Monday, September 4, 2017

Colored Pencil Comparison: Luminance vs Pablo (Caran d'Ache)

At the time of this writing, I quite admire the Pablo colored pencils from Caran d'Ache. Their transparency, ability to layer and blend, and creamy laydown are wonderful. My 18-pencil Pablo set is sufficient for just about anything, from portraits to landscapes to botanicals, as I mix my colors.

Recently I obtained the Luminance 20-pencil set, which only shares seven colors with the Pablo set. Luminance is highly lightfast across the entire range of 76 colors, in contrast to Pablo, which is mostly lightfast with some exceptions (the 18-color Pablo set is the most lightfast across the board, and unfortunately the ratio of lightfast to fugitive colors drops off rapidly for larger Pablo sets).

Luminance is actually mostly wax / some oil, while Pablo is mostly oil / some wax.

Both Luminance and Pablo have a color labeled "orange", and I decided to compare these two in particular.

Luminance's orange uses the pigment PO62: benzimidazolone orange, an excellent orange pigment with high lightfastness and used in high-grade artist watercolors like Daniel Smith's permanent orange and Winsor & Newton's winsor orange. Luminance's orange is among the most lightfast pencils of the entire line.

Pablo's orange uses a mix of the pigments PY13 and PO13, neither of which are used by any artist watercolors that the handprint website knows of. They seem to be much cheaper pigments, and Pablo's orange is only two stars out of three for lightfastness. (Most Pablo colors have *** or ** lightfast ratings, but there's a significant number of * colors.)

As always, in these tests I apply a colorless blender (Caran d'Ache's full bright) to the bottom half of the stripes.

Layering test of the two orange pencils.

Both Luminance and Pablo layer very well; here is about 7 layers each with distinct shading differences on Strathmore's Visual Journal drawing paper (medium tooth).

You can see that Luminance's orange can achieve a darker value than Pablo's orange.

Oranges laid over violet.

Oranges laid over prussian blue.

Next I wanted to see how transparent each color was. Looking at the ends of these stripes with the most orange pigment deposited, note that both Luminance Pablo are still affected by lower layers even at maximum strength, but Pablo is noticeably far more transparent.

Oranges laid over pink micron crosshatching.

This test cinches it: this particular Pablo color is far more transparent than its Luminance counterpart.

The question becomes: assuming this example holds as a stable comparison for both colored pencil lines, how does this affect layering and color mixing?

I'm amused at the idea that the Pablo line—still artist grade, but not the Ferrari of the colored pencil world like the Luminance line—may suit my needs better than Luminance where line art is concerned.

But I think for just a pure colored pencil experience without relying on line art beneath, Luminance is the best choice for what I want to do. Plus, unlike Pablo, Luminance's color range contains no nasty surprises with regards to any fugitive colors.

Ava Jarvis is an ink and watercolor artist with a portfolio site at If you found this post useful, consider a one-time tip or supporting Ava on Patreon.