Price: Faber-Castell Albrecht Dűrer set of 24 = £27.80 (£1.15 each) from Amazon
Pentel Arts set of 24 = £6.69 (27p each) from Amazon
- Pink Pig A5 Textured Ameleie 270gsm Watercolour sketchbook.
- Mozart Supplies water brush.
- Steadtler 0.1 pigment liner.
- Molotow masking fluid pen.
- Faber-Castell Albrecht Dűrer watercolour Pencils.
- Pentel Arts Watercolour Pencils.
- Faber-Castell Polychromos Coloured Pencils.
- Colour intensity/Pigment.
- Mixing Colours.
- Performance when used in conjuction with masking fluid.
- How easy is it to reactivate and lift colour once dry?
- How do Polychromos pencils perform over activated watercolour pencil once dry?
- Comfort and ease of use.
- Are the pencils easy to sharpen? Do they break often?
- Colour range*.
*NOTE: FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS REVIEW I WILL ONLY BE TAKING INTO ACCOUNT THE COLOURS OFFERED IN THE ALBRECHT DURER 24 SET AND NOT THE FABER-CASTELL RANGE AS A WHOLE.
1. Colour intensity.
Although the Pentel colours are impressive for the price point, when I compare – for example – the magenta colour in the Pentel range (424) with it’s magenta equivalent (133) in the Albrecht Dűrer set, the difference in the richness and saturation of colour is obvious. I find the addition of a white pencil equally pointless in both sets, as neither are opaque enough when activated to offer any useful applications.
I also found that the Pentel magenta colour required the application of several dry layers in order to come close to matching the coverage and intensity of colour that one layer of Albrecht Dűrer produced when activated.
2. Mixing Colours
As you can see from my notes above, Albrecht Dűrer provided a nice vibrant, uniform colour when mixed (one layer of each colour) compared to Pentel, which offered a much more diluted colour, which is not necessarily a bad thing if you want to exploit this quality when you’re looking for delicate colours. What was of more concern to me was the Pentel colours’ propensity to separate, or for one of the primaries to ‘dominate’ the tint of the secondary colour, despite applying just one layer of each colour for both brands.
For this test, each box was created with Steadtler Pigment liners, then left to dry before applying watercolour pencil over the top.
Again, Albrecht Dűrer performed best, although the red in both sets showed the highest opacity (excluding the white in both sets, obviously). Interestingly, when I activated the white in both sets, it lifted the fineliner slightly.
The Albrecht Dűrer white pencil showed slightly more opacity than the Pentel white.
4. Performance when used in conjunction with masking fluid.
For this test, I used the same design in masking fluid, then once dry I applied two layers of watercolour pencil before activating with the watercolour brush, which allowed me to apply the same amount of water to each section.
Both pencils were easy to apply over dried masking fluid, with Albrecht Dűrer providing the most intense and even colour when activated.
The lines between masked and painted areas seemed cleaner with the Pentel pencils, but I am not sure if this is down to user error, as I’ve had this happen when I used this masking fluid in previous product reviews.
5. How easy is it to reactivate and lift colour once dry?
Whilst both pencils reactivated readily, the Pentel pencil lifted more easily, with Albrecht Dűrer showing good staining qualities.
6. How do Polychromos pencils perform over activated watercolour pencil once dry?
For this test, I selected Albrecht Dűrer pencils in Helioblue-Reddish and Ultramarine, Pentel colour 443 and 499. The Polychromos colours I chose were Ultramarine, Helioblue-Reddish, and White.
When I layered the Polychromos pencil over Albrecht Dűrer colours ‘Helioblue-Reddish’ and ‘Ultramarine’, the white pencil had the biggest affect on the Helioblue-Reddish, though it was still subtle.
What I found interesting was that the Helioblue-Reddish Polychromos Pencil looks warmer when placed over it’s own watercolour equivalent and cooler on the Ultramarine Albrecht Dűrer pencil.
The white Polychromos pencil showed up best when used over the Pentel black watercolour pencil, though neither were particularly impressive.
When I was laying down the dry layers of watercolour pencil, I did notice that the Pentel colours felt more ‘waxy’ than Albrecht Dűrer, and I do wonder if there’s a higher wax content in cheaper watercolour pencils which tends to repel anything you try to put on top of it later.
My general feeling after conducting this test is that Faber-Castell pencils perform in a very uniform fashion across the whole range.
7. Comfort and ease of use.
My personal preference for barrel shape in pens and pencils is hexagonal or triangular, as I find this most comfortable and effective in staving off cramp, so the basic shape felt good on both pencils. However, the thicker barrel of the Albrecht Dűrer pencil was the more comfortable of the two, and I could use this for longer periods before my hand got tired and I needed a break.
Pentel core (left) and Albrecht Dűrer (right) core.
I felt like the higher quality core of the Albrecht Dűrer pencil made for a more enjoyable experience as it took less effort to get good coverage and saturated pigment when activated.
The weight of the Albrecht Dűrer pencil, combined with the thicker core gave me extra confidence in mark-making as I wasn’t worried the point would break if I used more pressure, unlike the Pentel pencil which felt more delicate and as if it could only be pushed so far before it would break.
8. Are the pencils easy to sharpen? Do they break often?
For this test, I used the Faber-Castell 2001 Grip Trio Sharpening box.
Whilst it was easy to sharpen both pencils, I found that the Pentel Pencil broke more frequently despite being handled gently. I also noticed that the Pentel cores were already broken in a few places before I attempted to sharped them. Most of the Pentel cores were ‘off-center’ in the barrel, which may have contributed to their propensity to break.
10. Colour range.
Both sets have a nice range of colours. The Albrecht Dűrer set seemed to offer a more useful selection of warm browns, whereas the browns in the Pentel set all seemed to be more red-hued. The nearest colour to ‘Burnt Umber’ in the Pentel set also appeared to be more of a ‘mustard’ colour.
As for the greens, the Albrecht Dűrer set offered the better range, though I would have liked to see the Phthalo Green and Emerald – which I felt are too blueish – replaced with something like Permanent Green and Leaf Green to better compliment the Light Green and Earth Green Yellowish in this set. I’d even go so far as to ditch the white pencil completely and have 5 good natural, complimentary greens in the set instead.
I’d say the colour range of the Albrecht Dűrer set is more naturalistic, whereas the Pentel colours are pastel ‘candy’ colours which lend themselves to a very particular style of art.
The Pentel set does not come with any information on light-fast ratings (which leads me to assume none of these pencils are light-fast), unlike Albrecht Dűrer which has light-fast ratings ranging from 2 stars (very good light-fastness for 25 years+) to 3 stars (100% light-fast for 100 years or more). 11 out of the 24 pencils in the Albrecht Dűrer set have a 3-star light-fast rating.
One thing that REALLY irritated me about both sets was the gold writing on the barrels which made the colour codes extremely hard to read, especially on the lighter colour pencils. To both companies, I would suggest a black band on the barrel with the colours written inside this band, as this would make them so much easier to read.
Whilst the Pentel set is impressive for the price point, and more than adequate for a child’s school bag, if you’re looking for a decent range of saturated, usable colours that wont fade, I would not hesitate to pick the Albrecht Dűrer range.
The main advantage both the Albrecht Dűrer and Polychromos pencils have is that you can buy individual colours when each pencil runs out, whereas you’d have to buy a whole new set of Pentel Arts pencils if you ran out of one colour.
Another advantage of being able to buy individual colours is that you can try a colour you use very often – like green – before you invest in the whole set. You could even build your collection one pencil at a time if you had budget constraints.
I also feel it’s a good idea to start with a decent brand when you’re venturing into a new medium, as struggling to get decent results with a poor quality item – be it pencils, paints or whatever – could frustrate a beginner and lead them to abandon that medium altogether.
Ultimately, when deciding which of these sets is for you, I would say it’s a case of weighing up the importance of light-fastness and consistent quality against your budget. Would you be happy with a complete set of the cheap and cheerful Pentel pencils (bearing in mind the downsides discussed in this review) or would you rather assemble a quality set one pencil at a time?