Saturday, August 31, 2019

Product Review: Cretacolor Graphite Aquarell

My treasured pencil box...
After returning from each symposium I’ve attended, I’ve shown off my most prized possession from the swag bag: the Cretacolor pencil box sporting the symposium logo. The box could be filled with previously chewed bubblegum or cigarette ashes, and I would still treasure it (after cleaning it out), because the part I value is its association with each symposium, not its contents. Much better, however, is that it comes filled with pencils, and each year’s tin has contained a different variety. Although I’ve used many
...filled with a handy assortment.
of the pencils over the years, it occurred to me that I haven’t reviewed any. I’m going to start with the
Graphite Aquarell.

The Amsterdam box came with an 8B. In previous years, I’ve received an HB and a 4B. Shown side by side, you can see that the grades vary, but not as much as ordinary graphite pencils in the same grades. If I’m using a water-soluble graphite pencil, I usually want the wash to be as dark as possible. For my money, I think the 8B is all I would need. It can still be applied lightly by minimizing pressure.
Each swatch got two swipes of the waterbrush in the same spot.
(Tests done in Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook)
Left: Cretacolor 8B; right: Hi-Uni 8B

The only other 8B graphite pencil I have is a Mitsubishi Hi-Uni, so I compared them. While the Cretacolor feels just as soft, it isn’t quite as silky-smooth as the Hi-Uni. The Austrian-made Cretacolor’s core, however, is a bit thicker.

In the tree sketch below, I activated the 8B with water sparingly to enhance only the areas with the darkest value. Tiny touches with a waterbrush will bring out a rich, dark wash very quickly. Although the effect is not the same as the subtle gradients that are possible with graphite applied and smudged slowly and gradually, I still love the beautiful tonal variations that are possible with this one water-soluble graphite pencil just by varying the pressure and applying a little water. It’s especially nice on toothy paper (I used Stillman & Birn Beta).

8/21/19 Cretacolor Graphite Aquarell in S&B Beta sketchbook

I probably won’t be using graphite much during the remaining colorful days of summer and fall, but I’d like to give this pencil a more solid try during the drab days of winter.


  1. I have enjoyed using the Cretacolor pencils ever since I collected my first box at the Singapore Symposium. I now have the Porto and Amsterdam boxes as well! Even better still I won the pencil roll in the final raffle this year, so I probably won't need to buy anymore graphite pencils for some time.


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