Spectra AD marker from Chartpak

  • Twintip: One brush nib and one chisel nib
  • 96 colors (including a blender)
  • American marker 
  • New for 2016

New alcohol based marker from Chartpak

I haven’t bought any new markers for a long time even though I have seen several markers that I do not own.  I am tired of poor quality markers and the disappointment that follows. However a new marker from Chartpak made me immediately interested. Chartpak is one of the companies that manufactured markers back when all markers where xylene based instead of todays standard alcohol based. They are the only company left that still produces a xylene-based marker, the so-called AD marker. AD marker is not a pleasure to use since the smell is very harsh, but it is a quality product. However the hope this being a quality marker started to fade when I opened the package and first saw the top of the markers. I thought they looked a bit like the cheap Finecolor marker but with a black barrel.

Different nib of Spectra
Good and bad
The nibs are good. On one side you have a brush nib that is flexible and on the other you have a bit different larger nib. It looks like an ordinary chisel nib (but a smaller one) and it is cut a little different. The ink however is quite bad. The blending ability is very poor; if you try to blend two colors together they never really blend, instead they look like it is one color on top of the other. Most of the colors look about the same when they are wet as when they have dried. Stone is one of the colors that I experience to change the most, more in hue then in value. 

Spectra, Promarker and Copic chisel nib
Plagiarism or loan
All color names correspond exactly to Blick Studio marker. And they also have 96 colors in their collection, just as Blick does. Even many of the colors them self look almost identically to Blick Studio markers. The warm gray have a lilac tone, just like Blick (I was so hoping that Spectra should have the same warm and in my opinion beautiful gray that AD marker, the xylene based one, has). The other grays also look identical to Blick’s grays. They also use procent instead of numbers for their gray, just like Blick (and Prismacolors). The similarity goes on. You have Taupe, Stone and Latte, three colors that you will find in both ranges. The problem is that they also look almost the same, which is a waste when they offer so few colors. Even if most colors look exactly the same as Blick´s colors there are exceptions. Beach, shell and light peach have a different hue then Blick. Unfortunately the ink quality seems to be the same as well. All colors are quite dull and flat looking. Even the barrel looks like the barrel of Blick Brush marker, (I do not own one of the Blick brush so I can not say for sure) but instead of white (like Blick brush marker is) it is black. 

Poor quality
Some of the caps don´t feel like they are firmly fit. They wobble a lot on the barrel. One of the markers had dried out when I received the markers. After a couple of months five more marker had dried and I didn´t even use them enough for that to happen.

Some of Spectras colors

Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor

The pencil
Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor is an oil-based pencil from German. Of all colored pencils I own, this must be the tiniest one. It feels almost weak in your hand. But the core is actually 4 mm. They have the brand name, color name and number of the pencil stamped into the pencil so hard that you can feel it when you drag your finger over the pencil. They have a color stripe on the end of the pencil, but the color stripe doesn't always match the actual color, so I strongly suggest making a color chart. The pencil is round.
They call their colored pencils Polycolor, just like Koh-I-Noor does. 
Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor 

Most of the Polycolor are quite hard, especially noticeable in the grey. Some of them can almost be difficult to use but others are very soft, like the yellows (but yellow are always soft in any brand). Since it is a quite hard pencil it doesn’t crumble so much.  
Polycolor is the least opaque brand of all that I tested on black paper. It is very weak in colors with some exceptions (like the deep cobalt blue). I do not recommend them on colored paper; in fact, on black paper they look quite bad, not just because they are translucent but also because they look patchy and grainy. 

Lyra Polycolor 78 colors are a very good set of colors. They also offer something unique: three different blacks. You get a black, black hard and black soft. And the later are very soft! Except for the feeling of the pencil, they also differ in hue and in shine. The soft black is very matt and the hard has more of a shine. They also have some dark greys that can be used as blacks, like the dark grey warm that can be a very warm black.
                      They have good Caucasian skin colors (it is comparable to Pablo and Polychromos, in hue and quantity and those brands have a color range of 42 more colors then Polycolor). They also have a lot of greys. I think they have a good variety of earth colors, but they lack a burnt sienna kind of brown. If you do marine subjects you might miss a jade green type of color. Otherwise I think this is among the most thought through set. 78 colors are limited, but they have done the best of it. Maybe (but that can be me) a yellow or two isn’t totally necessarily. Cream, lemon cadmium, zinc yellow and light chrome are very close in hue and differ only slightly in value. 
                      They have an own blender called “splender blender”.

Splender blender

Hidden colors
I hade a few old Lyra but decided that I wanted them all J. Most places announced them as a full set of 72. However, the 72 set (in a thin case) where out of stock on several places and I don't like to wait. I found a full set on Ebay, which included some other pencils and accessories, all in all 105 pieces. It turned out that the full set of Polycolor where 78.  Six colors that I had no idea existed.  These six colors are four different warm greys and two different blacks. You can buy this open stock (I had the blacks since before).
                      Except for the 78 Polycolors you also get 22 drawing pencils of different kinds, sandpaper block, kneadable eraser, stumps and a sharp knife. I really like that the box has some space for other things than just the pencils. I have my spare pencils there to.
Some supplies included
in the wooden box set

Lyra wooden box

CPSA have only tested 72 of the 78 Polycolor, and 43 of them where lightfast. I have done an own lightfastness test on some of the colors. Oddly enough one of the color that I tested that failed the test has got three stars from CPSA. I am doing that test all over again.

Caran d´ache Pablo

The pencil
This is the second colored pencil line that Caran d’ache offers (Luminance being the first). The lead is 3,7 mm and it is in a cedar casing. The pencil has a hexagon shape. The color name and number is written in gold, and is very difficult to read. The color however, is represented on the whole pencil so that makes it easy to pick the right one. 
If you Google on Pablo you will most likely read that it is an oil-based colored pencil. I wrote to Caran d’ache and asked about this. They answered that they actually are wax-based.

Some colors are a bit harder (like the aubergine) and some are very soft (like the lemon yellow). Some also feels a little bit waxy, as if they don´t have so much pigment in them (Dark carmine and Bordeaux red).
They are an excellent choice if you want to draw on a colored paper. Even on black paper they give (depending on the pigment of course) opaque vibrant colors.  The white could be a bit more opaque though (but it is better than many other brands).

Pablo wooden box
The extra mile
When you buy the pencils on open stock their tip is protected by plastic that has a prepared opening.  It gives the feeling of a company that care about their product.
            The wooden box for Pablo looks different then the box for Luminance. Most brands seem to reuse a box for more then one product. I know Derwent do that, and that's perfectly fine. For someone like me that love that extra for my pencils, I really like having a different box for the Pablo. It is a huge beautiful box. There is a bit of empty space that can be used for accessories or extra pencils.

Pablo open stock

Color range
Pablo has a line of 120 colors, which is quite much compared to many other brands. When I compare the color range to other brands I feel that they have a very good range of colors around the color spectrum. They carry a lot of natural colors. You get a good variety of greys and earth colors (all kind of browns and ochre), as well as natural looking greens (like olive green in many different values and hues). You also get good colors for Caucasian skin. They also have a lot of turquoise colors, both turquoise leaning to greens as well as to blue. They have less primary colors (compare to other brands with a large color range), but in my opinion enough.   
The only thing negative to say about the color choices is that some colors look a bit alike. For example some browns don't differ that much. Chestnut, burnt sienna and mahogany are very close in color. This is also true for some other colors.
They also have a gold, silver and a bronze. I do not personally use them, but I do not think someone who wants to use them would be happy with either the look of particularly the bronze or the covering power. 
The first colors that I had to replace, where burnt sienna and ash grey.

It is a bit surprising that the Caran d´ache that also produce the famous all lightfast Luminance also produce the Pablo line that doesn't have an accepted lightfastness rate in my opinion. Of the 120 set there are only 42 colors that are lightfast (according to CPSA).

My goal is to do a lightfastness test on every art material that I work with. I did color swatches on the full range on Pablo in early spring and the swatches have now been exposed to sunlight for six months.  

On the pencils you can find Caran d´ aches own testing result organized in a three-star system were three stars is the best.

I compared my result to theirs (and to CPSAs tests, but I am not allowed to share that).

Three pencils lack stars completely. I don´t know what that means, maybe they haven’t had the time to test them yet or maybe they are just that bad? However, my test results lean to the first assumption. The three pencils without stars are: Jade, light lemon yellow and brownish orange. A small change was found in Jade but none in the other two.

Pablo has seven pencils with one star. Out of them Salmon Pink did not change anything in my testing. Pink, Sky blue, Bluish Pale and Salmon had changes but far from as bad as the two last one (with one star) which are Mauve and Periwinkle blue.

Most of Pablo’s pencils have two stars. Some of them changed in value, some in hue. Prussian blue did not get a two star in my testing; it changed a lot both in value and hue.

44 pencils has three stars, among them gold, bronze and silver. All but one of them where three stars in my testing as well, the only one that did really bad was Gold, which changed drastically and became a dull green color instead.  All greys, black and white were lightfast.
Read about my comparison of Faber-Castell Polychromos and Pablo: http://markersguild.blogspot.se/2016/04/a-comparison-between-pablo-and.html

Caran d´ache Pablo