As an Artist Ambassador for Zebra Pens, I was sent a package of several new products that will soon be in stores. One of these was the Zensations Mechanical Colored Pencils. I was very intrigued when I saw these, and wondered if they could possibly be good. Read on and learn what I discovered.
Lead size: 2.0mm
Barrel: Triangular shape, plastic
Available in 24 colors
Uses Zebra refill #87103
One of the things I noticed right away was how transparent the colors were, so I drew some dark lines so you can see how show through the colors are.
Look and Feel
The pencils have a triangle-shaped plastic body that won’t roll away. I found it comfortable in my hand, a good size, though a little light in weight. The lead is a replaceable 2.0 mm stick with flat ends. As you color the end does wear down to a rounded shape, but I still found you could get a decent line.
You don’t need to sharpen these leads. As it wears away, you click on the cap, just as you would with a mechanical pencil, and the lead advances. It will be possible to buy replacement leads, though I’m not sure if you’ll be able to buy individual colors.
I did find that sometimes while you are coloring, and you put a pencil down and then use it again, the lead wears unevenly, and the pencil will drag a bit. I just ran it on a piece of scratch paper to even it up a bit or just continued and the drag went away after a moment or two.
The lead is thin enough, and stays sharp enough that you can use it in small areas – though not teeny, tiny areas. You will have some work to cover large areas though.
The body of the pencil is black and the tip and cap indicate the lead color. The colors don’t match the actual color precisely, but I found them to be close enough for easy identification. The only writing on the body is the ‘Zebra Zensations’ tagline and a number that corresponds to the color of the lead.
I do wish the pencils had the names printed on them. For now, I only had a list of the color names, so my chart above is a best guess at matching names and numbers and may not be accurate. Eventually, there will be a color chart at the Zebra pen website.
The range of colors is good. I could wish for a brown that was more in the sepia range, but I’m able to layer colors to get what I need, so it’s not really a problem.
The performance of these colored pencils varies according to the paper. Like most brands, they work best on a paper formulated for them or one with has enough texture to pull pigment from the pencil lead without being so rough that it separates it too much.
I didn’t have any paper meant specifically for colored pencils, and most people won’t. I used a smooth, an extra smooth and a mixed media with medium texture. Literally, just moments before this post was due to go live, I realized I should try them on black paper, so I did a couple of scribbles.
Since these pencils don’t come with a blending pencil, I didn’t use one, but just worked the colors over one another and varied pressure to get a deeper coverage of pigment.
On smooth bright white paper
This drawing was done on a paper similar to a high-quality cardstock. It was smooth but not slick. A brush pen was used for the initial drawing, and the lines stayed bold and clear after I finished with the colored pencils. I had no problem with streaking, and the colors blended nicely. I was able to get a range of very light to reasonably dark, and had no problem with wax build-up.
I was able to erase color almost back to white, and re-color over the area without a problem. I was able to wipe the color off the eraser easily.
On extra smooth bright white pen and ink paper
This is the only paper that I had problems with streaking. It isn’t quite as slick as marker paper, but is definitely smooth. This is also the paper where I reached a point where no more color could be added because of the wax build-up. It only happened in the area where I was trying to get the deepest shadows. Because of this limit, I wasn’t able to get the dark values that I could on the other papers.
My initial drawing was done with technical pen, and I had no waxy bloom, even once I could no longer add color, so even the thinnest of the lines remained bold and clear after coloring. I wouldn’t recommend using these pencils on this kind of paper, but as you can see, they still did a good job.
White medium texture mixed media paper
I decided that I needed to do at least one work without an underlying pen drawing. I chose this paper because I knew it had a texture that would allow dark values. I found that blending Pencils #16, #05 and in some places #17, gave me a nice dark value that was close to a black but much more interesting.
I layered the colors deep enough that I was able to use my fingernails and scratch in texture in places. Despite, having such thick layers of color, I was able to erase (the streaks of light on the left) to almost the white of the paper.
Getting color this deep did require a great deal of pressure, so it’s not for those with arthritis (I have it and I’m feeling it after drawing this, lol).
On Black Paper
As I mentioned above, I realized, at the last moment, that I should try the pencils on black paper so I just scribbled the first things that came into my head (don’t ask what it says about me, that these were the first things that came into my head!). The black paper I used has a hard, smooth surface so it wasn’t surprising that I couldn’t layer very much, and it took quite a bit of pressure to get good color. I did get color though even with the white and other light colors. I’ll have to get some softer black paper and try them again.
Zebra Zensations Mechanical Colored Pencils have semi-transparent colors that can be colored over pre-existing lines in a coloring book or drawing and leave those lines bold and clear afterward. When used on the proper paper you can achieve nice, dark values. Even on smoother paper, you can get good results, though you may get some streaking or wax build-up.
They are light to carry, triangular in shape so they won’t roll off tables, and the lead stays reasonably sharp. You can color in small areas, but will have to work a bit to cover large areas. The lead is sturdy enough to hold up to a decent amount of pressure.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Start your drawing now! Starting in October, Zebra is having an Inktober celebration and will be giving away a complete range of Zebra Zensations products each week! Create an Inktober drawing using any Zebra Pen writing instrument (Zensations products recommended but any Zebra product will do). You can enter each week. U.S. only and you must be 18 or older to enter.
Disclaimer: I am a Zebra Zensations Ambassador which means that I did receive several items from Zebra Pens. However, all opinions expressed in this review are my own. I did not receive any other compensation for writing this review.