Faber-Castell Polychromos 30 colors set in a pencil roll – color list and swatches

I recently decided to get more into color pencils and bought a set of Faber-Castell Polychromos. I was deciding between three allegedly lightfast* brands: the Derwent Lightfast, Caran d'Ache Luminance, and Polychromos. The latter was the cheapest of the three, and I'm a mixed media artist anyway, so it seemed like a good choice.

I really liked this faux leather pencil roll set of 30. However, there was no list of exact colors included in any online product description, so I crossed my fingers hoping I would get a good selection with enough beige, pink and brown colors for skintones.

Faber-Castell Polychromos 30 colors set in a faux leather pencil roll

Here is a complete list of colors I received in this set:

  • 101 White
  • 107 Cadmium yellow
  • 109 Dark chrome yellow
  • 110 Phthalo blue
  • 112 Leaf green
  • 113 Orange glaze
  • 118 Scarlet red
  • 120 Ultramarine
  • 121 Pale geranium lake
  • 125 Middle purple pink
  • 127 Pink carmine
  • 132 Beige red
  • 136 Purple violet
  • 153 Cobalt turquoise
  • 156 Cobalt green
  • 167 Permanent green olive
  • 170 May green
  • 172 Earth green
  • 175 Dark sepia
  • 188 Sanguine
  • 192 India red
  • 199 Black
  • 219 Deep scarlet red
  • 233 Cold grey IV
  • 235 Cold grey VI
  • 247 Indanthrene blue
  • 264 Dark Phthalo green
  • 268 Green gold
  • 272 Warm grey III
  • 273 Warm grey IV

I have not found this information even on the official Faber-Castell website, and they don't have this set listed in their swatches table PDF. The only other place where I've seen the full list is the Q&A section of Amazon.de! This is the reason why I'm making this post, in case someone else is looking for this information.

This selection of colors doesn't match up with any of the smaller sets. There are some colors in the set that are also present in the 12, 24, and 36 set, but many colors that are a part of the 12 and 24 sets are not included in this one. They are replaced by colors which are normally only found in the biggest 120 set. I find this strange, and I have no idea what this "special" selection of colors is supposed to be. It's not a portrait set for sure, because very few useful skintones are included (I purchased 7 additional shades to make a decent range.) It's not a nature set, because it has 4 different blues and only 2 browns (3 if you count Green gold as a brown). My only explanation is that they chose some of the "leftover" colors that are not needed in their other limited sets.

I promised swatches, so here they are on natural white Hahnemuehle paper, and on Clairefontaine gray mixed media paper. I have a calibrated display and tried to match it to what I see in person, but you may be seeing something completely different on your own display. (Click on each image to see the larger version.)

Faber-Castell Polychromos 30 colors set swatches on natural white paper

I added a strip of white pencil on the bottom of each swatch (on white paper) to see what ligher and pastel shades I can get by mixing them. It's not super clear, so I'll have to do separate larger swatches for that.

Faber-Castell Polychromos 30 colors set swatches on dark gray paper

Below are the additional colors I purchased for shading the skin:

Faber-Castell Polychromos beige, peach, and brown swatches on natural white paper

I know for a fact that it's possible to achieve decent skin tones with fewer colors, but I figured since I splurged so much already, I might as well get every possible shade I might need. It was a birthday present to myself.

Overall I really like these pencils. They are definitely not soft – it takes a lot of pressure to lay an intense color, and they're supposedly very break-resistant. But they're great for detail work, which is what I need them for. I was able to achieve very rich and smooth skin tones by layering brown, beige, red, and dark blue shades.

Faber-Castell Polychromos light and dark skin tones mixes

I intend to use them mostly over watercolor or soft pastels, because I don't have the patience to complete large drawings using only color pencils.

Here's the first drawing I completed almost exclusively with these pencils. The shadow/demon silhouette is a mix of Creatacolor Nero and Polychromos Black with some solvent to make the surface more even. The portrait is shaded using 6 or maybe 7 different Polychromos pencils.

The Shadow – colored pencil drawing by Nela Dunato

Click to see larger image in my art gallery.

I recorded the entire drawing process from sketch to finish:

Here's a flowers study on Strathmore toned gray paper:

Polychromos colored pencils on toned paper: Tulips and roses drawings

* I say allegedly, because that's what the companies claim. However, some people's lightfastness tests had shown that Polychromos has quite a few unstable colors (especially bright reds, purples, yellows and oranges). The ASTM-rated Luminance had tested fully lightfast, but I don't want to spend that much money when I'm not even making money with my art. I'll be careful not to use any of the unstable pencils in works I want to preserve. Thankfully, my skintone colors are safe!

I am however very intrigued with the Van Gogh pencils, which are also ASTM-rated and highly lightfast in independent artist tests. I set my eyes on a watercolor pencil set, and will probably get them soon.
Update: I got them! Read my Royal Talens Van Gogh Water Colour Pencils review.

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