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Caran D Ache Luminance Coloured Pencils Review

Updated: Oct 21, 2023

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I recently got the full set of Luminance pencils by Carandache. I had been thinking about getting these for such a long time, but they are the most expensive set of colored pencils, which was kind of what was discouraging me. But then, how long could I resist!? I got the largest set available - Set of 76 pencils. Which is not a lot by any standards. The other top brands - Prismacolor Premier and Faber Castell Polychromos both have a collection of over 100 colors. Yet, the Luminance set is much more expensive. The 76 pencil set cost me 230 USD from

First thing you need to know, is that these are wax based pencils, unlike the Faber Castell Polychromos, which are oil based. Wax based pencils by nature are softer, and are better for covering larger areas quicker. The box that they came in was gorgeous. It was cardboard, but the best, highest quality cardboard I'd ever seen. Inside, were 3 layers of pencils, on a foam bed, with each pencil comfortably put in it's own case. There was no damage to any pencil, and they were beautifully sharpened. The core of the pencil was plenty thick, and the casing appeared to be of very good quality. Also, the overall selection of colors, though limited, was pretty good. Moreover, they are the most light fast brand.

I had watched several tutorials and reviews of these pencils, so I just started experimenting. The first thing I noticed was how pigmented these pencils are. And so easy to lay down. They put down a lot of color on the paper even with a very light hand, which is perfect. I layered a few colors together, and blended them with Gamsol spirit. The pigment spread really well, and I got a smooth even result.

The first thing I painted with these was this hand. I wanted something small and easy to start with, and had fun trying the pencils out.

Next I decided to try a full portrait. I used a combination of Polychromos and Luminance, but most of the skin was painted using the Luminance pencils.

And finally, I also wanted to try some still life, so I drew these chilies.

Some of my observations while working with these:

  1. These pencils are great for doing skin tones. The best thing is, the white and the creme pencils are quite opaque and layer well over dark colors to tone them down, which is very useful to draw highlights and shadows on skin.

  2. There is a learning curve to blending with paint thinner, and specially with these pencils, make sure you use very little spirit or it will pick the pigments off of the paper.

  3. There is no wax bloom, unlike Prismacolor Premier pencils, but if you hurry and don't keep your pencils sharpened, the drawing can look childish and crayon-like. So watch for that.

  4. These pencils are slightly thicker than a regular pencil, so you will need a special sharpener for these. They don't fit in the regular ones. I use the Derwent electric sharpener. Saying that, they do sharpen to a really fine tip without breaking, ever, which is brilliant!

  5. They are very versatile, though, I would still use my Polychromos to do tight details and very fine lines. Wax pencils in general are not the best for doing very detailed work.

  6. They do get used up pretty fast. Every time I sharpened them, they lost a few millimeters in length and broke my heart a bit.

  7. I worked on both cold pressed and hot pressed watercolor paper with these. I personally prefer the cold pressed one, as the pigment sticks better with hills and valleys of the paper. But the final results remains a bit rough and not perfectly smooth. The hot pressed paper doesn't take as many layers, but gives a much smoother finished result. I am yet to find a happy medium between these two.

The Final Verdict:

These are the best colored pencils I have ever used. I think they were totally worth the money, because I plan to continue doing portraits in this medium. But they are expensive, and I would only work with these along with the Polychromos (which makes the financial investment even larger). So, unless you are very serious about working in this medium, I would recommend you work with Prismacolor (much cheaper, but worse in quality) to get a similar look and feel. But if you want to see the true potential of colored pencils, and don't tend to give up on a medium too soon, these are perfect for you. In short, think before you buy these. But I promise you'll love them!

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