Luminance and Polychromos – the differences

I was asked for advice about the differences of Luminance and Polychromos coloured pencils. First of all, I would like to say, if you have the chance to try both out, do it and see what fits your needs best.

They have both great lightfastness, the Polychromos range is bigger with 120 pencils. The Polychromos are a harder coloured pencil and they are oil based. The Luminance coloured pencils are wax based, of a creamy consistancy. You also have to check for exceptions with the Luminance range, not all are free of animal derivatives ( exceptions ).

Generally, what  I found was:

for Luminance (Caran d’Ache):

  • creamy consistancy
  • very vibrant
  • practically able to burnish and layer infinitely
  • the white Luminance coloured pencil and other light colours are great for highlights
  • effortless dense burnishing with not much pressure
  • 76 colours available
  • wax based
  • great lightfastness


for Polychromos (Faber-Castell):

  • harder coloured pencil
  • oil based
  • 120 colours
  • 3 metallics in the 120 colour range – gold, silver and copper – that do not apply well to not at all
  • allows to sharpen into very pointy tip
  • great for very fine details
  • soft colouring and blending
  • are limited in layering /burnishing layers
  • great lightfastness


Luminance and Polychromos apply both well on top of watercolour, with gentle touch on top of gouache (with more pressure the gouache gets grated off) and on top of matte acrylics.

It is truly up to your own preference, what colour shades you need and the purpose you need them for. I use both.

For pencil dust removal, I mostly use a vegan baby kabuki make-up brush , which is great to get the pencil dust off of small areas. For larger areas I use a brush with handle, which is called “Zeichenbesen” in German. It looks like the brush you use with a dustpan (or a short handled toothbrush). If you dust with your hand, you risk smudging.

Another option are the watercolour pencil ranges (Albrecht Dürer and Supracolour Soft are my examples), which apply creamier compared to  e.g. the Polychromos.


You find my latest Caran d’Ache blog post here ; and my compendium entry. Remember, not all Luminance coloured pencils are free of animal derivatives, there are exceptions.

My latest blog post about Faber-Castell is over here , and there is also my compendium entry.



Looking for encaustic wax free of animal derivatives

Hello there,

today I am asking you for advice. A reader approached me about vegan encaustic wax, an alternative to beeswax. I never stumbled upon it so far. I do know that soy wax gets used as alternative in candles, but would it work for encaustic? Could you use soy wax and colour it with melted crayons e.g. Caran d’Ache’s Neocolor I s  (except 028) or Faber-Castell’s  studio oil pastels? Is that a thing? Could you McGuyver it like this?

What wax would work as encaustic substitute to beeswax?

I only know of soy wax in candles and in cosmetics of candelilla, carnauba, berry wax and there is also sunflower wax.

If anyone here knows about a brand that offers vegan encaustic wax or if you have your own experiences with it, I would like to hear from you.


Holbein update : no changes

I initially contacted Holbein back in 2017 and now did so again, to see whether there might have been some changes to make  their coloured pencils ingredients now suitable. Unfortunately, it hasn’t changed. Back then I was informed of the use of animal fats to disperse the pigments. As of now, they cannot give any guarantee.

No further information was disclosed.


So here is my up to date listing for my compendium:

manufacturer: Holbein

currently no products free of animal derivatives available

cruelty-free level: no information disclosed


I am sorry about the disappointing news. I hope there will be changed in the future and I will circle back to them in some years.

source: mail contact

Cruelty-free and its different meaning

Cruelty-free has a broader spectrum of meaning. Just like the word “vegan” it is not set in stone and has no universally accepted set terminology. Is is open to interpretation.

In its foremost use, in all things “vegan”  and animal related, it applies to being “free of animal testing”.

You can find my other latest article about this topic over here. And below you find a short overview.

On product packaging you will find this word, for example. Which means, a company makes the claim that the product is free of animal testing. If a company makes no further statements, this term should only be applied to this finished product, not its manufacturing process, not a whole product range of a company nor the company’s overall stance on animal-testing.

cruelty-free labelling and levels concerning animal testing:

  • a finished product is cruelty-free, meaning free of animal testing
  • the finished product as well as production is free of animal testing
  • a company is cruelty-free, if no further statement is given, this only means, the company itself does not test on animals
  • with further information : a company does not test on animals, nor commission other parties to do so
  • a company does not use data provided by others, such as MSDS /Material Safety Data Sheets, which information was gathered through recent* animal testing (*as in the last decades)
  • the raw material supplier does not test on animals or commission animal testing (for the material sourced by the company)

This is how it is mainly viewed and used, but it is not the only interpretation. A reader recently pointed out to me that Faber-Castell produced a meat signing pen and could therefore not be seen as cruelty-free. You find my brief post about this over here.

Although this pen might have been free of animal derivatives (speculation for this explanation, I do not have any detailed information other than  Faber-Castell stating this year that most of its products are free of animal derivatives), and the company might be free of animal testing, the pen’s intended use was connected to animal suffering.

Can a company be even free of any kind of cruelty in a broader sense that means more than ” animal testing”?

Most art and writing material suppliers do offer a range of products and not only products that are free of materials of an animal source.

Products containing

  • milk derivatives,eggs, honey or beeswax being on the lower end, suitable for vegetarians,
  • to the use of tallow, bone ash, rabbit skin glue, ox gall, squalene … all the different kind of hairs of so many animals roaming this planet used in brushes,
  • also the use of natural sponge for watercolour.

None of these things are cruelty-free in a broader sens; at this point, only concerning animals.

It would be a rare thing to find a brush company solely dedicated to producing brushes that are vegan; meaning their entire product range being free of animal derivatives.

Unless a company only sells all the way vegan products and has a defined on all level applying cruelty-free (animal sense) ethic, there will have been animal suffering.

Now the question is how many there actually are out there free of any kind of suffering attached to raw materials.

Another point or part of this is, companies having different tiers of product “quality”, if you will. They have e.g. crafting and school supplies, art supplies of different levels (beginner, hobby, student, artist /professional) and their fancy high-end tier. Offering e.g. leather bound fountain pens and leather bound sketch- and notebooks. Leather rolls for your coloured pencils, … . Undeniably, there has been animal suffering involved. Even, if claimed, the hides, bone ash etc. being leftovers from the meat industry.

Unfortunately, we do not live in an utopian world, void of animal suffering and cruelty against them. Mankind cannot even keep from it, concerning each other. How can we even expect them to muster up some form of acknowledgement and concerns for other beings and mother earth itself.

Which leads me to”cruelty-free”‘s , the meaning concerning humans.

Generally, we can think of

  • workers being treated ethically (not in direct contact with harmful chemicals, without protection, healthcare, safe environment to work in, hours of work, …)
  • workers being paid adequately (not enough for living/living wages, under minimum wage, fair wages …)
  • workers being paid equally (no gender bias, no age bias )
  • child labour (starting at a very young age, risking their lives daily to support their families; not being allowed and /or having the means and opportunity of education; being forced into it …)

Although all the points above are important, child labour is standing out.

You will certainly stumble over child labour, if “Mica” is involved. Back some years ago, I mentioned Refinery 29’s short documentary about it and  I also wrote a post about a  company here, using “ethically” sourced Mica, their supplier being part of the “Responsible Mica Initiative”, working against child labour.

In the last week I happened upon a documentary on the channel 3SAT about said topic and initiative in India. The chairwoman informed the reporter that it does not mean, villages, areas, mines involved, are guaranteed free of child labour. It means they are working towards it, but it is not a guarantee, you won’t find a child at a mine, even if the initivative is working with people in the villages surrounding the mine.

The chairwoman also mentioned, natural Mica should not be avoided because it would take the lifelihoods of entire regions in India and Madagascar.

Some companies have changed to using synthetic Mica, e.g. Lush.

It still comes as a shock though, that the initiative does not come as a guarantee of no child labour .

Suprising is Mica’s different kind of use. Computer /phone companies, e.g. Samsung using Mica; drill holes being filled with it, some companies put it in toothpaste for optics and the list goes on. You only can ask why? How are we supposed to know, and what reasoning is happening, that companies are stuffing Mica  into all those products? If it is not mentioned e.g. on a packaging for make-up or toothpaste, we won’t even be aware of it. A reason given for toothpaste being for optics? I don’t want to find titaniumdioxide in anything else but my art supplies; we art realm inhabitants have been aware of its carcinogen properties, because product packaging and information literally warns of it. I don’t want it in toothpaste and I certainly don’t want Mica in it. Who needs shimmery toothpaste? No one.

What company can be free of any form of cruelty, it can assume?

We can only keep on learning; and we can only keep on doing the best we can, acknowledging and adapting to new information we stumble upon.


The documentary I mentioned was aired on 3Sat on September 15th, 2023, when I was able to watch part of it. The reporter is Anne-Sophie Galli and the German name of the documentary was ” Glitzermineral Mica – Kinderarbeit für unsere Autos, Handys und Kosmetik” , translated : ” Shimmer material Mica – child labour for our cars, cellphones and cosmetics/ make up”. It was previously aired earlier this year  here on youtube. There are unfortunately only German subtitles available at the moment.

For more information about animal based raw material, see my information sheet (German Version).

Faber-Castell meat marking pen discontinued

Hello everyone,

I was approached by a reader that Faber-Castell was selling a pen to mark meat and cattle/animals for the meat market.

I contacted Faber-Castell and they answered that they no longer produce said meat marking pen.

I do not know for how long they sold this pen and when they discontinued it.

The reader also raised the concern that if a company sells such a pen it can’t be called cruelty-free.

Please see my next blog post about the term “cruelty-free”. It can be interpreted in a variety of ways, which I will explain more.

Here you find my other latest “cruelty-free topic” post. “Cruelty-free” in its mainly used meaning as “free of animal testing” and its different levels.


Source: mail contact

Cruelty-free and raw material suppliers

I was recently asked by a reader about my cruelty-free criteria.

Here are my latest versions of my information sheets I send out to companies : the English versionthe German version.

I would like to draw your attention to my compendium’s introduction and my last entry concerning Material Safety Data Sheets from March 2021.

I know it has been a while, since I talked about this topic. So I thought I would guide you through the process of contacting and reading a company’s response.

First I pay my dues and look up the information a company provides on their website. I look up the products, read through their FAQs, look for and over MSDS, if available.

Then for some companies, I have to search for an actual mail address, to contact them, because it would be just too easy to provide a direct link from costumer to company.

There are those, providing only contact information of their different distributors. If I cannot contact the company itself,  I will have to bother the distributors.

I attach my information sheet to all my inquiries and ask the companies to refer to them / have a look at them.

In the past, I used to write back and forth with  companies, over months and even years. And I decided to no longer do that. I no longer follow up multiple times on companies’ wording for a clear detailed information. If they choose not to specify their response, omit parts of information, the way they choose to word their statement, I do not go chasing information . I wasted too much time on it and it didn’t get anywhere in the end.

I did write to and fro with Too Markers Inc but I won’t be getting into my old habit. Imagine thinking you can share some great news with your readers, refining information, months pass, you yourself are hopeful about those new art materials, you think you have just a “tiny” bit of details left such as the raw material suppliers, and it all falters. No happy news for the readers, and yourself, and all you did was waste your and others (distributors’) time.

What I ask the companies comes in two parts. I firstly ask about the products and the manufacturing process. Is a product only free of animal derivatives in its end-form  – the finished product – or does  it apply to the production cycle as well.

The second part is the tough bit, many companies do not like to receive. The cruelty-free part. Many choose at this point to veer off and decline to reply. I usually mention in my inquiries that in case they are not interested in the topics mentioned, a short reply back would be appreciated. I only had two companies that did act on it, which was still great, because there was a   definite response, and you don’t keep on pondering for months. Most of them opt to blank those inquiries – aka “declined to reply”.

To the big question. I ask about the companies cruelty-free status / their cruelty-free level.

It is very easy for a company to call themselves “cruelty-free”  – like “vegan” ,  it is not a word that has a universally understood and set meaning. Most companies can state that they are “cruelty-free” because they do not test on animals. Testing  – animal or not- gets outsourced. The statement “we don’t test on animals” does not mean there is no animal testing.

So we come to the next hurdle in defining the cruelty-free level. Not commissioning animal testing from other parties or using data gathered from such testing through other parties e.g. parent companies.

Then there is the “even the raw-material supplier…” level. Meaning, the raw-material supplier does not test on animals nor commissions such testing for the company and the materials the company sources from them. Unfortunately, there are such industry giants from which companies source their raw materials , that also have other fields of operation such as pharmaceutical industry. Those cannot be free of animal-testing. However the company does not commission from them to do such testing nor uses such gathered data,  then it is up to you, to decide for yourself. I would also like to remind you at this stage, that it is a minority of companies that will share such detailed information with you about this topic. So you decide whether you will use their products or not, referring to the extra information others simply don’t give. This doesn’t make the company that shared less information with you more “cruelty-free” than the one, who gives yout the extra data.

I don’t even know whether there is such a thing as a holy grail of raw material suppliers completely devoid of animal testing in the last century.

The last bit of the cruelty-free hurdle to reach the platinum status of cruelty-free-ness: the Material Safety Data Sheets – the MSDS/SDS . Using MSDS which data was gathered in recent years (the last couple of decades) through animal testing. There are companies that share MSDS for their products on their websites for you to read through. This is going to be a walk through murky water, frustrating and confusing one further. Check for the date the MSDS was issued. Look for testing on… if animals are mentioned, e.g. substances being tested on their skin or in their eyes… there has been animal testing at one point. It doesn’t necessarily mean it was fairly recent, but the data was gathered in this manner at one point. You have to look at these results and consult a company’s statement.

Don’t get confused.  Vegan does not mean free of animal testing /cruelty-free. In its simplest form it only means free of animal derived materials, applying to the finished product. And even this is not guaranteed. Some companies e.g. only think about the bristles of a brush being synthetic, and do not include for example the handle (e.g. lacquer, dyes on body and on the bristles…) or glue  into their equation. Vegan and cruelty-free are not the same; again, both do not have a generalised universally accepted set meaning.

A product being labelled  cruelty-free, does not automatically mean a company is. If no further information is given, it only applies to the finished product, which packaging is adorned with such regalia of wording.  The guidelines the company states and bases their labelling on,are important to check. It is very easy and neat to make up your own seal and label your products, to make them more palatable to the concerned consumer.

Circling back to the language and phrasing of companies in their reply to my inquiries. I will not nor cannot interprete them for you. I cannot make assumption leaning in either way. If not enough or further information is given in their statment, I will alert you that no further information is given. I cannot give you information based on guessing and assuming whithout any factual evidence. That would be defamatory.

In my compendium and my blog posts I give you a summary of the statements given. What boxes those statements have to tick to meet your own guidelines, is up to you. Views of what is important vary from person to person.

Finally arriving at the end of this long saga. I will comment a bit on the response I get from companies. It is truly a mixed bunch of replies. Some feel quite attacked (for merely the inquiry) and will counter in a more than unkind manner.  It ranges from aggression,  being condescending and dismissive, to the “mild” harsh distinct wording and the mildest form the short and sharp micro sentence(s) – reply.

Many companies do like to strongly hint that you have asked them enough of questions at the end.

It is a funny thing, since this is a customer service matter; being allowed to ask questions about the products on offer and the manufacturer. It is 2023 and more and more people want to know about these topics  – vegan and cruelty-free . If the information is freely offered, they would get a whole lot  less of inquiries, so less people bothering them.



Now truly my last words of this very, very long blog entry ; I receive and read your mails with your questions. I generally don’t go past two weeks two reply; and you are a patient bunch. It might take a while for a response for different reasons, as e.g. waiting for statements from companies I contacted, not frequently accessing the interweb, not checking mails daily , being an agoraphobic hermit, (this being an unpaid task) … those kind of things.

I took much too long  to carefully draft replies to requests, going through all my data, and then sending out very lengthy and detailed replies to all the poor souls, who wrote in. Then I realised, I should tell everyone else on here as well.   I started following up with a wordy blog post. In the end, I came to the enlightening conclusion, to right a way give my reply on here instead. It only took me six and a half years to accomplish this thought .


Copics update concerning MSDS

Too Marker Products Inc has informed me, that it is their understanding, their raw material suppliers do not test on animals. The Material Safety Data Sheets, provided by the raw material suppliers, are based on chemical substance data that is provided by  each country or governmental institution.

The previous gathered information about Too Marker Products Inc (Copics)is that they do not test on animals in their facilities nor commission other parties to do so.

Since countries’ regulations concerning material safety varies,  insitutions such as ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) can enforce animal testing, if they deem it necessary.  On the other hand, many chemical substances have been already tested decades ago in such ways and the data is already in the system.

Unless a company can give  clear information about the Material Safety Data Sheets, there is no guarantee for either direction being free or not free of such testing in recent time (the last couple of decades).


Source: mail contact

Copic – Too Marker Products

Copic Marker

Manufacturer: Too Marker Products Inc.

All Copic products are vegan / free of animal products; in all its components , also including the manufacturing process not just the finished products.

Cruelty-free level: Too Marker Products does not conduct nor commission animal testing from other parties.

Too will get back to me about  Material Safety Data Sheets – provided by raw material suppliers, about whether there has been such testing within the last 20-30 years.

They grade their Copic products as completely free of animal-testing.

Source: Mail Contact