How to Use Faber Castell Polychromos Pencils

How to Use Faber Castell Polychromos Pencils

Posted by Cass Art on 10th Jun 2018

Faber Castell Polychromos Pencils are a unique tool in the world of sketching. They are oil based as opposed to being wax based like other pencils, allowing them to blend with solvents, like turpentine or white spirit in a similar way to how you would blend oil paints.

They offer a soft lively colour and are water resistant. Artists use these because of the high grade pigments and lightfastness which means they’ll last for years. The leads are SV bonded which means they’re hardy pencils which can survive transit and are sturdier than your average colouring pencil.

We put Faber Castell Polychromos to the test and delved a little deeper into what makes them our artists’ must have drawing tool…

Back to Basics

Coloured pencils are pigment held together by a binder and encased in wood. The quality depends on the ratio between pigment and binder and the quality of the wood. The artist quality pencils will create more vibrant colours and the most popular wood for pencils is cedar. Most colour pencils will use a wax binder and with these pencils you can add layers and layers of colour to get a depth of colour.

However, the drawback of wax pencils is the potential for wax bloom and build-up. This occurs when the binder starts to evaporate and move to the surface creating a white residue. Although in most cases this can be wiped away. However, Polychromos pencils differ with their oil binder which holds and spreads the pigment. It also reduces the risk of any bloom over time and you’ll notice a difference with these leads.



There are few different techniques you can use to raise your sketching game and get that professional finish.

The first way you can use solvents with Polychromos is with the aid of paper stumps. You can dip the stump straight into a solvent and apply it to the paper to help blend the marks easily. However, these will be subject to wear and tear. You can also use cotton buds for large areas but stumps are recommended for getting those detailed shading marks. As well as stumps you can also use brushes to get a different paint like effect- perfect while sketching outdoors.

The solvent technique is also great when you have a large background to cover! This technique can be used to add intense block of colour, subtle shading or blending two colours after putting down a cross hatching layer.

You may want to use thicker paper when trying these techniques as the solvents can eat through traditional card, we’d recommend the canvas paper or ampersand boards for a long-lasting finished piece. This is also a great way to recycle broken points. You can rub them on a bit of sandpaper and powder them, then put some thinner in with them to dissolve and stir till you have a wash.

One thing to note is you should put your pencil lines down first and then follow with the solvent. If the solvent comes into direct contact with your pencil it will cause them to erode very quickly.

Another advantage to Polychromos pencils is they stick to to many different surfaces paper, parchment, wood, stone, leather and metal. These pencils don’t require fixing – the adhere to the surface permanently.

The History

The name means “many colours” and the pencils were invented in 1908. They quickly became well known across the world and today they still represent the best quality pencil. They have unparalleled lightfastness and come in 120 shades. The tips are break resistant and the results are waterproof. Faber Castell is one of the world’s oldest manufacturer of wooden pencils and they create a range for artists to kids since 1761. They’ve earned praise form some of the world’s top artists including Vincent Van Gogh. The wood Faber Castell use are from sustainably managed forests so there is the added benefit of knowing these are responsibility sourced.

Our Artists’ Reviews 

We’ve picked out a few of our favourite, tried and tested reviews from our customers:

I cannot fault the Faber Castell Polychromos pencils. The quality is excellent, with strong, vibrant colours, and the packaging is also very handy. Great for detailed work, and blending. I would highly recommend.” - Laura Carr

As a novice, just getting familiar with the art of colouring books for adults. Amazing quality product, easy to mix the colours which are fairly bright and intense. Would recommend to anyone, especially the beginners, as a great motivation tool.” - Elena Goremykina

I ordered these pencils after getting into colouring. I tried a cheaper but fairly good pencil for a couple of months but got fed every time I needed a sharp point which broke straight away. I decided to treat myself to this 120 tin of Faber Castell Polychromos after reading many reviews and researching other pencils. I. So glad I did, they are excellent. A superior quality pencil with a lovely buttery feel when colouring. Fantastic array of colours. 10% off voucher was a good incentive to order....if I needed one!” - Sally Bath

My teenage daughter is a budding artist and she draws and colours prolifically so she'd wanted these for a long time. The depth of colour is brilliant and they are so easy to use as you don't have to apply much pressure so no aching hands from hours of colouring. Very impressed!” - Kim Larrad-Tye

Feeling Inspired?

We stock a huge range online and in stores, both individually and in a range of sets.

Explore our full range of pencils and drawing materials here.


Artist Don Colley explains to Faber Castell why he prefers Polychromos pencils.