I have been disappointed so many times that I have become skeptical and even cynical about all inexpensive and most mid-range colored pencils on the market, and even some not-so-inexpensive ones. Such was the case when a set of Arrtx Colored Pencils, apparently a relatively new product, crossed my radar. Ho-hum, yet another likely mediocre set of colored pencils, “fine and creamy artist grade pigment,” ya-da, ya-da, whatever – wait! Bunnies??! Bunnies on the box! [Add to cart.] We product reviewers all have our weaknesses.
I was not familiar with the Arrtx name before I spotted these pencils, but the Chinese company offers a range of art materials such as markers and paints and now colored pencils.
At the risk of revealing a pattern of being seduced by packaging, let’s begin with the Arrtx box. Once I got over the bunnies (really – how many colored pencils do you find with bunnies on the box??), the other feature of the package that excited me was its stand-up design. It’s so much more practical and space-saving compared to the wide, flat tins that most large sets of pencils come in. When they come in flat trays, I always transfer them to a vase for use, so I thought this bunny-enhanced box would offer a slim yet practical alternative.
|Space-saving and convenient stand-up box.
|When all the pencils are in place, they look like this.
Unfortunately, the foam insert that keeps the pencils upright has a major design flaw: Instead of an individual slot for each pencil (see my review of the Karst Woodless Colored Pencil for an excellent example of this), the insert simply keeps the four rows of pencils from running into each other – while they are all sitting quietly in the box. As soon as one is removed, the other pencils collapse around it. Replacing the pencil requires rooting around for space. It’s hardly better than a vase. So much potential poorly executed.
|The foam insert doesn't support individual pencils.
|After pulling out several pencils, this is what happens.
Nonetheless, the pencils themselves are nicely lacquered the full length of the round barrel. Along with decorative stars, both the color number and name are printed in tiny, reflective metallic silver letters (which is sparkly but difficult to read for these aging eyes). All cores are well-centered, and the wood sharpens beautifully. Bonus: When I opened the box, I instantly got a faint whiff of the delicious licorice scent I usually get from Prismacolors! Perhaps one of the binding ingredients is the same.)
If a smaller set had been available, I would have bought it, but 72 colors was the only set I could find. For such a large set, the palette is unusual and somewhat redundant. It has a disproportionately large number of yellow-oranges, several of which are close in hue, and not as many greens as I would like to see in a set of 72. I could take out half the pencils and be left with a solid set of 36 good colors. No claims are made about their lightfastness, and I would not expect them to be artist grade for the price.
My initial swatches indicated that Arrtx pencils are neither super-soft nor hard, so they occupy that vast middle of the road which is already over-crowded with many, many colored pencils. I have clear uses for both soft and hard pencils, but pencils that are neither here nor there leave me little to get excited about. Arrtx pencils, however, produce almost no dusty particles – that’s a pleasant surprise.
Typically, I make a simple still life as my initial test sketch, but composition and color temperature studies have been on my mind lately, so I thought I’d kill two birds with one pencil. Picking out a secondary triad from the Arrtx palette, I found that these pencils have a higher pigment content than I would have expected. On the soft/hard scale, they remind me of Caran d’Ache Pablo, which are also in that mushy middle of the road – yet Pablos produce more dust. Although my sketch of houses has only a few small areas of intense color, the layering ability felt promising. My cynicism was turning to optimism.
|5/11/22 Arrtx colored pencils in Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook
Happy with that sketch through the window, I grabbed the last uncooked or uneaten piece of produce in the house (a danger of sketching right before shopping) – a firm, truck-ripened tomato (farmers market season can’t come soon enough). For this sketch, I chose three hues that come closest to my model Prismacolor CMYK triad (True Blue, Process Red and Canary Yellow). Despite the number of off-yellows and yellow-oranges in the set, only Light Yellow (1012) is a true yellow, which is a definite weakness in the palette.
|5/12/22 Arrtx colored pencils in Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook
To my huge surprise, Arrtx pencils are a delight to use! Layered smoothly and effortlessly, that’s a lot of pigment I piled onto the tomato. Arrtx is easily better than many others in its price range (and some that are nearly triple the price). The set is an excellent value, even considering some redundant colors. The stand-up box is a disappointment, but with bunnies, it’s a wash. More important, the set has restored my faith that high-quality colored pencils can be found at a reasonable price.
(Incidentally, my recent interest in and study of color temperature made me approach this tomato sketch in a different way compared to all the other simple still lives I’ve made as pencil test sketches. I don’t know if it shows in the result, but I feel the difference in how I see and use color temperature now.)