettering. The decorative gold band embraces the end of the pencil. It is purposeless but looks nice. The media have an overall premium look. At a glance, the appearance of the Holbein pencils vs Polychromos from Faber-Castell is almost similar.
Next to the color name, the lightfastness of the pigment is indicated. It is known that the majority of media in the Holbein Artists’ collection come with a high lightfast rating. Similar to other pencil brands, this manufacturer indicates the lightfastness with stars (1, 2, and 3), but on the packaging, there is no explanation of what these stars mean. Traditionally, customers use a universal decoding system, like in the case of other brands, in which 1 star denotes the lowest lightfast rating. Regarding a hefty price tag for these media, the lack of the star explanation may be a bit confusing, especially for those who are new to colored pencils and star ratings. In addition, the website of the manufacturer doesn’t list colored pencils among its products, which is also puzzling because these drawing tools are not a brand new product.
The media are good at sharpening. So, you can use an average sharpener to make a sharp point. The lead is sturdy and not prone to breakage in the course of coloring.
The Holbein colored pencils come in various packs that contain 12, 24, 36, 50 (instead of typical 48), 100, and 150 colors. The 12-color set is available in 3 different color groupings: Basic, Pastel, and Design Tones. The 50-color set comes in Basic and Pastel selections. This vast palette offers artists a lot of shades to choose from. There are multiple brights such as purple and yellow, as well as green and pink hues. Some artists would prefer more variations of dark colors such as brown and gray.
A few colors that are present in 12-color sets are not available in larger collections. It’s a bit annoying because it forces you to buy several sets to have all shades.
The packaging comes only with an explanation color chart under the tin lid, so you need to make your own color swatches. It’s time-consuming, but the result is worth the effort.
Design of Packaging
As a rule, these media come packaged in cardboard boxes or metal tins, depending on the number of pencils in a set. In the tray, the pencils are arranged on corrugated white paper. Also, the 100 and 150 sets are available in wooden boxes as gift options.
The cover of metal tins features a landscape drawing and the product name written in both English and Japanese.
The media are available in open stock.
Quality of Drawing and Durability
The lead of the Holbein pencils is a mixture of multiple ingredients, including oil, wax, and fat. The consistency is a little weird, but it ensures a unique coloring experience.
Due to the soft core, the pencils require no effort while drawing and glide across the paper smoothly. Because of this creamy texture, they are not quite good at blending. Two various colors can be easily mixed and blended to make a transition shade, but more than 2 creamy layers can make a mess on the paper. Multiple videos on the Internet explain how to blend various colors and show the shades you can get.
Again, due to the buttery core, it is hard to keep a pointed end of the pencil because it turns dull fast. This may be an issue for detailed drawings.
The color output is very bright and allows the drawings to look vivid.
With these coloring instruments, you can draw on gouache, watercolor, and acrylic color. They can be used on any kind of paper.
Pros and Cons
No doubt the Holbein colored pencils are fantastic coloring tools with high potential, but there is always room for certain improvements. This list highlights the strong points of these media and the things that can be upgraded.
- The media feel well in the hand
- Each pencil can be bought individually
- The application is very smooth
- The soft core offers a field for experiments
- Highly pigmented
- Available in 150 colors
- They can roll off the desk because of the round barrel
- The product lacks some marketing information like a lightfast rating
- Premium-priced media that may be out of some artists’ budget
- The core is soft and requires frequent sharpening
- Not perfect for the blending techniques
- A limited number of stores that stock these media
Where to Buy Holbein Colored Pencils?
Wondering where to buy Holbein drawing media? If you have fallen in love with the exotic core of these pencils, just know their availability can be an issue. You cannot purchase them from any outlet other than authorized retailers. The store locator on the Holbein official website shows the places where this product is available for sale in the U.S. and Canada. Some online stores like Amazon, eBay, and Blick Art Materials may have individual pencils in stock.
Top Holbein Colored Pencils on Amazon
If you have difficulty in finding a set of pencils for purchase, you can stock your own selection by buying individual pencils. Check the information and the exact shade of each colored pencil offered below.
Indeed, by capturing the best of waxes, fats, and oils, the Holbein brand takes the art game to the next level and provides a unique coloring experience with the Artists’ colored pencils. I can’t compare this experience with any of the known brands. Certainly, this makes the pencils stand out from other competitors.
Because of their high price, I would recommend these media for professional artists. Despite their exclusiveness, they come with a number of features that can be annoying for some artists or seem negative. If you want to try their vibrancy and color saturation, check your budget. I hope that this Holbein colored pencils review will help you make the choice.