Best Colored Pencils For Artists
Faber Castell Polychromos Colored Pencils
These are professional colored pencils and are also oil-based colored pencils(ultimate guide) which are great for fine details as they will hold a sharper point. The wooden case allows for easy organization of your pencils and makes it easier to find the colors you need.
This set of Faber Castell Polychromos pencils is their largest and is quite pricey. Do not worry though as you can get anything from a single pencil all the way up to this fabulous wooden box set of 120 colored pencils.
On this page, you will find reviews on some of the best-colored pencils being used by beginners and professional artists. These are reviews on some oil-based and wax-based colored pencils. If you are looking for all the best oil-based colored pencils then feel free to click the text for some of the top brands reviewed.
To help ensure my reviews and information are accurate, I spend hours reading reviews and watching videos from people that actually have the product. Combined with years of personal experience my goal is to help you find the colored pencil that will serve you for years to come.
There is also a buyer’s guide toward the end of this article that gives some important facts that will also help you to save some money along the way.
If you would like to see a couple of the best colored pencils in action then you are welcome to check out my How To Draw With Colored Pencils Lesson. Where I combine Faber Castell colored pencils and Derwent watercolor pencils to create a fairly realistic-looking bluebird.
Having spent a lot of time using colored pencils I did not know all the science behind the creation of a colored pencil. This made my research more fun and I hope the reviews below will help in your decision to buy the best colored pencils for your needs.
Colored Pencils Review
Here are just a few of the most popular colored pencil sets that are highly recommended by people that have bought and are using these products. If you are looking for a pastel-colored pencil then check out my reviews on 6 of the best pastel pencils.
I own and use the Faber Castell, Prismacolor, and Crayola brands of color pencils which made it much easier to lay out the information in these short reviews. But these are not all the colored pencils for artists on the market.
As an affiliate, I may earn an affiliate commission on qualifying products but this does not affect the price in any way except for on occasion I can help you to save money with discounts and promo codes.
“Colored Pencils for Artists”
- Highly rated
- Great for all coloring projects
- Good blending
- Thicker lead
- Smaller sets
- Artist’s Choice
- Open stock is available
- More expensive pencils
Faber Castell Polychromos is considered one of the best pencils for artists including myself. These pencils should be a part of your art supplies if you produce artist-quality work as they are designed for artists.
This set of colored pencils is light-fast which makes the color you lay down more resistant to fading making this one of the best-colored pencil sets to have. These are oil-based colored pencils, that seem to be more stable and less chippy while still allowing for blending and layering.
The leads of these pencils are actually bonded to the inside of the barrel to help prevent breaking.
This is the most preferred colored pencil for many professional and intermediate artists. Can be a little more expensive but worth it in the long run.
Smaller sets are more budget-friendly and provide a way to test this product. Individual pencils can be bought to replace the ones you use the most. Faber-Castell brand also has watercolor pencils also called water-soluble pencils.
“Colored Pencils For Adult Coloring Books”
- Easier to blend and layer
- Soft wax but durable core
- Highly Rated
- Ranks high for beginners looking for quality
- More affordable
- Variety of Sets to choose from
- Richly saturated pigments
- Resists Fading
- The soft core could lead to shorter life
Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils have positive reviews from customers and are also a top pick among artists who consider being soft colored pencils. Good all-around colored pencil set made with high-quality pigments and soft leads that produce some really vibrant colors.
These have a waxier core which makes blending a dream and creates some beautiful and vibrant colors but could have a shorter lifespan.
Prismacolor pencils are an excellent choice for any coloring project and suit anyone who likes to color from beginner to professional. I would still consider adding to my art supplies even though they are not as lightfast as Faber Castell.
These were so close to being our recommended set of colored pencils because they were very comparable to the Faber Castell These were so close to being our recommended set of colored pencils because they were very comparable to the Faber Castell reviewed above. The biggest difference is that Prismacolor pencils have a soft lead and have a waxier core but are considered one of the most popular colored pencil brands on the market.
Excellent choice for beginners because of affordability but not that much cheaper. This is another good set of soft pencils for artists but can have wax bloom over time.
“Colored Pencils For Beginners”
- Waxier core for better blending
- Glides over paper smoothly
- Good Value
- Beginners and Intermediates
- 72 colors
- Metal Case
- Shorter pencil life
- Less variety to choose from
These coloring pencils are a good option for all people because of the dense wax core but can lead to wax bloom. Arteza colored pencils sharpen up easier and lay down nice smooth colors that work well for colored pencil art.
Well-rounded colored pencils for experienced or beginning artists. This set also comes with a nice double-hinged tin making it more portable.
Affordability makes Arteza a good choice for those on a budget. There are some smaller sets to choose from for testing before buying a larger set. Which I highly recommend.
The quality of these pencils is pretty good and the brand is well known. There was plenty of positive feedback on these coloring pencils also.
“Colored Pencils For Students”
- Oil Based
- Firm Core
- Great Gift
- High positive review rating
- Can build up pigment when layering
- Hard to blend
- Not as light-fast
This set had a few mixed reviews but could be the best for students and art enthusiasts who are on a budget.
Comes in a nice metal case with 3 trays that fit in tightly, helping to secure the pencils for safer transport.
This set has a nice variety of colors from earth tones to flesh tones.
This could still be a good buy for the money. A good choice for the younger to beginner range. The best use is general coloring in books and school projects. Unlike Prismacolor colored pencils, you do not have to worry about wax bloom as they are oil-based.
There are positive reviews on this set but some of the colors could appear to be very similar or duplicates. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it saves you from having to buy another pencil.
“Colored Pencils For Kids”
- Safe and non-toxic
- Excellent gift for kids and coloring enthusiasts alike.
- Great for coloring books
- Soft core
- Not Light-fast
This is Crayola’s best set of colored pencils and I highly recommend these for kids and students to help develop their skills but they are also good for adult coloring.
Probably one of the best budget pencils on the market while feeling like an artist-quality colored pencil when used.
As these are not considered a very light-fast set of pencils and wax bloom can occur. I do not recommend them for professional pieces you plan on selling.
They do layer well but I would not go more than just a couple of layers as the color will fill the tooth of the paper fairly quickly due to them being wax based colored pencils.
Crayola brings back memories of childhood and is a thoughtful gift for anyone who likes to color.
The more you know the better it will be for you when buying your first set of colored pencils. Below I try to lay out some important factors you should take note of when buying a set of colored pencils.
Prices may vary from one colored pencil brand to another and can mess with your ability to buy higher-end products.
A good rule of thumb is to have a clear amount you are willing to spend and stick to your numbers. It is easy to pay too much for some pencils that are of lower quality.
There are smaller kits that help when choosing the best-colored pencil that suits you. This helps to save some money so you can test at a more affordable price. A good set can be found around the 30-dollar price range but can go up to 200 dollars or more.
Different Types of Colored Pencils
There are 2 main types of colored pencils. One is made for longevity while the other is more for enthusiasts and adult coloring. Both require different types of paper for colored pencils to be used more effectively.
Artist Grade Pencils
Artist-grade colored pencils have a quality pigment and are more fade-resistant making them high-quality pencils.
Usually, oil-based pencils are used for fine detail as they can be sharpened to a fine point. A softcore helps when blending and softening lines and may be better suited for adult coloring books. Breaking of the lead can occur if you are applying darker lines and shading.
One good way to decide on which pencil might be best is to look at the lightfast rating which is considered to be higher quality pencils. Many brands of colored pencils are hard to find a rating for.
The purest form of a colored pencil when it comes to pigment versus bonding agent is in pastel pencils. The best way to sharpen these pencils is with a razor blade or a handheld pencil sharpener. Fine-grit sandpaper will refine the tip of the lead for a chisel or finer point.
These are of a harder core and have more bonding agents than pigment. Causing them to be more affected by the sun and light in general. Colors can fade and be less vibrant over a shorter period of time.
Student-grade pencils are used to learn colored pencil skills and have a harder lead which can be easier to erase. This also helps when making corrections and adjustments to your artwork but you need to apply more pressure for better saturation of colors.
There is a large difference between artist-grade pencils and student-grade pencils. It all comes down to quality and the artists’ specific needs. Professional artists need their work to last over time. While someone coloring in a coloring book might not even give it a second thought.
Below you will find some interesting facts that can help you decide on the best set of pencils to buy.
Light Fast Rating
The lightfast rating is mainly the amount of pigment used in the core of the pencil versus how much binding agent is used to hold that pigment together. The higher the rating equals the longer the colors will look vibrant and fresh over time as light can cause artwork to fade given enough time.
Many pencils for artists have this rating listed either on the pencil barrel or the packaging and are usually a huge factor in the price of the pencil. Some ratings can be found online.
A good rule of thumb here to help save you some money is that if you are using them in coloring books then a lesser rating might be a better option as they are more affordable. But on the flip side if you want your art pieces to stand up to the tests of time you may want a higher-rated pencil. Especially if you are selling your artwork since this will pull a premium price for your work.
Layering and Wax-bloom
When using different layers of color you might start to notice a milky film start to form. This is called wax bloom and occurs with wax-based colored pencils.
This is a waxy or oily build-up and can diminish the vibrancy of the color. This is the binding agent actually building upon the paper and is more noticeable with more layers.
The best way to try to minimize this is to use a good lightfast colored pencil.
There are fixative sprays that can help for a short time but I don’t recommend them on colored pencil.
Core or Lead Size
The size of the core can be a determining factor when purchasing a new set of colored pencils. The larger diameter core will usually mean the pencil will last longer. Most colored pencils are around 3 to 4mm in diameter.
The paper you use can also affect the longevity of your pencils. For example, a more textured paper will wear down the tip faster but will hold more layers and a smoother paper will save on your pencil lead but will hold fewer layers.
Blending with colored pencils
Blending is important in all aspects of drawing and coloring. The art of blending is blurring sharp lines into softer tones to help give objects texture and value. There are no lines separating objects in space, only meeting points of color, textures, and tones.
One important point I would like to mention here is that oil-based colored pencils will layer better than wax-based as the core is softer.
When blending always start with a sharp pencil and rotate the pencil to keep a sharp tip for a longer period of time.
A light, medium and dark color should be used to show shades and light sources.
Start with the lighter colors using gentle pressure slowly moving toward your shadow areas.
Work in layers from light to dark making sure your colors are overlapping then start applying more pressure in the shades and less pressure in the lighter areas.
You can use your lighter color to blend as well.
Softening lines when shading and showing light sources gives depth. This helps with a more realistic-looking piece of art.
Keeping A Sharp Point
A sharp pencil will get into the tooth of the paper better.
Some softer core colored pencils need a gentle touch when sharpening. Using a higher grit sandpaper strip to shape the tip is a good way to keep a sharp pencil or create a chisel tip, especially on soft pencils. Remember the finer the point the easier it is to break.
Some lower-quality brands may even break while sharpening. Electric sharpeners are nice but you may find that the lead still needs fine-tuning. There are some designed for colored pencils.
An old-fashioned handheld does a pretty good job when combined with fine sandpaper to refine your tips and is a more portable option to boot. For more information, read my best pencil sharpeners for colored pencils review and guide.
Frequently Asked Questions
The following is a list of frequently asked questions I noticed while doing the research online.
What are the Top Colored Pencils?
I guess that depends on who you ask. There is plenty of controversy over what the best-colored pencil is. The best pencils are the expertise of the brand and the artist’s preference combined.
Ultimately, you will decide which colored pencil is the best fit for you. I can only present the facts as I see them in order to help speed up the process of choosing a quality colored pencil.
Which Colored Pencil Sets are Best for Beginners?
Crayola colored pencils are good for a first set but you may find that in order to blend your colors more pressure is needed to get the pigment into the tooth of the paper.
I still recommend an artist-grade colored pencil set for beginners because when starting out you really need to see what a softer core color pencil feels like and how it reacts to the paper.
Will the Colors Fade?
I believe that over time the vibrancy of the color can be lost on all colored pencils. The key factors here are time and pigment content in the pencil core.
More pigment means your colors will look fresh for a longer period of time. The opposite would be true if the pencil core has a higher amount of binding agent. Some colors can be more prone to fading than other colors.
Can I use a Fixative Spray on Colored Pencils?
The answer is yes. This type of fixative comes in a spray can and is used for preserving your colors. In some cases, they can be used to layer colors but this tactic is more commonly practiced in the pastel world.
All these products were chosen based on high positive reviews from real customers. Designed to help you make the best choice for your specific needs. I tried to choose the pencils with the most positive customer feedback.
The decision was not an easy one but in the end, the experience became the major deciding point. Plus the number of positive reviews from other users. I have tried both Prismacolor Premier colored pencils(Wax Based) and Faber Castell colored pencils (Oil Based). They are both quality colored pencils that you can’t go wrong with.
I like Faber Castell this is a very popular brand and has been my go-to pencil for quite a number of years. I hope this article was helpful and thank you for reading it.