Press Release - Lightfastness Standard for Colored Pencils



November 7, 2003
Contacts for information about CPSA and this standard:  
CPSA Public Relations Director:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Vera Curnow, Founder, 812-438-4300, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



In the late 1970’s, after years of testing, lightfastness standards were written for oils, watercolors, acrylics, and alkyds.  Since then, paints suitable for fine artwork (ie: will not fade over time) are marked with Lightfastness symbols I and II, providing artists the option of choosing materials that have been stringently tested for lightfastness.  In the early 1990’s, a standard for gouache was written.  Testing has just begun for a pastel and inkjet ink lightfastness standard.

In the early 1990’s, with the founding of the Colored Pencil Society of America, CPSA, and the increasing use of colored pencil for creating fine art, it became necessary to have a standard of lightfastness for this medium.  The impetus for a standard from artists and CPSA was overwhelming.

The ASTM process started ten years ago with a phone call to Vera Curnow, CPSA Founder, from Joy Turner Luke who is on the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) subcommittee.  Mentored by Ms. Luke, Rhonda Farfan, CPSA’s Vice President of Consumer Standards, began testing the lightfastness of colored pencil ten years ago using the Blue Wool References as controls.  Because of Ms. Farfan’s continuous involvement with lightfastness of the medium, she would be the CPSA representative to the subcommittee meetings, and has worked diligently with every aspect of this standard.

For research beginnings, CPSA thanks the following: National Center for Preservation Technology and Training and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation who funded James Martin's (Orion Analytical) research of the organic content of colored pencils - Ross Merrill of the National Gallery of Art who urged and helped Mark Gottsegen of the University of North Carolina toward the idea of the grant for lightfastness research - The Canadian Conservation Institute and National Artists' Equity who participated in early work.

Research began in the early 1990’s and has just culminated in 2003 in the writing of ASTM D6901 Standard Specification for Artists’ Colored Pencils.  Involved in the development of this standard were colored pencil manufacturers, specifically Bruynzeel/Royal Talens, Derwent, and Sanford Corporation.  Of these, two manufacturers developed lines of colored pencils that would meet a standard even before the standard was fully drafted.  Their products, Derwent Signature and Royal Talens Van Gogh, were researched using the same testing that would ultimately go into the standard.

Many interested factions were involved:  Consumers, artists of the Colored Pencil Society of America, collectors, Museum Conservators from the National Gallery of Art, the Getty, and the Canadian Art Institute, art supply retailers and wholesalers, colored pencil manufacturers and manufacturers of other art mediums also participated.
Major advantages of this new colored pencil lightfastness standard are:

  • Artists choosing lightfast colored pencils as their medium can now work with confidence in knowing that their art will not fade.  Public awareness of this fact will increase their artworks value and profitability.
  • Collectors are becoming increasingly aware of the archival aspects of their artworks.  Their interest is in the art’s lightfastness of medium, and the archival quality of the surface.  Colored pencil art now ranks high in longevity of the medium, which is the ultimate asset for the collector.
  • Museum Conservators search for methods to make artwork last through the ages.  As colored pencil is a viable fine art medium, it is imperative that ASTM D6901 addressed the issue of lightfastness.  Brilliant works created by contemporary masters using colored pencil will be safely preserved because materials used were in compliance with the standard.  This option is far better than salvaging a faded piece of work.
  • Prices for colored pencil art by renowned artists will command the same as for other mediums because of the advent of this lightfastness standard.
  • Retailer advantage lies in their ability to stock and sell quality higher-priced colored pencils that comply with ASTM D6901 to artists wanting their finished art to last.

The lightfastness standard is on to its next step.  Because ASTM D6901 is so recent, no colored pencil manufacturer has yet had time to officially comply with it, although the two companies mentioned prior have manufactured and tested pencils which will be able to comply when officially tested.  When companies do comply, colored pencils will be marked with Lightfastness I and II symbols, allowing artists to choose lightfast colors.

Complying with the standard is not mandatory.  Knowledgeable artists can make a difference and convince colored pencil manufacturers that their compliance with the ASTM D6901 standard will assure continued use of their product.  The standard is written and the advantage is in the artists’ court.  The quality of materials depends on how much effort the artist is willing to expend in contacting manufacturers requesting lightfast quality material.


Lightfastness Standard - D6901


Lightfastness Workbook


Lightfastness Information


Paper Making


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