History of Colored Pencils:
Colored pencils are not an alien phenomenon that requires a ridiculously long introduction at this point. Most people know colored pencils as a kind of pencil that comes with a core containing pigment which comes in a wooden encasement. Regular pencils that are used for writing and sketching contain a core that is made up of graphite and clay.
On the other hand, colored pencils comprise a core that is made up of wax, additives, pigments, and different binding agents.
Origin of Colored Pencils
The origin of colored pencils cannot be traced back that easily. Its early origin has been said to make itself manifest in cultures such as ancient Greece. The Greeks were great inventors and their contribution to science and art played a big role in the invention of specific writing tools.
The use of waxes was very common in ancient Greeks where it served a purpose similar to our modern writing instruments. Similar to the ancient Greeks, the Romans also employed the use of waxes for writing purposes.
Despite being known to humankind for a very long time, the first wooden-covered colored pencils did not make an appearance before the nineteenth century. Upon their release, colored pencils were chiefly used for checking and marking.
Colored pencils have existed for a long time, dating back to the Greek Golden Age. However, the way colored pencils existed back then is quite different from the variety of colored pencils on the market today. In the old times, colored pencils inclined toward a more wax-based crayon form. In ancient Rome, the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder is recorded to have documented the entire process of using a wax-based medium.
With that being said, the most common choice of medium in those days was beeswax. The medium also included added pigment in it, and the colors were brought out by a process of heating. The medium was applied on a surface, and the heat was applied to the color to bind it to the painting surface.
Because of the use of wax-based mediums in paintings, historians have been able to restore ancient artworks despite the lack of binding and preserving agents back then, owing to the great resistance of wax-based mediums.
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The Inventor of Colored Pencils
As discussed previously, colored pencils were not available to the masses till the nineteenth century. In the middle of the nineteenth century, Johann Sebastian Staedtler’s company Staedtler conceived the oil pencil in the year 1834. However, the German company didn’t inaugurate the production of colored pencils for artistic endeavors till the twentieth century.
In the twentieth century, a couple of other companies, apart from Staedtler, began the production of colored pencils. The first-ever artistic colored pencils were invented and manufactured by Faber-Castell and Caran d’Ache in the year 1924. Similarly, Berol also began the manufacture of colored pencils in 1938.
Aside from the leading innovator companies of colored pencils, the world also witnessed companies such as Derwent, Progresso, Lyra Rembrandt, and Blick Studio come up with their range of colored pencils in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Moreover, some manufacturing companies also introduced the first watercolor pencils to the public, which are a type of colored pencils containing a water-soluble property owing to their core, used to create effects similar to watercolor paints.
How Are Colored Pencils Produced?
The production process of colored pencils includes both manual and automatic procedures. The production is achieved on a machine line and is overlooked and monitored by a line of workers. The procedure is very similar to the way standard pencils are manufactured in factories, using the same steps.
However, the difference with the production of colored pencils lies in the fact that pigmented leads cannot go into the furnace because that would alter the pigmentation of the original color.
The ingredients that go into the production of colored pencils constitute a colorant that can be a pigment or dye, binding materials such as cellulose ethers or vegetable gums, and wax (commonly beeswax, or in some cases, paraffin and carnauba wax).
The primary step which goes into the creation of colored pencils involves mixing various pigments to obtain the pencil’s desired color. However, these pigments may vary across pigments of the same color depending upon the manufacturer. There is also a predetermined recipe for each color which helps in easy decision-making without having to waste time.
This step focuses on choosing the right amount of different pigments for color. Moreover, to accelerate the mixing process, boiling water is added to the solution. The boiling water contains the binding agents which are essential for stimulating the mixing process by blending in all the components effortlessly. After this step, the ingredients increase in size and turn into a paste.
After the mixture has turned into a paste, it is time for the next step. The mixed pigments are added to the paste and the machine is used to mix the complete concoction to create an even colored paste. Following that, the paste is sent for processing. A tiny portion of the paste is sent to a compressing cylinder through a conveyor belt.
The compressing cylinder compresses the material inside it, from where the paste is transported to an extrusion machine. The extrusion machine contains a lead diameter, usually 3.8 mm in thickness. The thickness of the extrusion machine also varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, ranging from smaller to bigger diameter.
After that step, the paste is pushed to a continuous stream, where it is made to pass through a cutter machine where it is cut according to the length of the colored pencil. Then the leads are submerged in a chemical bath of waxes and coated in the process.
The next step involves the quality check where leads are sent for inspection to test how well they will be able to perform and analyze their durability. After the break test and the durability check have affirmed the status of the colored pencils, it is time for the pencil bodies to be sculpted and produced by using a special machine for this purpose.
Pencil bodies are mostly made out of cedar and the machine turns them into a round, triangle, or hexagon shape. After that, the cedar is made to bind with the lead with the help of multiple layers of glue.
In the final step, the body of the pencil is made to match the pigment of the lead. However, this step is not mandatory and many manufacturers tend to skip this step altogether. Lastly, the colored pencil is sent to a machine that stamps it with the manufacturer’s name, name of pencils, and the nature of pencils for identification purposes. After that, the colored pencils are sharpened and transported for packaging and storing.
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Types of Colored Pencils
The evolution of colored pencils has given rise to three major types of pencils over the years.
- Artist-grade colored pencils
- Student and academic grade colored pencils
- Watercolor pencils
1. Artist Grade Colored Pencils
As the name suggests, artist-grade colored pencils are designed specifically to cater to the needs of professionals in the department of art. These pencils are produced to endure for a very long time and are usually of a high quality combined with the other types.
Their high-quality pigmentation allows them to be artists’ preferred choice when it comes to effective blending and resistance to UV rays. The documented term for resistance to UV rays is called lightfastness. These days, artist-grade colored pencils are produced in the form of wax-based and oil-based colored pencils.
These professional-grade pencils allow artists to experiment with several different kinds of projects. Artists who are more advanced in their skills can get the best out of these pencils by applying their knowledge of color theory, blending techniques, and art procedures to their work.
This type of colored pencil is usually the best option for artists who do art for living or even very enthusiastic and diligent hobbyists who simply love art. These colored pencils come with a softcore which allows for more vivid application. It’s also easier to manage the saturation of the pigment with this kind of colored pencil.
Wax-Based Colored Pencils
Wax-based colored pencils are the most popular choice among people when it comes to choosing colored pencils in general. Almost everyone has had a set of wax-based colored pencils in their home once. Because wax-based colored pencils are readily available and accessible to everyone, they tend to be the representatives of colored pencils everywhere.
These professional colored pencils are relatively cheap and are easy to use for everyone. They can be spotted at any random stationery store near your place. They also come in a wide variety of color shades, forms, and sizes.
Wax-based colored pencils consist of a creamier core which makes them great for blending purposes. That is why they are very popular with kids who are passionate about art and beginner artists.
They are lighter as compared to oil-based ones which make them easier to erase since mistakes are a common thing with kids and beginner artists. Wax-based pencils are unable to persevere a heavy hand and might require softer hand movements when coloring.
Oil-Based Colored Pencils
Oil-based colored pencils are relatively more specialized when compared with wax-based ones. Unlike wax-based pencils, these are not accessible to everyone and are a bit difficult to locate.
The most popular brand specializing in oil-based colored pencils is Faber-Castells, especially their Polychromos series. These pencils are also on the more expensive side so it’s best for professional users and not novices.
The oil binder present in the core of these colored pencils makes it more stable and fixated for uninterrupted precision and application. This allows for lower chances of breaking and ruining the flow of the artist. This is what makes oil-based colored pencils the predominant medium used by artists.
2. Student and Academic Grade Colored Pencils
These colored pencils are usually available in a set of 24 to 36 color range and provide the basic color options for students. The difference between artist grade and student grade colored pencils is in the quality of the colored pencils.
In the case of student-grade colored pencils, the quality of the artist-grade ones is far superior to them in terms of pigmentation, blending, color options, and durability. The production of these colored pencils is also targeted toward students who might not need colors for a specific purpose but a general or academic one instead.
The prices of these pencils are student-friendly and most students in elementary and middle school tend to gravitate toward these.
3. Watercolor Pencils
Watercolor pencils consist of a water-soluble core which makes them a multifaceted medium for artistic expression and application. The pencils are able to imitate the effect of watercolor paints, allowing users to experiment without having to use the actual medium.
These pencils also come with two different mediums, one is a dry medium acting as simple colored pencils, and the other creates a watercolor effect upon interaction with water.
The web application can be achieved by first using the dry medium to color. After the dry application, use a wet paintbrush over the color and it will give you a watercolor effect.
These days, colored pencils are available in a variety of mediums and it only keeps getting better from here. They’ve been tailored to meet the needs of all kinds of artists and non-artists alike. There are colored pencils that can be applied on standard paper, sketchbooks, Bristol boards, wooden mediums, and Pastel paper.
Moreover, it’s also quite amusing to witness the journey of colored pencils from wax-based mediums used in ancient Greco-Roman times to where they are now. Colored pencils have been developed to encapsulate and mimic a variety of effects, such as dry and wet mediums. This states that it’s not just the artist’s skills and techniques which bring out the best in an artwork, but also the quality of colored pencils that help achieve that effect.