Holbein Artists’ Colored Pencils

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There is an enchantment about Holbein pencils, like an elusive unicorn in a magical forest 🙂

First, they are very expensive.

Second, they are not available everywhere. 

Holbeins have dreamy colours, pencils are set in a very nice and sturdy cardboard box. The 150 set is beautifully organized in three layers of 50 pencils each.

I wondered if they were really that good. Is it really worthy to pay the price asked for that set?

I’ve read many comments online, some in love with Holbein pencils and others regretting the purchase. Some people even returned the set. I kept reading opposite opinions and getting more confused.

I’ve researched for a long time before buying, because I wanted the largest set of 150 pencils. 

I tried to buy from Amazon Japan, but they would not deliver this product in Canada. At the time, my only option was Ebay. I was a bit anxious to invest that money buying from some unknown seller.

I chose a seller with good reviews and waited with a lot of impatience until the pencils arrived. They were way better than I expected!

The 150 pencils set arrived in perfect condition. They were new and certified Holbeins. There is a firm plastic box that holds the cardboard inside. The packaging is sturdy. Pencil trays are easy to open and each pencil arrived perfectly, no tips broken, no dust, just colours and beauty.

The cores are composed of a mixture of oils, waxes and fats, some from animal origin. I would prefer only vegetal materials, but this fact did not stop me from buying them. 

Pencils arrived sharpened, but with a flat point. They also arrive with a wax coat, covering the core. I believe this is a step to protect the pencil during transportation. I also believe this is the reason some people don’t like them straight out of the box. The experience of colouring is not very good at first because it spreads wax, resulting in an uneven distribution of pigment. Holbein Coloured pencils must be sharpened to remove this protective layer. Just one turn of sharpener will do. After that it is pure joy!

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Holbeins are in a category of their own. Comparing them with another brand would be inaccurate. The core is very soft, but not the same as Prismas, they are not waxy or dusty. Holbeins lay down colour very well, you can build many layers if you’re not heavy-handed. They are quite easy to blend. It’s amazing how those pencils blend creating alluring new tonalities. The composition of the core, with includes oil, allows some transparency between layers of pigment and that provides a nice blend and a beautiful finish. If I apply many layers, I like to complete with a colourless blender as last layer.

The pencil’s barrel is round, easy to hold and its colours match perfectly the core. All pencils have a colour name and number printed on the barrel, as well as the lightfastness rating. This tells us how resistant each colour is to light exposure.

Holbeins are available in many sets: 12, 50, 100 and 150 count. There is also the Pastel set, with 50 dreamy tonalities.

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The selection of colours of the 150 count set, for me, is perfect. There are so many pastel options, saturated colours and beautiful tonalities. My favourite colour in this set? The gorgeous WISTERIA, a wonderful light violet not found in other sets.

I absolutely love my Holbeins! They are extraordinary pencils, that have all the qualities I wish for in a set – super smooth, creamy, not dusty, no breakage, resistant to light, easy to hold, to blend and to layer –  all that in 150 wonderful colours. What’s not to love? 

Well, I wish Holbeins were more affordable and easier to replace. 

Sometimes I just don’t want to use them much because it’s so expensive to replace them. That really can spoil the fun. At the moment I’m writing this post, I’m not aware of a simple way to buy replacements. No open stock available in a click like with Polychromos or Pablos. The option I could find is some individual sellers online, they will send you the pencils from Japan, for a salty price. I hope that changes soon, so more people can enjoy how wonderful those pencils are!

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