Marco Raffine

Sudee Stile 120 Coloured Pencils: The New Marco Raffines? – A Review and Comparison

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.

EDIT: Since writing this post a set of 150 individual colours has been released in the UK and US. I don’t have this set yet and at the time of writing and photographing the maximum set size was 120. If and when I get the full 150 set I will update the whole review but in the meantime I have just added this edit and a purchase link here and at the bottom for the full 150 set.

These pencils were kindly sent to me free in exchange for an honest review, I jumped at the chance as I’ve been hearing about these pencils increasingly often in the Facebook colouring groups and I wanted to see what they were like. The biggest and most common claim I’ve seen made about them is that they’re the new Marco Raffines and on a par with their quality, but with a whopping 48 extra colours is this true? Read on to find out what I think.

One thing worth mentioning before I continue is that I’ve extensively read the reviews of these pencils on both the UK and US Amazon sites and it appears that while the majority of people love them, a few hate them due to there being some significant production issues with some sets having shattered leads, arriving dirty or used, with the incorrect packaging etc. I can only review the one set that I’ve got and the only real issue I’ve had is that I received a duplicate pencil and was missing one. Please do bear in mind that this review is just my opinion of my set and obviously isn’t representative of those sets that have arrived broken or badly damaged.

Availability, Cost and Set Sizes
The pencils are not available in stores and are currently only available on Amazon. They are not available in open stock, neither are the Marco Raffines, so you will sadly have to buy a new set when you start running low on some colours, however, the price of these pencils is brilliant, at 30p a pencil, they’re a bargain and while they’re not the cheapest option of pencils, this is by far the best quality, largest range of colours for the least amount of money that’s available. They’re currently £35 for the full 120 set and have been as low as £27 though that listing has been unavailable for a while, do hunt around for the best price! The pencils are available in 120 colours and in sets of 24, 48, 72, 96 and the full 120 set.

Colour Range and Presentation
On first inspection these pencils are identical to the Marco Raffiines apart from the writing on them which obviously says Sudee Stile rather than Marco Raffine. I assumed, like many others, that these were just Marco Raffine pencils re-branded with a different name printed on them but they’re definitely not. Marco Raffines have an oil-based lead whereas the Sudee Stiles are almost certainly wax, it doesn’t say anywhere on them or the Amazon listings what the lead is made of and I originally thought they were oil-based because they behave so similarly to the Marco Raffines, however, I noticed a few days after colouring that a slight wax bloom had built up on my heavily burnished coloured areas and this has never happened with my finished Marco Raffine pages. This wax bloom isn’t a problem and is very common with any wax-based coloured pencils, it can usually be avoided by spraying your finished work with a fixative spray, many people use hairspray as a cheap option, please avoid doing this as it can yellow over time and ruin all of your hard work! The pencils themselves are hexagonal with a silver barrel and a colour-dipped end which is relatively true to the colour of the lead, but not so in all cases so do make a colour chart! Each pencil has black text on it stating Sudee Stile Color and a unique identifying number but these are not done in any sensible colour order so you’ll need to try and create your own or copy my order on the photo of the colour chart I created below. The pencils are available in 120 unique and individual colours, sadly my set arrived with one missing and a duplicate of the number 39 pencil but the colours cover a great range of shades and hues and are a really good selection with no specific colour being over-represented like in some sets. A lot of the colours are pretty similar to the Marco Raffines but you get so many more colours that even if you already have those, these are absolutely worth having too and I would highly recommend getting the full set as you’ll only wish for more if you get the smaller sets. There is another set of Sudee Stile pencils which is externally different but the colours and leads are reportedly exactly the same (information taken from the seller in the questions section on the pencil listing). This other set has a full colour barrel with a gold-dipped end and the writing on the pencils is written in gold rather than black. The Amazon listings have altered over time so sometimes both sets are available, often for different prices from each other, and currently only the silver set I have is available, don’t be alarmed, they’re both the same so just go for the cheapest version of the set size you wish to purchase unless you have a particular preference for the external look of the pencils. There is no mention of lightfastness and due to it being Winter here in the UK I can’t test this currently, the Marco Raffines aren’t very lightfast, especially the light shades so I would expect these to be the same due to the price point so I’d avoid using these to colour pictures that you’re wanting to display rather than keeping in the book.

Packaging
Originally, these were all packaged in a plastic screw-lid tub and they are pretty wedged in against some bubblewrap, this tub will surely last a while but is likely to break with a lot of use and it’s very difficult to identify the pencil or even pick one out, especially once you’ve started sharpening them and they become shorter so I’d strongly advise investing in a pencil case or pencil wrap for ease of use. The 120 set is now available in a thick cardboard box with three trays of pencils and two pencil sharpeners inside. There are reports of them occasionally arriving with no packaging in just a plastic bag, in this case always contact the seller or Amazon and I’m sure they’ll get it resolved.

Sharpening
The pencils arrive pre-sharpened with a blunted point. One thing to note is that they really need sharpening before use, for some reason there seems to be some sort of coating on them which makes them a bit scratchy to start with but this pretty much goes as soon as you sharpen them so don’t lose hope, they’re completely different once sharpened! None of my pencils arrived with broken leads. They have strong leads and sharpen well. I use a T’Gaal adjustable pencil sharpener which is known to be very good for not breaking leads but these are well-made pencils with nice smooth wooden barrels so there shouldn’t be any sharpening issues, regardless of what you use, I’ve had absolutely no breakages so far. The pencils can be used to colour very intricate images because they sharpen to such a good point which is really handy for some of the more detailed adult colouring books out there! They work well on lots of different types of paper and I really haven’t had any issues with them, a few of them feel a little gritty and scratchy at points but that’s something you expect when buying pencils for these kinds of prices and usually it’s a fragment of grit which will sharpen out and then the pencil is fine again (I have also found this to be the case with Marco Raffines).

Blending
The leads aren’t super soft but they’re not hard either, they’re most similar to Faber Castell Polychromos in terms of hardness, and they’re almost identical in feel to the Marco Raffines. They provide very vibrant and even coverage with no need to press hard, they are really easy to blend and shade with, very comparable to Marco Raffines, and they keep a good point so you don’t have to sharpen too regularly. Do check out the comparison blending photos below, the only visible differences are due to my changes in technique rather than the pencils.

Erasing and Smudging
The pigment does erase pretty well (see photo below), especially with a battery-operated eraser so these are ideal for those of you who frequently colour over the lines and want to clean up the edges, as well as for creating highlights that aren’t that uncoloured white type! Obviously, you’ll never be able to completely remove all of the pigment, especially when burnished, but a surprising amount does come off. I haven’t noticed these pencils crumbling at all so you’re unlikely to get any pencil dust, if you rub hard on the pigment it does smudge but this is always the case with a pencil that blends well.

Overall, I fully expected to use these pencils once and then never again because I have full sets of Faber Castell Polychromos, Prismacolor Premier, and Holbein Artists’ Colored Pencils, however, I’ve already used these to colour images in 3 different book reviews because I love them so much! The pencils are really versatile and if used properly you can get the palest hint of colour all the way up to a completely filled vibrant colour, they can be used to blend and shade or for block colouring and it’s easy to colour without streaks if you’re careful. They are really pigmented so even light colouring gives a good level of colour without hurting your hands, I have very problematic joints in my hands and end up in a lot of pain if I have to grip or press too hard whilst colouring, I’m also currently suffering from repetitive strain injury in my right thumb, however, these pencils really haven’t exacerbated any of this because they’re soft enough and give a good vibrant coverage without having to force the lead into the paper, this is great for books with thinner paper that you don’t want to create identation on. These pencils would be ideal for beginner colourists all the way up to experts and artists. The colours are a fantastic range, there’s a really good mix of light, bright, pale, and dark shades within each colour group and none are over-represented. The leads are hard enough to keep a good point and not need sharpening too often, but soft enough that they’ll be suitable for the elderly, those with weak grip, and those suffering from arthritis, sore joints, and any other hand complaints (they can be made even more comfortable and chunky by adding pencil grips when colouring). Marco Raffines are the go-to budget pencil option for most people and the Sudee Stile pencils give them a really good run for their money and with the addition of 48 more colours what’s stopping you? These pencils are easy to use, great value for money, and honestly, they’re just a joy to colour with, I love them, they’re a bit more expensive than the Marcos for a 72 set but most of us have been craving more colours in Marcos and now you have the option of 48+ extras in the Sudee Stiles!

If you’d like to purchase a set then they’re available here:
Sudee Stile 24 (Silver) 3 Pack
Sudee Stile 24 (Colour) 3 Pack
Sudee Stile 48 (Silver)
Sudee Stile 48 (Colour)
Sudee Stile 72 (Silver)
Sudee Stile 72 (Colour)
Sudee Stile 96
Sudee Stile 120 Set
Sudee Stile 150 Full Set

The images below were all coloured using Sudee Stile Coloured Pencils.

Beautiful Creatures – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Beautiful Creatures is compiled and very kindly sent to me to review by Nicole Stocker AKA Huelish. This book is unlike any other colouring book that I’ve reviewed and is filled with greyscale images which is one of the latest crazes within the colouring community. Greyscale colouring usually involves taking a photograph and removing all of the colour so that the whole image shows shades of grey, this is done with the purpose of being able to create very realistically coloured images and it is also a really helpful tool for learning about light and shade for your regular colouring. You colour straight over the grey which partially shows through the pens or pencils you use and the image looks photo-realistic when you’re finished.

This book is slightly smaller than A4, paperback with card covers and it’s very thick! The images are printed single-sided onto beautifully thick paper which is bright white and lightly textured so it’s perfect for almost any medium you can throw at it. Bleeding isn’t an issue so just pop a protective sheet behind if you’re using particularly heavy mediums and you’ll be good to go. The images are all surrounded by a thick white border and none of them enter the spine which is glue-bound and does require a fair bit of bending to get it to lie flat. The images are all perforated and have a section on the back where you can write who completed the image and on what date. The book contains 48 photographs of animals which are very cohesive because of the greyscale nature of them. The images are of a huge range of animals from horses to dolphins, spiders to squirrels, cows to dogs and loads more.

In terms of mental health, this book is quite niche because greyscale colouring isn’t something that everyone will be interested in. However, as someone that had no interest in greyscale colouring until I was sent this book to review, I have to say, it’s worth giving it a go, because it’s a pretty different experience from what I expected. I really didn’t know where to start or how to do it and eventually bit the bullet and started with the blue and it was actually much easier than I expected and you really do what the cover says and colour over the grey and it brings your image to life. The image I chose didn’t require lots of blending or shading and each section is coloured with just one pencil and the shading is all from the original grey image behind. I’m surprised about how well it came out and it was surprisingly calming so I would definitely recommend greyscale colouring for those of you who suffer from anxiety disorders or other conditions that require relaxation and calming effects. Line thickness and intricacy aren’t really applicable in greyscale colouring books because they’re as intricate as you make them, you can colour over the images in blocks or you can individually draw on each hair, scale or feather, it’s entirely up to you. Difficulty level is also quite difficult to assess because again, it’s entirely up to you how difficult you make it, you could colour the images in shades of one colour, lots of different colours, realistic colour schemes or outlandish and what I might struggle with, another colourist might find easy when working out how to colour a greyscale image. One really handy aspect of greyscale colouring is that because the images start off as full colour images you can often have access to the original, full colour image, or it’ll be of a real animal, as is the case in this book which means you can use a ready-made colour scheme after having a quick google of the animal itself which is exactly how I chose the colour scheme for my red-knobbed hornbill pictured below. This is ideal for mentally ill colourers because you don’t have to dream up colour schemes if you don’t want to and can instead use the colours nature has inspired. Being a book filled with natural images, it is inherently calming and the different textures of fur, scales, wet, dry, shiny, rough and more of the animals means that it’s very interesting to look at and interesting to colour. I’ve heard from a lot of greyscale colourers and the general consensus is that this book is the best greyscale colouring book currently on the market and I would have to agree that this is an ideal book to get you in to greyscale colouring.  If you need any inspiration for colouring, Nicole has created a wonderful gallery on her website of coloured images which can be found here.

I would recommend this book to anyone who already loves or wants to venture into the world of greyscale colouring. The paper is wonderfully thick, the images printed single-sided and the perforations make it easy to remove your page for easier colouring or for framing.

If you’d like to start greyscale colouring then this book is available below, it’s very expensive on UK Amazon currently and isn’t available on Book Depository but you can get it for a decent price on Amazon.com.
Amazon UK – Beautiful Creatures: A Boundless Coloring Book Adventure
Amazon.com – http://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Creatures-Grayscale-Coloring-Adults/dp/099486230X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1459801832&sr=8-1&keywords=beautiful+creatures+coloring+book

The image below was coloured using Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils, Marco Raffine pencils and Zest It Blending Solution.

Dragon World Adult Coloring Book – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Adult Coloring Book: Dragon World is published by Blue Star and illustrated by Mark Coyle and was kindly sent to me by them to review. This book is ideal for any dragon-lovers and it really does exactly what it says, it includes loads of images of different dragons. The book itself is A4, paperback and glue-bound meaning a little of each image is lost into the spine. The illustrations are printed single-sided so there are no issues with bleeding and they are all portrait-oriented designs. The paper is bright white, medium thickness and lightly textured so it’s great for pens and pencils. The images are all drawn by one illustrator so the book has a very cohesive feel, the dragons are pictured alone, in groups, on mountains, flying, in space, and they are all drawn to look like different species, in different poses. Many are winged, some are not, some are fire-breathing, some are three-headed, some are scaly, others are smooth or horned, there really is a very wide variety so it doesn’t get boring at any point despite all 34 images being dragon-themed.

In terms of mental health, the content itself won’t have much bearing on it but if you’re a fan of dragons then you’re sure to really enjoy colouring this book. The line thickness is consistent throughout and is a medium/thin line meaning this book is ideal for those of you who don’t have perfect vision or fine motor control because you’ll be able to stay within the line without much difficulty. The images do have varying levels of intricacy and detail but they range from basic to under an intermediate level meaning it’s suitable for anybody, you’d be able to colour the blocks solidly or use it to really hone your blending and shading skills with your coloured pencils to practice colouring with light sources, colour changes, detail and textures. This book would suit anyone from beginners to advanced colourists and because the gaps are fairly large, you don’t need amazing concentration levels so this would be ideal for bad days and good days. You could even add your own detailing to some of the plainer dragons and practice your zentangle patterns and doodle anything you fancy on them from scales to feathers or even stars and hearts. The dragons are drawn in quite a realistic style (yes, I know, dragons aren’t real but if they were, they’d look like this), they’ve not been made ‘pretty’ so this is definitely a book for male or female colourers alike. This would be an ideal book for some of you ladies to try and lure your men-folk into colouring with!

I’d highly recommend this book for dragon-lovers, the fact that the images are printed one-sided makes it ideal for using any colouring mediums you fancy. This is a great book for practising your colouring techniques over large spaces and sections and would be ideal for male or female, beginner all the way up to advanced colourers. If you like dragons, you’ll love this!

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Adult Coloring Book: Dragon World

The image below was coloured using Marco Raffine Coloured Pencils.

The Great British Cake Off: The 100% Unofficial Colouring Book – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
The Great British Cake Off is illustrated by Harriet Popham, published by Harper Collins and is from my personal collection. I was extremely excited about the prospect of this book as soon as I found out about its publication and had to wait weeks until its publishing date to see what it was going to be like. I saw a few photos of inside and was really disappointed but after managing to find it reduced a few days after launch, I decided to give it a go and I’m SO glad I did as the images I saw weren’t representative of the contents at all! Get your apron on, oven pre-heating and let’s head into the Great British Bake Off tent and see if this book is a recipe for success. Without further ado – on your marks, get set, colour! Get yourself ready for a truly cake-tastic review!

This book is paperback, 25cm square (the same size as JB and MM’s books) and contains 96 pages of beautiful cake-y illustrations. The best thing about these cakes? They’re calorie free so you can colour to your heart’s content and not worry about gaining those extra pounds, you might even lose a few as you become so engrossed in colouring that you forget to have your teatime snack. The pages are printed double-sided and the spine is glue-bound meaning a little of each image is lost into the spine but this does improve as the spine loosens up with use. The images are mostly single pages but a few double-page spreads are included too. The majority of the images are baked goods including cakes, cupcakes, tiered cakes, macarons, and page upon page of novelty cakes. Interspersed with these, are images of oven gloves, baking equipment, kitchen scenes and tea party spreads, many of which are very Cath Kidston-esque. The images also include many of the bakes featured through the series of the much-loved tv show The Great British Bake Off, including tarte tatin, croquembouche, gingerbread sculptures, Charlotte Royale, Kransekake, Schittorte, Swedish Princess cake, Povitica, battenberg and many more (if you remember all of those and already know what they all look like then you’re a true die-hard Bake Off fan, congratulations, you get a Special Commendation – Just like Paul in series 6 got for his Lion bread)! The paper is bright white, fairly thick and very lightly textured, I checked my water-based fineliners and fibre-tips and they rarely bled through but did heavily shadow so this book is definitely one to be kept for pencils (also, the black ink transfers under pressure so pop a protective sheet behind your work or pressing too hard will leave you with design transfer on the pages behind). However, don’t despair, the image content is so well-suited to pencils that you won’t mind not being able to use your pens because it really calls for pastel shades and you can get practising your blending, shading and highlighting skills to make your tempered chocolate have the perfect shine and your pieces of fruit looking really juicy. Settle yourself down with a cup of tea and a slice of cake (purely for research purposes of course), get your icing-coloured pencils out and start decorating those cupcakes and macarons.

In terms of mental health, I personally found this book fantastic! If you like cakes then this book has to be on your must-have list. It’s sure to cheer you up and improve your mood because the cakes are so beautiful and it might even inspire your baking (if you like to bake). I found the book really calming and very distracting, there are so many little details that you notice each time you flick through the pages allowing you to become totally absorbed and I really noticed my worries melting away as I coloured my lovely three-tiered cake. The images are fairly detailed and intricate and are all drawn in a thin or medium thickness line so you need fairly good, but not perfect, vision and fine motor control. You need a fairly good level of concentration in order to stay within the lines, focus on the recipe fully, get your measurements right and be able to colour the images to the best of your ability, but this is great because it means your symptoms can take a back seat and you can just enjoy colouring some deliciousness. Twelve of the images have small written hints telling you what some of the more obscure bakes are and suggesting you pipe the frosting in your favourite colours or asking what flavour sponges you might concoct. I’m not a fan of written hints in books because I don’t like having text on the page as I find it detracts a little from the finished look of the page, however, I do make an exception for this book because the cake-naming is actually really useful for those cakes that you’d have no idea what they were without the text.

There are certainly some technical challenges and some that you can truly colour into your own signature bake and more still that will hopefully become showstoppers! This book is sure to make you hungry and get you hunting through your recipe books for inspiration and to make tasty treats to snack on when you need a break from colouring. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves cake, baking, or the Great British Bake Off because this really is the ultimate book for cake-lovers, it completely transports you back to the Bake Off tent!

If you get a copy of this book then be sure to avoid Mel wearing your tuille as bracelets and Sue accidentally elbowing your English muffins. Keep your colouring area a disaster-free zone and for goodness’ sake, colour slowly so that nothing needs to be discarded and we can all avoid another episode of “bin-gate”, I’m still not sure I’m over the trauma of the Baked Alaska challenge! You can take your finished pages and offer them up on the Gingham Altar for Mary and Paul to poke, prod, and almost certainly tell you it’s under-blended or over-shaded, but perhaps, if you’re lucky enough, you might just get crowned Star Colourer for the week and receive the coveted handshake from Paul – we can all dream can’t we?! This book truly offers you a way to have your cake, and eat it! Happy Colouring and Happy Baking – I’d love to see your attempts at either activity over on my Facebook page which can be found here.

If you’d like to purchase a copy then head below:
Amazon UK – The Great British Cake Off
Book Depository Worldwide – http://www.bookdepository.com/The-Great-British-Cake-off-Harriet-Popham/9780008159535/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils which are the crème de la crème of the pencil world and I would highly recommend them for this book. If you’re on a tighter budget then I would also highly recommend the Marco Raffine coloured pencils which you can read my review of here.