Top view of metal tin of Caran D’Ache Neocolor II water-soluble was oil pastels

DOODLEWASH REVIEW: Caran d’Ache Neocolor II

Today’s post will be shorter, and a little break from watercolors, to review Caran d’Ache Neocolor II water-soluble wax oil pastel. I will also do a little comparison with the Crayola Portfolio Series water-soluble oil pastels.

Top view of metal tin of Caran D’Ache Neocolor II water-soluble was oil pastels

“Neocolor II water-soluble wax oil pastels highlight the enormous innovative capabilities of the Maison Caran d’Ache. Created in 1972 as the continuation of the famous Neocolor I range, they offer boundless creative possibilities for artists and beginners alike.

Basing their work on the existing excellent qualities – exceptional coverage, smoothness and extreme lightfastness –, the craftsmen of the Manufacture added water solubility, a property greatly appreciated by connoisseurs of the Maison from all manner of artistic fields and from school age upwards.”

These might look like crayons, but they are much more versatile and vibrant.  The Caran d’Ache website says that the Neocolor II come in a range of 84 colors and state “excellent light resistance.” They really come in  126 colors, including 10 metallic colors and other subtle color variations. Here is their color chart. Package sizes are: 10, 15, 30, 40, 84, 126 and you can see them all listed out here. It also looks like they release limited edition sets- Spring and Autumn.  All sets come in a nice metal tin with a hinged lid, and are also sold open stock (individually) at Dick Blick.  They range from $20 for the set of 10, all the way up to $383 + (holy cow!) for the set of 126 on Amazon. Definitely not priced like crayons.  Many mixed media artists use them.  These are not to be confused with the Neocolor I, which are not water-soluble (click through to the 3rd frame in the link to watch the video on those).

Open metal tin of Caran D’Ache Neocolor II water-soluble was oil pastels and brochure

30 Set

With tClose up of individual Caran D’Ache Neocolor II water-soluble was oil pastels, crayonshe small pack of 10,  add a water brush and you’ve got a great portable palette.  I find them fun to use.

Guest Doodlewasher Louise Primeau occasionally incorporates Neocolor II in with her watercolor sketches.

Below, I did a couple of whimsical quickies to give you an example of what they look like, nothing too original. They were done in a Strathmore Visual Journal.  I prefer other brands of paper for watercolor painting, so I use it for swatches and stuff like this. The pastel crayon is firm, and  not as soft as a water-soluble oil pastel like Crayola Portfolio– it’s also much nicer than the Crayola. The pigment can be lifted directly off of the pastel crayon with a wet brush and painted with. That’s how I got the splatter.  I scribbled round and round to make the circle shapes. Notice that you can’t see any of my scribble lines, they completely blended away when I applied water with a brush.  They are very bendable and vibrant.

Large dots and splatters done with Caran D’Ache Neocolor II water-soluble was oil pastels
Dropping in Color and Blending

A big difference can be seen between the two, as well as a big price difference.  A set of 12 Crayola is about $6, a set of 10 Neocolor II will run about $20. The photo below shows how the Crayola didn’t blend as nicely.  The Crayola’s are  crumbly and, well, oily. The Neocolor II aren’t at all crumbly and dry very nicely. Nothing came up when I ran my hand over the Neocolor II after it dried.  A slight amount did rub off on the page facing it when the journal was closed.  Really there is no comparison between the two, the Neocolor II are high quality, and a much nicer medium.  That being said, I still have fun with the Crayola pastels in my art journal. I usually spray a little fixative on the pages I use Crayola on after I let it dry out for a day or two.  In a pinch, I hear that hairspray also works well.  Next time I buy a fixative, I would like to try this SpectraFix because it is without a bunch of fumes and odor free.  I find that the Krylon Fixatif I’ve been using to be pretty offensive.  I found this article on Jackson’s Art blog comparing fixatives.  It might not matter so much for the purposes I’m talking about here, but if you are using other types of pastels, like chalk, oil, or charcoal, the use or non-use of fixative does matter. I will probably write more about that at some point in another post.

Crayola Portfolio water soluble oil pastel with circular example
Crayola Portfolio Water-Soluble Oil Pastels

Bare with me here- I wanted to give a nice example, with a video of some of the process. As things sometimes go, they went awry. They are REALLY water-soluble.  This is a simple rendition of Van Gogh’s Starry Night .  After I put down the color I used a small spray bottle. At first it was looking great and I was saying wow!  Then I used too much water and was saying something else…

Wet-Really Wet

I hesitated to post these. But, you are here reading this for a review and examples, so it’s only fair that I show them.  If I would have used less water, or  a brush, things would have turned out differently.

After it dried, I reworked the same painting with more coloring and a medium Pentel Aquash water brush.  What I had down prior worked like an under painting.

Van Gogh's Starry Night using Caran D'ache Neocolor II progress pic after too much water was added and then reworked

There are quite a few Guest Doodlewashers that like using Pentel Aquash water brushes, check out some of their wonderful work – Zeno Vanfretti, Adelyn Siew, Sissh, Annie Parsons, and Nadya Levitova.

Here is a a short 2:06 minute video of an artist creating with Neocolor II.

I also like this 1:23 minute Blick video.

If you like watching more of a completed process here is a 14:45 minute speed video by JenW Fine Arts.

I am fortunate to be able to do these reviews and share what I learn. I do them, in part, because I believe that living a creative life is enriching and important, beyond what we may initially realize.  I hope that these posts inspire and help others to be creative in their lives. If you are on the fence about trying something creative- try it!!  You have the inkling or idea for a reason, let the expression flow through you.  I suspect most people reading this are already letting it fly- so high five!   This article Why Art Matters, Even in Poverty touched me, so I’m sharing it.

Gogh and create something today 😉

This is an ongoing series of supply reviews and your comments are appreciated.  I have no affiliation with any of the companies or links that have been provided, nor were any products received in an exchange for a review.



Recommended1 recommendationPublished in Art Supply Reviews

67 thoughts on “DOODLEWASH REVIEW: Caran d’Ache Neocolor II

  1. Thanks for sharing this information. It’s always fun to learn what different materials are out there. It’s extremely helpful, too, to hear what people who’ve used those materials have to say. I appreciate your review.

  2. Wonderful review! Those Neos are really pricey, but in this case, totally worth it. I have the Crayola set also and although it is good for some things, there is no comparison (and the price, as you say, also way different). Terrific job and very informative post!

    1. Hi Laura! We are of like mind about the two mediums. I love the acrylic series of paintings that you have been doing! Winter into Spring, Wind(ow)- Blown, Reflections, Awakening- all of them are wonderful!

      1. Thanks so much, Jessica, that means a lot to me! I learn so much from your work here at Doodlewash. Meant to also tell you I loved your rendition of “Starry Night”! The Neos are grand. They’re the first art supply I’d save in a fire hehe.

  3. A wonderful and honest review Jessica. I’ve seen other people use and love these and still I sit on the fence. One of these days……
    Thank you for these wonderful reviews!

    1. Hi Damita, I’m glad you found this helpful and that you are exploring your creativity! You comment made me smile, thanks for taking the time to write it 🙂

    1. Hi Cynthia, and thanks for you comment :). Florida would be challenging for oil pastels! I’m in Arizona and just got some oil pastels, so I better think about storing them. I’ve not had a problem with the Neocolor II though, they are pretty firm.

      1. OH, cool – the Neocolor are firm enough for Arizona. My studio is not constantly air conditioned (sometimes the AC is off and it gets pretty hot up here!). So good to know aobut the Neocolor – you think they’d stand up here?

        1. I was just over looking at your lovely journal pages, looks like they would be something wonderful to incorporate. Beautiful pages!

  4. Great, honest review. Your painting came out really nice. I also really appreciate all the links! Great reference. Thanks much for a great review… I already have AND LOVE Neo II’s… They are a refreshing artistic way to bring back a little bit of childhood!!

    1. Hehehe, thanks Teresa :). Let me know what you think of them once you’ve got some usage. They were fun to use…after I got over my initial mess up with too much water 😉

      1. I will! I tried it a couple of times but since I didn’t quite know how to handle them, I stopped using them. But this will be so helpful in getting me back to them. They cost too much to abandon! 😄

  5. Thank you Jessica for another awesome review! 😉 I grow up using Caran D’Ache pastels since I was a kid discovering my artistic gift! I never tried the neocolor they sounds really interesting some of the new products can make easy for beginners to get the feeling and use of brush without the fear to create the wash on a white paper. Is like using pastels. Also a great on the go for sketchers! Well done Jessica <3 😉

  6. These are great, love the vibrant colors they produce. Your Dtarty nigjg is wonderful. Wish this revue was out before I bought and gave away a set of watercolor pencils. This hobby foes add up $$$. 😉

    1. Hi Rob, so true, it does add up. I have a few mediums that I don’t use much, but every once in a while, I swing back around to them.

  7. Your review is wonderful, Charlie. You covered a lot of issues. Caran D’Ache is hard to describe until you’ve used it and then it’s all you want to use.
    Years ago when I taught art, I used to let my high school students use the Caran D’Ache on sheets of clear acrylic, then they lightly sprayed a sheet of watercolor paper with water and set the paper atop the painted acrylic, pressed evenly with brayers, and had a nice print. If they worked carefully, they could get two prints from one drawing.
    The advantage of printing this way is that the kids would first draw a sketch on a sheet of paper same size as the acrylic. Then they could see their sketch through the acrylic and work with the Caran D’Ache. It was just another way of printmaking which they loved, and for some kids, it gave them the confidence to experiment more.
    Of course, they also used the colors directly on paper and liked comparing the results of the two processes – printmaking versus direct drawing.

    1. Hi Sharon, Jessica here. Charlie’s the creator, brains, heart and talent of Doodlewash, I just do the supply reviews ;). The printing technique you taught with this medium sounds like it was a blast! I appreciate your comment very much 🙂

      1. Jessica, I am so embarrassed not to have caught your name at the top of this post, you can probably feel the heat emanating from my red face to wherever you are. Please accept my apologies. You wrote a great review of a wonderful product.
        BTW, I have used hair spray but you have to get the cheap, old fashioned hair spray, not the new-fangled stuff with special ingredients. I’ve used Aqua Net with success. It also has an unpleasant odor but is much cheaper than art fixative. For children’s art, it’s perfect.
        I once* made a terrible error in a college class and pretty much ruined an artwork I’d spent 30 hours drawing with charcoal. I forgot to spray in the air before passing it over the drawing, and instead sprayed right onto the art, leaving large droplets of thick fixative that made the charcoal bleed all over. The paper got wrinkled, I couldn’t remove most of the smear, and I think my tears added to the mess. Just saying, folks, if you don’t already know this: spray out into the air (I always do this outside) and then lightly pass the fixative over your art. You all probably listen better than I do.
        *Actually, I’ve made lots of errors.

        1. Please don’t be embarrassed! I thought nothing of it. I have my troubles keeping stuff straight…lol. My mind is so not the steel trap I thought it once was. And fixative- ugh! I have a dislike for it. I have attempted chalk pastels and PanPastel (which I love) from time to time and ruined just about every one of them to some degree or another with that darn fixative. I’ve watched videos, gotten advice from other artists, and still manage to screw it up every time. Now I always take a pic before I spray, just so I don’t feel like it’s a complete loss. That is my biggest frustration with that medium! And thanks for sharing about the cheap stuff! 😉

  8. I love the Neocolors II but I discovered, while on holidays in Mexico, that they don’t like the heat and melt in the sun. I will not bring them with me on my next trip (Cuba in June). I will bring a few watercolour pencils instead for adding quick colour to sketches. Excellent review.

  9. First, don’t use hair spray as fixative! The smell never goes away. I’m going to look up the Spectra fix, because Krylon is bad, you’re right, but sometimes you need something.
    Also, I dip my neocolors right in the water and draw that way. I prefer it to using a brush afterwards. If I want to paint, I’ll use paint.
    thanks for these reviews, very useful! (K)

    1. Good to know about the hair spray. Another person commented about only using the cheap stuff, like Aqua Net. I had one guy tell me he uses Tresemme on his chalk pastels. One more reason I love watercolor- no need for anything but water and color 🙂

  10. I’ve always wanted to try these.. I have the Lyra watercolor crayons and really like them. Lyra’s are cheaper than Neo II but you can’t buy individual colors like you can with Neo II.. Thanks for another thorough review!

    1. Next time you order from Blick, you could sneak a few into your cart, strictly for experimental purposes, hehehe, or a set of 10 😉

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