Caran D’Ache Luminance Review

Working with Caran D’Ache Luminance

… Or Why I cannot love Caran D’Ache Luminance

I bet you weren’t expecting this. And I guess many of you will hate me for writing this blog post. But I cannot love caran d’ache luminance as much as I would have liked. And believe me, I tried to like them, I so much wanted to like them.

I don’t mean that they are rubbish or that they don’t do the job. Quite the contrary, they are high quality colored pencils (the price tag proves that) but I just cannot love them as much as I would have liked. 

Let me explain. 

Color pencils in general can be either soft wax-based (like prismacolor) or hard oil-based (like polychromos). You can check by the way my previous post polychromos vs prismacolor. Luminance pencils are super soft wax-based (wax is used to bind the pigment) and as such they come with many advantages but also with disadvantages. 

Color variety 

The biggest set of prismacolor pencils comes in 150 colors. The biggest set of polychromos in 120. And the biggest set of luminance comes in just 76 colors. But this is not a disadvantage for me personally. 76 colors are more than enough to create any color through layering. Besides, I am the weird minimalist artist who works with a handful of tools.


Like most wax-based pencils they create a lot of texture. So much that I find it impossible not to blend, even though (if you have been following me for a while you already know) I HATE blending. 

Luminance creates a lot of texture
Luminance creates a lot of texture

Color payoff

Being soft, wax-based, they deliver an insane amount of pigment, they are super bright and opaque. In fact they are so crazy bright that even a single layer is thick and I find it quite difficult to add a soft layer of color. When I work with other pencils, I find it easy to manipulate the color and apply a soft layer. With luminance I find that the layer is thick no matter how softly I press the pencil. 

Luminance chart
Luminance chart


With hard pencils I can layer as many colors as I want. With other wax based pencils I can layer 4-5 colors before the paper cannot hold any more pigment. With luminance it is the same… if not worse. Possibly because they deliver a good amount of pigment with a single stroke, the paper cannot hold any more after a while. 


We have come to that again… I hate blending, I have always hated blending. As I mentioned multiple times before, all these details I worked hard for, blended and gone… no, thank you very much. But, with luminance I found it impossible not to blend. And the funny thing is that I really loved the effect! So, I might keep experimenting with the pencils in the future, I feel there is more to be explored. 


Luminance are supposed to be the most lightfast pencils out there. Lightfastness is generally how long it takes for the pigment to fade over time. The more lightfast a pencil is, the most difficult it is to fade. Lightfastness is important, consider an artwork hanging on a wall, you don’t want it fading over time, do you? Anyways, luminance have the greatest lightfastness score ever recorded, although I need to add that in all the (not too many to be honest) years I have been drawing, I never noticed any of my artworks fading over time. (Although I must add that I take good care of them, spraying with fixative and such) 

Pencils per page 

This is a quality of my own invention, nobody seems to care about it! It means how quickly a pencil is used up. With faber-castell polychromos I need about 1 pencil to fill an entire A4 page leaving no gaps, and sharpening it regularly. With prismacolor I need 2 pencils. With luminance I need about one and a half. 


Generally it has been said that soft pencils tend to break more often when sharpened, compared to hard ones. For me, this is not true. Generally I have no issues whatsoever with pencils breaking when sharpened. And the same goes for luminance. Oddly enough, in a couple of pencils the wooden case kept breaking when sharpened. Let’s call it a coincidence for now. Also the diameter of the wooden case is bigger than most pencils, be warned-they cannot be sharpened with a normal sharpener. 

Caran D’Ache Luminance broken wooden case while sharpening
Caran D’Ache Luminance broken wooden case while sharpening


Here we come! Notoriously they are the most expensive pencils out there. In my country a 150 prismacolor set costs around 100€, a 120 faber castell set costs 160€ and a 76 luminance set costs 250€, which makes price per single pencil around 3.3€ which is just … surreal. 

Overall feel 

So what’s the big deal with these pencils? What I experience with them is that they are luxury pencils. They feel luxurious and they are pure joy to work with. It is just like makeup (you girls know what I am talking about). You don’t necessarily need that super duper expensive mascara to create that badass smoky eye, but you use it because you like the way it feels, you like the luxury of it. Luminance are such well made pencils, you WANT to use them, despite the disadvantages. Whenever I am drawing with them I feel like a kid who discovers drawing for the first time! 

Final thoughts

I am trying here to be as honest as possible. You definitely DON’T need them to create great art. Personally, there are a few issues that annoy me, they are not the easiest pencils to work with. But still I love the way they feel when I have them in my hands, in some way they … motivate me to draw! If price wasn’t an issue I would probably restock when I run out. But the steep price IS an issue, and availability is also an issue in my country. So, no, I will probably not buy them again. If I had to choose a single brand (out of artist grade pencils) to work with for the rest of my life, that would be Faber-castell polychromos. 

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6 Responses

  1. I on the other hand have zero issues with these pencils and use them daily. I am in a town with a lot of artists and community that supports said artists by buying work. However, I’ve ran into an issue with artists being irresponsible and selling artwork using non-lightfast materials. I’ve had to restore/completely redo at least 16 commissions where most of the art has faded away or paper that turned a disgusting yellow. Luminance has a purpose other than just for ease of use I know there’s other pencils like polychromos and derwent lightfast as well which is fine to use, but it is annoying when people use crayola pencils and choose every single fugitive color they can. It gives artists a bad reputation like we will do what it takes to save money instead of providing a high quality long lasting work they can enjoy for years.

    1. I totally agree with you. Caran D’Ache Luminance might not be my favorite pencils, but I still them when doing commissions and “serious” work, for this exact same reason. It is irresponsible and sickening when artists knowingly use low quality materials when doing commissioned work.

  2. Thank you! I felt guilty, because I don’t think that Luminance are as wonderful as many colourists usually say! I agree 100% with you. My poor money: I bought the big set with 100 pencils …

    1. I’m so sorry! I totally understand, I too bought the biggest set a few years ago. (It was the 72-piece set back then) Until this day, I haven’t been able to master these pencils…

  3. Thank you so much for this post . The amount of people who rave about the Caran D ACHE LUMINANCE being the best of the best and yet I don`t get it….. I bought the 76 set after many awesome reviews and a couple of years wanting them . oh boy I wish I had never gone down the luminance road as It turned out to be a very expensive mistake, all that money just to find them difficult to work with . I too will be sticking with my Faber Castells from now on .

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Ioanna Ladopoulou

Designer, illustrator

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