Lyra Rembrandt Polycolors

The Lyra Rembrandt Polycolors are premium artist grade colored pencils with excellent lightfastness across the entire range of colors.

Beyond that it’s difficult to compare them to other colored pencils because they are, in many ways, absolutely nothing like other colored pencils.


espite, or maybe because of, my experience with Prismacolor, when I needed to update my colored pencils recently I decided to go out on a limb and get the slightly more expensive Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor Pencils.

For all of you Prismacolor fans out there, please don’t get me wrong, the Prismacolors are perfectly nice colored pencils and I wouldn’t want to dissuade anyone from using and loving them.  They are a particularly good choice for those just starting out with professional grade colored pencils and as a first set, they served me well for quite a long time.

In fact, it’s precisely because I had used them for so long and most of them were little more than stubs that I needed a new set!  It’s just that I have a complex love-hate relationship with my Prismacolors that I was hoping to avoid this time around.

Basic Features

For starters, the Lyra Rembrandt Polycolors are oil-based, rather than wax based, which means they are creamier and smoother than most other colored pencils and they lay down rich, nearly opaque color with very little effort and no waxy build-up or blooming so you get nice clean lines.

Like most artist grade colored pencils, the Polycolors are available in sets or as open stock.  The boxed sets come in four “flavors” of 12, 24, 36 or 72 colors, or you can get a set of 12 grays. 

To me, it’s pretty important that something like colored pencils are available as open stock, in fact, I don’t consider a product to be truly artist grade and won’t bother buying it if it isn’t offered in open stock.

Why?  Because with open stock, you can start out with a smaller set of colors and then add to your collection over time and as need requires.  It also takes the headache out of replacing frequently used colors.

Trust me on this, you don’t need very many layers and I can’t stress this enough…

A good practice to get into is when in doubt, test it out on a piece of scratch paper first.

Finally, the larger sets, starting with the set of 36, come with what’s called a “Splender”.  Could there possibly be a lamer name?

The purpose of the Splender is supposedly to blend the colors.  I say supposedly because all it really seems to do is make them shinier and nearly impossible to blend.  My advice is to leave the stupid thing in the box where they put it and never, never, never, NEVER take it out.

For blending the Polycolors I prefer the Tombow colorless blender and a smudge stick or a bit of alcohol on the end of a tapered applicator.

The Pros

  • There is no feathering or blooming.
  • They keep a nice sharp point even with intense use so you don’t have to sharpen them as often.
  • They laydown smooth with no dead or abrasive zones.
  • They play well with most other mediums including other colored pencils, ink and paint that I’ve tested so far.
  • They work well on a wide range of material, including wood and stone. In fact, I’m especially fond of using them on sandstone.
  • They have a high degree of colorfastness in the entire set.
  • They’re come in sets and every color is available as open stock.
  • Both color and stock number are clearly printed on the pencil.
  • Colors match the endcap color perfectly so you never have to guess at the actual color.
  • They are quite lovely to look at!

The Cons

  • They’re in the higher price range. On average they are about $12.oo more for a comparable size set of Prismacolors.
  • Being oil-based they don’t mix well with water. Of course, depending on what you’re doing this could just as easily be a “Pro”.
  • There are only 78 colors to choose from, if you count the three hardness levels of black as individual colors.

A Final Note

One last thing, and this is very important: these are NOT wax-based colored pencils like Prismacolors.

They might look like an ordinary wax-based colored pencil, but they’re not.  They won’t work like a wax-based colored pencil and the results won’t look like those of wax-based colored pencils.  They are completely different and must be approached from that point of view that they are an entirely different medium than any colored pencil you have ever used, otherwise you will have some difficulty getting use to them.

This seems to be the biggest mistake new users make with the Polycolors, so please, before you get frustrated and toss them aside re-read this post.

If you get really frustrated, you can post a comment below, send me an email, or hunt me down on Facebook and I will do what I can to help. Don’t give up!

The Polycolor is something of a cross between an oil pastel and a colored pencil with properties similar to, but different from, both. Instead of thinking of them as another colored pencil, think of them as a new medium and learn to work with them as such and you’ll soon be opening new pathways for your creativity.