Review: Faber-Castell Goldfaber Color Pencils

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I stumbled across these new Faber-Castell Goldfaber Color Pencils while frequenting a local Hobby Lobby. They had a display featuring matching Goldfaber color pencils, Goldfaber Aqua watercolor pencils, and PITT brush markers. It was a pretty nice setup. So I purchased a few of the Goldfaber color pencils and some of the Goldfaber Aqua watercolor pencils.

Faber-Castell Goldfaber Display at Hobby Lobby

The Faber-Castell display that I found at a local Hobby Lobby store.

Shockingly there has been little information online about the new line of Goldfaber products from Faber-Castell. The best that I’ve been able to find as of writing is this brief online press release from Faber-Castell’s UK site, touting their new Creative Studio. Here are a few points that Faber-Castell wants to convey:

  • They’re using “innovative technology” giving the new color pencils a soft lead and an intensely glowing color.
  • The new Goldfaber color pencils are extremely light-resistant and smudge-proof. (This is not in reference to the Goldfaber Aqua watercolor pencils.)
  • Faber-Castell also plans to provide accompanying material such as tutorials, online tips and tricks, and test products for beginners and more advanced artists. (They haven’t revealed any of accompanying materials as of writing.)

After doing some digging via DuckDuckGo and Google, I did find some vintage Goldfaber color pencils and watercolor pencils from long ago on eBay. This leads me to speculate that Faber-Castell is revamping the Goldfaber line of products.

My Concerns About Goldfaber Color Pencils

Anywho, my biggest fear about this new Creative Studio line is that they won’t be artist-grade or they’ll just be low quality garbage. I just don’t want to deal with any of the cheap junk that’s been flooding the market place. Artists who work professionally tend to fear stuff like colors that fade, those nasty wax blooms, and art materials that just doesn’t behave properly due to poor quality control.

So until Faber-Castell releases some more information on Goldfaber color pencils, I will assume the possibility that these color pencils might be or could be “artist grade”. I will do my best to put these new Goldfaber color pencils to the test. As of this article, my focus will be on Goldfaber color pencils.

Look & Feel

The new Goldfaber color pencils have a slightly smaller diameter as compared to Faber-Castell’s Polychromos color pencils. They seem to have the same diameter as a Sanford Prismacolor color pencil. (See the photo below.) 

A comparison of Polychromos, Goldfaber, and Prismacolor color pencils.

 

The Goldfaber color pencil has a round, smooth feel. It doesn’t have much useful information on it other than a barcode, UPC code, color number, and the color painted on the tail-end of the pencil, which is slightly darker than the actual lead. But pretty close to matching the actual color. A color name would be of use.

Laying Down Color

The Goldfaber has a lead that’s a bit harder than the Polychromos. It’s not as soft as a Sanford Prismacolor. But that’s that’s just splitting hairs. If you’re curious as to what I’d define as a “hard” lead, go buy a Prismacolor Verithin color pencil.

Applying color shouldn’t be a big challenge for anyone. The Goldfaber lays down color quite easily without much pressure. After a bit of scribbling, the layers of color do develop a waxy sheen or bloom. I know that’s an issue for many color pencil artists. That might be an issue for me if I had to do any scanning. (See my thoughts on digitizing below.) But this can possibly be resolved with some odorless mineral spirits, which I don’t have.

Blending Colors

A set of Goldfaber color pencil blending test

A set of blending tests. A.) Colors blended using a paper stump, B.) Blended using a Prismacolor colorless blender color pencil, C.) Blended using a Prismacolor colorless blending marker, D.) A blend using gradations.

If you’re not too experienced using color pencils, blending colors can be a bit tricky. It also doesn’t help that there are multiple options for blending. As mentioned earlier, Goldfaber color pencils are quite similar to Prismacolor wax-based color pencils. I also want to note, the ability to blend color pencils heavy depends upon the surface that you use. When first testing Goldfaber color pencils, I started with a sheet of Yupo paper. That surface was a little too slick for my purposes. On Yupo, it was too easy to over-blend, which resulted in loosing color.

Now let’s explore some of the basic blending techniques.

Paper Stump

Using a paper stump can be useful for softening hard edges. Beyond that, it’s not able to push around much pigment. After some rubbing, a paper stump will eventual burnish the surface, giving you a waxy sheen anyway.

Blending with a Prismacolor Colorless Blender Color Pencil

A colorless blender is a color pencil with a core of just wax. There’s no pigment infused within the wax. A colorless blender color pencil does a relative good job of pushing around pigment. Sometimes you can use it to mix layers of color. As of writing, Faber-Castell doesn’t make a colorless blender for its Goldfaber line of color pencils.

In Block B from the sample above, I used Prismacolor colorless blender color pencil. It’s able to soften edges and to create a subtle blend between the yellow (I know it looks orange) and the red. The way that the blender pushes around pigment creates a rather rough effect.

Using a Lighter Color to Blend

I also want to note that it is possible to blend using a lighter color pencil. Although it does require a great deal of scribbling to get the job done.

A blending test done solely using Goldfaber color pencils

This blend test was done solely using a dark green and a cadmium yellow.

Blending with a Prismacolor Colorless Blender Marker

I unfortunately do not own any odorless mineral spirits. But the alcohol-based Prismacolor colorless blender marker behaves in a similar fashion to applying mineral spirits with a brush. It melts the wax from the color pencils down just enough to give a painterly effect. In fact you can purchase a version of Prismacolor colorless blender marker with a brush tip.

The downside is that the colorless marker does have the tendency of fading the color. I’ve noticed that when applying even pressure. Otherwise you’ll be able to create some interesting effects.

Using Gradations

I had the most success creating smooth blends using simple gradations of color. It seems I have more control than using other methods. I can also control the level of saturation applying multiple layers. With a light hand, it’s also pretty easy to create soft edges.

Scanning & Digitizing

Eventually you will want to digitize your work, either with a digital camera or a flatbed scanner. From my experience using an Epson Perfection 2400 Photo flatbed scanner with Vuescan software, the colors tend to scan in kind of faded.

I’m going to speculate that this is due to the glossy sheen of the wax. As mentioned previously, if you layer too much, you’ll end up with a waxy bloom. Admittedly I don’t do a lot of color pencil work (outside of Corel Painter, which doesn’t really count) so I haven’t had much experience digitizing color pencil work. (This is in spite of owning the entire collection of Prismacolor color pencils and a 36 set of Derwent Coloursoft pencils.) 

I created a second test drawing using Goldfaber color pencils (the first one was done on Yupo paper, my bad), and after scanning, I tried to make adjustments using levels and curves without any success. Then I tried a trick I learned when scanning watercolor art that was painted on paper with a ton of texture. In Adobe PhotoShop, Krita, or Gimp, duplicate the Background layer. Change the blend mode of the newly created layer to Multiply. Adjust the opacity of the layer to around 20%. The opacity isn’t set in stone. You just want to match the saturation of the real life drawing.

A test drawing of my old dog Roger done in Faber-Castell's Goldfaber color pencils.

Test drawing done on Canson 60 lb paper. (Their mix media pad.)

 

Final Word

Faber-Castell in my humble opinion is a solid manufacturer, so I don’t worry about unexpected nasty surprises. Goldfaber color pencils give a bright, semi-transparent color that should satisfy most people. I can’t attest to the lightfastness of the colors, so if you want to use Goldfaber color pencils for professional work that you plan to sell, I would take the time to test them.

If you’re a mixed-media artist, you’ll have the benefit of Faber-Castell’s color matching system. This means that you have the option of using watercolor pencils and PITT markers whose colors closely match your Goldfaber color pencils.

They are priced at a very competitive price, $1.49 USD, which gives them a slight edge over Prismacolor Premier color pencils, which are usually price just above $2.00 USD. (of course you can find them cheaper online.) My only issue is that their availability is extremely limited within the United States as of writing. I will speculate that Faber-Castell will likely expand their availability by Christmas. (So they can make some money off this new line.) Worse case scenario, you’ll start seeing them in more stores and online by early 2018. They are currently available on Amazon, but are WAY overpriced. This will be one of the few times that I will discourage you from purchasing from Amazon.

If you’re a professional artist, you might be turned off by Goldfaber color pencils. They don’t have the amount of pigment that you’ll find in either a Prismacolor or Polychromos color pencil. You may not dig the semi-transparent nature of Goldfabers. You may find the fact that they’re being sold first at a crafts store like Hobby Lobby suspect. I would recommend buying a couple of Goldfaber color pencils to test out. They work well with other brands of color pencils.You might find a few colors that aren’t currently in your collection.

I do think that Goldfaber color pencils might be more up the ally of armature artists and people just starting out with color pencils. They’re produced by a manufacturer with a great reputation for quality. Goldfabers are sold at a very attractive price. Plus they lend themselves to mix-media work due to their color matching marker and watercolor pencil cousins. The only downside would be if you wish to purchase a set of Goldfaber color pencils. Those aren’t available as of writing.