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Faber Castell Polychromos Pencils are a unique tool in the world of sketching. They are oil based as opposed to being wax based like other pencils, allowing them to blend with solvents, like turpentine or white in a similar way to how you would blend oil paints.

They offer a soft lively colour and are water resistant. Artists use these because of the high grade pigments and light fastness which means they’ll last for years. The leads are SV bonded which means they’re hardy pencils which can survive transit and are sturdier than your average colouring pencil.

We put Faber Castell Polychromos to the test and delved a little deeper into what makes them our artists’ must have drawing tool.


Coloured pencils are pigment held together by a binder and encased in wood. The quality depends on the ratio between pigment and binder and the quality of the wood. The artist quality pencils will create more vibrant colours and the most popular wood for pencils is cedar. Most colour pencils will use a wax binder and with these pencils you can add layers and layers of colour to get a depth of colour.

However, the drawback of wax pencils is the potential for wax bloom and build-up. This occurs when the binder starts to evaporate and move to the surface creating a white residue. Although in most cases this can be wiped away. However, Polychromos pencils differ with their oil binder which holds and spreads the pigment. It also reduces the risk of any bloom over time and you’ll notice a difference with these leads.


There are few different techniques you can use to raise your sketching game and get that professional finish.

The first way you can use solvents with Polychromos is with the aid of paper stumps. You can dip the stump straight into a solvent and apply it to the paper to help blend the marks easily. However, these will be subject to wear and tear. You can also use cotton buds for large areas but stumps are recommended for getting those detailed shading marks. As well as stumps you can also use brushes to get a different paint like effect- perfect while sketching outdoors.

The solvent technique is also great when you have a large background to cover! This technique can be used to add intense block of colour, subtle shading or blending two colours after putting down a cross hatching layer.

You may want to use thicker paper when trying these techniques as the solvents can eat through traditional card, we’d recommend the canvas paper or ampersand boards for a long-lasting finished piece. This is also a great way to recycle broken points. You can rub them on a bit of sandpaper and powder them, then put some thinner in with them to dissolve and stir till you have a wash.

One thing to note is you should put your pencil lines down first and then follow with the solvent. If the solvent comes into direct contact with your pencil it will cause them to erode very quickly.

Another advantage to Polychromos pencils is they stick to to many different surfaces paper, parchment, wood, stone, leather and metal. These pencils don’t require fixing – the adhere to the surface permanently.

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