Sunday, 14 February 2021

CARAN D'ACHE Museum Watercolour Pencils

Caran D'Ache create a number of different ranges of pencils, pens, fountain pens, crayons and other art and office materials. While I own a few of their beautiful pens and pencils, I am most interested in their watercolour pencils. I've written about the Museum range before - the original clutch style set that is no longer available. 

Over a number of years, the Swiss has redesigned the range as traditional pencils. 

Caran d'Ache Museum pencils - full range of 76

I was given a set of 12, as part of a generous Faculty 'goodie bag' when I taught at the last Urban Sketchers symposium in 2019, and have had a few in my sketching kit to explore. These are terrific watercolour pencils, and though the most expensive range as far as I am aware, they deserve a full post. The colours are often unique so many might be useful to add to other collections.

I bought the rest of the range as single pencils and have placed them all in a 96 slot Global pencil case (affiliate link) for easy storage and transporting. They are also available in many beautiful boxed sets. You can see them at (affiliate links) or on the Caran d'Ache website. 

Caran d'Ache set of 12 Museum Pencils

The website gives pigment information on each colour, and each pencil has the lightfast rating stamped onto it. The range of 76 colours has a number of single pigment colours and some lovely subdued hues. While I prefer the pencils to be painted in a solid colour so it is really easy to find the colour you are looking for, the colours at the end of each grey pencil are accurate.

I've drawn these swatches up on 300gsm hot pressed paper, as many people use smooth paper for pencil. I've coloured each swatch from darker to lighter, and added water to the right-hand-side, then drawn back into the wet wash with the pencil to show the wet pencil strength.

The colours are always difficult to show accurately. Yellow is slightly brighter than it appears here and Golden Yellow is a classic clean deep yellow colour. The three yellows are lovely choices for a cool, mid and warm yellow.

Caran d'Ache Museum pencils - White, Primrose, Naples Ochre, Lemon Yellow, Yellow, Golden Yellow

These are reasonably accurate, but the Vermilion is just on the orange side of a mid red and the Light Cadmium Red is between an orange red and a coral. Scarlet is a definite crimson colour, as it appears here.
Caran d'Ache Museum pencils - Golden Cadmium Yellow (Hue), Orange, Cornelian, Vermilion, 
Light Cadmium Red (hue), Scarlet.

Anthraquinoid Pink is a little more coral than it appears here. The other colours look quite accurate. Violet Pink is very like Potter's Pink. Purplish Red is a lovely quinacridone magenta option.

Caran d'Ache Museum pencils- Anthraquinoid Pink, Crimson Aubergine, Carmine Lake, Violet Pink, 
Dark Plum, Purplish Red.

It is wonderful to see these beautiful single pigment violets. PV16 abd PV15 are quite gentle pigments and the pencil versions are lovely. Cobalt pigments appear in the blues :-) These swatches are accurate in colour. Purples and blues are usually easier to show.

Caran d'Ache Museum pencils - Manganese Violet, Periwinkle Blue, Violet, Ultramarine Violet, 
Light Cobalt Blue, Genuine Cobalt Blue.

The colours shown here are very accurate. While most of the colours are five stars for lightfastness, Dark Ultramarine is only 3 due to PB1. Night Blue is the indanthrone blue pigment and Phthalocyanine Blue is a really useful cool blue in any palette.

Caran d'Ache Museum pencils - Middle Cobalt Blue, Dark Ultramarine, Night Blue, Prussian Blue, 
Light Blue, Phthalocyanine Blue

There are more lovely single pigment colours here. Chromium Oxide Green is a very opaque colour in watercolours but a really useful colour as a pencil.

Caran d'Ache Museum pencils - Permanent Blue, Ice Blue, Turquoise Blue, Light Malachite Green, 
Cobalt Green, Chromium Oxide Green

This set of greens are lovely and earthy. It usually takes a few pigments to create earthy greens. 

Caran d'Ache Museum pencils - Moss Green, Dark Phthalocyanine Green, Olive, Light Olive, 
Green Ochre, Olive Yellow.

Personally I find these less useful colours, and not hugely different, though the Emerald Green is slightly bluer than it looks here. It is good to see a single pigment Phthalocyanine Green.

Caran d'Ache Museum pencils - Spring Green, Bright Green, Grass Green, Emerald Green, 
Beryl Green, Phthalcyanine Green.

There is a lovely range of earth colours. 

Caran d'Ache Museum pencils - Dark Sap Green, Brown Olive 50%, Olive Brown, Brown Ochre, 
Raw Sienna, Yellow Ochre.

Genuine Umber was the name of the original 548 colour, now just called Umber. It's a useful cool yellowish-brown. 

Caran d'Ache Museum pencils - Genuine Umber (discontinued), Umber (current version), Saffron, 
Light Flesh 10%, Apricot, Cinnamon.

Cinnamon, Burnt Ochre and Terracotta are all similar variations of a burnt Sienna. Brown is a little more like an Indian red and Chestnut a burnt umber. Russet is a lovely colour but not as crimson as it looks here - more of a burnt coral colour.

Caran d'Ache Museum pencils - Burnt Ochre, Brown, Terracotta, Russett, Burnt Sienna 50%, Chestnut.

Raw Umber is like a deep chocolate colour - quite warm, and Cassel earth is another option for a cool dar brown. 

Caran d'Ache Museum pencils - Raw Umber, Cassel Earth, Dark Flesh 50%, French Grey, Sepia 50%, Sepia 10%

I like the slight blue tint of Payne's Grey. Of the blacks, Ivory is warmer and Black cooler.

Caran d'Ache Museum pencils - Steel Grey, Payne's Grey, Slate Grey, Ivory Black, Black.

These pencils are a joy to use. They wet and activate with ease and can be used alone or with regular pencils, watercolour, inks or whatever you wish. 

Happy sketching!


  1. Thanks Jane.

    I have a set of Faber Castell Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils and I am looking for some good material on learning how to use them. Most of what I have found on Youtube is people creating a palette card of swatches then just using a wet brush to wet the swatches and then paint with the brush. There has to be some better techniques that take advantage of the color pencil aspects of using them.

    Can you recommend any resources for using color pencils that don't treat them like watercolor pans or tubes?


  2. I did a huge three hour demonstration for Faber Castell showing them being used in many ways but I don't know if it has been published anywhere. They are an extraordinary tool, as you can use them wet or dry, with water or without, as washes or as lines, on dry paper or on wet paper. I suggest you explore them yourself and see what they are capable of doing.
    They would be a great topic for a workshop - maybe I could do on on Zoom?

  3. I also own the full set of Museum Aquarelle pencils, but never paid attention to the pigment information until I happened upon this page. This will come in handy as I play around with mixing colors. Thank you for providing this valuable resource!