US Art Supply has once again attempted to bring a great performing, budget-priced pencil into the hands of the beginner artist. As opposed to their line of novice grade colored pencils however, these fall a little short of expectations.
This line of water-soluble pencils is the aquaphillic counterpart of the US Art Supply Colored Pencils line. Unlike their non-watery counterparts however, these are only available in 36 different colors and are not as great-performing.
Made with a strong wax core, the traditional watery finish of a watercolor is made quite prone to wax bloom and the application is very pale and then diluted some when water is applied. While you can get a decent intensity, it will take some patience and a lot of layer work.
What They’re Good For
These are designed to use as a practice colored pencil, however if you can afford something with either 1) more color options or 2) brighter colors, go with that. These are good in theory, but they lack two very important aspects of watercolor pencils. A good watercolor pencil takes on an intense hue once water is applied, it does not dilute. Also, taking into account that these do dilute, they should come in a wider range of colors, with some intense versions on either extreme of tone.
For all their faults, these are quite durable and very structurally strong which makes them ideal for classroom use- their price tag is also friendly to a bulk buyer.
While this is not a great-performing pencil, it does have its place in the market. Because they are designed with a thicker core and a sturdy hexagonal barrel, they are ideal to use for grip practice and can endure some hard treatment. These characteristics make this pencil an amazing tool for children starting to explore with new mediums. Also, because their lead is waxier than a regular watercolor pencil, they will double quite well as a basic coloring pencil.
These are a novice-grade colored pencil and have very little natural fade resistance, let alone lightfastness. Premium watercolor pencils are often very opaque in their application and on top of that score high on the lightfastness scale. These are quite sheer on application and are unfortunately very prone to fading in direct sunlight.
Durability/ Sturdiness 4/5
Made with a waxy core that makes them more durable than traditional watercolor pencils and topped off with a sturdy wooden encasing and hexagonal barrel, these watercolor pencils are basically indestructible.
Binder/ Quality 2/5
In terms of a watercolor pencil, these would be considered very poor quality because they are waxy and dilute with the application of water. Also, the pigment intensity is not strong and the color variation is quite limited. This is where the pencil really suffers. It’s like a greatly constructed toy, that’s durable, but not very useful.
Color Intensity 1/5
Most of these colored pencils do not have a very strong finish. They are better used for pieces without bright tones and perform better without water. Adding water to these dilutes them, so it takes a lot of layering to get the finish you like.
In terms of value, you really have to ask what you’re looking for in this pencil. If you’re using it for the classroom, it’s amazing value. It will last, it will guide a child to better grip practice, and will accomplish its basic artistic purpose. If you are trying to gain some real practice with watercolors, this brand is going to make you a little frustrated.
If you compare their watercolors with their colored pencils, you’ll have some questions about US Art Supply’s integrity. The latter are an amazing quality product and the first are more like what you’d expect of a budget colored pencil. That being said, these can be great, but for the very specific purpose of teaching children to work with watercolors.