Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Review: Lamy Plus Colored Pencils


Two colored pencil lines from Lamy

Like many urban sketchers, I cut my teeth on fountain pen sketching with a Lamy Safari. A German manufacturer of various types of pens and other stationery items, Lamy makes a range of fountain pen models, and the Safari is its most basic. Apparently marketed to students with its triangular section, it is sturdy, inexpensive, versatile (with interchangeable nibs), easy to maintain and comes in lots of colors. Users of all ages like them for all of those features. Eventually I moved on to other fountain pens, but Lamy remains a popular choice for many sketchers.

Recently the Lamy name crossed my radar in a form I hadn’t seen before: colored pencils! The Plus and Colorplus series are student grade. I knew that Lamy made mechanical pencils, but I didn’t know whether Lamy made any woodcased graphite pencils (I still don’t), let alone colored pencils. Since the company makes such a stalwart, entry-level fountain pen, I wondered if Lamy’s colored pencils could be similarly reliable?

Plus and Colorplus are hard to find in the US, but a friend in the UK knew I was curious, so he generously sent me a set of each (Colorplus also comes in a separate set of neon colors). Both have triangular barrels for ease of use by young hands; the Plus set has a jumbo-sized barrel.

The Colorplus line has a metallic silver, standard-size, triangular barrel with a nicely finished end cap.

The Lamy Plus has an exposed end with a slightly tapered finish – a nice touch for a kids’ pencil.

Jumbo-sized Plus has an exposed, slightly tapered end.

In their tin, the Plus triangular barrels can be laid to show their silver logo side or their colored side (never mind the barcode side). Kids probably don’t care, but again, it’s an attractive feature that reminds me of the Lamy Safari: It might be made with students in mind, but its sophisticated design would appeal to adults.

Lamy Plus logo-side up... 

...or color side up.

From test swatches, the Plus pencils seemed softer than Colorplus, so I decided to take them for a spin with a sketch (made in a Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook). In the set of 12, I couldn’t find a primary triad that corresponded with the CMYK hues that I am obsessed with lately, so I used a more traditional triad.

7/25/21 Lamy Plus colored pencils in Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook

(Yes, it’s my uninspiring backyard again, which I can sketch so comfortably and delightfully from our shady back deck on summer afternoons. You may recall all the apples I sketched a few years ago whenever I reviewed colored pencils or wanted to try out a triad. My backyard in summer is the new apple: After sketching it repeatedly, I am familiar enough with it that I can focus on materials and hues. It’s better than an apple, though, because the light is different depending on the time I go out there, so each one is a new challenge, even when the subject is overly familiar.)

It’s a good thing I was enjoying an iced coffee, lovely sunshine and a cool breeze that day, because the pencils offered no pleasure. Almost immediately, the hard, dry cores produced gritty bits that got worse as I applied more layers. By “applying more layers,” I mean working hard to scrub the scant pigment on, since lighter pressure produced near invisibility. I realized early on that my triad choice was unfortunate. When I layered the three hues in the deepest shadow areas, I got pale mud, so I put in some black to darken them.

Gritty bits in the pigment -- bleah.

Overall, it was an unpleasant experience with terrible results that I wouldn’t want to inflict on adults, let alone children.

At this point, you may be thinking that I’m spoiled by high-quality, high-pigment Caran d’Ache pencils, which would certainly be an unfair comparison with any product intended for kids. Although you’d be right in thinking I’m spoiled, I’ve tried several student-grade colored pencils that I’m happy to use and recommend to budget-minded sketchers. Included are those by DOMS Industries, Crayola Signature and, on the water-soluble side, Faber-Castell Goldfaber Aqua. Even if pencils are not artist grade, they can be of decent quality and therefore a good value – neither of which the Lamy sets are. The price for the Plus set of 12 in the UK was about £10, or US $13.75. More than a buck each for these hard, dry sticks? No thanks.

Lamy, you make good fountain pens; stick to them.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your honest review. I would have expected more from them.


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