Carrie L. Lewis, Artist & Teacher

Helping You Create Art You Can be Proud Of

Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils Compared to Caran d’ache Luminance Pencils

Like most artists, I have a long list of items on my To Be Purchased list. Top on that list are colored pencils.

Among my most desired colored pencils are Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils. I’ve wanted to try these oil-based colored pencils since first learning of them years ago.

Another pencil high on my list is Caran d’ache Luminance pencils and my curiosity was first sparked by this video review.

But neither set is inexpensive, so which to choose first?

The following review comparing these pencils provides a basis on which to make a decision. The review is provided by Emmy Kalia on YouTube. Emmy’s YouTube channel and her web site feature tutorials in colored pencils and graphite with a special focus on human subjects. Some of her most interesting videos are about drawing hair and skin tones.

Here’s Emmy.

A helpful comparison.

I’m most interested in the ability to draw with an eraser after laying down color with both pencils. I’ve found some ways to lift color with Prismacolor, but it’s nowhere near as easy as Emmy makes it look in this video.

Drawing with a knife—a process known as sgrafitto—is also intriguing. I’ve done a little of this with Prismacolor pencils but have never been very happy with the results. Perhaps I’m just using the wrong pencils!

But what about choosing which pencils to buy first?

My heart is still set on a set of Polychromos. I’ve been wanting those for years.

But I’m once again drawn by the prospect of being able to draw light over dark and you can’t do that with Polychromos.

If you’ve used either of these pencils, share your thoughts on why you would—or wouldn’t recommend them to another artist.

More Information

Caran d’ache Luminance Pencils web site.

Faber-Castell web site.

Emmy Kalia’s on YouTube Channel


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  1. Morning, Carrie! I use almost every brand of readily available colored pencils including Polychromos. A few years ago I went completely lightfast with my pencils and thus had to buy Luminance/ Pablo for the first time in order to plug color gaps – pinks, purples, etc. – that my other brands could not supply. Since then I have continued to add to my range of Luminance due to my growing appreciation for their quality. You get what you pay for IMHO. It is true they allow light-over-dark application better than other brands and the color laydown is nice and smooth and easily blended or burnished. As you know I work primarily on canvas with solvents – Luminance is a star in this type of work – it handles solubility very well indeed. I’m not about to give up on my other brands (including Polychromos) anytime soon they each have their own merits and drawbacks but Caran d’Ache is way up there, including their Watercolor-based line of Albrecht Durer pencils. BTW this is not a troll comment – I have no financial interest in any pencil company I just LOVE pencils! Cheers!

    • John,

      Thanks for your lengthy response. I’m certain your fellow readers will be interested in the pencils you use and why you use them.

      I’ve heard from other artists who use a variety of pencils for various reasons. This is one area where I’m a little behind the times, I’m afraid. I use primarily Prismacolor pencils out of necessity, but also have a couple of sets of Faber-Castell Art Grip pencils and water soluble pencils.

      No way I’d consider your comments troll-ish!

      Thanks for reading and for starting the conversation.

  2. John G.

    Hello again Miss Lewis! I’m far from a professional, but I recently treated myself to both of these sets of pencils. Until then I only ever used Prismacolors. The biggest difference I found was the amount of color you get from the first stroke! I was used to having to apply 3-4 layers before getting true color. Both Polychromos and Luminance put out a lot of color with a light touch!
    I like to do nature pictures (birds and landscapes and that kind of thing) so the colors work very well. Lots of greys and neutral “pale” colors. Sorry I’m not sure how else to describe them. Great for skies and trees and animal fur without having to use 6 different pencils.
    Because of the price difference, I save the Luminance for special projects like gifts.
    I’m no professional, but I bet a master like you would paint wonders with either brand!
    Hope you’re feeling better.

    • John,

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on these pencils. An artist doesn’t have to be a professional to know how pencils respond to paper. Your thoughts are intriguing. Especially regarding the pale colors.

      Not over my cold yet, but getting there. These things just take time!


  3. Annie Szentner

    Hello Carrie!

    I’m a little late to comment but I truly hope Santa surprised you with a set of Caran D’ache pencils.

    I’m also like John and have a variety of colored pencils. I started out with a 150 boxed set of Prismacolor and was very happy with those, in fact I still am. I have a set of 120 Derwent Artists’ pencils, a full set of Polychromos, a tin box of Marco Raffines and recently acquired a full set of Caran D’Ache Luminance Pencils. Each one of these brands has something to offer and have a place in my work. The only one I’d give up without a thought are the Marco Raffines but I keep those around to give to friends who come over and want to do some drawing or coloring and they have no idea the other brands might be better. Lol. I love the creaminess of Prismacolor and the huge range of colors they offer. The major con for me with Prismacolor is that they wear down faster than anything else. Derwents are a bit dry and scratchy but they also offer colors that are unique and desirable as well as blending nicely with any of the other lines.

    Polychromos are a completely different experience to the wax based pencils. The first time I put one to paper, it gave me a chill! Even though they aren’t as creamy as Prismacolor, they lay down pigment almost effortlessly. A lot of colors, although not all, have better coverage. I had no difficulty in blending them with other pencils in the line or with Prismacolor and Derwent. The first time you draw with Polychromos, you know you’re working with something very special.

    And now to Caran D’Ache. They are everything Polychromos pencils are with a little extra. For sure you have the ability to layer light colors over dark which is a huge bonus. The colors again lay down beautifully but in some cases they are too opaque which isn’t conducive to subtle shading. If you are selling your work, these pencils offer lightfastness on a level much higher than most of the others which is an important consideration.

    So, in my windy and overlong opinion (LOL), if you are budget conscious, stick with the Polychromos which aren’t a bargain themselves. They do cost significantly less than Caran D’Ache with a lot of the same attributes. Caran D’Ache cost approximately $6 per pencil although they’ll last at least twice a long as a Prismacolor pencil. Polychromos has a larger selection of colors; 120 vs 76 in the boxed set (and in that set of 76, there are 2 whites, 2 blacks as well as a blender). They also last significantly longer than the wax based media and require little effort to put down pigment.

    Best – Annie

    • Annie,

      Thank you for the information! Your comments on how the more expensive pencils compare to one another and to Prismacolor is beyond price. Thank you!


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