Lightfastness Tests: Stabilo Tones and Caran d’Ache Neo Color II

September 10, 2010

This post contains my lightfastness charts and some comments.

100909StabiloTonesLightft Left: The the control (left, labeled "in" because it was filed away out of the light) and the exposed (right, labeled "out") test sheets for Stabilo Tones. Most colors held up much better than I had feared. The first color, a magenta, lost a little vividness. The fifth color, an Indian Yellow, lost all the red, clearly seen by comparing the wash out of the two samples. The fire-engine red at the bottom of the list also lost all its depth and remains only a washed out pale magenta.

Everyone who reads my blog knows I'm a huge fan of Stablio Tones. These are a now defunct line of at least 60 colors which have been reissued in an 18-color range called Woodys. They are a fat wooden pencil which encases a wax watersoluble crayon. And they are a whole lot off fun to sketch and "paint" with. If you search Stabilo in my blog's search engine you will find many, many posts with images I've created using Stabilo Tones and tips on how I use them dry, wet, wet and dry, rubbed, etc. (Speaking of Stabilo: Stabilo Tones, Now Defunct or Are They? is a good place to start.)

Well the thing is, even though my 60-color set is wearing out (and my favorite colors aren't replaceable—as they have not made the transition into the Woody line) I couldn't find a lightfastness test chart on them in my files. I usually do one.

100909NeoColorIILightfast Right: Color tests for Caran d'Ache Neocolor II. Left, labeled "in" is the control. Right, labeled "out" was exposed. Most
colors held up much better than I had feared. My favorite color (second
from the top) is a periwinkle blue which sadly lost almost all its
reddish tone and ended as a rather bland pale blue. All the reds and brown also lost some of their vibrancy but the shift was very subtle. Again the golden yellow was a problem. You can see an arrow marking it at the base of the chart. It completely faded away.

I also use Caran d'Ache Neocolor II, another watersoluble wax crayon, though it isn't encased in wood. The two brands also have slightly different working capabilities and qualities, and even though the Stabilo Tone has reemerged as a children's art tool I prefer it to the Neocolor II. (Finger blending with the Stabilo Tone is much easier.)

I decided to do a lightfastness test chart for some of my favorite colors to have a look at what would happen over time. Also I've recently purchased Caran d'Ache's NeoArt sticks which are supposed to be an artist quality pigment stick (watersoluble wax again), and wondered if I would be phasing the Neocolor IIs out of my repertoire. Things have been too busy for me to work with the NeoArt sticks but I'll let you know how that goes.

Based on the results, by which I was pleasantly surprised, I'm going to continue to use Stabilo Tones in my journals and in my mixed media artwork as well—though there will be some colors that I will avoid using. As for the Caran d'Ache Neocolor II line I'm still up in the air. Because I like the working qualities of this stick less than the Stabilo Tone, if I find that the NeoArt line works well and has good lightfastness ratings I probably will phase out the Neocolor IIs.

A note about color test cards:
A question came up in the comments section about my labels "in" and "out" on my test cards. "In" is the control that was filed away, safe from light. "Out" was the card that was exposed to the light. Both cards are made on the same day so that you can compare the change from that day caused by light exposure. I actually make my test cards on the same sheet of paper as well, making two identical vertical lists of colors, using the same hand pressure, making the density of the pigment as uniform as I can. Then I wet and wash out each sample because washes show another aspect of how this medium is used and I want to see how the light will impact the washes. (It is often easier to see which "portions" of a paint fade in the washes, e.g., a lavender blue fades out to a simple pale blue you know the magenta originally in that color was very light sensitive and has faded.) When the test is completed I scan the tests and save a digital file and I file both cards together in a folder with other media tests.

  1. Reply

    Hi Roz!
    THANKS for such a FABULOUS blog!
    I am wondering how long your test was for? Were they exposed to direct sunlight or just in a room with sunlight?

  2. Reply

    Dale Anne, well thank you. Thanks for reading! The test for these two products ran from 2.23.10 and ran until 9.3.10, with direct sunlight, NOT room light. I want to get as accelerated a look at things as I can and direct sunlight does that. If they are going to fade, I want to see it. Great pigments in great watercolors like Daniel Smith for instance, don’t show any change treated like this. They still will fade over time, but a test like this doesn’t begin to approach their limits.

    What is that not quite seven months? I’m not adding and subtracting much today!

    • Chris F
    • September 10, 2010

    OK what do the IN and OUT notations mean?

  3. Reply

    Chris, I’m sorry that wasn’t clear. In and Out notations are the notations I put on the card so that I can tell which one was exposed to light (out) and which was protected and filed away (in). Sometimes there is so little difference at the end of a test that if I don’t mark it I could spend hours looking for aging on the PAPER as opposed to the art supply!

    That isn’t the case here where there are some clear fading issues in both lines.

    I placed the IN cards on the Left in each grouping and the exposed OUT cards on the Right. If you look across the two cards you’ll see each card is the same arrangement of colors vertically. But you’ll see, especially where I have marked the cards with little red arrows, that from the in card to the art card a specific color, as you read across the two, has faded.

    I’ll go try to clarify my caption.


  4. Reply

    Thanks for doing this test and showing your results, Roz. I’ve posted links to this on WetCanvas’s watermedia and colored pencil forums.

  5. Reply

    I found a bit more on the Neocolor II line at

    Someone was lucky enough to get the full lightfastness chart from the company. I just found these pastels recently and try to stick with only *** rated colors for all my watercolor and collage art, so it was nice to both see your tests and get access to the chart. From the master color chart on Caran’s website – it looks like they’ve tried to make most of their newer colors much more lightfast than they used to. Hopefully they’ll phase out all the poor and fair quality in favor of the better pigments we certainly have access to these days!

    Thanks for pointing me towards the Stabilo Tone type pastels too! Your post was really great for someone gathering information like me!

  6. Reply

    Lydia, thank you for sending this link to Dale’s blog post on these color charts. When I looked years ago I couldn’t find anything on their site (I often find websites difficult to negotiate!). I particularly like the colorfastness chart because it lists pigments contained in each, which is actually more important to me because it tells me how they are going to mix with each other. I knew that there were several pigments in each most sticks, but it’s great to see which are the worst from that perspective (I like to use single pigment paints in general) so I can organize around that. Very helpful.

    I’m sorry that you’re coming to this so late, though, as Stabilo Tones really are gone. They just make the Woody in about 12 colors. I’ve seen full sets like the one I have on e-Bay for $300 (US) and more, but I think it’s best to go with a product you can actually still get replacements for.

    Thanks for the chart.

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