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An examination of some tests carried out by Judith Crown, in strong Mediterranean light conditions

The exercises were not done as a scientific test. They were done ‘as a matter of interest’ to see how the pencils in the reader’s collection would respond to the strong sunlight.

As you will see, some tests were done with a colour control strip and also a similar strip of colour that was fixed with a UV protective spray ( usually Winsor & Newton Fixative).

Some of the older examples were simple strips of colour without a ‘fixed’ example.

In all cases the control colour strip was covered and not exposed to sunlight.

The Eastern Mediterranean sunlight is very strong compared with UK summer light conditions, so 6 months summer exposure probably compares with 2 or 3 years or more on a UK interior sunlit wall.

We are talking extreme light exposure here.

The results should not be read as any adverse report on any particular brand,  merely as a general warning to be cautious over the colours you select for artwork, and also how you mount and frame pictures that will be shown in well lit conditions  ( UV protective glass is available for framing and display in areas which are brightly lit ).

As explained in the Lightfastness 1 Topic, newer formulations of colour are usually much more stable in strong light.


These are all straight samples of colours taken from mixed brands.

The first colour column shows the effect of sunlight over a summer in Eastern Mediterranean light.

The second colour column shows the original colour which was covered over for the duration of the test

The third column reads the brand name, pencil type and colour of the pencil

The sheets are in approximate colour sets


There is a prime rule of thumb that says that when colours are subjected to strong light, they fade, and the most likely colours to fade are the ones with low pigment levels ( the pale colours) where the limited pigment has less distance to go before it runs out of strength.  Blues and yellows are also low in strength and are often sufferers.

The browns that are derived from earth colours ( The Umbers, Ochres, Siennas and the like ) are more stable.

A quick eye scan down the groups above shows up the areas where you need to be careful when choosing a colour from a box of pencils without knowing the exact lightfastness as declared by the manufacturer.

Our reader advised that the test was done in the summer of 2010 and extended over 6 months of strong sunlight.

I would think that the 6 months wear and tear as shown above is comparable to several years exposure inside a room in the UK or similar more northern latitudes.


These look at the effect of spraying coloured pencil with a fixative spray which also protects against UV light.

The reader advises that she almost always used Winsor & Newton spray fixative.

The first three sets of examples are of Faber Castell Albrecht Durer Aquarelles

As you can see, some colours are blank in all three columns as these were not tested

The first colour column shows the original colour which was covered for the test duration

The second column was uncovered and in full sun

The third colour column was sprayed with a UV protective fixative

Our reader kindly sent me several more test sheets, but for the present I will include just the one more.

This is of Derwent Inktense colours  and the principle is identical with the above, save the order of display.

The sprayed example is the middle colour column.

We can again see the effect of spraying is to delay fading in some colours - but this is not a total solution

The final example of the lightfastness testing is the effect on a picture.

This was - like the other tests - in 6 months of full sunlight, since when both examples have been stored in a closed folder

My feeling is that the more information we all have, the better we are able to cope with the way the products we buy respond to the effects of age and light.

If any other readers have examples of tests they have done, I am happy to see if they can be incorporated into the Topics website for the benefit of all.


In this set of test examples, remember that the tests were done for the reader’s own interest

and not intended to demonstrate the superiority or otherwise of any particular brand.

Most brands of Coloured Pencil - Like Watercolour and other similar art media,

will be affected by strong light.

Topics does not promote any individual brand or receive any sponsorship.

The site exists purely to increase the level of knowledge in what is a very interesting medium.

Judith has since done a series of more detailed tests under stricter controls which cover several brands of pencils and several types of paper.

It is not the purpose of this site to try to provide comprehensive data, but Judith’s work is available on the UKCPS website