Product Reviews

Holbein Colored Pencils – Pastel Tone Set (12 pc) Review

holbein pastel tone pencils - Holbein Colored Pencils - Pastel Tone Set (12 pc) Review

Review of Holbein Colored Pencils - Pastel Tone Set (12 pc)

Holbein Colored Pencils – Pastel Tone Set (12 pc) Review

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Holbein Colored Pencils – Pastel Tone Set (12 pc) Review

Every time I looked at this beautiful set of pastel tone pencils I fantasized about using them in one of my favorite coloring books,  Romantic Country.    I could just imagine those beautiful delicate pastels within this book.

Often  you may see on social media, beautifully colored pages in shades of pastel colors that do not look familiar to you.    Often these pastels are Holbeins.    The Holbein pencils are expensive but they have the largest range of pastel toned colors that I have currently seen in the colored pencil market.

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Holbein is a Japanese company trading under the name of Holbein Works Ltd since 1946. They were originally established in 1900 but rebranded and started afresh in 1946. They are well known for their art products and specialise in “oil colors, watercolors, oils and varnish, drawing ink, acrylic color, colored pencils, pastels” and related art merchandise.


Holbein colored pencils are sold in a variety of package types to suit all needs and budgets. The pencils are high end, artist’s pencils and as such they are expensive. Don’t be frightened when you look at the prices 🙂

You can purchase sets of 12, 24, 36, 50, 100 and the full set of 150.

During my research,  I have tried to locate open stock Holbein colored pencils.    It appears that these are elusive 🙂   The only individual pencils that I have seen for sale are unbelievably expensive, so I would budget on replacing a set if you need to rather than an individual pencil.  Of course, you may have better luck than me tracking down  a source for open stock Holbein colored pencils.

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The sets of 12 come in three different themes:-

Basic Colors Set

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Holbein Basic Tone Set – 12 pc – Amazon Japan

Designer’s Tone Set

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Holbein Design Tone Set – 12 pc – Amazon Japan

Colors Pastel Tone Set

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Holbein Pastel Tone Pencils – 12 pc – Amazon Japan

Holbein pencils are more readily available in Japan than in other countries. At the moment, I have not found a stockist in Australia for example. Overseas, most colorists would purchase through Amazon, if their local art supply store did not stock them. As they are imported to other countries, there could be delays in stock arriving, and it could affect the list price for the product.

I purchased the pastel tone set from Amazon Japan as they were the lowest cost for me, at the time.

The pencils are packed in a tin that measures approximately 18.2 cm x 10 cm.    On the inside lid is a color list of all the Holbein pencils, and an indicator showing which pencils are included in which sets.   This information is also included in the fold out brochure inside the tin which also contains a pre colored color swatch for all 150 pencils.

Pencil Specs

Holbein pencils are made from a blend of  “wax, fats and oils” and are classed a “soft oil colored pencil“.    Holbein states that the pencils contain a high grade pigment which helps ensure little pigment fading or light discoloration.      The lead is  3.8 mm in diameter and the  pencil is 7.8 mm in diameter.

You can see the Holbein pencil in comparison to other popular brands like Polychromos and Prismacolors in the images below.

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Holbein, Faber Castell, Prismacolor

You will see that the Holbeins have a similar appearance to the Faber Castell Polychromos but are slightly larger.

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The full color casing with gold trim, and the name and number of the pencil is very elegant, and the color of the pigment tends to match the barrel color.

One thing that I was unaware of, until I was writing this review, is that you can use a Holbein product with these pencils to create a watercolor effect.    The Holbein Meltz pen or fluid can be used over the dry pencil to produce a water color effect.   This product is quite difficult to find, so if you manage to locate it and you like the watercolor effect, grab it quick before it sells out 🙂

The lowest price for this product that I found quickly was on Amazon Japan, but stocks were running low for the pen here and the fluid here.     I do not have these products, and have not tested them to see what the effect is, when they are used.

User Experience

The barrel of these pencils is larger than what I am used to holding and it did take me a few minutes to adjust to this different size.    After the initial feeling of change I immediately enjoyed coloring with them.    They have the feel of  Polychromos but are slightly softer.   The thing that I was most impressed with was the pigment color.

The colors that are in the 12 set are not like colors I have in any other of my pencil sets and the color is quite vivid.      Of course,   this has made me want the 150 set even more as there is a tray nearly full of pastels in it!     So pretty!

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The 150 pc set of Holbeins is available in either a wooden box or cardboard box and has a large selection of pastel colors

Holbein Colored Pencils – Pastel Tone Set Color Swatch

The twelve piece set of Holbeins Pastel Tones contains the following colors:

Lettuce Green OP222, Ice Green OP228, Cobalt Green OP225, Lavender Blue OP328, Sky Blue OP324, Wisteria OP430, Mauve OP434, Rose Pink OP 429, Pink OP022,  Salmon Pink OP028, Naples Yellow OP134 and Cream OP127.

As you will see from the color chart “cream” is really more of a lemon color rather than a cream.

I do like how Holbein have created the set so that you have different tones within the color range as it makes it possible to complete a picture with just a few pencils, if you wanted

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One layer of color on the left and two layers on the right


I used my little Staedtler sharpener that cost $2 at a high end art shop in Sydney.   I have found that it performs the best out of all of my sharpeners without breaking a pencil.

Just turning the pencil in the Staedtler sharpener once, produces a fine point as shown below.   You do, however, lose a little pigment in the shavings (which you could collect and use for smudging in backgrounds if you wanted).


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Just using my Faber Castell vinyl eraser and rubbing the colored area you can see that it does not completely remove the color.   Colored pencil is often difficult to remove, and for small areas and for small areas where I have gone out of the lines (a regular occurrence) I  often find it is easier to remove some parts Derwent Battery Operated Eraser

As this area is larger than what I want to use my electric eraser on I used my Tombow sand eraser.   This eraser made short work of the job, and I actually did not rub as much as I could have, so that you could still see the initial pencil markings.

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After a few more rubs with the Tombow eraser the pencil was removed.      The pencil was used on thin copy paper (80gsm) and it did not damage the paper when using either eraser.

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Layering & Blending

The more layers you apply the smoother and creamier  the pencils tend to be.    The pencils blend well with other colors as you can see from the picture below (I’m no expert!).  I used cheap copy paper to print the image on (80 gsm) which easily took several layers of pencils.   Paper that has more “tooth” in it could easily take multiple layers of these pencils.

Coloring with Holbein Colored Pencils – Pastel Tone Set

The mandala from Hattifant was colored with the Holbein  colored pencils with numerous layers being used.     As more layers were added the pencils increased in creaminess until the whole of the tooth on the paper was smoothed and in some areas burnished.   As the set of pastel tones does not contain a white pencil,  I used my Colleen white pencil to blend colors together.

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Holbein pencils have not undergone toxicity tests to ensure they meet the required standard for sale in Europe and the United States (and no doubt other countries as well).

I hope you enjoyed the review of the Holbein pencils pastel tones – 12 pc set.

Happy coloring x


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About the author


I’m Lea and I love everything to do with coloring! If it is a coloring book, a poster or even a bookmark that you can color in, I’m all over it. Of course, a girl has to have some pencils, markers, gelly rolls, pastels and what not to make those pictures pretty and I love those as well.

Whilst my coloring style lacks skill, I am enthusiastic and focused on enjoying the moment and having fun.

Leave a Reply


  • These are the oencils you have been really, really wanting, right?? Going to ck out Amazon US
    Thank you for want anothr item:):)

    • he he I’m hoping for my birthday hubby will buy me the Holbein 150 set or the zig clean water brush markers or a jewelery course that I wanted. Fingers crossed. I’m not too hopeful though because he keeps talking all the time about bills 🙁 Happy coloring x

    • For the 12 piece set AZ US doesn’t have them so basically unless you have another art store that stocks them, it’s cheaper to probably buy from AZ JP where I bought mine from. In the UK AZ has them but they are imported from Japan so you are paying the cost of doing that. Happy coloring x

  • Thanks for the review. . I bought the pastel set first before spending so much money on the 150 set! I fell in love !I now own the 150 set and use them in most my coloring pictures. .. I also love the Colleen pencils too ! Funny high end and low end pencils! Trying to find another set of 72 colleen set only finding 60! Both set are my favorites! Thanks again Michelle

    • It is funny isn’t it! I love my fancy pencils but when I’m coloring in the kitchen or watching tv I tend to reach for my Colleens and I love them even though they are “budget”. If you are in Australia, I have some Colleens 72 I’m popping on Ebay. Otherwise, occasionally AZ gets them. Happy coloring x

  • Thank you for this review! I stumbled across these pencils online a few years ago and they weren’t available outside Japan yet. Finally, they just started selling in different countries, except, they are quite expensive. I do hope someday the price drops a little. I will probably order this pastel set sometime in the near future.

    You did a wonderful job on that mandala! Those are such beautiful colors.

  • Lea, is your Faber Castell vinyl eraser a few years old? I have several friends who are professional artists, and they swear that when the vinyl erasers age a bit, they quit erasing well. They will keep their erasers in a heavy ziplock baggie when they are not using them, to keep them from drying out (they even do this with the refills for their electric eraser).

    I was skeptical, truthfully, until I purchased a new vinyl eraser of the same type that I owned. The one I had was only about a year old, so I thought surely it was still “good”. After purchasing my new eraser, I decided to do a test. I colored a swatch with several types of pencils and then erased a bit from one side of with the eraser I had previously and a bit from the opposite side with the new eraser. The newly purchased eraser picked up so much more pigment on every brand of pencil. It isn’t something that ever crossed my mind, that type of eraser could get “old” or dried out in such a short amount of time.

    It might be something you, or other colorists, might want to think about and maybe test for yourselves. An eraser is one of the cheaper tools to purchase, yet one of the most frustrating tools to use when it doesn’t perform well, I think.

    • I would never have thought an eraser would go “old” 🙂 Mine is old. I can’t remember now how long ago I bought it. I have a huge selection of erasers as I seem to have an obsession with stationery 🙂 I’ll have to conduct some experiments. I seen a new eraser that I fancy too but I can’t get it in Australia and have to wait until I order next from AZ. Time to pull out the erasers and see what performs the best and if I need to get a ziplock baggie. It’s funny I find it hard writing “eraser” because usually in Australia we call it a “rubber” as in rub stuff out. Happy coloring x

  • I think your style of writing makes me want to buy – perhaps you have subliminal messages for me hehe. I ordered mine from Amazon Japan – it was the only place I could buy them. The wait is killing me………1 month and counting. If I can come anywhere near your beautiful mandala with my pastels ill be performing miracles. I noticed you didn’t use too much pigmented core in your mandala so the pencils must be stronger than I thought. Love the colours 🙂 Mandyx

    • You are so sweet about my mandala. I’m just a beginner so I didn’t do anything fancy. I think the pencils did all the work lol. Happy coloring x

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