If you’re like me and looking for a good deal for art supplies, you may have seen the brand Koh-I-Noor pop up in searches. Koh-I-Noor stands out immediately because their pricing is substantially lower than many popular brands. If you’ve read my comprehensive pastel pencil guide, I’ve previously covered the brands Conte, Drewent, Faber-Castell, Caran d’Ache, and Stabilo. 

If you are interested in my first impressions and unboxing, I have a YouTube video here:

Cost Breakdown 

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After comparing prices, I found that the best price was the complete 48 set through Amazon. I purchased the full set of Gioconda pastels on April 4, 2021 and received my package on April 9, 2021. I chose standard free shipping for my order. The retail MSRP for this item is $117.80 USD. At the time of purchase, the item was listed as $54.84 USD.

I paid $59.91 USD including sales tax. Your delivery time may vary depending on your location.

Where to buy Koh-I-Noor Gioconda pastel pencils: 

If you are concerned about lightfastness, one very important distinction to make when buying sets is the price per unit of the pencils you would actually use.

Koh-I-Noor provides a color chart on their official website here.

I’ve uploaded the color chart below.

Official Color Chart Provided by Koh-I-Noor

Koh-I-Noor rates their lightfastness on a scale of 1 to 4 stars with 4 stars being highly lightfast. Surprisingly, only 4 of the 48 colors are rated two stars. There are no pencils rated 0 or 1 stars.

If we remove the fugitive (or non-lightfast 2 star colors), the price breakdown per pencil is shown below.

Prices listed in USD. 4 of the 48 colors were removed that were not lightfast. The right column was calculated by dividing the price by 44.

48 colors is a good amount for any artist who is curious about trying pastel pencils. The overall color range is fairly standard, and a few notable shades include their range of red-browns that are similar in hue to some of my favorites from Derwent. 

Color Numbering Discrepancies

The biggest surprise I  found was the numbering inconsistencies within my set in comparison to the official color chart on the Koh-I-Noor website. The advertised range has one or two digit color numbers with 52 as the highest color number.

A grand total of 10 of my pencils  had three digit color numbers stamped on the end. The numbers were 140, 150, 151, 155, 165, 173,182, 183, 189, 190. These numbers did not match up with the numbers on the color chart. 

The 10 Gioconda pencils that do not match up with the official color chart.

I’ve circled the 10 colors that I do not have from the official color chart in red below. Comparing my color swatches to the color chart, many of the colors look similar. However I cannot conclude that the lightfast ratings are the same just because the colors look similar. To be conservative, I’ve removed the two fugitive two star colors (Carmine and Mouse Grey), and the 10 mystery 3-digit colors.

Cross-referencing the colors from my 48 set to the official color chart, I’ve circled 10 colors where the numbers of my pencils did not match.

If we remove the 10 “mystery colors” and the non-lightfast colors, the cost per pencil jumps substantially from our first calculations

Prices listed in USD. The colors removed in the right column calculations were 2 two-star colors and 10 unverifiable “mystery colors” for a total of 12 non-lightfast pencils out of the 48 set.

In the art world, manufacturers will occasionally reformulate their products and assign new names, numbers, and barcodes so that their distributors can distinguish the old version from the new version. When this happens, there is usually documentation in their website or a press release that will display the new and discontinued colors. 

After searching for hours online and attempting to contact both the U.S. Koh-I-Noor distributor (ChartPak) and Europe distributor, I was unfortunately unable to solve my color numbering mystery.

Reordering and Potential Issues 

Unlike many of the ‘big’ art manufacturers, I found it extremely difficult to find an art retailer that sold Koh-I-Noor pastel pencils individually (also referred to as “open stock”). In the U.S., I believe Dakota Pastels is one of the few retailers that sells individual colors. As of the time of this blog post (June 2021), several of their colors are out of stock and there is no restock date provided. I was able to get in touch with a Dakota Pastel representative and they were not aware of any changes to the color number discrepancy I experienced.

Open stock colors are available in Europe, but anything ordered internationally will have longer shipping times and expensive shipping fees. And when it comes to fragile pastels, longer travel distances also means higher risk of damage. If you end up really liking the Gioconda pencils, you may find yourself in a pickle and a long wait when it comes time to reorder colors.

Quality

After two months of use, the colors within the Gioconda line are fairly consistent in formulation and overall softer than the brands I’ve tried in the past. Prior to trying Gioconda, the Stabilo CarbOthello pastel pencil line was the softest brand in my possession. 

Depending on your personal preference, you might find the texture of the Gioconda pencils attractive or unappealing. If you typically use a lot of pressure when you draw, the tips of these pencils can break under a heavy hand. However, if you own a few Stabilo pencils and wish that they were softer, you may be looking at your perfect ‘Goldilocks’ brand.

I personally find Gioconda a good workhorse for early layers in a pastel drawing because they blend well and work alongside my other brands of pastel with no issues. I’ll slowly phase out the Giocondas in favor of firmer Derwent or Faber-Castell PITT pastel pencils when it comes to drawing fine details in the finishing stage.

Fragility

Pastel pencils are notoriously difficult to sharpen. I have an entire blog post dedicated to my personal favorite sharpener I’ve recommended to artists below

Due to the softness of the Koh-I-Noor core, I had some concerns when it came time to sharpen them. One of my main complaints with Conte brand pastel pencils is that they shatter the most frequently of any brand I own. 

I recommend having a sharp blade and slowly turning the pencil to have the most control during sharpening. The wood casing is high quality and similar to the Faber-Castell PITT pastel pencils. If you have patience (that you’ve undoubtedly developed for all your pastel pencils), there’s no significant difference between sharpening a Koh-I-Noor pastel pencil compared to any other brand. 

And just like all delicate supplies, if you plan to do some plein air drawing or travel with these pencils, always pack them in a sturdy case with padding around the sharpened end to prevent breakage.

Overall Thoughts

If you are  new to pastels and looking for an affordable line, purchasing any Koh-I-Noor Gioconda set at the price of under $1.50 USD per pencil is a great deal in my opinion. This line can be an excellent addition to your pastel collection if you prefer a softer core in your pastel pencils. 

There are a few unique colors in the neutral (brown/gray) range, but I don’t think it’s worth it to purchase an entire set if you already have the standard rainbow assortment in other pastel pencils. I would recommend picking up these special colors “open stock” if you can find a retailer in your country. 

The fact that 10 of the 48 colors are inconsistent with the official color chart prevents me from being able to include Koh-I-Noor in my pastel brand comparison because of the unknown lightfastness ratings. If you have information about their numbering change, leave a comment and I can update this review to include new information. 

Products mentioned in this post:
Koh-I-Noor Gioconda Pastel Pencil Sets:

Now that you’ve made it all the way to the end of the review about Koh-I-Noor’s Gioconda pastel pencils, would you consider purchasing them? If you already own Giocondas, how do you like them?  Let me know in the comments!   -Lauren

2 thoughts on “Koh-I-Noor Gioconda Pastel Pencil – A Comprehensive Review Guide

  1. I bought these several years ago from Amazon. I found the same problem with numbers not matching. Tried to find an answer but could not. I often wonder if they do something to the sets sold through Amazon.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience Darlene! I did have some suspicions at first as well because the sets are not sealed with plastic. But it doesn’t quite make sense for just a portion of the colors to be tampered with. I was able to find a forum where the Koh-I-Noor colored pencils were assigned new numbers in 2016-2017 but there was no information for their pastel pencils.

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