Pencils: Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor Pencils (review)

One of the coloured pencil brands I’d often seen discussed on art forums but had never tried was Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor pencils. For a long time I didn’t bother investing in any, since I already have full sets of a number of other brands, but when I put in my last order from an art supply retailer online, I decided I might as well just get a small set so I could see if I liked them or not.

lyra-rembrandt-polycolor-pencils

The pencils come in a hinged plain metal tin, with a slip-on cardboard cover. My poor tin got a little bit squashed in the corner on its way here from England. There are 78 colours in the range, but I decided to just get a 12 colour set. Here’s my colour chart for the set.

lyra-rembrandt-polycolor-chart

Unlike most coloured pencils, which are wax-based, the Polycolors are oil-based, similar to the Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils. They feel a bit harder and less smooth than the Polychromos as well, though they layered and blended well enough. Especially the white, which I found scratchy enough to annoy me. I also felt that these pencils weren’t quite as rich or strongly pigmented as the Polychromos. Again, the white pencil really annoyed me in this regard; artists often use the white pencil over other layers to burnish and lighten areas of colour, but the white pencil needs to have some opacity. The Polycolor white was more or less useless for lightening, though it was good for blending and smoothing the colour (I might as well have just used a colourless blender pencil, though). For the lighter areas on my peach, I ended up having to lift colour out with my kneadable eraser. Luckily the Polycolor pencils lift easily with a kneadable eraser, which made this pretty easy. As long as you don’t press too hard with most pencils, a kneadable eraser will generally allow you to lift enough colour to give you an almost white surface again.

If money is a real issue but you are keen to try coloured pencils, the Polycolors are a good choice; at about $1.20 per pencil (at least from my local art supply shop) they are half the price of most brands (including Derwent, Prismacolor and Faber-Castell). I personally think it’s worth spending a bit more on the Faber-Castell, but these are still good enough that they will let you learn and experiment with coloured pencil techniques if you’re on a tight budget. I’d recommend buying a white from a different brand to make up for the near-useless white in the Polycolor range (Faber-Castell for an oil-based pencils or Derwent Drawing or Coloursoft for a wax-based; Prismacolor also has a really nice, opaque white in their Premier line but they are terrible for internal breakage, so buyer beware).

I’m not sure about the lightfastness of the Polycolor pencils. I’ll try to remember to put some swatches in my window to see how they fare, but I have heard some people say that the range is a mixed bag, with some colours being highly lightfast and many other colours being fugitive.

Here’s my sample drawing done with the Lyra Rembrandt Polycolors, based on a photo uploaded to WetCanvas’s Reference Image Library by kayek.

rembrand-polycolor-peach

While I wasn’t all that fond of these pencils personally, I can see how some artists might find them useful, depending on their preferred techniques. They are among the harder ranges of pencils and their relative transparency means they are well-suited to glazing techniques, but I found it more difficult and time consuming to build up solid layers of colour than I do with some of my other pencils. If you’re after strong, opaque pencils, these are not for you. But if you like to work with delicate layers of colour or you’re trying to add a lot colours to your pencil collection without breaking the bank, you should probably try at least a few individual Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor pencils to see if you like them.

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