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This company produce both ‘normal’ pencils and an interesting woodless variant to the coloured pencil theme.

Cretacolor are made in Austria and are a made in ranges of traditional wooden cased pencils and also a range of wood free pencils which are water soluble.

There are a wide range of different pencils produced, but not all are imported into the UK.

I have sampled two standard coloured pencils, The MARINO aquarelles and the Karmina dry point coloured pencils.

MARINO AQUARELLES are an excellent soluble pencil for a beginner.  The colour range is modest - only 36 colours in the set, but some huge advantages in use.  

Firstly, whilst the colour selection is limited with the small set,

the actual colours are all lightfast to either ASTMS  D4303 - LF1 ( highest ) or LF2  ( of 5 levels of standard ).  

( For information on Lightfastness and ASTMS testing, see the appropriate page in this section )

This puts the pencils on a par with Caran d’Ache Luminance for stability at a fraction of the price.

Each pencil is labled with the LF rating and the name of the colour in English, which is nice.

The second benefit for a beginner is the way the colours behave.  They are easy to lay down - though perhaps not as free in the lay down of colour as some brands.

When wet, the colour is pretty much identical to the dry version - save that the pigment is now a smooth even tint to the paper.  

There are no surprises. There is nothing to encourage a new user of watercolour pencils to scream and pack the box away in a cupboard.  What you put down on the paper is what you get.

I checked with a representative of the manufacturer and they confirmed that the pigments in the Marino selection are identical to those in the woodless Monolith variety ( considered below ).

KARMINA COLOURED PENCILS are a similar set of 36.  I don’t know whether they are wax or oil based, but they handle well and for a starter set at around ( or below ) £1 a pencil they are good and should encourage a user to extend their use of the medium.  In the UK they only appear in sets, which would make individual replacement a problem. But despite this I would still recommend them for an absolute beginner


The wood free Aquarelle version is Effectively a 7mm diam. crayon with a lacquered film to protect the hand, they are quite firm (not waxy) and will lay down a large amount of colour in a short time.

They dissolve reasonably well - though not as easily as some brands of watercolour pencils, and any shavings from sharpening are all pigment and can be used for making watercolour washes.

On the basis that the recipe is the same for these as for the Marino pencils ( above ) I would expect the pigments here to also meet ASTMS - D 4303 for lightfastness - at least for 36 of the colours.

The noteworthy factor is that there is very little noticeable difference between the colour laid down dry and the same colour after water has been added.  The darker colours show up better on watercolour paper because the paper grain has all been filled with pigment after water treatment.

The paler colours can appear slightly lighter where the pigment has been evened out with the brush and water.  There is no major colour shift though.

A sample Penciltopics standard chart of the full set of the Aqua Monolith (woodfree) aquarelles has been linked here to the colour comparison pages of this site   Cretacolor Aqua Monolith chart

Sets of up to 72 colours in number are sold at around £85 so they are comparable with other quality pencils on price , but the amount of pigment you will get for your money is much greater than the average pencil.

Watch out if you drop them as they tend to break easily ( no wood protection )

But all the pieces can still be used.

I think they may prove to be excellent on grit papers but have yet to test them on this medium.

Availability is scattered and your best option is to buy over the Internet.  

The suppliers below sell smaller sets of colours if you should wish to try them out before buying a full set

As far as I know the Pastel Pencils are the only ones available as singles in the UK, but an extended search may find a suuplier

The Cretacolor website is at     www.cretacolor.com

Marino Aquarelles are available from Bob Elcock via the Internet and Mail Order

Karmina Coloured Pencils are obtainable from  Pencils4Artists

A chart showing the full colour range of the Cretacolor Aqua Monolith pencil is shown in this link

And the individual charts showing the colours in large enough samples to be compared with the similar charts for other brands is on this link  Cretacolor colour charts 1  and chart 2

See the Colour comparison section for details of the other pencil colour charts


Cretacolor also market an excellent range of Pastel pencils ( also available from Bob Elcock ) which are reviewed in the Pastel Pencil section.  

Bob sells the Pastel Pencils in sets, smaller dedicated selections ( for landscapes etc ) and singles ( which is helpful) .

This is a small chart from my own working set and gives me an instant check on any changes between dry colour and the same colour after water has been added.  You will see that there is little alteration in colour here between the two states.

Most colours offer a degree of lightfastness not often found in pencils in this price range

Latest revision January 2014

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