|Derwent Procolour colored pencils|
A few weeks ago when I showed my swag from the Chicago symposium, I mentioned that I had received a
sample Derwent Procolour colored
pencil. Derwent’s newest colored pencil line, Procolour has just been released in the
US. Initial scribbles looked promising, so I chose a couple of fistfuls of pencils
from Procolour’s line of 72 colors through open stock at Blick.com.
British company Derwent makes a staggering number of
colored pencil collections (almost all of which I’ve tried), including both
traditional and water-soluble. Within its traditional line, Studio and Artist are its firmest lines (intended
for outlining and crisp details), and ColourSoft (which I reviewed earlier this year)
is its softest available in a full range of colors. (Derwent Drawing Pencils are even softer and are my favorites for
certain purposes, but they are available only in a narrow range of earth
tones.) The new Procolour line falls somewhere between ColourSoft and Studio/Artist in
softness. Since my colored pencil review
series showed me that I prefer a slightly harder pencil
(such as Faber-Castell Polychromos) to
super-soft ones, I was eager to find out how Procolours stack up.
|8/8/17 Procolour pencils, Stillman & Birn Alpha|
First, a few comments about appearance and other non-core
physical characteristics. Like Derwent’s other “professional” colored pencil collections,
round Procolour pencils have a slightly thicker barrel than most colored
pencils, and I find that thickness especially comfortable to use. The barrel
and 4mm core are the same size as Caran d’Ache Luminance and Museum Aquarelle pencils.
All Procolour pencils have the same dark gray, matte-finish
barrel, which is attractive enough. The core color is identified with a glossy
end cap as well as a color name next to it, which I appreciate (other brands
indicate colors by number only). All of Derwent’s professional pencil lines have
consistently colored barrels rather than barrels that indicate the core color. Though
it’s not a deal breaker, it’s somewhat inconvenient not to be able to identify
the color at a quick glance. However, my much bigger peeve about Derwent’s
colored end caps is that many do not reflect the cores’ colors accurately. I
have the same issue with Derwent’s Inktense line (and, to a lesser degree, the ColourSoft line). I have to
look directly at the core tip to find a color and always make a test scribble
to confirm that color. (It’s a good thing I habitually store my colored pencils
in cups with points facing up, which makes the task easier.) For a line of
pencils intended for professional use, this seems sloppy.
|Pretty end caps, but not necessarily helpful.|
Now let’s get to the important part: the core. In
softness, Procolours are softer than oil-based Polychromos and
produce almost no dust. In fact, I’d say they are more comparable to Caran d'Ache Pablo in softness.
I was not able to find out whether Procolours are wax- or
oil-based (Derwent’s site says Procolour has “the covering power of wax yet
glides like an oil”), but subjectively as they are applied to paper, they feel waxy. I don’t see any evidence of a wax bloom on the cores.
They sharpen to a nice point in my (few) sharpeners that accommodate larger
pencils, especially my electric Bostitch.
On Stillman & Birn
Alpha paper, it takes several layers of pigment to cover the slightly toothy
surface. On S&B
Epsilon’s smoother surface, the Procolours cover the texture with fewer layers.
They blend beautifully with rich hues and tones.
In my erasing test, done on the S&B Alpha with a Tombow Mono Zero eraser, Procolours
fared slightly worse than average and do not erase completely.
Lightfastness is generally not a primary concern of mine,
since I work almost exclusively in sketchbooks. But I appreciate that Derwent
provides a full chart of colorfastness ratings on its website for those who need this information.
I could complain that Procolours are available in only 72
colors (compared to Polychromos, Pablo and many other professional lines that come in
120 or more colors) – but I’m not going to. The line includes a few unique colors I’ve not seen elsewhere. Although some part of me always wants as many colors as possible
of any art material, the fact is, 72 colors
is plenty when the range is varied enough for urban sketching and still lives,
which make up the vast majority of my use of colored pencils. In other words, I
would like more colors – but I don’t know what I’d do with them.
|8/26/17 Procolour pencils, Stillman & Birn Alpha|
Do I recommend Procolour? Sure – it is a useful addition
to Derwent’s extensive collection to fill the hole between ColourSoft’s
softness and Studio’s and Artist’s hardness, and it fills it well with a strong range of colors. It’s impressive that Derwent now has a line of colored pencils in each of five (that I am aware of) degrees of softness – something for every need or preference.
Do I like it better than
Polychromos or Pablo (my current two favorites)? No – and I’m not sure I can articulate why, which means my reasons
are probably idiosyncratic. Maybe Procolour’s degree of softness isn’t
soft enough to make it useful for certain applications when softness is desired. It’s also not hard enough for details as Polychromos is. Or maybe the extra waxiness puts me off a little – a purely
subjective “feel” factor. Less subjective is the inaccurate end cap color,
which is a significant issue if I am constantly having to look at the tips and swatch
the colors before using the pencils. (One of the thickly varnished end caps was already badly chipped when I received the pencil.) It’s a major peeve. I do like the thicker barrel.
As usual, there is no “best” colored pencil. Softer cores are great for some applications; harder cores are better for others; how they feel in my hand and on the paper is important. These are definitely worth trying.
|8/9/17 Procolour pencils, Stillman & Birn Epsilon|
(Most links in this review go to Blick.com, but they are
not affiliate links, and I paid for these pencils myself. Please shop around
for the best value. Blick does tend to have competitive prices, but more
important, it offers Procolour pencils open stock, which I think is the best
way to buy any colored pencils.)