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The set comes with five pencils ranging from HB to 8B as well as an included paint brush. There is a good range of values in the set but I found myself only needing the 8B and HB. The price point of these pencils is very reasonable at around £6 and the pencils themselves are of good quality. I experienced no issues with the wood casing or breaking leads at any point during my use of them.
In my tests I looked at how Faber Castell Graphite Aquarelles compare to normal graphite pencils in texture, how easy they are to erase, how much of the original pencil lines remain when water activating them, and paint brush quality.
The Graphite Aquarelles feel “gummier” than normal graphite, almost waxy. Despite the difference in feel they are still lovely, smooth and soft to draw with. They are not as dark as I would like, however (The Faber Castell 9000 8B is a little bit darker than the Graphite Aquarelle 8B). Pencil marks also become lighter when water activated. Once water activated they stay water-soluble, so you are still able to wet an area multiple times. Because of this, you can continuously layer and re-wet over the top to create much darker areas of pencil.
You can also achieve even darker tones when wiping the pencil onto a wet paintbrush directly before “painting” it onto the paper.
Normal graphite and other dry mediums like coloured pencil work really well over the top of these pencils after they have been water activated which is fantastic for mixed-media projects. There is graphite shine present when the pencils are applied dry but it completely disappears and the drawing turns matte when water activated.
When wetting sketched lines of graphite, the lines are still slightly visible depending on how dark the pencil is and how hard I pressed with the pencil, but most disappear when using a gentle circular scrubbing motion with the brush.The brush itself is of good quality and size. It is easy to do small details and large washes with just the one brush. I didn’t find myself reaching for my usual set of brushes at all during my test drawing of a snail (seen below).
The Eraser Test
This test was conducted using a Tombow mono-eraser, a Faber Castell putty eraser and a Faber Castell dust free rubber eraser, as well as a damp paper towel for the water-activated graphite eraser test.
The Graphite Aquarelles erase like normal graphite before activated, though they are perhaps a little more difficult to get up off the paper.
The Eraser Test illustrates quite well that you have to plan ahead with this medium, as once the pencil is down on the paper and water has been added it is very difficult to remove.The tombow and dust free rubber eraser are still usable to a certain extent though they can only lighten the area slightly, but the putty eraser could barely lift anything off. You can also use a wet paper towel to lift graphite back off the paper in the same way you would when using watercolours. You will not be able to get the paper back to being completely white even before water activation no matter which eraser you use. If you wish to keep an area completely white I would recommend the easier option of using masking fluid before applying any pencil marks.
Graphite Aquarelles are great for creating watercolour-esque paintings without the hassle of watercolours. They are ideal for illustrators but might be a little hard to use for realism and hyper-realism. These pencils are also great for getting areas of graphite down quickly and useful for concept sketches. The brush that comes with the set is of good quality and I didn’t feel myself wanting to use other brushes instead for my test drawing. The graphite shine disappears when water activated which means you don’t have a battle with the lighting when trying to get good photos of your work. The only thing I wish was better would be the 8B, as it is not quite dark enough for my liking. As someone who has never enjoyed watercolours all that much I was surprised just how much fun these pencils were to use. Highly recommended. A medium in its own right.