Are Spectrum Noir Pencils Worth the Money?

Howdy friends! If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me if I would do a tutorial on Spectrum Noir Pencils I’d a millionaire, well, maybe not but at least a hundredaire!  It was enough to make me spring for these pencils when they went on sale for $16 a set of 24 at Consumer Crafts two weeks ago. And because I am a sucker for free shipping I got all 5 sets and a new WeRMemory Keepers album because the Project Life one I previously ordered in a moment of temporary insanity was not cutting the mustard. Anyway, here is a card I colored with the new Spectrum Noirs, it took all of 15 minutes to color.

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I have a bit of a colored pencil addiction, I love trying out new pencils! Since I have a few of the most popular brands I thought I’d compare them to the new Spectrum Noir pencils and see how they preformed, see my findings in today’s video:

Now, here is where I retract things I said that are wrong. Please refer to the below chart. Koh-i-Noor pencils are available open stock. I have only seen the woodless sets of 12 and 24 so maybe they have another grade of pencils that I am not aware of and maybe there are more colors. Leave a comment if you know.  There was a bit of controversy over the Spectrum Noir pencils being oil based. They preformed most like the Polychromos (the lead in the SNs was thinner and they were a bit less creamy and opaque) but I’d wager they were oil based if I had to guess but there may in fact be an oil/wax blend going on…oh heavens, does anyone care? I do not because they do what they were interned to do extremely well. They layer and blend well. They are translucent enough so I can clearly see my black stamped lines when coloring yet they are opaque enough to stand up on kraft cardstock, a very hip trend might I add. I would not use them on darker cardstocks but on mid-light they preformed very well. Here you can see some swatches and also the retail price for a set of 24 pencils across the brands reviewed (but you can always find them online for much less.)

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That said, the Spectrum Noir pencils would not be my first choice to create a painting with. I prefer the creamier properties of Prismacolor or Polychromos pencils. The Derwent Coloursoft pencils are nothing to sneeze at either but I have been using Prismacolor pencils since I was 5 and loyalties like that are hard to break. Now that brings me to another bit of controversy, Prismacolor pencils are now made in Mexico and their quality has declined (you can check out the Prismacolor vs. Polychromos review by Lachri Fine Art if you want to know more) and it is really too bad because Prismacolor was my favorite. All but 3 white pencils in my Prismacolor box are stamped USA and the ones stamped Mexico had off-center lead. I have not sharpened them yet so hopefully they are adequate, I find the white Prismas to me the most achy-breaky ones in the bunch. I had an imperfect stamped image on my table (the one I demonstrated in the video) and decided to color 4 of the flowers with 4 brands of pencils so you could see a side by side comparison. I think the Spectrum Noir pencils do what they are intended for. Coloring stamped images, I find I can color quickly with them and layer easily without losing the definition of my stamping. If you do not want to see your stamped lines then you can use lighter ink.

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Bottom Line, these are fun. If your goal is to easily color stamped images on white to mid value colored paper these pencils are ideal and a bargain. If you are a colored pencil artist I think you would prefer a pencil with more opaque and creamy lead But since they layer really well and cost less than half of Polychromos pencils you might want to give them a whirl and maybe pick up a few light-colored prismas. Honestly the Polychromos are not terribly opaque either so you might want a wax-based white with those as well. I would be impossible for me to test all of the great pencils on the market (I’m a hundredaire remember…) but these are the most accessible to me and hopefully you. If you have any questions please leave a comment and I’d love to know what your favorite brand of colored pencils are. I have had several requests to compare watercolor pencils too so you can let me know if you are interested in that as well. Thanks for taking the time to read through this long post and til next time happy crafting!

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PS Quick tip! When making a card make the envelope first then use the scrap of leftover paper to embellish your card. Another tip, dig out the old-school deco-scissors and circle punches to cut a cool wavy border on the card. Using a two-tone cardstock like Doublemates makes the look really pop! Happy crafting!

29 Responses

  1. I bought a cheap watercolour pencil set when I first started drawing etc. and I seem to spend more time trying to sharpen them or at least expose the colour so I can even use them. They break so easily. I would love to see a comparison video on watercolour pencils.

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  2. I would also love to see a video on water color pencils. I really appreciate you taking your precious time to share your talents with all of us. I have learned a lot from you and enjoy your flair and honesty. Thank you Lindsay

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks Lindsay – this was an extremely helpful video. Your post is the first thing I look for.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. yes I would really like you to compare water color pencils

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes to a watercolour pencil comparison. This one was very helpful.

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  6. Now, that was awesome!!! It was such a pleasure to have a real comparison and the flowers are gorgeous!!!! Thanks for your help.

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  7. Can you mix prisma and spectrum when creating?

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    • yes, lay down the spectrum first then the prismas, you can even blend using the Prismacolor colorless blender;)

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  8. Thanks for that comparison

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  9. Lindsay, thanks so much!! You are the BEST! It was really helpful to see your comparison. Now I’m ready to invest in my first set of good colored pencils! ♡

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  10. Thank you for your review – this has helped me decide where I will spend my hard earned money on. Please keep up with your reviews – they really help us with little time and money but a great desire to create-thanks

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  11. I would really love to see some videos comparing the Walmart/cheap colored pencils, like the crayolas, rose art, and maybe even throwing the prismacolor scholars in there. I know they are not at all comparable to my beloved prismacolors, but I would be interested in what you would recommend for the super cheap market.

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  12. I, too, would love to see a comparison of watercolor pencils. (although, truthfully, it wouldn’t really matter to me because I own several brands). It is still interesting to see the difference in color in the different brands.

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  13. Hi Lindsay 🙂
    Thank you for doing the coloured pencil comparisons; It was very informative and it will be very useful when buying coloured pencils. Thank you also for doing the comparison colouring on the pansy card. Your final card was beautiful. Hope in the future, you can also do a comparison of watercolour pencils.
    Thank you for sharing!
    Take care.

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  14. Awesome tutorial as always! I would also love to see a comparison of watercolor pencils! Thanks for all your hard work!

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  15. Gorgeous card Lindsay and really informative on the pencils. ~Diane

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  16. Well! I think I’m going for the Spectrum Noir. I have a basic set of the Polychromos and I do like them, but after watching, I am going to shop here in Germany for Spectrum Noir.

    Thank you Lindsay. There is so much to learn about pencils. I never dreamed it would be such an involved choice and a tough decision to make.

    You held my hand through it all, and that’s a great teacher attribute. Hold ’em close enough, but not smothering. Tricky balance. You always do such a very professional and easy to follow job of working through the maze.

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  17. Very helpful information! About the Prismacolor manufacturer: A clerk in an art store told me last year that Rubbermaid, who also manufactures Sharpie products, bought Prismacolor, and he noticed that the quality had declined as well.

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  18. This is such an excellent video and post, Lindsay. Seeing the comparison of the colored flowers helped a lot too. I really appreciate the fact that you review products that are in the affordable range for most all of us. I still use my edger scissors all the time and can’t wait to try your wavy border idea. Also, I’d love a review of watercolor pencils.

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  19. Lindsay, value your opinions. Thanks for all you do. I would love a comparison of water color pencils, even though I invested in the full set of Inktense and love, love, love them!

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  20. What a great in-depth post. I have a little colored pencil addiction myself, so I feel your pain.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I thin kthqt the most important thing with colored pencils is to remember that while one person might prefer one kind, another person might find that same brand difficult to use. Also, with colored pencils the kind of paper that you are using seems to make a difference. I tend to love the coloursoft pencils, but do not use them on card stock. I use Bristol vellum paper and that seems to work better.

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  22. Your video review that I found on youtube was great, but it seems like in this post (which I only just found) you’re being less positive about the spectrum noir for general use? I just bought some and have to say am not that impressed as yet, i’m having trouble finding a paper that they blend well on, and certainly not getting the kind of results shown in the video on the card you used – can you suggest some card or papers to try? I’ve found results on my other art materials vary depending on the paper/card/canvas used so i guess i shouldn’t be surprised the same is proving true for the spectrum – I have similar issues with the few polychromos I have also to be fair. So, any suggestions? thanks for the comprehensive coverage on the pencils all the same!

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    • You want a paper with a little texture, not super smooth, because it needs so tooth to grab the bencil and it is easter to blend if you have more product on there. Try a rougher cardstock or sketching paper. White or light colors are best with these as they are a bit more transparent than other brands.

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  23. Hi Lindsay, I just discovered the world of adult coloring books and cannot wait to dive in. I have always LOVED to color. The first thing I wanted to know was what are the best colored pencils to buy. I came across your tutorial on YouTube and found my answer. Thanks so much for sharing. Excellent information. 👍👏💚✏️🎨

    Do you have a YT comparisons tutorial for pens and markers?

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  24. I have a few polychromo pencils and a tin of the spectrum but have just found the Lyra Rembandt Polycolor would be interested to get your views noticed that the coding on the last 4 numbers are the same as Polychromo

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  25. Lindsay, I went back to find this post so that I could let you know that I used it to guide my pencil purchases this Christmas. Thank you so much for providing the information we need to make the best use of our art supply money.

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