Wednesday, March 15, 2023

FOMO PSA: Albrecht Durer Magnus Watercolor Pencils

Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer Magnus Watercolor Pencils

I laid it on the line right there in the title: I bought Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Magnus watercolor pencils because I feared missing out!

Magnus tin with sleeve removed

Before I get into the Magnus pencils, here’s a little background on my use of the standard
Albrecht Dürer watercolor pencils, which I initially reviewed in 2018. One of my oldest sets of watercolor pencils (I’ve had it since my mixed-media collage days more than a decade ago), Albrecht Dürer was my top watercolor pencil choice before I discovered Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelles. Although it’s difficult to compare pencils on the opposite ends of the hard/soft spectrum, and although Faber-Castell’s artist quality watercolor pencil line has good pigment overall, the Albrecht Dürer pencils have characteristics that I don’t care for compared to Museum Aquarelles or even Caran d’Ache Supracolors (closer to an equivalent match to Dürers in quality). Except when I need a hard watercolor pencil, I don’t usually reach for Dürers.

As for the Magnus line – a limited selection of colors housed in a jumbo-sized barrel – I had bought a few colors several years ago with specific purposes in mind. One was to apply wide swaths of color efficiently to large sky areas. I do like the hefty barrels that are comfortable to grasp, and the 5.3mm core is unsurpassed by any other watercolor pencil, at least in size (I have a wild, crazy fantasy that Caran d’Ache will make even a few colors of Museum Aquarelles with Magnus-size cores!). Magnus are big by any standards. But again, once I got my hands on Museum Aquarelles, all other pencils seemed forgettable. And forget I did; I hadn’t thought much about Magnus since then.

Until a few weeks ago. That’s when I heard from two blog readers within days of each other that Faber-Castell was discontinuing the Magnus line. Before reacting irrationally, I first checked out the tip: Was it true? A quick search on Faber-Castell’s website confirmed that it was (scroll down to the response to a customer’s question).

Initially, I wasn’t alarmed – I obviously wouldn’t miss them. But then I started picturing myself a year or two from now suddenly having a purpose for jumbo-sized, artist-quality watercolor pencils, and I couldn’t think of anything comparable. (Heck, what if I have arthritis some day, and jumbo pencils are less painful to use?) Cretacolor offers jumbo-sized MegaColor colored pencils in various sets, including metallics, but not watercolor pencils (and I’m not a fan of Cretacolor’s watercolor Marino line anyway). By then, the Magnus sets would be hard to find except overpriced on eBay. Hmmm. Better safe than sorry.

Annoyingly, even though Dürer Magnus pencils are available in 30 colors, the largest standard set includes only 24; to get the complete set of 30, you need to buy the fancy, wood “gift” box. I got the standard set of 24 at Blick. The other six colors (Cream 102, Leaf Green 112, Middle Purple Pink 125, Cobalt Green 156, Dark Indigo 157, Mauve 249) are available open stock, and most are still available at Blick as of this writing. ArtSnacks also offers them open stock.

Set of 24 plus the 6 other colors. The set includes a small watercolor brush.

Before my Magnus pencils had arrived, I was doing a little digging to see what others in the colored pencilsphere were saying about their demise. Not much, it turns out – not even speculation about why Faber-Castell is discontinuing them. But I found one YouTuber with the opinion that the Magnus formula is slightly different from and inferior to the standard Dürer formula. That gave me something to compare.

As I made the sketches below – one with standard Albrecht Dürer and one with Magnus in the same two colors – they felt and looked the same (those chunky barrels sure are comfy to hold, even without arthritis). 

3/5/23 Albrecht Durer Magnus pencils in Hahnemuhle sketchbook 
(both portraits from Earthsworld reference photos)

3/5/23 standard Albrecht Durer pencils in Hahnemuhle sketchbook

While I was making swatches, however, my standard Dürers felt slightly softer, and the washes might be ever-so-slightly heavier in pigment. I’m not sure the difference is significant, though, if any exists. (It’s important to note that my standard set is more than a decade old, so it’s actually a bit surprising that those older pencils don’t show degradation compared to the much fresher Magnus set.)

Albrecht Durer Magnus

Standard Albrecht Durer 

To sharpen them, I use my Cretacolor Mega sharpener, which does a beautiful job.

A nice point from the Cretacolor Mega sharpener.
Sorry – nothing dramatic to report about Magnus pencils. This post is mainly a PSA: It seems the hoarding hasn’t 
yet begun, so if you want them all, now is the time. Relieved that I got mine!


  1. Ah, I gave up on completing my set since right after last time I commented. Cream seemed to be sold out everywhere, and to get the others I never bothered with, I'd have to go through like 3 different retailers and possibly buy the 24 set (I originally had the 12 and supplemented that with open stock)... which seemed excessive given I could get those same colors in regular durer. I did get a leaf green from Blick last time I made an order though, so I only MO (missed out) on a few colors in the end.

    1. I am the commenter Veronica, by the way, oops

    2. Veronica, I really appreciate that you left that earlier comment! Now you've saved me and probably other readers from FOMO! And by the way, I found Cream at ArtSnacks if you decide you need it!

  2. Thanks for the PSA! Although I also FOMO shopped following the comments on the previous post. Looking at your swatches, it certainly seems clear that the standard A-Ds are lusher than the Magnus. Hmmm, but could it be a subconscious effect on your hand pressure? I might be forced to perform my own swatch comparison. Anne HwH

    1. Go for it! All in the name of science, of course. ;-)

  3. Tina, you are so funny--so human.....


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