Monday, May 11, 2015

Mini Review: Caran d'Ache Non Photo Blue Pencil

Recently I've written a review for my Pilot Color Eno Mechanical pencil, and wrote a post detailing several processes that utilize bluelines, so I figured it was time I review a traditional wooden non photo blue pencil.  The Caran d'Ache nonphoto blue pencil , "Sketcher",  has been lauded by many as being the upgrade the non photo blue pencil needed, as it's supposedly more erasable than Stadtler's nonphoto blue pencils, and Caran d'Ache is a well respected brand amongst art materials.  If you want an exercise in upselling a product's limited virtues, you should check out the Sketcher on Caran d'Ache's site.

I believe I purchased my pencil openstock at the Dick Blick in Savannah, Georgia, a couple years ago, so much of what makes it so special may have degraded over the year.  If you were to purchase a new pencil, you can get two for $5.19 on Dick Blick.  If you are a fan of wooden pencils, you may wish to take my review with a grain of salt, as I personally prefer mechanical pencils due to their ease of use.

I decided to go ahead and give the Sketcher a shot and put it to use during the OC Challenge to draw Naomi cosplaying as her favorite character, Katara from Avatar.

I personally found the Caran d'Ache to be a bit clumsy to use, but this is probably because I'm much more comfortable drawing with mechanical pencils than I am with using traditional wooden pencils.  I do use black color pencils for thumbnail illustrations, gesture drawing, and doodling, but I usually keep several sharpened and within reach so I don't have to constantly stop to sharpen.  Although the Sketcher is less waxy than Stadtler's non photo blue pencil, it isn't more crumbly or prone to breakage, although I did find it somewhat more difficult to erase than Color Eno's Soft Blue lead.  This may be due to the age of the pencil's eraser, or just the quality of the eraser itself- I usually opt for vinyl erasers over those that come with the pencils.

I found that the nonphoto blue pigment built up much quicker than the Color Eno soft blue mechanical pencil lead, and made it difficult for me to refine shapes.

I was able to ink on top of the Caran d'Ache lead with little difficulty and no significant increase in drying time.
Caran d'Ache Non Photo Blue Wooden Pencil
$5.19 for 2
Fairly available- you can purchase at most major art supply stores, or online at DickBlick
Moderately easy to erase
Comes with own eraser
Eraser seems to have degraded over the years, but even at its best, it wouldn't be as good as most white vinyl erasers
Pilot Neox Color Eno in Soft Blue
$3.30 on Jetpens
Not easily available, I purchase mine en masse from Jetpens
Very easily erased
Can be purchased as just the leads, for use in your pencil of choice, or in the Pilot Color Eno Mechanical pencil
Not lightfast- if you leave your sketches out in direct light, they will eventually fade. 
Stadtler Non Photo Blue Wooden Pencil
$1.89 for one on Dickblick's website
Fairly available, most large art and hobby stores carry these pencils, as do most art supply stores
Extremely waxy
Difficult to erase
Looking for more info about the Caran d'Ache "Sketcher"?  Still unsure what non photo blue sketching medium is right for you?  Give these Dick Blick reviews a read.  Cult Pens has some info regarding the history of the brand, and you can always watch some videos of the Sketcher in action.