Pencils: Bruynzeel Design Colour Pencils (review)

I normally buy my art supplies from the place near my Dad’s work (which is nearly an hour away) or online from Jackson’s in the UK, with occasional forays into the city to buy from the art supply stores there. However recently I discovered that there’s a pretty decent art supply shop on the outskirts of my own town, so naturally I had to go down there to see what they had and what their prices were like. Mostly their prices were about the same, but they did have a few brands I hadn’t tried before, like the Bruynzeel Design pencil ranges. Aside from regular coloured pencils, they also have watercolour (Aquarel) pencils and pastel pencils, but I just got some of the normal ones, the Colour range.

Here’s the colour chart for the handful of pencils I bought.

Bruynzeel Design Colour pencils are at the cheaper end of the price spectrum; I paid $2.10 for each of the ones I bought but the art supply shop in Bayswater has them for $1.55, even cheaper than their Prismacolor pencils (and much cheaper than the Derwent and Faber-Castell ranges). There are 48 colours in the range, so a full set won’t hurt the wallet as much as a full range from one of the other coloured pencil brands. As for lightfastness, I’m assuming that a number of colours will be fugitive, since this is an issue in pretty much every pencil range I’ve tried aside from the Caran d’Ache Luminance and the Derwent Drawing pencils. I’ll put my chart in the window for six months with half of each swatch covered and see how they fare.

It’s worth noting is that it seems the Bruynzeel name has changed hands at some point. If you look closely at my pencils (which I purchased individually from open stock), some of them have Sakura (who make the Koi watercolour box) on the barrel while others don’t. Googling “Bruynzeel Design” brings up the Royal Talens website (the same company who makes the Rembrandt watercolours and soft pastels I love). I believe the ones with Sakura on them may be older as I think that company was recently bought by Royal Talens, and the pictures of the pencils on their website don’t have Sakura on them, but I struggled to find much information on the business side of things. However, there seems to be no difference (that I can see) in the texture and quality between the pencils (changeovers can be very painful to artists, with the Prismacolor Premier pencil manufacturing moving from the USA to Mexico being a prime example).

That being said, once I started using these pencils, I understood why they are so inexpensive. At the start of this year, I reviewed the Rembrandt Polycolor pencils, and though they were certainly not terrible, they also didn’t stand up to the existing pencils I have in my arsenal. The Bruynzeel Design Colour pencils have almost the same texture as the Rembrandt Polycolors (not surprising since as I said above, they’re now apparently made by the same parent company) and suffer from many of the same issues.

They are quite firm, which isn’t an issue in and of itself, but unfortunately they do have a slight scratchiness to them (not as bad as the Polycolors, though), and they are relatively transparent, unlike Prismacolor Premiers, Derwent Coloursofts or Drawing or Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils, which all provide a slightly more opaque coverage. You will need to buy a white pencil from one of these other brands (my recommendation would be a Derwent Drawing or a Prismacolor Premier white, but if you go for the latter, check the pencil in person before buying it to avoid the quality issues I mentioned above) if you want to be able to add highlights or lighten colour you’ve already laid down, as the Bruynzeel Design white does little more than blend the colours together to make the strokes less visible; it doesn’t actually lighten it at all.

Here’s a small beachscape I drew on Stonehenge paper with the Bruynzeel Design Colour pencils, based on photos uploaded to the WetCanvas Reference Image Library by Irv and oldrockchick.

Bruynzeel Design Colour pencils are alright for sketching and they get the job done, but I think it’s worth paying a bit more for the Faber-Castell Polychromos or the Derwent Artists or Coloursoft pencils (depending on how firm you like your pencils). Their price will make them attractive to students or artists on a budget, but given I like the handling of all my other existing coloured pencils better, I probably won’t use these again, and will likely put them up for sale on eBay so I can spend the money on more Caran d’Ache pencils.

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