Best Oil Based Colored Pencils Overall
These pencils win because of their creamy texture and they have the highest lightfast rating of all the oil-based pencils.
Derwent Lightfast Colored Pencil Set of 100
I have researched and tested some of the best oil-based colored pencils and written brief reviews to compare the different brands side by side to see which ones are the best-colored pencils. The brands listed are not in any specific order but my top choices are at the top of this page.
Many of these oil-based colored pencil brands can create realistic-looking pieces of art and in some cases look almost like a photograph.
Being a mostly self-taught artist, I have only used oil-based color pencils. Those being the Faber Castell Polychromos 36 count set I have owned for many years. I have used some of the best pastels pencils extensively but not so much of late which can be found on my review page.
Learning how to use colored pencils takes patience and more time than wax-based pencils as you have to work in layers more often. Which will also require paper that is made specifically for colored pencils. I have reviewed some of the best paper for colored pencils and the best pencil sharpeners if you are interested.
The content in this article is designed to give you enough information for you to make an educated buying decision on the best oil-based pencils that fit your particular needs.
Best Oil Based Colored Pencils Review
My goal was to review as many oil-based pencil sets as I could find with verification of actually being oil-based.
Not all colored pencils are created equal considering what qualifies a colored pencil for being oil or wax-based is determined by the amount of wax and oil infused into the pencil’s core. The amount of one will outweigh the other. For example, if the core has more oil than wax, it is classified as an oil base.
Remember that most colored pencils have both oil and wax in the core. This is better explained in my Ultimate Guide to Oil-Based Colored Pencils.
Magicfly Colored Pencils
- 3mm Core
- Slim Round Barrel
- Artist Grade (see review below)
- Lightfastness (see review)
- Soft Core
- Open Stock Not Available
- Price Range: $10 to $30
Magicfly Colored Pencils 72 Set
It is hard to believe that these oil-based pencils can be bought for around $30 considering each pencil has some lightfastness. Usually, the lightfast rating reflects in the price of the oil pencils and I am not sure that I trust this manufacturer as other brands are also using this barrel design.
The packaging claims professional quality but at this price, I am skeptical and only recommend coloring projects that are not professional pieces you are looking to sell at a premium price.
The lightfast scale goes from 1 star to 5 stars but the manufacturer does not communicate how the scale works. I would guess that the more stars mean the better the rating.
You may want to create a sample swatch of each color and let them sit somewhere in the light to see what colors are fading the most to determine which pencil has the best lightfast rating if any.
These are made from recycled wood which probably explains the lower price.
One drawback is you can not buy open stock pencils as they are only available in sets.
Plenty of good reviews on color saturation saying the colors are vibrant but most are adult colorists as I did not see many artists using these except for sketching and preparing value scales.
That makes these great for adult coloring and not just for adults but the kids too as they are safe and non-toxic.
Derwent Lightfast Colored Pencils
- 8mm Round Barrel
- 4mm Core
- Artist / Professional Grade
- 100 Year Lightfastness In Museum Conditions
- Soft and Buttery Core
- Open Stock Available at dickblick.com
- Price Range: $4 to $400
Wooden box set of Derwent Lightfast Colored Pencils 100
Derwent is a well-trusted art supply manufacturer that has been in business for over a century.
Traditionally Derwent colored pencils are wax-based and if you have used any of them then you know blending was mediocre at best. Looks like Derwent has hit the mark with these.
This particular line of oil-based colored pencils is their new line of colored pencils and is an extremely lightfast pencil designed for professional artists who need their colors to last over time.
These comply with all lightfast standards and claim the color will last 100 years in museum conditions making these highly sought artist grade pencils.
Sets of 12, 24, 36, 72, and 100 are currently available with the smaller sets coming in metal tin cases.
These are not cheap but many great reviews put these oil-based colored pencils in the ranks of Faber Castell Polychromos colored pencils which are one of the most popular colored pencils today.
Though I do not own these yet, the research shows these oil-based pencils are highly blendable and the cores hold a nice point for getting fine details.
Koh-I-Noor Polycolor Colored Pencils
- Hexagonal Barrel
- 3.8mm Core
- Artist Grade
- Medium Lightfast Rating
- Hard Core
- Open Stock Not Available
- Price Range: $13 to $60
Koh-I-Noor Polycolor 72 Set
Koh-I-Noor is another popular brand that uses quality pigment and material for all their art equipment.
These come in tin cases that hold sets of 12, 24, 36, 48, and 72 oil-based pencils with the latter being the largest set offered. They used to have a larger set as I have seen reviews for a 144 count set. Not sure what happened or maybe those are special editions that only come around ever so often.
The pencils sharpen nicely to a very fine point that helps to create some intricate detail work. The harder core can be somewhat brittle and could break a sharp tip which can be frustrating and is somewhat unusual for oil-based colored pencils. Rumor has it that they may be changing their formula but don’t hold me to that. 🙂
On the upside, they are oil-based, which allows for more layering to build up your color to the desired saturation. That means there is no reason to add much pressure until your final stages of burnishing which can be done with a blunt point to avoid chipping or better yet a colorless blender.
Blick has these pencils listed as colored drawing pencils which I think suits these pencils nicely since the hard-core helps with getting your initial sketch down lightly. The hardness of the lead feels very similar to graphite pencils when sketching, unlike wax-based colored pencils which can be very soft.
Brutfuner Colored Pencils
- 7.2mm Square Barrel
- 3.3mm Core
- Amateur Grade
- No Lightfast Rating
- Soft Core
- Open Stock Not Available
- Price $16 to $27
Brutfuner Colored Pencils 120 Set
Being one of the most affordable sets and having the most pencils makes these pencils a good choice for a colorist on a budget. These are very comparable to the Magicfly 72 colored pencil set above, except there is no lightfast rating.
I heard there is a set of 72 in this square barrel-style but I was unable to confirm that claim as I could not find them on Amazon or any reviews on them.
The performance of these colored pencils is very good as they are soft and blend very well with an oil-based colored pencil.
The square barrel could be an issue for some people but one thing good about it is they will not roll around on the table or desk.
Sharpening on the other hand is a negative with these for the first sharpening and you need to have an adjustable or larger hole size to fit the pencil. Once the pencils are sharpened though, they should sharpen as usual since the square corners will already be rounded.
Since lightfastness is an issue where I could only recommend these colored pencils for coloring but don’t be fooled by my recommendation as these produce a professional look when used on the right paper and are perfect for coloring books.
Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor Colored Pencils
- 7.4mm Round Barrel
- 4mm Core
- Intermediate to Professional Grade
- Medium Lightfastness
- Medium Soft Core
- Open Stock Available
- Price $15 to $160
Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor Colored Pencils 105 Set with Accessories
This is not just another set of regular colored pencils but another high-quality oil based colored pencil with a lot of pigment in its core that lays down richly saturated colors. I suspect these will last longer over time than many other brands of oil-based colored pencils since the core is larger.
Everything about these pencils says it is best for blending and layering as the core is a medium to soft firmness and the ability to keep layering the colors is more apparent when using these colored pencils which helps to create a more vibrant color.
The 72 set comes with a colorless blender which helps to set these pencils apart. The larger set in the picture above comes with a kneaded eraser, 2 paper wipes, a sandpaper block, a knife, and a handheld pencil sharpener. Both sets have a nicer color range so picking the right pencil for the job should be a no-brainer.
I was unable to find this set on Blick but it was available on Amazon at the time of this review.
The middle-of-the-road price point makes this a good value and a better lightfast choice if you are looking to create art for customers that will last over time.
Schpirerr Farben Colored Pencils
- 7.3mm Round Barrel
- 3.3mm Core
- Intermediate Grade
- No Lightfast Information
- Soft Core
- No Open Stock
- Price $35 to $48
Schpirerr Farben 96 Set
There are only 2 different sets available in this brand of oil-based colored pencils. They are 72 and 96. I was unable to find any information on the lightfastness but that does not mean they are not.
I thought these would be the best budget pencil on this list but the fact of no lightfast rating prevented these from making the cut. The price suggests that these are not lightfast.
The core is full of pigment and lays down super smooth and what I found to be unusual was the number of layers that can be put down with such a soft-core pencil is quite amazing. Super vibrant colors that can blend wonderfully.
One drawback to the smaller core being so soft is the pencils wear down fairly quickly and to pour salt into the wound you can’t buy replacement pencils without buying a set. At least they are affordable. 🙂
They sharpen to a point without leaving hardly any dust when laying down the colors plus they erase quite nicely.
Due to the affordable price and the blending and layering quality, these oil-based colored pencils are perfect for beginners who want to learn colored pencil techniques with an oil pencil.
Faber Castell Polychromos Colored Pencils
- 8mm Round Barrel
- 3.8mm Core
- Professional Artist Grade
- Large Color Range
- Good Lightfast Rating
- Medium Hard Core
- Open Stock Available
- Price $2.50 to $420
Faber Castell Polychromos 120 Wooden Box Set
These are the most popular pencils preferred by professionals as they are one of the most trusted brands and are considered some of the best oil-based colored pencils money can buy. These are not to be confused with regular colored pencils as they are not cheap.
You don’t have to be a pro to enjoy these because this is a super versatile pencil and can be used for coloring books to drawing provided you can afford the price tag.
Although these have a harder core which allows them to sharpen nicely, they also blend well to have such a firm core. You can expect your artwork to withstand the tests of time although some colors are not as lightfast as others and are not considered to be student-grade pencils.
You can expect these pencils to give you plenty of hours of coloring since the core is thick. The hardness accepts a very sharp point that lasts a decent amount of time.
If there is one thing you should take away relating to these colored pencils is that they require a lot of learning to use correctly. Working in light layers is the best way to start out and slowly building up your color saturation will give you the best results.
There is one thing concerning the white Faber Castell Polychromos pencil and that is it is hard and fails to work as a good highlight pencil when applied over darker colors. Use a softer colored pencil for this to achieve the best results such as Caran D’ Ache or even the Prismacolors which are wax-based colored pencils but still work quite well.
Best Oil Based Colored Pencils Facts
Below you will find some interesting facts about oil-based colored pencils that hopefully will give you some helpful insights into this type of colored pencil.
Please note that results will vary by each colored pencil brand as each manufacturer uses different formulas in the making of their colored pencils.
How to best use oil-based colored pencils?
I have found that with the Faber Castell Polychromos pencils it is best to keep a sharp point and start working in layers using a gentle touch. As you build the layers the saturation of colors will get deeper and the graininess of the paper will become less apparent.
What are Oil-Based Colored Pencils?
A common misconception is that oil-based colored pencil cores are all oil. My research has proven this to be untrue. The best way to describe oil-colored pencils is to understand that they all have oil and wax in the core. Here is a video on how colored pencils are made if you are curious.
What makes an oil pencil relates completely to the ratio of oil versus wax. More oil means oil-based and vice versa. All the best brands of colored pencils go about creating their cores using formulas that vary from brand to brand. Get more information with my Ultimate Guide to Oil-Based Colored Pencils.
Can I Get Wax-bloom from oil-Based Colored Pencils?
I read all the time that the best thing about oil-based colored pencils is there is no wax bloom but this may not be an entirely correct statement. Wax bloom is a waxy buildup that comes to the surface of many wax-based colored pencils over time but can occur with oil pencils as well. It all depends on the ratio of wax binder versus oil binder in the core of the pencil.
It may still be possible that wax bloom would occur but the chances of wax blooming with an oil-based pencil are less likely and comes down to the amount of wax used in the making of the pencil and how many layers are used.
Are Wax-Based Pencils or Oil Colored pencils Better?
I do not believe one is better than the other as both types of colored pencils can have large amounts of rich pigments in the core for more vibrant colors and both can also be found with good lightfast ratings as well.
One key difference is student grade pencils seem to be more wax-based than the professional-grade pencil and in some cases can create a more vibrant color.
Both types of pencils work well with adult coloring books which are very popular today.
One thing that stands out to me is that oil-based colored pencils seem to allow for more layers to be applied than wax-based pencils. This may perhaps make oil pencils best for layering in my opinion.
Are wax or Oil Based Colored pencils Best for Realistic Drawing?
As an artist, I can’t assume to know what will work best for you with your colored pencil art but can only go with my own experience.
I have found that oil-colored pencils can produce super-realistic effects and this is in part due to the ability to sharpen to a fine point which helps with finer detail.
I have also found that a rich color saturation can be found in wax-based colored pencils.
Another key element is the ability to lay down multiple layers with the professional grades giving you the ability to build up your drawing just like an oil painting.
Here is a video that demonstrates how oil-based colored pencils can be best for realistic drawing.
My Opinion on the Best Oil-Based Colored Pencils
As many variables go into the making of colored pencils whether wax or oil-based. What is important is the pigment, binders, durability, rich color saturation and the artist’s preference determines the best oil-based pencil.
Just keep in mind that there are plenty of other oil-based pencils other than the ones in this review.
In my humble opinion, the Derwent Lightfast Colored pencils hit all the marks. These are a fairly new product line produced by Derwent and created with plenty of feedback from veteran artists making these great if you are looking for artist-grade pencils.
I hope this article was helpful and gave you insight into the fantastic world of oil-based colored pencils.