First of all, an introduction to both pencils. Polychromos are artist quality pencils from one of the world's largest and oldest manufacturer of art supplies, German company Faber-Castell. They are oil based and have fantastic lightfastness (will not discolour over time with exposure to light), and are regarded as one of the best quality coloured pencils on the market. Prismacolor Premier pencils are made in Mexico and are wax based, making them very soft with incredibly vibrant pigments. Each brand has it's pros and cons, so without further ado, let the battle commence!
DISCLAIMER: I bought both sets of pencils myself, so nothing about this review is biased (it never is anyway!) or influenced by anything else.
Polychromos come in several sized sets from single pencils to the full 120 collection. Each colour name is printed on the barrel in gold lettering and the entire pencil is lacquered in its lead colour. They look and feel very high quality. Below is a chart of all 120 colours currently available; notice that Polychromos lean towards darker shades of colour and there aren't too many light/pastel tones included.
Both pencils are exceedingly proficient at blending, but there are some very obvious differences. First of all, when using a lot of layers or burnishing Prismacolor are prone to developing 'wax bloom' over time, which is a milky film that appears on the colour after a while. It happens due to a layer of wax rising to the surface when exposed to air. Light swiping with a cloth or cotton wool can get rid of the bloom, and spraying with fixative can prevent it, but this can sometimes lift off pigment as well so it is a point to be noted.
I used two colours to achieve this blend, trying to use similar shades to give as close a comparison as I could. I've learnt that the Polys can take a battering when it comes to adding layers, whereas the Prismas become speckled with dark spots quite quickly. This is down to the wax binder in the pencil; too many coatings cause the wax to separate and look fuzzy. The Polys leave slightly noticeable lines but this is down to the technique used- if you scumble the strokes you have a much smoother finish. Overall I found it easier to see a gradient with the Polys than the Prismas, and the finished look is more pleasing to the eye.
When using light strokes Prismas leave a lot more white space than the Polys, so definitely need more layers to give a solid colour on the page (this also depends on the amount of tooth in the paper you're using). When it comes to hard pressure Prismas give the best result as they are so soft and creamy. They lay down very thick, so you're able to achieve full coverage quite quickly, whereas the Polys take more time building to full opacity.
With Polychromos the whole pencil feels stronger, weightier, which probably has something to do with the SV (secure-all) bonding. The whole length of the core is glued to the Cedar wood casing of the pencil, meaning the lead is strengthened throughout and can sharpen to a finer point. If the tip of a Polychromos pencil breaks, it is only the tip that is shattered, not the whole column of lead. The same cannot be said for Prismas, which unfortunately have a track record for splintering and fragmenting with ease. Apparently when Prismas used to be made in the US, the quality was much higher.
Guess what- even though Polychromos won my comparison fair and square, Prismacolor Premier will always be my absolute favourite pencil and the one I use the most because I love the effortless vibrancy and find them and quicker to use, which is ideal for the impatient colourist like me who just wants to get the page done and move onto the next!