Eberhard Faber Colorbrite Colored Pencils

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This was my haul for National Pencil Day (surely foreigners can celebrate too?). I seem to be on a roll regarding colored pencils these days, but the truth is I don’t use them much. I try, though. And I keep on buying them compulsively. I left the two reds in the sharpened condition they came in; I sharpened the rest with the Deli 0635, which my son calls the “kitty sharpener” and which I use for almost everything these days. Colored pencils are, in general, better sharpened with handheld devices because they have thicker and softer cores, but the Colorbrite core is thinner and harder so sharpening with crank sharpeners is not a problem.

The Colorbrites write very similar to the EF Mongol Red-and-Blue 860, so I would guess the formula is more or less the same. The lead has some drag to it (some colors more than others), but on the other hand it is stronger and keeps its point longer than other colored pencils that write more pleasantly. I tried some old Mitsubishi Polycolor pencils for comparison (they write with much less drag) and some tips broke upon impact – so maybe this is a necessary evil?

There are two interesting things about this set: one is that three pencils carry this “Recommended for Print Marking” legend. The others don’t.

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The other thing I noticed is that the colors contained in this vintage set seem to be a bit different compared to sets that are currently available. With smaller sets there are probably some hard decisions to make regarding what colors to put in and what to leave out, and I find the differences between past and present “standard” color selections very interesting. I present below, from left to right, the Eberhard Faber Colorbrite (12 colors), the Staedtler Noris Club Jumbo (10), and the Faber-Castell Jumbo (10) color pencils for comparison.

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Even with two extra colors, the Colorbrite doesn’t have black. It has two yellows and two reds though (the “scarlet” is closer to vermilion), and a pink, which in modern sets doesn’t usually get a chance till you pass the 18+ mark (maybe because boys famously never use it?). It also very generously allows for a minty light green. The Colorbrite has more affinities with the Mitsubishi No. 880 Mini colored pencil set.

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Maybe the difference stems from the fact that the Colorbrite is more of a “writing” pencil (hard, waterproof, smearproof etc.) than a coloring pencil? By the way the color selection in the higher-end Van Dyke line is also very interesting. Hot pink there too!

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18 thoughts on “Eberhard Faber Colorbrite Colored Pencils

  1. When it comes to colored pencils, Sola, I’m with you. It’s the tautology of desire, some things I like to have because I like to have them. Palimpsest on her blog quotes Dickens saying a surfeit of stationery is comforting. At best I dabble with colored pencils. The mere sight and smell of them neatly arrayed in their shiny tins and colorful boxes takes me back, but for those who actually use them they hold out the hope of something far more important, the promise of creation and renewal.

    Your Colorbrites are in remarkable nick for their age. Somebody treasured them as much as you do.

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    1. Thank you! Yes, I held out for a pristine set because with half-used ones you never know whether the pencils were replaced or not. On top of what you said, I’ll add that colored pencils give a different kind of joy from graphite pencils – by their nature I think they’re better made in terms of coat and finish. They’re probably made to withstand longer periods of use.

      I’m not sure how old they are but they seem to be older than my Eagle Canadiana pencils at least – fifties maybe? I’m going to take good care of them :)

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  2. Michael Leddy of Orange Crate Blog and Sean at Contrapuntalism can probably nail down the dating. The late Fifties early Sixties is my guess too, but the vibrancy of the color lithography and crispness of the box edges and insert makes me hesitate–the set is in astounding condition.

    Say, did you try printing with the “recommended” colors? Are they in some way better for writing than the rest of the batch?

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    1. Yes I did, and while the light green drags a bit more than most, the other two aren’t markedly different in any way. One thing worth pointing out, maybe, is that these three colors are the ones with close “duplicates” (although it’s a bit of a stretch to argue that for the green).

      Re the overall condition – maybe they were stored out of daylight? In a less humid climate? I agree they are in excellent condition, but you do come across pretty crisp vintage pencils now and then ;)

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  3. They do look lovely! (What a cheerful imprint!)

    I’ve never bought coloured pencils as compulsively as I buy graphite – I think that’s because I’m pretty happy with the Derwent Academy watercolour pencils that I have, and tend to paint when I want colour in any case. I like the look of Lyra’s polycolour range, but have trouble convincing myself that they’d get used…

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    1. Yes, they are lovely, thank you! As for me I only recently started buying old colored pencils. There simply is quite a good range of quality colored pencils available now so you don’t feel the urge to go back to vintage as much (which isn’t the case with graphite). Plus for a long time I wasn’t sure if vintage colored pencils would in fact be superior in quality, or keep as long as graphite (watercolor pencils in particular seem to be very soft). I still don’t know if they’re better, but they do seem to be different.

      I have two tin sets of Caran d’Ache colored pencils (regular and watercolor) that I snagged at half price last year. I try to convince myself that my son will help me use them up :)

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  4. Beautiful, beautiful Eberhard Faber Colorbrite pencils in your photos, and I echo the others’ comments that they are especially well preserved. I have loved these since my Dad sometimes brought some home from his work as an engineering draftsman-supervisor, in the 1950s and early to mid 1960s. I used them for drawing then, and now selectively use them for underlining and note-taking in my professional reading, with an occasional side order of sketching.
    Have picked up an ongoing supply by scanning e-Bay from time to time. The Terra Cotta ones are also lovely. The “Recommended for Print Marking” is an old favorite phrase–I think it was because these reproduced okay on the photostats in that pre-Xerox age.
    Would love to trade some of my spare 2125 Medium Blue, 2122 Orange, and/or Yellows (not Chrome Yellow–I don’t have a stock of those) if you or any other person would part with a Light Blue or a Light Green.
    By the way, the rounded gold-banded ferrule that you have is so much more beautiful and inviting to the hand and eye and spirit, than the squared-off silver ferrules on the later models of these.
    All the best, Henry

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    1. Hello Henry, thank you for your kind words and also for the elucidation about the “Recommended for Print Marking” legend. How wonderful to have such great memories of these pencils. I came acrosss a print ad for the Colorbrites recently and it was touted as “the thin colored business pencil”. So they weren’t confined to the schoolroom in those days ;)

      These are the only Colorbrites I have and I would like to keep them as a set, but batches of single colors come up quite often on eBay. Good luck on your search!

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      1. Thanks, Sola, glad to be in contact.
        Absolutely, I respect that your Colorbrites are sparse.
        Regarding my search: As though in a fiction story, I went on eBay just after posting here, and found and put in a bid on a huge lot that includes many dozens of my favorite 2105s (silver ferrules, but would create for me a lifetime supply for use).

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    1. No worries. About the ferrules – yes I agree, the gold ones are so much nicer, but I have so far seen it only on 1. higher-end pencils such as the Van Dykes, or 2. more commonly, on the “Paint with Pencils” watercolor range of Mongols. I’d love to snag an older, gold-ferruled (or gold-banded) Colorbrite ;)

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      1. Sola, I’d be happy to send you four of my many spares with gold-banded ferrules, perhaps one each of the Slate Grey, Rose Pink, Medium Red, and Medium Blue. For privacy, please send me a mailing address (work or Post Office Box address is fine if more private etc) not in open forum but via my e-mail which you should have from my sign-in. A tiny and easy gift to a fellow pencil-person.

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  5. I came across this post after finding my dad’s old Colorbrite set, 24 total, some short, some tall, including black and white ones, in a clear plastic Eberhard Faber clamshell type case. After seeing the “RECOMMENDED FOR PRINT MARKING” I was wondering what they were meant for, because they are in truth not very soft and better for drawing than coloring. He worked in the graphics department at a newspaper. The colors are still beautiful to this day. Thanks for the insight into them.

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    1. Hi Ruthie, thank you for your lovely comment :) I had completely forgotten about this post and had to re-read it. Yes, I was surprised by how stiffly vintage colored pencils wrote at first – we are so used to softer coloring pencils now. I’ve since learned that, back when these pencils were around, they were used like ballpoints in the office. People pencilled in their comments in company papers in their designated color (the signature color of the CEO of Eagle Pencil Co. was magenta). So once you understand that they were used for writing rather than coloring, and also that back in those days solving the problem of colored leads breaking was paramount among manufacturers, it’s no wonder that colored pencil cores came out on the harder side.

      I haven’t been able to figure out what the “print” in that sentence means; no doubt it involved a whole sequence of now sadly obsolete processes. All the same, I sometimes take them out just to look. They’re so pretty :)

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