Friday, December 24, 2021

Tina’s 2021 Tops and Flops


At the top of my tops: Stonehenge papers
Another favorite year-end blog ritual is to look back on products that were new to me during the past year, especially those I’ve reviewed, and pick out the best and the not-so-best. This year had fewer discoveries than previous years, but I always find something worth noting here. Thankfully, I didn’t have many flops, either.

This ritual has become some of my most-read blog posts. See past product retrospectives: 2020, 20192018201720162015201420132012. 


Legion Stonehenge papers (above): I had the good fortune of discovering Legion Stonehenge’s line of excellent art papers when I was asked to review the company’s sample set at the Well-Appointed Desk. I had heard of the line, of course, but I’ve been so happy with my usual Stillman & Birn sketchbooks that I hadn’t felt compelled to go looking for something new. After trying them in the field, I decided they wouldn’t replace my favorite S&B sketchbooks for urban sketching. But the Stonehenge papers, especially White, Hotpress and Lenox Cotton, have stellar surfaces for graphite and colored pencil work. They have replaced the Strathmore Bristol line in my studio, which used to be my standard go-to (mainly because drawing instructors tend to recommend it).

Tombow pencil "sandwich"

Tombow pencil case
: Once again, I have the Well-Appointed Desk to thank for helping me make this product discovery when I first reviewed it there more than a year ago. During those dismal early pandemic months, the Tombow pencil roll made me feel like I had somewhere to travel to – even if I was going only as far as my front yard. In general, I didn’t think a roll would suit my sketching style – until I realized it was perfect for winter sketching! I’ve been using it regularly only for a short while, but I am smitten with its elegant simplicity and light weight.

Faber-Castell's new Pitt Graphite Matt pencils
Faber-Castell Pitt Graphite Matt Pencils: This new product is not going to change my life
(see the review for reasons why), but I do think it is truly innovative and unique and therefore deserves to be on my list.

Honorable mention (below): Caran d’Ache Wonder Forest Prismalo Bicolors: Two years ago when Caran d’Ache released its first-ever bicolor watercolor pencils, you can bet it made my Top Products list that year. The latest limited-edition, the holiday-themed Wonder Forest set is a variation on the same thing, so it’s not quite a “top.” It’s exciting, though, that it might mean we’ll see more Cd’A bicolor sets in the future.

Honorable mention: Caran d'Ache Wonder Forest Prismalo bicolors

Creepy color shift

Prismacolor colorless blender marker
: I didn’t give this product a full review, but testing it once during a colored pencil class convinced me I wouldn’t use it again. As we were encouraged to experiment with solvents and other blending materials, I tried this blending marker that I happened to have. Intended for use with alcohol-based markers, it is also promoted as effective in blending Prismacolor colored pencils. Maybe it works better with markers, but I found it to change pencil hues significantly. If I’m working hard on a time-consuming colored pencil drawing, I don’t want a surprise like that.

Derwent Chromaflow: No, thanks

Derwent Chromaflow Colored Pencils
: There are plenty of mediocre-to-bad colored pencils on the market that I don’t bother to review or mention as flops. Derwent’s new Chromaflow, which is getting a lot of promotions lately, is worth the bother.

That’s it for 2021! Which tops and flops did you encounter this year?


  1. Years later, I'm still using the Stonehenge Aqua watercolor paper. I just tore down a sheet this morning to refill my disc bound sketchbook.

    That Tombow pencil case doesn't seem to still be available at Jet Pens. I followed your various links and then did a search there.

    1. Unfortunately, the Tombow "sandwich" was a limited edition set and is no longer available.

  2. Glad you have a few items that made the top of your list!!

  3. I have purchased 3 of your tops... 2 of them after having read your blog. Maybe I should refrain reading it for the sake of my wallet :)

    1. I assume no responsibility for the condition of your wallet. ;-)


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