I know there was a lot of hullaballoo about the Blackwing Volumes release this summer of the #56 Joe DiMaggio release. But then just a week or two later, they very quietly released their Blackwing Colors Coloring Pencils collection (set of 12 in presentation box for $19.95) and I couldn’t click the Buy It Now button fast enough.
The set includes 12 colored pencils, produced in Japan. Each pencil is hexagonal and the barrel is completely painted in the color of the lead color (thank you!). The end cap is metallic silver and the logo name is imprinted in metallic silver on each pencil though the color name is not. This no-color-name isn’t a huge issue in a same 12-color set but in low light it can be a bit hard to tell the brown, purple and black pencils apart. Also, it suggests that there aren’t plans for more colors where it might be helpful to clarify between various tones and hues which is a disappointment. But maybe if there is really good feedback and response, other editions will be produced and more colors will be added with names stamped on the pencils for clarity.
From a purely presentation standpoint, these pencils, like all Blackwing products, are flawless. The finish on the pencils is beautiful and silky. The hex shape feels good in the hand. The cedar wood gives them and almost wood chime-like sound when they clink together in my hand. For looks alone, its worth it to have a set of these pencils. They cost the same as a box of Palomino Blackwing 602s, so what are you waiting for? The rest of the review can wait until you place your order…. go on.
Okay, now that you’ve ordered some, what can you expect in terms of quality? The Blackwing Colors are SOFT, creamy colored pencils. I put these pencils up next to Derwent Coloursoft and Prismacolor Premiers and in terms of color and softness, they were right on par. One notable thing about the Blackwing Colors set is that rather than include a white pencil as the last color, they chose to include metallic silver instead. While I find this to be a fun add, if you plan to do any blending, you may want to go out and purchase a white, cream or colorless blender from Prismacolor or Coloursoft to add to your set to help with blending and burnishing.
I did contact Palomino to ask if the pencils were wax- or oil-based colored pencils but I did not get a reply back. Based on this side-by-side comparison with two other wax-based colored pencils, I’d guess that the Blackwing Colors are wax-based but its just a guess. If anyone here’s a definitive, please leave a note in the comments.
As with Prismas and Colorsofts, on textured stocks the Blackwing Colors would wear down quickly because the leads are soft. They did sharpen very easily. I used a Staedtler sharpener which gave a fairly sharp point which is not always recommended for soft colored pencils. I got a little crumbling at the tip because the point was so fine, not unlike an over-sharpened Prisma, but the point of the Blackwing Colors did not break.
I was testing the pencils on Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook paper which has a bit of tooth to it which is why the paper is still showing through on all the color swatches. Later in the day I switched to testing in my current daily notebook (my new Quo Vadis Forum refillable with blank refill, review soon!) which has very smooth paper which is not normally conducive to pencils and the Blackwing Colors worked great. This was a surprising turn of events for me.
I wanted to include what the pencils looked like with examples of blending and burnishing so I did some real quick examples this morning and shot them with my iPhone. The colors aren’t as clean as the other images but you can at least see the effects that can be achieved. I used the red and blue pencil to blend and create purple. Then used the red, pink and orange to blend a lovely sunrise effect. And finally, I blended the bright grass green and yellow together to create some lime-y hues. They all blend well, actually better in person than they look in the photo. And they will also blend well with Prismas, Colorsofts, Derwent Artists and other wax-based pencils. The little bit of smudging you see was from me running my hand over the loose particles rather than blowing them off. The pencils don’t actually smduge.
As for burnishing, I applied a heavy burnishing of white Prismacolor over the background of my drawing and it worked beautifully with the Blackwing Colors creating a more impressionistic look and softening the overall pencil marks. So, the Blackwing Colors are burnish-friendly.
I am absolutely thrilled I purchased the Blackwing Colors colored pencils. They are leaps and bounds better than the Palomino Colors. They are currently only available in the set of 12 so if you burn through one particular color like I seem to be doing with the red and blue pencils, you may want to refer to my Coloursoft and Primsacolor comparisons for open stock replacements. They will certainly not be as pretty a pencil but they are comparable on the inside. Hopefully, Blackwing will get the hint and offer open stock soon as well as more color options. I want turquoise, parma violet and some ochres ASAP!