Prismacolor, has gained incredible popularity in this new colouring trend. They make several types of pencils, but today’s focus is on their student-grade, Scholar, pencils and their artist-grade, Premier, pencils. There seems to be a general consensus that if it’s student-grade it’s inferior, so we must have the artist-grade.
When it comes to fine art manufacturers creating each of the two grades, often there is in reality, only a very small margin of difference. Did you know that?
Most notably, the difference will be in the quality of pigments used; the student-grade pencils will usually be made with synthetic pigments that have no lightfast properties, which of course makes them less expensive and more in line with a student’s budget. Artist-grade pencils will usually contain fine mineral pigments with lightfast properties, allowing the works of art being created to withstand exposure to light without fading, after all they will have to withstand many years of being on display. One is not necessarily inferior or superior, it’s better to think of them as being different.
In comparing the Scholars and Premier pencils, one can see both perform quite well and closely to the other. So, where else are we going to see a difference between the Scholars and Premiers?
Image from My Makeup Coloriages. Can you tell which is coloured with Scholars and which is coloured wth Premiers?
The range of the size of the sets available. The Scholar’s largest set comes in 60 pencils, while the Premier’s largest set comes in 150 pencils. The largest Scholar set, is designed to teach colour theory, and creating colours through blending. Do not be fooled into thinking that it isn’t a complete enough set to meet most colouring needs. The largest Premier set, has a fuller range of colours, to create more subtle and complex shadings and blendings…have you seriously seen how many different greys and neutrals are in that box of 150? Along with the difference of pigments used, is the difference in waxes, the Scholars have less, resulting in a slightly (ever so slightly) firmer lead, which will hold a point longer when sharpened, and less breakage. The Premiers are very soft, and and very waxy, and don’t hold a point for quite as long. However, most artists will manipulate their strokes, and rotate the pencil as they work, helping to shape and maintain a point as they go.
Lastly, one of the biggest differences is of course cost. Cheaper does not always mean inferior, especially in this instance. I paid just under $20 for my full set of Scholars, while my full set of Premiers was approximately $130.
Phew, that was a lot of information to cover – are you still with me?
Full disclosure here: I’ve been using Prismacolor pencils now for over 30 years now; they were what I first used in art school, oh so many years ago. I can remember buying them first, a few at a time, then being delighted when I had enough funds for my first set of 48! I wonder how many boxes of Premiers I’ve used up over the years.
Let’s start with the Scholar pencils. I think this has to be one of my most favourite sets of student-grade pencils that I’ve ever used. As discussed above, these pencils are highly pigmented, the colour is somewhat opaque and the laydown is creamy over the paper. These pencils will layer and build beautifully, and blending is a dream with these. As these are less waxy than the Premiers, you will notice that you do not have the same level of waxy sheen that comes with layering and building up your colours.
The Premiers, like the Scholars, are also highly pigmented, slightly opaque colour laydown, they glide smoothly over the paper, layer beatifully, building to rich and vibrant tones, and blend beautifully for shading. As these are quite waxy, however you will notice that as you continue to build your layers of colour, your artwork becomes shiny with the wax, which can lead to something called waxy bloom, where that shine from the wax casts a white-ish film over your artwork. This can be minimized by treating your work with a workable fixative that you spray on as you near completion of your artwork.
Tomorrow’s mini review will be Hilroy pencils.