Blick Studio Artists’ Colored Pencils
Open stock, 12, 24 36, 48, and 72 count packs
A Bit of Wax Bloom
Tips May Break
Blick Studio Artist Colored Pencils Review
Many of you are likely familiar with the popular art store, Dick Blick. But were you aware that they actually make their own brand of colored pencil? The Blick Studio Colored Pencils are a set of pencils that are sold exclusively through Dick Blick’s art stores. In this review, we will try out the popular set of Blick Studio Colored Pencils. These pencils aim to have comparable quality and performance of the big name brands but at a more affordable price point. They are available in singles all the way up to 72 pack sets.
Visual Appeal – 4/5
First, let’s go over the package sizes. You can choose between open stock (AKA single pencils) all the way up to a 72 pack set. In between these sizes are also 12, 24, 36, and 48 pack sets. To add to this, there are also specialty sets such as the Blick Grey Pencils set, Blick Portrait Set, and Blick Landscape Set. As you might have guessed, these specialty sets come equipped with specific colors that you would typically use in those type of art pieces.
In total, there are 91 different colors available. But in order to enjoy all colors, you will have to buy multiple sets since some of the specialty colored pencils are not available in the generic sets.
We aren’t huge fans of these specialty sets. Not that they don’t perform well: we just wish that brands would include all of the available colors that they manufacturer in a huge set. This would take away the necessity of having to purchase multiple sets from the same manufacturer in order to own all the available colors.
Now let’s focus on actual color performance. As for the color output, the Blick Studio Colored Pencils are quite good. The color is crisp and vivid. And you can easily manipulate the intensity of the color with applied pressure. This is a great way to really open up the potentials of a given color (and it also takes away some of the reliance on solvents and blenders).
While there aren’t any major color gaps in the larger sets, they will be present in the smaller sets. We found that combining two (or more) pencils and blending is a good way to fill some of these gaps. However, the overall intensity can take a hit in the process of doing this. You may have to go back over and make multiple passes with the original color to get the color intensity back up to where you want it.
We also noticed some slight variations in color consistency from one pencil to the next. In other words, using equal application force and equal strokes, you may see that the overall output varies a little bit when comparing to colors. This isn’t a huge deal: if you wish to produce brighter color, push down hard. Conversely, if you want a lighter color, take a little force off. But it is important to get all of the eccentricities of these pencils ironed out before applying to your actual art piece.
In terms of some of our favorite colors, we loved the reds, yellows, and oranges. And in the 72 pack sets, there are plenty to choose from. We found ourselves going back to the Carmine Red and Cadmium Orange in particular. You will also see a huge selection of greens. We wouldn’t mind there being a few darker colors to pick from, but we believe that the intention was to blend to the darkness of your liking with the help of the black and gray pencils included in the larger set.
It is worth mentioning that supposedly Blick’s pencils are manufactured at the same plant that Koh-i-noor gets their Polycolor pencils from. We certainly see the similarities: despite being a wax pencil, these have a very oily feel to them (which is nice because you don’t have to deal with a lot of wax bloom!). We saw this trait with the Polycolors. In addition, the overall size and shape of the two sets are eerily similar. However, we do feel that these perform a bit better in the color category. It could be that we need to revisit our sets of Koh-i-noors or perhaps we have simply become more lenient in our rating over the years. J
A final note: Blick Colored Pencils have lightfast ratings for their pencils. They range from 1 to 4 stars (1 star being the least lightfast and 4 stars being the most lightfast). Thankfully, over half are either 3 or 4 stars (66 out of the 91 total pencils). This is a great trait to have and it shows us that these pencils will keep their color for long periods. However, we aren’t entirely sure which lightfast rating system Blick implemented in their testing.
Usability and Durability – 4/5
From a usability standpoint, we are quite happy with the blending of Blick Studio Colored Pencils. The oil/wax core is on the softer side, so it is quite easy to smear the color around to come up with some very interesting results. The negative of very soft leads is that they tend to crumble easily when under heavy pressure. But since the pigment is so intense here, you shouldn’t find the need to push down real hard in most cases. We didn’t test these much with various solvents or water but as far as we are concerned, they don’t really need it. Just about any color can be achieved with proper blending.
The size of the pencil is well-suited for a variety of applications. The core is around 3.8mm in diameter, which puts it right in the middle among most mainstream colored pencil sizes. The barrel diameter is also pretty standard, coming in at a hair over 8mm. We like colored pencils that are around this size: the cores are still small enough to allow for it to be sharpened to a nice point for detailed work. Conversely, it is still large enough to that you can produce large amounts of wide color when necessary.
There have been some complaints from other users about these pencils reacting negatively to fixatives. Specifically, certain fixatives may actually cause the actual color and texture of the pencil cores to change dramatically. We personally didn’t experience this ourselves, but we would encourage you to spray some of your fixatives on a test piece of paper with these pencils on them before trying it on your actual art piece (but then again, we recommend that in almost every case!).
As for build quality, we are content. These barrels are made of lacquered California Cedar and the cores, as we mentioned above, are quite resilient under normal application force. While we wouldn’t recommend that you throw these into a classroom setting, they are perfectly resilient for typical home use from someone more experienced with handling quality colored pencils.
Packaging and Presentation – 4/5
No matter what size of Blick Studio Colored Pencils set you go with, you will receive them in an attractive metal tin. For those that prefer even more luxury, you can also buy their largest 72-count set in an elegant wooden box similar to what you will find in much more expensive premium pencils.
As is typical of most colored pencils that come in cases, the actual pencils will rest comfortably in thin plastic trays. This greatly assists in both keeping the pencils organized as well as adding a layer of protection to them.
Individual pencils come with a color-matching outer barrel. The outer color is intended to closely match the actual color output of the respected pencil. While not completely exact, we feel that Blick has done a pretty good job of succeeding at this.
On the front of the barrel, you will find the Blick Studio logo. And on both the left and ride side of the logo will be the name designation for that particular color. While not exactly traditional, we do like that Blick put the color name on two different places of the barrel. This can be quite helpful when you have sharpened the pencil down towards the base (which would remove the top stamp).
On the back side of the barrel will be a barcode and barcode numbers. This is necessary since Blick does sell their pencils in singles.
The only aspect really missing is a different colored base. We are used to seeing higher-end colored pencils have a white, gray, or other color base. This is particularly popular with brands that have multiple types of pencils (watercolor, pastel, etc.) as they will color their base in a slightly different color to make identification quick and easy. This is by no means a dealbreaker but it was worth mentioning.
Cost – 4.5/5
Since Blick sells their colored pencils directly from their own site, it cuts out any sort of middleman. Pencils that are sold on other online retailers, brick and mortar stores, etc. will carry a premium since both the pencil manufacturer as well as the store selling it are out to make some money. Cutting out the middleman helps for Blick to price their pencils at a very reasonable rate.
While these pencils aren’t the absolute cheapest around, the combination of performance and build quality really makes them a fantastic buy. Blick was able to capture many of the great qualities of much more expensive pencil sets and package them in an in-house set are a price point that just about anybody can afford.
Blick also openly states that greater savings are to be had if you buy in bulk. So not only are you better of going with a larger set due to the increased color selection, but you will also enjoy a nice discount when looking at price per pencil. These discounts also apply to large orders of single colors. This can be good for a classroom setting where you need 20 or 30 of a particular color pencil.
Overall Ranking – 4/5
Blick Studio Colored Pencils provide very nice performance given their great asking price. While the color output can vary some from pencil to pencil, the overall result is vivid, intense color that can be used for a wide variety of applications. The blending is also quite good thanks to a rather soft oily wax core. However, this softer core does mean that you need to be a bit more careful with how much force you use. And we are a bit confused by the lightfast ratings that are used.
These pencils come in a nice array of sets but there will be noticeable color gaps with the smaller sets. And due to Blick’s pricing structure, it is almost a no-brainer that you should go with the largest set that your budget allows.
The packaging is very impressive (tin cases!) and the pencils are stamped with all of the information that you need.
While not quite at the level of the highest-end pencils on the market, Blick Studio Colored Pencils provide you with 95% of the performance but for a fraction of the price. And for the vast majority of us who are on a budget, this makes for a very happy balance of price and performance.
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