Watercolor Pencils from China - Color Chart and Review [part 1]

To say I love pencils, would be an understatement. A friend of mine jokes that I have a larger stock than the local art shop, and I'm afraid she might be right!

There are several types of pencils available, the most common being the 'standard coloring pencils'. Next in line are the watercolor pencils, which can be used to create very nice painterly effects by simply adding water.

This post is about watercolor pencils, specifically, three brands which I ordered from China. Art materials can be quite expensive, depending on quality, light-fastness etc. So of course cheap options sound pretty interesting!

The brands I tested are:

  • Marco Raffiné Watercolor pencils (set of 24)  ~€10
  • Corot watercolor pencils (set of 72) ~€17
  • HERO watercolor pencils (set of 72) ~€18

I ordered all three sets through aliexpress, although I've seen them being offered on amazon as well.
For comparison I also tested a 40 set of Caran d'Ache Prismalo, which is usually around €60-70.

Sadly I forgot to take pictures of the boxes before throwing them out, but you can find those on the sites mentioned above. Instead of using the bit flimsy cardboard boxes, with slide-out trays, I prefer pencil rolls.

First I'll show you how the sets look, then how they color in comparison to each other. Of course I included a self-made color chart!

First, the Marco Raffiné set:


The pencils are hexagonal, with a silver colored barrel, and a colored rounded end which matches with the core. The color selection is nice, with a fair selection of reds, blues and greens.
The colors don't have names, but they are numbered instead. 
Overall, the pencils look well made.


watercolor marco raffine
A single Marco Raffine pencil

On to the Corot watercolor pencils

According to the package, the leads in these pencils are actually made in Indonesia. The Corots are also hexagonal in shape, but have a straight end. The body of the pencil is completely colored in the respective hue of the core.
Some of the 'body colors' look almost identical, and the colors have no name, nor a number on them to distinguish them. More on that later!
I personally find the range of blues and especially turquoise (blue-green) a bit lacking. Contrarilly, theres a vivid range of greens and browns, and the yellow to orange section is very nice as well.

Corot watercolour pencils
The text on the Corot watercolor pencils, in gold! And British spelling :)

The third contender, the 72 set from HERO

I like the look of the HERO pencils best by far; the barrel is natural wood, with a ring of silver and then the colored rounded end. In contrast to the other two brands, the barrel is round, not hexagonal.
These pencils look more luxurious than its counterparts. And the barrel colors differ more than the Corots'. There seem to be a few more reds and blues than in the Corot set, or they are easier to distinguish, and there are an additional silver and gold in the set.
Similar to the Marco pencils, there are no names, but numbers to distinguish between colors. The HEROs are the only pencils with text printed on two 'sides' of the pencils; one side shows the brand name and color number (and some Chinese symbols,) while the other side says 'Water Colour Pencil'.

All three brands next to each other
All three brands next to each other

For completeness, some photos of the Caran d'Ache Prismalo set, which I used for comparison to a known brand.

These are the well-known Prismalo pencils in the famous Matterhorn tin. 
The hexagonal barrels are completely colored, with gold text imprinted on them and a white rounded end and bar code.

For the color chart and coloring review, follow the arrow below!