Pencils: Prismacolor Premier Watercolour Pencils (review)

Several years ago after getting rid of my old Derwent Watercolour pencils, I was looking for some new, reasonably priced watersoluble pencils to replace them. At the time a lot of the alternatives (Caran d’Ache, Faber-Castell etc) were out of my price range, but I did find this tin of Prismacolor Premier watersoluble pencils on eBay for about $60 AUD.

Here’s the chart for the 36 colour tin.

Though the regular Prismacolor Premier line has a huge number of colours, the watersoluble range is much smaller with only 36 colours. There’s a reasonable variety of colours for a set this size, so regardless of what subject you’re drawing or painting, you should be able to manage it easily.

Unfortunately, the lightfastness issues in the Premier pencils carry across into the watersoluble line. I’ve misplaced the original chart I did a few years ago (I’ve put the one above in my window with half of each swatch covered to conduct another lightfastness test) but I remember that after 6 months, about half (if not more) of the colours had faded, including nearly all the reds and purples and many of the blues. This means they are not suitable for fine art unless you’re going to scan it and sell prints rather than the original.

In my review of the Prismacolor Premier pencils, I ranted at length about how terrible the quality of them is (especially since they shifted production from the US to Mexico), with their off-centre leads and constant breakages no matter how carefully you sharpen them. The watersoluble line has the same problem, with some of my pencils ending up only being a couple of inches long by the time I finished the small drawing below.

The leads in these pencils are very soft, though not quite as soft as the non-watersoluble line. This means that they do layer and blend easily if you use them dry. When water is applied, the colour is reasonably concentrated; better than the old Derwent Watercolour pencils, but not as good as Faber-Castell’s Albrecht Durer or Derwent’s Inktense range (note that the Inktense line cannot be rewet once it has dried though). Also if you want a clean wash with no pencil marks, you will need to either press very lightly when colouring the area, or scribble on a separate piece of paper and then pick up the colour with your brush, as moderate to heavy pencil marks will still remain after a decent scrubbing with a wet brush.

Here is the drawing I did with the Prismacolor Premier watersoluble pencils.

If you’re looking to buy some watersoluble coloured pencils, you’d be better off buying some of the Faber-Castell Albrecht-Durer or even the reformulated Derwent Watercolour pencils. Most of the other lines of watercolour pencils do have fugitive colours in their lineup, but at least they’re generally marked as such, and they don’t break all the time, so you won’t be constantly having to buy new pencils.

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