I’m going to declare the Grafwood the answer to all the problems people have with the Swisswood, which will be referred to as the Stinkwood.* What is so great about he Grafwood? First it looks great. The lacquer is thick, smooth, and glossy. It’s pearlized and each grade has a corresponding shade, so the HB is a light gray while the 9B is black, with every shade of gray in between. The imprint is silver foil, and it’s perfectly crisp and sharp. It’s not too deep to cause crinkles in the finish. The reverse side is adorned with the now standard bar code, black on the lighter colors and white on the darker.
One may be inclined to disparage the bar code as a wart on an otherwise beautiful object, but consider the alternative- the barcode sticker which leaves behind a sticky mess of residue. I’d rather have a barcode that eventually sharpens away than a sticky mess.
Inside the paint is cedar and a thick lush core. Each of the Grafwood pencils I”ve tried, B, 3B, and 7B have been delightfully smooth. They skate over the page. I find the HB and B to be a touch harder than most brands the 3B is perfectly dark and smooth and right on point for a 3B pencil. The 7B is also dark and smooth and perfect for sketching. The B is perfect for writing and keeping the point pointy for pages.
There is a downside. For those of us who are aficionados of the long point our devotion will require something special with these pencils, you see they do not fit into the standard pocket carry sharpeners. Neither the Masterpiece, nor the KUM automatic, or even the KUM stenographer will satisfy the loing point craving No, the only thing that will bring these to a lovely long point while on the go is a knife. Further frustration is that they barely, and i do mean, just barely squeeze their way into the Carl A5. If there is a variation in your Carl A5/Classroom Friendly, well, these beauties won’t be fitting in.
I'm a huge fan of watercolor crayons I've tried a number of brands but keep coming back to Caran D'Ache. Why? They are creamy, loaded with pigment, and move with water excellently. They are however pretty pricey at just over $1 a crayon that can add up. When I saw the Sargent Watercolor Crayons I wanted a pack immediately. I couldn't decide between the 8 or the 12 pack. Eventually I went with the 8 pack. They were reasonably priced at $6.67* at Artist & Craftsman. They are in a cardboard matchbox sliding box. No fancy tin here. You'll haveto excuse the paint that I got on the box, I had to use them to review them, and that included doing some of my usual watercolor crayon techniques.
The crayons themselves at first are a little stiff, I think the outer layer of crayon has dried out a tad. Once I used them for a few minutes and wore off the outer layer these crayons perform really well. I was really really surprised at how well they performed for inexpensive watercolor crayons. After the initial dried layer the crayons goes onto the page smoothly and looks like any crayon. The color is nice and deep so long as you put enough crayon on the page. The darkness of color can be controlled by how much crayon you lay down on the page. Color lightly- get light color; color heavily and get dark color. These really surprised me in how well they lifted and moved around with water and a brush. They really needed very little water and brushing to move around well and blend with one another. Really really impressed with their ability to move once wet. Unlike the Staedtler watercolor crayons these moved while wet like Caran D'Ache. I'm very impressed with this realtive newcomer to the watercolor crayon market. They perform really well for any art journaling need and are signifcantly less expensive than the Caran D'Ache. Are these archival and lightfast? Probably not. I've not yet tested them. But like any student watercolor it's not likely. They do match the Sargent Watercolor magic liquid watercolors. So color-wise they match, allowing easy mixing across materials.
While I didn't purchase the 12-pack with a "free" brush I did look at the brush, flopping around loose in the cardboard box… It didn't look like it was a very high quality brush, but it would be useful for washes. It certainly looked like whatever point may have been on the brush was long gone. I don't know why manufacturers that include a "free" brush in a box of something haven't learned to put a small dab of rubbery glue to hold the brush in place to prevent damage. Common sense might cost the manufacturer some money.
A new addition to my review will be looking at the material's potential for use in my future art therapy practice, I'll keep it at the bottom of my reviews so people who aren't interested can ignore it, and those who are can find it easily. These watercolor crayons could be used with children or adults with success. They work as well as the "big" brand but at a much lower cost. Meaning, they can be purchased in a plentiful quantity that the client will never feel they are running out of materials and lending a sense of freedom to their use. If giving a client a new box is important, that can be done because the cost of these crayons is low. The crayons are non-toxic. There is, of course, the typical concern that one might have when giving "children's" supplies to adults.