Pencils: Caran d’Ache Supracolor Soft Watersoluble Pencils (review)

While browsing eBay some years ago for a reasonably priced wooden box set of Derwent Artists pencils, I came across a seller who was clearing out a number of small pencil sets from her collection. Among these were the Caran d’Ache Supracolor Soft watercolour pencils. The set was about $30, and since it mostly sells for $80 at retail, I snapped it up as fast as I could.


Unlike a lot of other pencil sets, the tin the Supracolor Soft pencils come in is hinged. For some reason the hinge is on the right instead of on the left or the top; not a big deal but as a right-hander I nearly always try to open it the wrong way at least once before I manage to get it open 🙂


Here is the colour chart for my 18 colour set.


The range in this tin is pretty well chosen, providing a good mixing palette with a focus on bright, pure colours. I would have liked a yellow ochre (or something similar) but it’s easy enough to mix by blending one of the existing yellows with a brown and some white.

I didn’t have these pencils when I did my coloured pencil comparison post, and I intend to do an updated version of that post at some point with more brands and more colours tested from each. This means I couldn’t test it for lightfastness in the same manner, though I intend to put a chart of these pencils up in the window and do a more thorough test for my whole set rather than just four colours as I did for the comparison post’s tests. A quick browse of Caran d’Ache’s website didn’t yield a colour chart or lightfastness ratings, but the individual pencils have lightfastness ratings printed on them next to the colour name, and all the colours in my set were rated at 2 or 3 stars, which is good. Hopefully when I do my lightfastness tests, they reflect those ratings. It’s worth keeping in mind that watercolour pencils generally seem to be a little less lightfast than regular coloured pencils.

Being Caran d’Ache, the Supracolors are – unsurprisingly – expensive compared to other coloured pencils. Derwent Watercolour and Faber-Castell Albrecht-Durer pencils are about $2.20 per pencil if bought open stock, but a Supracolor pencil will cost you $3.20. Though I haven’t tested the reformulated Derwent Watercolour pencils, I was unimpressed with the old formula ones, so I’d buy Supracolor over those any day. However the difference in quality between the Albrecht-Durers and the Supracolors is a lot less pronounced. I do think the Supracolors are a little bit better – a little softer and a little more opaque, though not as opaque as Prismacolor Premier pencils – but you could get by just as well with the Albrecht-Durers if your art supply budget is tight.

Here is the drawing/painting I did with the Supracolor pencils (I did cheat a little and use some Lukas gouache for the white highlights and the seeds).


Caran d’Ache’s Supracolor Soft pencils are an excellent choice for anyone who wants a good quality, easy-to-blend watercolour pencil. Though they are rather pricey, I think the Supracolor pencils are well-worth the extra money.

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