Today, lets talk about Caran D’Ache Luminance, probably the most expensive pencil out there, the Holy Grail to many. Lets see if the hype is really worth it, shall we?
All previous reviews and what’s to come, you can find HERE
To recap about Caran D’Ache itself, Caran D’Ache was born in 1915 and they’re located in Switzerland. They don’t outsource their production so thus the price is quite European as well. The quality of all their pencils is superb, even their student quality is great. I recently found a fun product they have, Fibralos, those are basically markers but they’re water soluble, so sort of like watercolor pencils but markers. How cool is that? Anyway back to Luminance. Luminance pencils are rather new, been in their range only since 2010. For geek fun, see their history page, chock full of fun information.
Luminance comes in sets of 20, 40 and 76. There’s also a wood box set with 80 pencils, 4 of which are repeat colors. By their website it seems they now come in cardboard boxes like the Museum watercolor pencil range, mine is still in a tin like Pablos.
The pencils are wax based with a round cedar casing. The casing itself is wood colored, the tip is colored according to the lead color (though not always, some are pretty off so do take the time to make yourself a color chart). First editions didn’t have a color code at all so if you happen upon those, you know. These colors are all extremely lightfast, thus also the name Luminance and why they stop at 76. For a colorist, lightfastness is usually not all that important but artists need this, you really don’t want your work to fade in a year when hanging on your clients wall for instance.
The pencils themselves have the color name and code on them.
So, straight to the pros and cons, shall we?
- Incredibly soft and blendable
- Round barrel is comfortable to hold for longer stretches
- Excellent range of muted colors, great for portraiture and nature studies
- Lightfast to the point of thou-shall-fade-like-NEVER
- Not bad with details, better then expected for such soft pencils
- They look stylish, you have to admit 😀
- Great naming convention, they use pigment names here, unlike with Pablos
- One of the very best white pencils out there (we’ll get to a comparison of whites soon as well, stay tuned)
- Nice thick 3,8mm lead
- Premium cedar casing
- Will fit in standard sharpeners
- Available open stock in some art stores and Amazon
- Well, the price is breathtaking. It took me a LONG time to save up for mine (I’ve spent years collecting pencils so no, I’m not rich, far from it :D)
- A few from my tin are a little scratchy, Cassel Earth for instance, wouldn’t really expect that for such a price
- Since they’re very soft, they tend to lose their point very fast but that’s to be expected
All in all, I’d say the only serious con is the price. If you only color with these, I’d say it’s not the set to get if you only want to go with one tin (in that case I’d say try Faber-Castell Polychromos or Caran D’Ache Pablos). But they are absolutely amazing so if you’re into pencils like me, you’ll love these.
As these are of the soft variety of wax pencils, I’ll compare them to Prismacolor Premier, the other titan of softness bonanza.
One clear difference that jumps out immediately is the color range. Where Prismacolor is happy-go-lucky with vibrant brightness, Luminance is muted and natural. Prismacolor casing doesn’t even go in the same sentence with Luminance, that warped crap just does not compare with Caran D’Ache quality. The leads are incredibly soft for both brands, Luminance being a tad tougher though, doesn’t break as easily and holds a point a wee bit longer then Prismas.
If you need very soft wax pencils for backgrounds and large areas in general, go with Prismas, unless you plan to hang the work since Prismacolor is not lightfast, they don’t even bother marking their pencils with lightfastness ratings.
They’re both good in what they do but you don’t really have to think in curse words when using Luminance, unlike with Prismacolor (but we’ll get into that later when it’s Prismas turn on the review table). The price is dramatically different though. So unless you are a pencil geek or an artist, get Prismas, stalk Amazon, they often have great deals for Prismas. It’s sort of like buying a car. Prismas are like an old Beetle, colorful and fun but breaks down a lot. If you want to cry every time you buy gas but be crazy excited to polish and wax your car, get a fancy sportscar, namely Luminance in this case. That’s about what it boils down to.
Yay, time for illegible handwriting! Seriously, Google will give you better ones, these are just for my own use so they’re not pretty 😀 Click on the pictures to see them bigger.
Official color chart:
Example coloring piece done with Luminance:
Picture: Wild Savannah by Millie Marotta
I don’t regret buying these. Never will. But if I lost all my pencils, they wouldn’t be the first ones I’d replace. And that’s only because of the price. In all other aspects, these are amazing and enjoyable. And if you only get one from this set, get the white. If you get more, I suggest you get the ones great for skin tones, the range of burnt ochres and siennas if you do any portraits or human coloring. Overall, love love love!
Next time I’ll talk of Derwent Coloursoft, the European answer to Prismacolor.
Disclaimer: all of the above opinions are mine, you might have a different experience with these pencils