Friday, September 17, 2010
Raffine Pro Artist Colored Pencils Set
The Raffine Pro Artist Colored Pencils Set bundles several moderately priced house brand goodies in one amazing discount package from Jerry's Artarama. It starts with a 120 color pencil easel, that's on sale right now for $23.99 and is a perennial sale item along with the 12, 24 and 36 color sets of Raffine colored pencils, watercolor pencils and graphite pencils. What you get in the bundle, currently on sale for $39.99 is the 120 color pencil easel with a 36 color set of Raffine Colored Pencils (on back of easel in my photo), 36 color set of Raffine Watercolor Pencils (shown), and 12 Raffine graphite drawing pencils (shown on front flap at the far right.)
In effect, you get one of the colored pencils sets and the graphite pencils set free if you buy the whole bundle, so that's the most cost effective way to get them. Also, notice what that colored pencils easel is. It's an elastic bands colored pencils case. The sort that protects the most delicate soft wax colored pencils or pastel pencils from ruinous internal breakage.
36 + 36 + 12 does not equal 120 ... that leaves you easel loops to put at least 46 more assorted loose pencils into the easel to have them handy right along with the kit. So the 120 color pencil easel is a great organizational solution. Right in the photo, you can see I took advantage of it by putting in some sample pencils I got for reviews, odd lot pencils I bought in open stock and any stray pencils I like to use regularly into that bottom flap with my 12 graphite pencils.
The mechanism is simple to make the case stand up. Slide a plastic bead along the cord, that tightens up the fold and holds the easel steady with your pencils upright. This is great on a table or anywhere you've got space to lay them out. But these easels are good in another way.
Leave the cord loose and all three panels are easily accessed at the same time as one long strip of pencils. That works for draping it on your lap while you sit in the recliner watching movies. It can also be rolled or folded up with just one side - any of the three sides - upright, very versatile that way if you find yourself working in a small space. I love these pencil easels as much as the slightly more expensive leather Global Classic pencil cases. They are exactly as good for pencil protection and ease of carrying around - a bit larger, so it depends on how you carry things around whether the larger ones (72 or 120 size) fit in your bag or backpack.
Now to the pencils themselves. Jerry's Artarama has certain brands that I haven't found anywhere else besides ASW - Raffine, SoHo, Turner and Lukas. The description is excellent. Both the colored pencils and the watercolor pencils are soft and have very strong laydown. They're described as artist grade, but not available in open stock - however, the price is so low that getting them in sets if you start wearing them down quick isn't going to break your budget.
Lightfastness isn't mentioned on Jerry's description. To me that means - treat these as something for sketchbook use, warn a buyer if you use them on a piece for sale that they may not be lightfast and should be kept out of direct light. I may someday do a home lightfastness test on them but until I've got something like that, I'd treat these as "Illustrator pencils." They handle with the ease of artist grade, they're very soft, the watercolor pencils are brilliant when they're washed and very strong even used dry. Softness and easy solubility are comparable to Staedtler Karat Aquarelle watercolor pencils, they're very similar to those.
But if you prefer sketching in colored pencils, this bundle is something that'll help you get a lot of good supplies for a very low price - and once you use them up, stray other pencils will rapidly fill the rest of the pencils case. I think they sneak drawers at night to mate and leave other mystery pencils lying about in the morning. It's a great bargain for some excellent supplies!
Here's a color chart of both color sets and the graphite pencils.
The colored pencils set includes gold and silver pencils. These can be great for scrapbooking or signing cards, adding a little sparkle to envelopes for cards, any sort of decorative or holiday work is improved by them. It's a good strong gold pencil too, a little brighter than many that have a more bronze look.
The watercolor pencils are just as strong used dry, they're very similar in softness and laydown. A wash brings out the color boldly and many of the colors have high tinting strength. The watercolor pencils are extremely soluble and handle well - as well as the Staedtler Karat Aquarell that were my favorites before Derwent did their New Formula watercolor pencils. So these are among the better watercolor pencils I've ever used. Softness is a big plus.
The set includes a size 4 pony hair brush. I think it's pony or camel. It's heavily sized and a bit blunt, but perfectly usable if I were taking this set out on a plein air trip and just looking to wash over watercolor pencils instead of painting fine details with a very pointed round.
The graphite pencils are in a "soft sketching" range from 2H to 8B. This is wonderful. I don't know if you've ever run into this with boxes and tins of pencils with multiple hardnesses, but the high B grade ones wear out faster than the H pencils. High H pencils have specialized uses in drafting and so on, but for sketching what you need is a set like this.
So overall, the Raffine Pro Artist Colored Pencils Set is a great bargain for anyone who's fond of sketching. High quality Raffine sketchbooks and drawing pads are also available from Jerry's and ASW so if you're looking for a gift for that compulsive sketcher, or for yourself when you are just tired of running through pencils too fast, give your budget a break and pick up this bundle. I've been meaning to get it for years and now I'm glad I did.
All three pencils sets came in cardboard packages with one folded cardboard sliding tray inside. I'm not fond of that form of storage for colored pencils, though the cardboard on these Raffine ones is a bit heavier than on some other brands I've found in this format. Another good reason to look at getting the bundle rather than buying the sets separately, any colored pencils sets benefit from living in an elastic bands case or a good fabric canvas roll.