Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Albrecht Durer Watercolour Pencils

I've updated this post from 2018, re-scanning all the swatches and setting them out more clearly.

There are many brands of water-soluble pencils, but Albrecht Dürer, made by Faber Castell, are my favourites of the readily available ranges. They are great colours - very natural - and 'fairly' to 'extremely' lightfast. There is sometimes a shift in colour when you wet them but not as crazy as some pencils. They behave well and dilute nicely. 

I've had a lovely boxed set of 80 Albrecht Dürer watercolour pencils for over 30 years and use them mostly in conjunction with other media - watercolours in particular. The current range is 120 pencils and I thought I'd draw and paint them all out to show how they all look since the colour charts can be hard to tell. I've taken screen shots of the colour chart from the Faber-Castell website to enlarge them here. I'll show the colours painted and drawn out below, but in a different order. 

The samples are drawn on Arches 300gsm hot pressed (smooth) paper - not what I usually use as I prefer cold pressed. The right side of each swatch has been brushed over with water then the pencil drawn through the damp section to show its full wet strength.

The Faber Castell Polychomos pencils can be seen in a blog post here. They are also gorgeous to use, and are the same colours with the same numbers, which is very helpful! As are the Pitt pastel colours and even the Pitt artist pens. This makes it really easy to find a favourite colour across the Faber Castell range. I've also added the full range of all pencils in alphabetical order to the end of this post.

As I have had some colours for 30 years, I've also added the newer versions of these colours next to each swatch. In some cases the colour has changed more than others. I've included the discontinued colours I have for reference.

As always, some colours are very difficult to scan accurately. The new version of #104 is not noticeably different, but the swatch is added here.

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - White, Ivory, Cream, Zinc Yellow (old), 
Light Yellow Glaze, Cadmium Yellow Lemon.

A number of these have slightly changed in hue and name so the newer versions are also shown.
Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Lemon Cadmium (old), Light Cadmium Yellow, 
Light Chrome Yellow (previously called Light Chrome), Lemon (old), Cadmium Yellow.

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Canary Yellow (old), Dark Cadmium Yellow, 
Orange Yellow (old), Dark chrome Yellow, Cadmium Orange.

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Light Orange (old), Orange Glaze, Dark Orange (old), 
Dark Cadmium Orange, Light Cadmium (old), Light Cadmium Red.

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Scarlet Lake (old), Scarlet Red, Pale Geranium Lake, 
Deep Red, Deep Scarlet Red.

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Dark Carmine (old), Permanent Carmine, Middle Cadmium Red, 
Dark Red, Madder, Alizarin Crimson.

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Light Carmine (old), Pink Carmine, Rose Carmine,
Rose Mader Lake (old), Light Purple Pink, Fuchsia.

I find the change in 134 a little odd as the Magenta is now called Crimson, though is more of a mauve - perhaps a translation glitch. 
Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Pink Madder Lake, Light Magenta, 
Middle Purple Pink, Magenta (old), Crimson.

There is quite a change between the old Red Violet 136 and the new Red violet 194.
Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Wine Red (old), Magenta, Purple (old),
Red Violet, 
Red Violet (old), Light Red Violet.

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Manganese Violet, Violet, Dark Violet (old), Purple violet, 
Blue Violet, Light Violet (discontinued).

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Mauve, Delft Blue, Prussian Blue (old), Helioblue Reddish, 
Light Ultramarine, Indanthrone Blue.

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Deep Cobalt Blue (old), Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine,
Sky Blue, Light Cobalt Blue (old), Cobalt Blue Greenish

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Dark Indigo, Azure Blue (old), Phthalo Blue, Middle Phthalo Blue,
Light Phthalo Blue, Light Blue (discontinued)

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils- True Blue (discontinued), Oriental Blue (old), Bluish Turquoise,
Prussian Blue, Night Green (old), Helio Turquoise.

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Peacock Blue (old), Cobalt Turquoise, Aquamarine (old), 
Light Cobalt Blue, Cobalt Green.

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Sea Green (old), Deep Cobalt Green, Hooker's Green, 
Dark Phthalo Green, Chrome Oxide Green Fiery.

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Viridian (old), Phthalo Green, Emerald Green, True Green (old), 
Light Phthalo Green, Light Green.

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Grass Green, Leaf Green, Permanent Green, Juniper Green, 
Sap Green (old), Permanent Olive Green.

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Pine Green, Moss Green (old), Earth Green, 
Apple Green (old), May Green.

I find many of these more natural greens really useful.

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Grey Green (old), Earth Green, Olive Green, Cedar Green (old),
Chrmomium Green Opaque, 
Chrome Oxide Green.

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Gold Ochre (old), Light Yellow Ochre, Ochre (old),
Dark Naples Ochre, Light Ochre (old), Naples Yellow.

The names of the 'flesh' colours have been changed and are far useful. I've used these mostly for botanical colours.
Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Light Flesh (now called Beige Red), Medium Flesh
(now called Coral), Dark Flesh (now called Salmon), Caput Mortuum Violet, Caput Mortuum, Burnt Sienna.

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, Bistre, Nougat,
Light Sepia (old), Walnut Brown.

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Van Dyke Brown, Sepia (old), Dark Sepia, Green Gold,
Brown Ochre, Terracotta.

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils -Burnt Ochre, Sanguine, Cinnamon,
Venetian Red, 
Pompeian Red, Indian red

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Burnt Carmine, Warm Grey 1, Warm Grey II, Warm Grey III,
Warm Grey VI, Warm Grey V.

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Warm Grey VI, Cold Grey I, Cold Grey II,
Cold Grey III, Cold 
Grey IV, Cold Grey V.

Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils - Cold Grey VI, Payne's Grey, Black, Silver, Gold, Copper.

I have shown three other pencils from my original 80 colour set that are no longer available - 138 Light Violet, 147 Light Blue and 148 True Blue. There are many numbers that are missing altogether now. Whether they have ever been created or are around somewhere I don't know - please feel free to comment below. Missing numbers are 114, 116, 122, 138, 150, 164, 195-198, 200 - 204, 206 - 216, 218, 220 - 222, 224, 227 - 229, 232 - 234, 236 - 245, 248, 253 - 262, 265, 268 - 270, 272 - 274, 277, 279, 281 and 282.

While there are many sets (affiliate link) available of 12, 24, 36 and so on, they don't necessarily have the most useful selections, often being really bright so less useful for realistic work. 

I'd suggest the following set, bought as individual pencils. This set fairly closely matches my suggested 20-colour watercolour palette colours, along with a convenience purple, orange, black and white. Add your own favourites of course!

There are wonderful storage options available for loose pencils from Derwent, Global (affiliate link) and others that are more portable than a tin or a box. While I have a boxed set of these pencils for my studio, I also have a great Global art pencil roll with my most used 30 colours so I can have them with me when travelling, and a book-style leather pencil holder for my Museum pencils.

101 White
103 Ivory (to approximately match Buff Titanium)
105 Light Cadmium Yellow (to match Hansa Yellow Medium)
108 Dark Cadmium Yellow (as an useful extra)
183 Light Yellow Ochre (to match Quinacridone Gold)
115 Dark Cadmium Orange (as a useful extra)
117 Light Cadmium Red (to match  Pyrrol Scarlet)
225 Dark Red (to match Pyrrol Crimson)
123 Fuchsia (to match Quinacridone Rose)
249 Mauve (as a useful extra)
120 Ultramarine (to match Ultramarine)
144 Cobalt Blue greenish (to match Phthalo Blue and also Cerulean Chromium)
276 Chrome Oxide Green Fiery (to match Phthalo Green)
278 Chrome Oxide Green (to match Perylene Green, though not a great match)
174 Chromium Green Opaque (to match Undersea Green)
168 Earth Green Yellowish or the slightly darker 167 Permanent Olive Green (to match Sap Green)
182 Brown Ochre (to match Goethite)
187 Burnt Ochre (to match Raw Sienna)
188 Sanguine (to match Burnt Sienna)
169 Caput Mortuum or 192 Indian red, which is a bit brighter (to match Indian Red)
283 Burnt Sienna (to match Burnt Umber)
178 Nougat (to match Raw Umber)
181 Payne’s Grey (to match Jane's Grey - not perfect)
199 Black (a useful extra in a pencil)

Here they are as a set.

Here is the full colour range of art and graphic pencils - arranged by number. It is interesting to see when certain colours were added. 
Full colour chart information by colour number, from Faber Castell 2021


  1. I have this set of pencils. I was torn between several brands when I was trying to choose which watercolor pencils to buy and I settled on this set. My Grandmother sent me a set of Faber Castell colored pencils when I was a child and I still have them and the metal pop open box they came in. I haven't done a lot with them yet but wanted a set for when I get the urge to experiment so I don't have to wait.

    1. I still have my set of 72 Derwent pencils from when I was 7 or 8. Some pencils from my 80 colour set are down to just 5cm long now so they are well used. Others hardly touched - that's the problem with buying a set rather than choosing the colours you know you'll use :-)
      I often use them with watercolours, either adding them over the top or drawing with a coloured pencil rather than a grey so they disappear when watercolour is added.

    2. Good morning from Spain Jane!. I'm excited to talk to you... I follow your wonderful blog for years, which has helped me overcome the color training deficiencies of a sculptor by profession.
      At the Faculty of Fine Arts in Madrid we were not informed about pigments and I thank you more than immensely for sharing your knowledge. Of course, I bought your Blubr mix book and your ultimate mixing watercolor box, which I use in combination with some Schmincke and W&N coores.

      I also have the wooden box of 72 Derwent, both watercolorable and studio. My parents gave them to me when I entered the Faculty of Fine Arts in Madrid, 26 years ago. I keep them with enormous affection and I have used them a lot, now I feel that I betray them when I consider changing the colors less resistant to light by Albrecht durer or Luminance/Museum of Caran D'Ache. But I'm really concerned about that poor light resistance of many Derwent pencils...
      A big kiss and many, many, MANY thank you very much.

  2. Okay, I am officially an art supply nerd now. Well, actually I have been one for all of my life, but the joy I feel reading your posts reinforce the fact. Thank you for all you do.

  3. I'm a art supply nerd too. I have all these watercolor-pencels (and the colors they are out of the colkection) and all the polychromes too. I like Faber Castell. I have alsow all the Charisma pencils too.
    From Derwent I have the Colorsoft and the Inktense compleet. I like your blog and look every week of there are new post, normal for my watercolorpaint colors and mixing but now alsow for color-pencils.
    Greetings from Holland, Juliette

  4. Thank You for Your colour chart. I think the numbers You wrote below doesn't exist. Here is a link that shows what is available from FC : I've got these pencils as well as Derwent Inktense and some very old Faber Castell Goldfaber Aquarell. I love them all.

  5. Thank you for this post Jane! I also use colored pencils for my work and used to use the full set of Faber Castell polychromos and a few Albrecht Dürer, enjoying their color range and handling qualities. I put them under a lightfastness test along with the watercolours I use to make sure they were as reliable as the labels claim, and unfortunately they performed VERY poorly overall. Nearly all the reds and violets faded very badly within 2-3 months of summer sunlight exposure, and more surprisingly, also some blues and browns, and yellows. To give you a comparison, many colours faded as quickly or even faster (especially the pink shades) than the alizarin crimson watercolour sample that I had exposed along with them.... So I guess we still need to be very cautious about what the brands claim about the permanence of their products...

    1. I have given away almost all my Faber Castell colored pencils (Albrecht Dürer and Polychromos) because of this. There are a few reviews on different colored pencils and lightfastness on the net and I was shocked to see that Faber Castell doesn't perform well at all, like you said A LOT of fading colors. A pity because I quite liked to use them.
      I'm looking into Caran D'Ache Luminance and CdA Museum now - hefty price, but no lightfastness worries.

    2. Interesting to note. I haven't lightfast tested them myself, but the coloured pencil drawing I created and framed about thirty years ago still looks fresh today. Mostly earth colours, which may be a factor.
      The Caran d'Ache Museum range is the most lightfast available as far as I know.

    3. I wish someone would do a comprehensive UV test of the watercolor pencils available on the market. FWIW, I had a few works done with the Kimberly WC pencils from General's brand (very old school) that looked great after twenty years of wall display.. but things have changed in many brands over the years and not for the best. For example at that time Prismacolor were the top of the line and they unfortunately outsourced their manufacturing and had serious issues.

  6. Something to note is the magnus range has a small selection of the main line’s colors, but different lightfastness ratings. They’re fatter pencils, with fatter cores. Probably better if you’re using them as convenient pan watercolors. No idea if the color formulas differ between the magnus and the regular size. Also more convenient if you have physical issues that make fatter tools work better.

    I can’t tell the two lines apart in performance on paper, and I haven’t done lightfastness tests for myself. But very few of the regular line colors have the best lightfastness rating, and quite a number of colors that you’d expect to be sturdy if the name matched the pigment aren’t listed as the best rating. Even quite a few of the blues are less fast than you would expect based on name. So I definitely wouldn’t expect them to be suitable for work you intend to sell.

    I’ve been living out of suitcases for the past two months so I’ve been getting my color fix with these. It’s easy to keep things tidy, and you can get a nice gamut out of a very tiny selection of colors. And they work well on toned paper. So I’d definitely suggest them as a step up from a kiddie watercolor set or an improvement on kid quality colored pencils. And they’re a lot nicer to use as real watercolor than many sorts of pan colors. The sets are very expensive, but buying a mixing complement pair or three isn’t expensive at all.

  7. As far as the missing numbers are concerned, I can confirm that 232, 233, 234, 263, 264, 266, 267, 268, 270, 272, 273 and 274 are still available, as I bought them 5 or 6 weeks ago. For the 139 Light Violet and 147 Light Blue, I was able to find them in the FC Art Grip Watercolour pencil line. I was also able to find 147 Light Blue in the FC Goldfaber Aqua. I don't know if the Goldfaber replaces the Art Grip Collection. And for those missing the 139 Light Violet in the Polychromos pencils, the Classic collection (red box and tin) pencil 339 is the same color. I don't know about lightfastness though; but it sure is pretty!

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  9. Unlike most of the name changes – where the number has remained the same and the colour has changed very little – I have always assumed that the older 151 was was simply mislabelled "Prussian Blue" since it never looked like Prussian Blue to me. (I would use 247 Indanthrene Blue when I wanted a darker, more muted, denim-jeans-like blue.) So I was not surprised when the 246 Prussian Blue entered the line and 151 was renamed Helioblue-Reddish, without the colour changing in a significant way.

  10. Are the Pigment Numbers used in the pencils to be found anywhere?

  11. I haven't found them for this range. The only brand that includes pigment information as far as I know is Caran d'Arch.

  12. Buenos días desde España Jane!. Me emociona hablar contigo... sigo tu maravilloso blog desde hace años, que me ha ayudado a superar las deficiencias en cuanto a formación en color de una escultora de profesión.
    En la facultad de Bellas artes de Madrid no nos informaron apenas sobre pigmentos y te agradezco más que inmensamente que compartas tus conocimientos. Por supuesto, compré tu libro de mezclas en Blubr y tu caja de acuarelas de mezcla definitiva, que uso en combinación con algunos coores Schmincke y W&N.

    Yo tengo también la caja de madera de 72 Derwent, tanto de acuarelables como los studio. Me los regalaron mis padres cuando ingresé en la facultad de Bellas Artes de Madrid, hace 26 años. Les guardo un enorme cariño y los he usado mucho, ahora siento que les traiciono cuando me planteo cambiar los colores menos resistentes a la luz por Albrecht durer o Luminance/Museum de Caran D´Ache. Pero realmente me preocupa esa pobre resistencia a la luz de muchos lápices Derwent...
    Un beso grande y muchas, muchas, MUCHAS gracias.

    1. It is most likely that you will protect your pencil drawings from too much light one they are finished so I wouldn't feel that you shouldn't use what you have. Pencils are often used quite firmly, and the pigments are more protected when used heavier. Perhaps add the other colours as you need them, rather than wasting what you have.

    2. Es un muy buen consejo, lo seguiré. Muchas gracias!! Eres muy amable. Es realmente maravilloso que alguien con tantos conocimientos los comparta de forma tan generosa.

  13. Thank you, Jane. This information is very helpful! I especially appreciate your selection of the 20 pencils that closely represent your 20-color watercolor palette. Do you know whether you can purchase empty 20 color tins for this selection? Also, I'm assuming your 20 color watercolor palette is posted somewhere on your blog so we can compare the two lists.

    1. You can see a huge range of palettes on my website. The first has the 15 colours from my Ultimate Mixing set, along with 5 useful convenience extras. Here is the link

    2. Thanks, Jane. The link is helpful.

  14. Very helpful especially the 20 set suggestion.. you are correct most sets are not the most useful. My preference for storage are the binder type with loops to securely hold each pencil, I find they are extremely convenient while "painting" as they keep the pencils visible and in your preferred order and reduce core breakage which is a most annoying issue. Another thing that helps with core breakage is a vertical automatic sharpener, and if you have to use a manual be sure to twist the sharpener and not the pencil. My favorite way to use WC pencils (other than sketching on the go) is to make a "palette" by scribbling onto a spare piece of paper (they also make special glass palettes for this purpose or you can use a sheet of frosted acetate, be sure to get the frosted as it enables the pencil to adhere) and picking them up with a brush. You can get true watercolor effects out of them that way.. except for a bit of difference in flow, the pencils tend to be a bit "sticky" on paper when wet vs a tube or pan watercolor. The paper is still travel friendly as it can be simply discarded when finished and takes little space to pack.

    1. I’ve done full paintings using the pencils in that manner. More fiddly in some ways, but great for accurate colour matching!

    2. Thanks you! This information was very helpful.

  15. Hi Jane, thank you for updating. I I may ask a question...what do you think of signing a watercolor using wayercolor it a good idea?

    1. That is a good idea as it is far easier to control a pencil than a brush or nib. Provided you match the colour to the colours you have used, and have it nice and sharp, it can be a far easier way to sign a painting.

      I try to match the signature with the work. I've used white watercolour pencil to sign over a dark area of a painting; I've used ink if there is ink-work visible in the finished work. If I have graphite pencil-work visible in the painting, I'll tend to use that to sign it. If I want to sign in watercolour I tend to use a dip pen loaded with paint but that can also flick or splatter.

  16. Susan from Maine14 May 2022 at 10:29

    Thank you so much for these charts. I have approximately 90 Durer pencils and the Faber Castell printed charts which I use for b&w image work, but couldn't think how to 'paint out' the pencil colors similar to Mastering Watercolors swatches.

    Is there a buff titanium pencil equivalent? This color is so useful for parched grasses (lots of that along the coast here), but I can't approximate it with the current set.