My go-to art supplies

Art Supplies List: My favorite things

I’ve been talking about my favorite (and not so fave) art supplies on here, on an ad hoc basis, basically rambling on about whatever strikes my fancy on any given day. The other day, I was pulling out my supplies to make a simple colored pencil piece, and realized there are a lot of bits and pieces I use, that may be helpful to readers.

And then, of course, I thought about the *other* kinds of art I do: acrylics, watercolour, pastels, markers, digital art … well, the list is constantly growing, it seems. And it would make no sense to lump them all together in one big post.

So, in an effort to be considerate, and really, just to make it easier for myself, I’m going to split this up into a separate section on the blog and set up individual posts just listing the specific supplies I use for each.

Here’s the master list (links will be added/updated as I publish the relevant posts):

  • Colored pencil supplies
  • Acrylics supplies
  • Pastels supplies
  • Markers supplies
  • Sketchbooks and other surfaces
  • Digital tools

The list will be updated if and when I pick up new media, or even try some fun not-necessarily-art projects (who’s been wanting to try scrapbooking? how about coloring books?)

 

In defense of Prismacolor Premier pencils

If you are a working visual artist who makes their living from creating and selling colored pencil art, move on, this post isn’t for you. The same goes for any kind of colored pencil fanatic, because I’m never going to convince you, and I really have no interest in trying!

For the rest of us, those who make art as a hobby, a creative release, a way to get to that Zen-like, in-the-zone state without going all woo-woo transcendental meditation, Prismacolor Premier pencils are actually still a great pencil. Anyone who’s used the Prismacolor Premiers before they moved their manufacturing to Mexico in 2010 will tell you these were the best. They were pricier then than they are now, but they were worth the price because a) they laid down creamy and also blended and layered beautifully and b) they were made in the USA and easily available whereas the other power brands were not.

So, here’s the deal: if you have (or can get hold of) a set of Prismacolor Premiers that were manufactured before 2010, you know that these are great: the pencils are richly pigmented, the laydown is creamy AF and blending colors is relatively easy (of course, if you have the 150 pencil set, you need to do less blending because there are SO many colors to choose from!), and you can sharpen them to a fine point with zero fuss.

The made-in-Mexico ones, on the other hand, do have problems. Yes, I said they have problems. The trouble seems to be mostly one of quality control. Hold up your older Prismacolor Premiers by the non-sharpened end, and you’ll see that the cores (the colored centers) are perfectly centered. Now hold up several of the newer ones by that non-sharpened end, and you’ll note that almost none of the cores are exactly in the centre of the wood casing!

Prismacolor Premier Off-Center Cores
Prismacolor Premier Off-Center Cores

Why is that a problem, you ask? Well, sharpeners are made with the assumption that the pencil has a centered core! So, if you stick that not-quite-centered-core pencil into a sharpener … yep, you’re going to get oddly sharpened pencils if you’re lucky, and plain old broken cores if you’re unlucky. That seems to be the main complaint: these pencils are now very hard to sharpen without breaking off the point, so you use up the pencils very fast without even actually making much art with them!

This is troublesome, of course: you don’t want barely-used pencils being worn to the nub while sharpening! But there’s a solution: just sharpen the pencils using an electric sharpener – the even pressure seems to help. If you prefer a hand-held sharpener, some people recommend holding the pencil still in one hand and turning the sharpener instead of the more instinctive method of turning the pencil while holding the sharpener still. That does work.

I personally prefer to sharpen my Prismacolors by hand using a craft knife like this one. That way, you maintain control over pretty much everything: how much pressure you apply, how much of the core you expose, how sharp you make the point, and how smoothly you shave around the wood casing. To get a fine point on the pencil, you can file it smooth on a sandpaper block. This is how I sharpen my pencils, and the technique works beautifully! If you’re more visual: go check YouTube for videos on how to do the craft-knife pencil sharpening – there are several demos there.

Another issue seems to be that the wood casings on the new pencils are not the highest quality. Sometimes, the casing will split down the entire barrel, leaving you with  a pencil that feels irritatingly uncomfortable to hold. There is no solution to this problem that I’ve found – I go buy a new pencil to replace the old one when this happens!

Lightfast? Not all these pencils are lightfast, so be sure to check Prismacolor’s own lightfast ratings charts if you do want to create a piece of art that you will sell or want to hold on to for a long time. Alternatively, you could do what I do: create the artwork on high quality, acid-free paper (I’ve been using the Arches hot press watercolor paper) using all the colors I want, and then spray the finished work with a UV-spray and/or frame it behind UV-protective glass.

So why did I write this post if the Prismacolor Premier pencils are so problematic? Because, for the non-professional artist, these pencils are still a wonderful purchase. The intrinsic properties of the richly pigmented cores haven’t changed dramatically. Best of all, the price has dropped dramatically now that more people are aware of the quality control issues: at the time of writing this post (and if you came here from Facebook), you can pick up the largest set at Amazon for just over $100 … that’s less than a buck a pencil for a pretty darned nice set of pencils!

Disclosure: This blog often reviews/recommends products from one or more 3rd-party e-commerce sites like Amazon, Etsy, eBay, AliExpress, etc. Please assume that any link you click on will probably result in a small commission paid to me: this commission does not increase the cost of your purchase. Please see the Affiliate Disclosure page for additional details.

A new addition to the Caran d’Ache Watercolor Pencils

If you have been following this blog for any time at all, you know I tend to get very excited about new art supplies, especially when it’s anything to do with watersoluble media. I have tubes of watercolor paint, and pans and half-pans in nifty travel kits. I have watersoluble graphite blocks and watersoluble graphite pencils. And, of course, several lines of watercolor pencils (how else do you get fine detail on your watercolors or do quick sketches outdoors without a whole plein aire kit?).

One of my favorite sets of watercolor pencils is the Caran d’Ache Supracolor Soft Aquarelle pencils. The set contains 120 pencils, each with splendid rich pigmentation and a creamy texture like all of the Caran d’Ache pencils (have you ever tried their Luminance line?) I was absolutely certain they couldn’t have picked a better range of tints and swore I’d never need another set of watercolor pencils.

But now I have to eat my words. Caran d’Ache is celebrating their 30th anniversary this year. To celebrate, they’ve released a special Limited Edition 30th Anniversary set: 30 all-new colors in the Supracolor Soft line.

 

Yes, that’s 30 all-new colors. These colors are not present in any of the other existing Caran d’Ache sets, by the way, so unless they decide to release an anniversary set of their other lines as well, you’re out of luck trying to get an exact color match on the regular colored pencils.

I’ll admit, I’m drooling. I need to get my hands on those shades of pinks and purples! And that set of greens … I didn’t know I needed that particular shade of almost-dry-grass-green, but now I know I can’t live without it!

So yes, I have just pulled out my very tired wallet and ordered this new set. Do I need it? Well … need is a perception thing, yes? Someone looking at the stacks of art supplies in my home would tell me I definitely don’t need yet another set of watercolor pencils. Only another artist friend would appreciate the “need” I feel to own this set.

So, to all my artist friends out there: will you be buying this fancy new set of watercolor pencils? Just “to round out your collection”, if nothing else? Or am I the only one who has zero sales resistance? Let me know in the comments below!

Disclosure: This blog often reviews/recommends products from one or more 3rd-party e-commerce sites like Amazon, Etsy, eBay, AliExpress, etc. Please assume that any link you click on will probably result in a small commission paid to me: this commission does not increase the cost of your purchase. Please see the Affiliate Disclosure page for additional details.