Review of the complete set of Holbein colored pencils from Japan
Holbein Colored Pencils (150 pc) Set Review
When I purchased and reviewed the set of 12 pastel tone pencils by Holbein earlier this year I knew I would buy the complete set of 150. The pastels were enough to melt my heart and the whole tray of them in the complete set of 150 haunted me. I had to have them. Every now and again, when I was in a low mood, I’d go and drool over the set of 150 Holbein Coloring Pencils.
After months of drooling, I finally decided to take the plunge. As Holbein pencils are very expensive, especially compared to the Australian dollar, I knew I had to buy at the right time. The right time for me, was when they were on sale, at a significant discount that I could justify the shipping cost.
Watch the Prices and Keep Track of When to Buy
In all, I spent about a month watching the prices of the 150 Holbein coloring pencil set at Amazon Japan. Finally, they were at a reasonable price and I took the plunge. Wouldn’t you know it, the seller did not ship to Australia. In fact, at this point, none of the sellers on Amazon ship to Australia. I tried other online stores, but the prices were in excess of my budget. In the past, there have been sellers that shipped the Holbeins to Australia but at the time of writing there are not. Often sellers decide not to ship internationally becuase of problems with packaging going astray or problems tracking the orders.
If you need to know how to order from a website that is not in your native language, this post will help you.
Using a Buyer’s Agent
After some time spent with the calculator (I so hate math/s!) I worked out that the pencils were still cheaper if I purchased from Japan and used a buyer’s agent to send them to me in Australia. Effectively, even paying for shipping twice, worked out significantly cheaper for me, than buying from any other online store.
Living in Australia, I often have the need for a buyer’s agent or a US postal address for that matter. It seems some countries or sellers do not fancy shipping down under 🙂
A buyer’s agent basically buys the product that you want. Usually, when you order it through the agent they debit your credit card immediately and you are given an estimate of the shipping charge. The product is then shipped to the buyer’s agent warehouse. At this time, they often tell you how much the exact shipping is as it may vary when the item arrives at their warehouse. So far, I have not had any nasty surprises with this. Once you pay the buyer’s agent for the shipping, they then send it on to you. You have a choice often of the shipping like air, surface and the like and insurance.
At the time I purchased, I was lucky, as there was a special on which included air mail and free insurance on the item. I would have purchased insurance otherwise as these pencils are just too expensive not to. From the time that I ordered the pencils until they arrived, by courier, at my home it was about a week. Not bad, considering they are shipped twice.
The buyer’s agent I used was this one. There are numerous buyer’s agents in Japan and you should do your own research and find one that you are happy with if you need to use one.
Of course, if you have friends in Japan, they can send the purchase on to you. Whilst I do have friends in Japan, I don’t like asking, because if something happened to the package they may feel responsible.
If you are buying from Japan you should ensure that you have checked the currency exchange. The best way to do this is on Amazon’s website (if you are buying through Amazon) as they may use a slightly different exchange rate to the online rates.
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.
You will see that the Holbeins have a similar appearance to the Faber Castell Polychromos but are slightly larger.
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.
It always takes me a little bit to get used to the thicker pencil of Holbein. Initially, it feels a little heavier and cumbersome in my hand, compared to my lighter and thinner Prismacolors. It doesn’t take long to get used to the barrel shape and size though.
The Holbeins are like a harder Prismacolor and a softer Polychromo. They give you the best of both worlds with their combination of wax and oil.
When I first purchased my set of 12 pastel tones I did not have any residue on the pencil tips, for memory. However, in my set of 150 Holbeins several pencils had a waxy residue on the tip. This simply wipes off with your finger or if it is really stubborn a quick twist in the sharpener.
Having a color swatch is always a great idea as there is often a discrepancy between the barrel color and pigment. This is because the product used on the barrel is not pigment and therefore very difficult to accurately replicate. The barrel colors on the Holbeins tend to be very close to the pigment color.
You can download my Holbein blank 150 pc color swatch here
Everyone has their own personal preference with sharpeners. I have a lot of pencil sharpeners ranging from cheap to expensive but still my favorite is the cheapest being the Staedtler two hole sharpener below. I liked it so much that I replaced my single hole Staedtler pencil sharpener with this one. One turn in the sharpener (using the smaller hole) develops a nice point.
For the sake of thoroughness, I also tested the Holbein pencils in my Kzool sharpener. One turn in the sharpener, the point was not quite as nice as my Steadtler though 🙂
Depending on how much color you have put down, you may need to use a different eraser. For small areas of deep pigment, I prefer my Derwent battery operated eraser (when I can find it!)
Laying down a few colors below, you can see the results are slightly different than my on video tests.
The color I used on video was a lighter green and as a light color it was very easy to remove the pigment with all three erasers. However, darker colors did not perform as well.
The best out of the bunch, on darker colors, was my favorite sand eraser by Tombow.
Layering and Blending
You can see the picture that I colored below when I reviewed the 12 piece pastel 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.
One of the great things about the Holbein pencils is that you can create a watercolor effect. Simply use either the fluid or pen that Holbein creates and brush on. You can also use this fluid on pictures that you have colored a while ago (with Holbeins) or use it sparingly to blend rather than a white pencil or blender pencil.
You can see from my quick colored tests above that the more fluid is added, just like water, the more the pigment dilutes. According to Holbein, you can use this on a mixed media piece without fear that it won’t set. You might like to color some parts of your picture with normal pencils or Holbein pencils, then add fluid and create a watercolor effect for other elements within the picture.
The paper that I used was just cheap, white 80gsm copy paper. You can see that it does warp a little with fluid. Coloring book paper, however is usually heavier than this paper.
You can purchase the fluid here and the pen here. Please note that as these are small items they are often “add on” items, meaning that you have to purchase other products in your order. The products do sell out quickly and are very difficult to obtain at a reasonable price elsewhere. I am sure in Japan, they would be far easier to obtain and less expensive.
Pros and Cons
- They are very easy to use for layering and blending
- Large range of colors
- Due to the mixed composition they appear sturdier and less resistant to breakage
- Can be used with accessory products to create a watercolor effect
- Number of metallics
- Number of neons
- Offers two white pencils and two blacks for more variation than other brands
- Not widely available
- Very expensive in comparison to popular brands like Prismacolor and Polychromos
- Cost of replacement pencils can be expensive in comparison to other brands
- Many light colored skin tones but limited pencils that can be used for darker skin and hair tones
- 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). Holbein US are working on obtaining these certificates – I will update this post when they are available.
You can buy replacement Holbein colored pencils here. Please note that I have not used this service myself.
As at October 2017 – the above supplier has ceased to sell open stock outside of Japan. There are no other suppliers selling open stock pencils globally to my knowledge.
Where to buy 150 pc Holbein Colored Pencils
You can buy the 150 pc Holbein Colored Pencils from Amazon Japan here
You can sometimes purchase the 150 pc Holbein Colored pencils on Amazon here
Where to buy 100 pc Holbein Colored Pencils
You can sometimes purchase the 100 pc Holbein colored pencils on Amazon here.
Where to buy 50 pc Holbein Colored Pencils
The 50 piece packs are a great way to test out basically a tray from the range. Of course, the tray that most colorists swoon for is the lovely tray of pastels. The great news is that in November 2017 the 50 piece tray of pastels was released in Japan. No doubt, this will make its way to the US in due course as well.
You can purchase the 50 pc tray of pastels from Amazon Japan here.
You can purchase sets of 50 Holbein colored pencils from Amazon here.
If you want to test a few out and see if you feel comfortable using them and purchasing them, you can always buy a small starter set.
Basic Colors Set
Designer’s Tone Set
Colors Pastel Tone Set
I hope you enjoyed this review of the Holbein 150 pc colored pencil set.
Happy coloring x