Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Lyra Vs. Prismacolor

Pencil Talk

   Lyra Rembrant Polycolors         vs./          Sanford Prismacolors

So side by side we have an example of a Mo Manning image colored in with both Lyra Rembrant Polycolor pencils and Sanford Prismacolors. (Just click on any of the pictures to get a real close, close up of the coloring) I have tried to stay true to the color families to make them as similar as possible for an accurate comparison.
At first glance you can see that the Lyras on the left are made up of more muted colors (noticable on kraft cardstock) wheras the Prismas are brighter.
Each one has its benefits and drawbacks.

Lyra Pros    

* Lyras are oil based so they resist breakage as well as prevent "wax bloom"  (common among wax based pencils) 

*The pencils leads are smooth and soft. They blend like butter but retain their point exceptionally well.

*Pigment application is "thin", transparent even, allowing you to layer multiple colors and achieve an even,  flawless, almost airbrushed look.

*Color names are based on traditional oil paint colors. No "cotton candy pink" here, you'll have ochres and red madder lake etc, very useful for someone familiar with oil painting and wanting to broaden their scope to include pencils
* 72 color range as well as 12 Skin Tones, 12 grays and some metallics sold separately (There are adequate skin tones included in the 72 but some find that the skin tone set is a very useful  addition for coloring hair and fur~ not just skin)

*Available in sets or individually

   Lyra Cons

*limited range of colors in comparison with other brands.

*not as readily available in the USA in shops, but widely available through online sources like


    Prismacolor Pros

* A wide 132 color range

* Super soft leads make blending a dream

*Available in sets or individually

*pigment application is somewhat thick and opaque , allowing almost oil pastel effects


 Prismacolor Cons

*Prismacolors break notoriously easily. Even when using a Prismacolor pencil sharpener and careful handling.

* Pigment goes down thick and soft which is both an advantage and a disadvantage. The disadvantage is that you need to keep a sharpener at hand at all times for frequent sharpenings.

*Prismacolors are wax based.

* For some reason Prismacolor doesn't put much energy into making storage tins that work well. From the first day I bought my set I have not been able to replace the lid without a large rubber band. (from what other artists tell me this is a common complaint.) If you have the money, invest in their super duper wooden set like the ones below: (beauties, aren't they?) A click on the picture will take you to Dick Blick Art Supplies where you can purchase them.
Deluxe Collection, Set of 120Wood Box, Set of 72

OK, so back to the picture comparison: 


If you notice, the Lyra pencils give a somewhat darker hue even though I used the same family of colors as  the  Prismacolors.
This is because the first layer of color I aply when doing skin  is CREAM, which, in Prismacolors is a much whiter, opaque cream  but Lyra's cream is slightly transparent with more yellow tones. 
This can be remedied if you first put down a layer of WHITE when using Lyras and continue as normal. See below the result when you do this. It's much brighter. 

It all depends on what look you're going for; skin tones come in all hues~ but it's nice to know that most likely you can achieve the look you want if you want to be bothered to work it out.

Bottom Line:
I am no expert but I would have to say that Lyras have the upper hand in both durability and performance. Sorry Prismacolor.
In saying that I will still be using my Prismas cos I do love them!  Neither set displaces the other. Each has its distinct advantages.However, you may be seeing me use more of the Lyras from now on and probably, more frequently, a blend of both.

I hope this was useful for anyone contemplating a pencil purchase!


Danielle Daws said...

What a brilliant post! I'm pleased that I'm not the only one to suffer Prismacolor breakage!

Rachel G said...

Wow! This is wonderful information. I have actually been looking at the prisma pencils lately wondering if I should make the jump. You make a good case and I so take your advice because you are the Q U E E N of fabulous coloring!!!!

Thanks for your comments on my blog. It makes my day! :0)

Gaynor Greaves said...

Great post, my prisma's are always breaking, it's so annoying, I have Faber castells and caran d'ache pencils and these are fine, I might try the Lyra's now, thanks for the info, Gaynor :)

Dana said...

I love the results!! Thanks so much for this useful comparison. I've been looking at the skin tone Lyra set for-evah!

Cec said...

Thanks for providing this super information. Given how fantastic your colouring is I consider you in the expert category.

Barbara said...

Thank you for such a thorough comparison! I have Prismacolors but rarely use them. Once I discovered Copics and their fantastic blendability I pretty much gave up on the Prismas. I like rich colors and deep shadowing so the wax of the Prismas made this more difficult. I'll have to give the Lyras a try, maybe in combination with the Copics as I've done with the Prismas. Your information was so helpful!

Jen Shults said...

This is a really great post and super useful. I've been looking at those Lyra's but can't justify buying them until I use up my Prismacolors more. I will say I have always been a huge Rembrandt fan... I have used their pastels and they are by far superior to any others I've used... even though I can barely afford them, lol. Thanks for the info!!

Jacee said...

Fabulous post Dorcas, thanks for helping us out.
Hugs Jacee

Alina said...

thank you, Dorcas, this is great! I have the Prisma box with 24 pencils, and I'm saving money to buy the biggest one! I really LOVE them, but after reading this post, I think I'd like to try the other ones too! I'll have to think about it!
hugs, Alina

cheryl said...

oh super post hun really imformative as i use pecils a lot prefer them to pro markers,think the blends,work so much better I am using polychrome, pencils which i just adore,do have the prisma ones too but as you say oh how they break and they are terrible to sharpen,hugs cherylxxxxx

Barbara said...

Hi Dorcas, Thank you for the great coloring tutorial. I do have prisma pencils and copics. That will have to do for now but you have given me some "food for thought!" I am impressed with your stamping on Kraft paper. I usually just stamp on white if I am going to be coloring faces. You have inspired me. I have mentioned you in my latest post:

Marianne Reijgersberg said...

Hello Dorcas,
I just placed my first card on Kraft on my blog. You inspired me so much with these cards that I wanted to try it myself. But it was not easy to find something on internet of coloring on craft and your blog was for me the only one with tips and trics. So I linked your blog in my post. Thank you so much for the explenation of this.
I think you help a lot of people with this.

Thanks again Marianne

Nannieflash said...

Wow Dorcas that is one fabulous help, I use Karisma polycromatic pencils, I dont think you can get them anymore but they are gorgeous to use and they blend brilliantly. Hugs Shirleyxxxx

Stacey G.-2 Craf-t-4u said...

Cool comparison! This will be helpful to anyone shopping for pencils! I always look for sites that have pros & cons of both!

Bernice said...

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! That's the best comparision of these two products I've ever seen, in fact, the only comparision I've ever seen. I so needed that information. I've been trying some of the Derwent pencils bc Prisma are....whatever is becoming more of a problem. I've heard of the Lyra skin colors and now I'll look into them seriously. Mo has brought a wonderful community together. I love your work too.


Iulia said...

Hey sweetie!
I don't do pencil coloring but I love to sit back and admire you people. Pencil coloring seems to require some real drawing skills and quite some talent:)
In my opinion the Lyras are a bit brighter, maybe is just the picture; anyways, I'm maybe too unexperienced to see big difference. Both look great.
I shall send the card to you only next week because just then I get home. Sorry for that.
Big hugs, Iulia

Linda Wescott said...

Thanks for the comparrison, I have been thinking of getting some more pencils as mine are to hard and I've given up using them. I like the look of the lyra...partly because I wouldnt have so many to buy lol. Hugs lin

Jacee said...

Just placed an order for 72 Lyra pencils Dorcas, I've been wanting to try pencils for some time, I usually use Promarkers but wanted a change, I did'nt know which brand to buy, your post helped me to decide, so thanks for the info and giving me the push to get some.
All I need to do now is learn how to use them!!! LOL
Hugs Jacee

Maria Therese said...

I have looked at your blog an your kraft coloring is just amazing ♥♥♥

Alicia said...

Thank you for making this! just a side note concerning how easily PrismaColor breaks. If you microwave the pencils for a few seconds (usually NO MORE than 15) the wax melts together getting rid of the air bubbles that cause breaking

Jess said...

Thanks so much for the fantastic comparison - I went out and bought a set of Lyras after reading your post as I am a Prisamcolor girl like yourself, but wanted to see the difference. Well I'm impressed! I made a card and used the Lyras which I blogged about tonight and linked to this post of yours. (http://jess-paperplay.blogspot.com/2011/09/feel-better-soon.html)

I won't be changing brands but at least I have options when I want to colour something in, so thanks :)

deb said...

Thanks so much for this post! I admire your coloring on your projects! Yep...I agree with Cec's comment...I think you are an expert! =)
I have Prisma and love them. But I may try Lyra if I can find them here in canada.
Thanks for sharing!


Paula (PEP) said...

ooooh - someone who speaks my language & I'm not an expert either........ interesting about the Prismas for I've not got any but have a small set of Coloursoft which I believe are similar to Prisma. I have a few Lyra but they are not easy to get hold of in the UK (where I am) but I do have the whole range of Polychromos which are also oil-based. I did a summary of those
whilst doing the MCC Colouring Course as I was fascinated by the differences between oil/wax-based.
Glad to have found you. Thanks for taking the time to post such extensive info.
Paula (PEP)

Chele said...

Very helpful post - thank you ;0)

Santanu Mondal said...

I feel really happy to have seen your webpage and look forward to so many more entertaining times reading here. Thanks once more for all the details.

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