Monday, May 25, 2020

Crooked to the Core

Off-center cores

Occasionally when I’ve mentioned Prismacolor, I’ve either implied or stated explicitly that I’m leery of contemporary Prismacolor Premier pencils (made in Mexico). My experience with them years ago was that the cores broke repeatedly, as if they were already broken inside the wood casing. (This is not an uncommon issue. . . I’ve seen YouTubes in which artists have come up with solutions such as heating Prismacolors in the microwave to meld shattered cores.) I got so frustrated that I tossed the set. It’s worth it to me to hunt for and use vintage, US-made Prismacolors (with the brand names Eagle, Berol or Sanford) because they are of consistently high quality. Although they may be decades old, they are as good as new. Thankfully, they are still plentiful enough on eBay that a used set can be purchased for not much more than a contemporary set (sometimes less if colors are missing or the box is shabby).

After acquiring a number of used vintage sets, I was missing only a handful of colors, so I decided to get some contemporary ones by open stock. I thought it would be a good opportunity to see if the quality issues I had experienced before had improved. 

Of the fistful of pencils I purchased, about a third of them had the problem shown in the photos above and at left: off-center cores. You can see the asymmetrical sharpening in the photo of the points, but it’s more apparent from the unsharpened end. This is not necessarily a problem in usage; they might be fine, but these pencils will never sharpen properly, and the cores may be warped inside. It’s definitely a sign of inconsistent quality. I haven’t used them enough to experience the repeated breakage I’ve seen before, but I wouldn’t be surprised. 

(Tip: I got these online, but in a different era, I would have gone to the store and examined each pencil’s core to ensure that it was centered before buying it.)

On the upside, the creamy, soft texture that Prismacolors are known for hasn’t changed. Nor has the scent. . . . aaaahhhh! Good & Plenty, licorice and the fragrance of rainbows.

Ahhh... the happy scent of a Prismacolor bouquet!


  1. It's a shame this has happened to what used to be the dominant watercolor pencil. Maybe worse is that they don't seem to care. Then again, Faber-Castell and Caran d'Ache are probably pretty happy :-)

    1. It is too high-quality American-made colored pencils anymore. :-(

  2. I want to like the feel of Faber-Castell and Caran d'Ache as much as Prismacolor but I just don't so I will continue to hunt down old Eagle and Sanford Prismas and suffer the occasional wonky modern one. I must be a glutton for punishment.

    1. Go for it, Ana! I promise I won't bid against you! ;-)


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