Watersoluble Crayons by Caran D'Ache

Yes, it's a thing! We had an early Christmas celebration with my Mom this year and one of the gifts I received was this nice set of Caran D'Ache watersoluble "pastels" to play with. I'm pretty sure that somewhere along the line, the term crayon was replaced with pastel in order to make it seem less of a child's art supply. However, despite the fact these are made of wax, they're a pretty serious art tool.

In any event, if you're not familiar with Caran D'Ache, this is a product from a Swiss company who has a long history of producing some truly excellent artist supplies. Their coloured pencils are widely considered to be amongst the best, if not the best, in the world. The only challenge for Canadian consumers is open stock availability of much of their product, a reason I've historically been likely to avoid them. It's certainly not for concern about quality!

So the Neocolor II line is, technically speaking, a student grade art material. Caran D'Ache does sell an artist grade variant that looks a lot less like it spilled out of a crayon box. However, these do have excellent lightfast ratings and very vibrant colour.

So, how do they feel? Well, like going back in time! I haven't coloured with crayons in decades, but I think you really never forget that feeling of the stick of wax in your hands as you colour in a picture. You almost want to stick your tongue out of the side of your mouth in concentration just to relive the days! As these are wax-based, they do have that really soft laydown that you would expect from the material, much softer than wax-based pencils. The feeling is really quite smooth and effortless with, oddly enough, the exception of the brown crayon. It was a bit scratchy.

Now, to get the actual watercolour effect, you need to add water! Now normally, you would expect a wax-based product to be repellant to water, but not with these, obviously. For this doodle, I used one of my Pentel Aquash waterbrushes and it was great for this purpose. This was just done in my sketchbook and the texture of the paper is a bit rough given that it's cold pressed.

I also, always, swatch out colours from any set I get. There are two reasons for this:

1. It gives me a chance to try each colour out before using them in any project.

2. It gives me a handy chart for later when I want to remember what the colours look like once they've dried.

The last is useful, especially with something like these, because the initial appearance is like a crayon, then the wetting makes them pretty dark, but they do ultimately dry lighter (for the most part). Anyways, I did a before and after on the swatches being wet.

For the dry swatches, I wrote out each name and then coloured a rectangle over them. This is on Fluid 140lb Cold Press, just cut to a size that will allow me to store with the crayons in the tin. I'm not too worried about neatness here given that the idea is to see the colour and get some sense of transparency.

It's worth noting the look of the coverage you see there. This is pretty light hand, the paper is cold pressed and so a bit rough, but there's not a lot of wax laid down. This is, as you can see, really all you need!

The colours are really quite vibrant and pretty opaque when compared to more traditional watercolour paints. Especially the black, it's really quite dark.

Now, if you want to lighten these up, you can apply a lot of the same tricks as you would with something like watersoluble colour pencils or the Inktense blocks. You can shave them (keep any results of sharpening!), for example, or take colour directly from the crayon using a wet brush. These techniques can allow you to get a more traditional transparency.

I also did a couple of mixes, just for interest sakes. I found the yellow and ultramarine mixed a really nice green, but the other mixes were a bit muddy, especially the olive and pink. I was trying to see if I could tweak the green a bit with some pink, but it's definitely a drab green best left to military vehicles.

So, there you have it. This isn't a review, really, it's just some first impressions about the media. My general take is that they're fun and they can be used to lay down some large areas of colour really quickly.