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ArtGraf Color Set - Is this actually Graphite? (review)

A few months ago during the sketchwalk at Ghim Moh, I saw my friend Dorothy using the Artgraf earth colour set, a product that I've always wanted to try but didn't want to risk wasting money on. After seeing how that Artgraf product performed, I decided to get one to test.

ArtGraf is the watersoluble graphite product line made by Viarco, a pencil company based in Portugal.

In addition to the watersoluble graphite they make, they also have these coloured graphite pieces that are available in limited colours, and sold individually or in sets.

There's the Earthtone 6-color Set which is less than US $35. That's the set my friend was using. There's also the Monochromatic 3-Color Set with black, gray and white for less than US $25.

The one that I bought is the Primary 3-Color Set which is less than US $20. The pricing is quite reasonable considering the size of those blocks.

The colour blocks are housed in a holder that's made of cork. That's the same material used to make bottle stoppers. It's supposed to be impermeable so you can just use the blocks in the holders. Anyway, these blocks are quite big pieces so it won't be easy to find the perfect container or box to store them for transportation. Don't throw away the plastic cover.

The shape of the block is inspired by traditional tailor chalks. You can hold them for drawing but that would mean staining your fingers.

The blocks would dissolve easily when applied with a wet brush. It's more difficult to dissolve the pigment completely if you draw on the paper first.

The colours on this sketch were from the Artgraf colour set. The usage is no different from painting with watercolour pans. The blocks are heavily pigmented and you can pick up a lot of paint with a wet brush. There's no mention of the pigment that's used so the lightfast quality is unknown.

I was able to mix beautiful skin tones with this limited palette.

The colours aren't extremely vibrant or intense like Azo, Phthalo or Quinacridone, but they are definitely vibrant enough. As such, they can actually be applied straight on the paper without much mixing and the pure colours won't look too glaring.

The secondary colours possible are slightly muted but look lovely. Colours from this set has good harmony since you're dealing with a limited palette.

It's difficult to mix really dark values with this set of colours. But the dark values are still dark enough for them to read as dark. This is a wonderful set to use with pen and ink because the colours are transparent, and the lines will always show through. You might want to consider adding a black ArtGraft block if you really want black.

While these are marketed as graphite, I don't really see much graphite sheen. Under certain angles, yes, you will see some sheen. If no one told me these are graphite, I won't be able to tell.

Here's another sketch painted with the three primary colours. The colours certainly aren't as vibrant compared to other well known or popular brands, but the colours work well together. There's slightly more opacity than I would like though, but still transparent enough for pen and ink sketches.

Overall, I really enjoyed painting with this set. It seems like a quality product. The blocks I'm sure will last for a very long time so it's definitely value for money. If you already have watercolour, there's probably not much reason to get this. If you want to have fun, buy a set to try and see if you like them.


Find more reviews at Dick Blick Art Materials (US) | Jackson's Art (UK)