Thursday, March 30, 2017

Colored Pencil Review: Blick Studio

3/27/17 Blick Studio Artists' Colored Pencils, Stillman & Birn Alpha
(If you missed the introduction to the series, please read that first for the methodology, as such, and my objective for these reviews.)

Although I had known for a while that Blick had its own line of colored pencils (along with many other art products with its name), I didn’t pay much attention to it, since I tend to find store-labeled brands, in general, of lower quality than other brands. Made in the Czech Republic, Blick Studio Artists’ Colored Pencils are the least expensive of the six I’m reviewing (and even less than Prismacolor). They are labeled “artist grade,” but at that significantly lower price point, I was skeptical. One day I noticed a sale on the Blick Studio Artists’ Colored Pencils as I walked through the Seattle store of this national chain. I couldn’t resist getting a box of 24 pencils in the “landscape” theme, which I figured would be useful both for urban sketching and the landscape-focused class I was taking.

With low expectations, I scribbled a few swatches. Much to my surprise, they are soft yet produce no dust or crumbles (one of my pet colored pencil peeves). In my apple sketch, the areas with multiple layers covered the relatively toothy Stillman & Birn Alpha paper well. The three hues I chose didn’t blend as completely as others reviewed in my series, but in this case, I like that individual pencil strokes remain relatively crisp for such a soft pencil. That’s usually the tradeoff – if a pencil is soft in application, which I prefer, then it can’t hold a point for distinct lines and small details. I used Blick pencils for several class assignments and generally like them.

Erasing test
The erasing test was average for a colored pencil – about half the pigment was removed, and if scrubbed any harder, the paper surface would have been damaged. Nonetheless, I lost one of the minor highlights on the far side of the apple, but I got it back with the eraser. Since I rarely erase when using any medium, including colored pencil, saving a highlight is plenty good enough for me.

I wasn’t able to find out whether Blick Studio pencils are wax- or oil-based. (I sent an e-mail to customer service and will update this post if I get an answer.) In my experience, wax-based pencils seem softer than oil-based and are also more common, so I’m going to guess that these are wax-based. The main reason it’s important to know is that wax-based pigments tend to “bloom” with a whitish cast after they’ve been applied to paper for a while, dulling the colors. (According to several books I’ve read, it’s one of the biggest drawbacks with Prismacolor pencils, which apparently leave behind a significant bloom.)

Update: I heard back from Blick: “The Blick Studio Artists’ Colored Pencils are wax based. Since all colored pencils are wax based, we usually only call out those that have oil in their formula – Faber Castell, Lyra Rembrandt, and Koh-i-Noor.” So even oil-based pencils have wax in them. Interesting! 

The only major downside is that I’ve hit rough, scratchy spots in some Blick pencils. It’s definitely a flaw, since those rough spots tend to show up as streaks of unblended pigment. If the color is dark, it doesn’t really show, so it might not matter. But in a lighter hue, it shows as an unintended streak.

Overall, I’d say Blick Studio pencils are a good balance between softness (making them faster and easier to apply) and hardness (point retention for details). The price for the quality is excellent – and tempts me to get the full set of 91 colors. But those scratchy bits bother me.

This may have nothing to do with the pencil brand and everything to do with the fact that it was the first sketch I did for the series, but I like this apple sketch best of the six.

P.S. Happy National Pencil Day!


  1. Nice!! I look forward to your other pencils reviews!! They are so helpful, and so fun!!

    1. Happy that you find the reviews useful, Wendi! Derwent Coloursoft coming up next!

  2. My twin grandsons, beginning at 12 years old and now 14 are asking me to continue to teach them (their idea!) drawing!! so surprised they are still 'with me'! Of course this melts my heart, and I try to pick topics that will give them skills practice as well as something delightful to create. I'm thrilled with your colored pencil reviews, and will probably give them, over time, several sets of pencils and some good quality paper so they can save their masterpieces with pride and joy! We have to do this ONLINE!! I am in Wisconsin, they are in Massachusetts! They don't care, they just want to see what we will do next!! I am amazed and so happy to do this with them! I will post some of their 'keepers' on my Mom.Madisonotes blog. What memories we are creating!


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