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I ordered a set of the Phoenixcolor colored pencils this summer and finally had a chance to play around with them (see video below). Overall, they are beautiful and I am thrilled to have them in my collection of art supplies … but will they replace my Derwent Lightfast and Drawing pencils, Caran d’Ache Luminance, Tombow Irojiten and Faber-Castell Polychromos? Probably not.
Let’s start with the packaging. I opted for the set of 100 colors and received five gorgeous cases or “books” containing 20 pencils each which are organized by color family (for the most part). There was also an option to purchase a set of 50 pencils (5 “books” of 10 pencils each). I paid just a little over $60 for the set of 100 pencils (including shipping) but have seen the price jump all over the place depending on the vendor.
The covers of the books are stunning. Each one has a different color theme and artwork. What makes these cases even more special is that the designs feature a three-dimensional cutout layer. Each cardboard book flips open to reveal a grooved, plastic tray which holds its pencils in place. Also inside the box (left side) is a list of colors corresponding to the pencils, but I have not taken the time to try to translate the list. That’s on the someday list because I really am curious about the names.
Finally, the cover of each book snaps closed thanks to a hidden magnet so it is less likely to flop open and allow the pencils to spill out. Overall, I give the packaging a solid A.
The pencils themselves are quite beautiful. Each color has its own unique design printed in gold on the barrel (along with the Phoenixcolor name on one side and the color name (in Chinese) on the other side. The ends of the pencils are dipped in the same lacquer covering the length of the pencil; the colors are a fairly good representation of the color core; and they all came sharpened with a somewhat blunt point. The round barrels are about the same diameter as the Irojiten pencils.
I charted out the Phoenixcolors in my Big Book of Color Charts in the “Blank Charts” section for reference, and started giving the colors my own names. These oil-based pencils feel smooth on paper, but not as smooth as Holbein pencils, and they do not seem to lay down as much pigment as the Holbeins, either. They seem to take some work.
While charting, I used a Staedtler Lumocolor permanent marker to write a corresponding number on each one of the pencils starting with the white (or neutrals) set. A little sloppy but that’s fine⏤as long as I can find the colors I need, all is well.
Now on to the coloring. I used a brand new Ruby Charm Colors design (Two Flamingos and a Parrot) with a patterned background to see how well these pencils layered color.
I started with the lightest purple (number 3 in my chart) and the palest green (number 80). It’s hard to see the colors in the video because the first layer was intentionally very light. From there, I added more blues, purples and greens to build the patterned background. I ended up sharpening all of the colors I worked with to a better point and used the Mitshubishi KH-20 (sent to me by a dear friend). I adore this sharpener because it doesn’t chew up too much pencil, plus it has two settings for point preferences.
Two or three more layers down and I was not super happy with the blending. Of course every new pencil brand / type takes some getting used to, but I felt like these were not blending the way I had hoped. At about 1:04 in the time-lapse video below, I used a Prismacolor Colorless Blender with so-so results, then tried a colorless Arteza Everblend Art Marker (which is alcohol-based) to see if that helped. I got a little more blending, but less than expected. Interestingly, a few early reviews of the pencils mentioned that these pencils are somewhat water soluble, but I don’t think they are⏤at least with the colors I tested.
More layers here and there and then I outlined the background pattern with darker blues and greens and used the Arteza Everblend to “fuzz out” my lines a little. For how many layers I put down (I think about 5 or 6 total), I expected a little more color saturation and more even blending. I broke a few pencils tips while coloring, but this does not mean the pencils are weak. I just sometimes have a really heavy hand when coloring⏤the pencils (even with a very sharp tip) seem to hold up pretty well overall.
Toward the end of the video, I drew some little circles in some of the pattern areas just to see how they compared to the nice sharp lines I can get with my Irojiten pencils. Fairly happy with those results, though the Irojitens are a bit harder and I can get sharper lines with them, so they will probably remain my go-to pencil for detail work.
I did notice that I enjoyed working with these pencils a lot more once I started coloring the smaller spaces within the flamingo. By this time of the testing process, though, I was tired and a little disappointed in my color choices, so I stopped coloring and finished up with some gel pen embellishments.
The pencils themselves land somewhere around a B (they are nice looking, sharpen well, don’t seem to crumble, and the fully lacquered barrels and ends are great), but as far and the workability or usability of the pencils goes … I’d say they fall somewhere in the C range. Not bad, just average.
Take my review with a grain of salt since we all have different needs and preferences when working with colored pencils … plus, this is the first time I have used them and there is, like I mentioned earlier, a learning curve. Funny thing⏤I did not like the Polychromos pencils the first time I tried them, either. I couldn’t understand why people gushed on and on about them, but I grew to absolutely love them once I got a better feel for how they performed.
So perhaps there’s hope for the Phoenixcolors, too. Here is a link to where I found them, but you might want to do your own search to get the best pricing.
You can find the Two Flamingos and a Parrot design on my website along with many other Ruby Charm Colors designs for coloring, and on Etsy, too. That’s all for now⏤hope you are staying creative and staying healthy!