Colored pencils are a basic necessity for any artist and it is almost how everyone started their artistic endeavors.
However, colored pencils for adults are a little different from colored pencils used by children. They can differ in terms of price, quality, softness, smoothness, durability, etc. So finding the right one is no easy task
In this article, we will go over how to choose the best colored pencils for you and where to buy them.
Different Types of Colored Pencils
Colored pencils are a crucial part of any artist’s sketching materials. But at first glance, it might be difficult to tell one pencil from another. To be honest, they pretty much look the same.
The main difference is on the inside. Colored pencils can be divided into either wax-based or oil-based based on the core. Despite their similar appearance, both types of pencils behave very differently on paper.
Wax colored pencils are generally softer and give better coverage since they are easily absorbed into the paper easily. On the flipside, since they are so soft they can easily break if you apply a little too much pressure. Additionally, if you apply a layer that is too thick, your drawing might be prone to wax bloom.
On the other hand, oil-based coloring pencils are rather hard and thus much more durable and break less often. However, to obtain the same lively colors you probably will have to apply some more pigment. It is possible to buy soft oil-based colored pencils, but you will have to be careful since they tend to smudge often.
As a rule of thumb, soft colored pencils are good for covering large areas and are more opaque but break easily. Hard colored pencils are better for drawing details and are more durable but are not as good for drawing large areas.
What To Look For In Colored Pencils?
Besides deciding on whether to use oil-based or wax-based pencils, there are many other factors to keep in the back of your mind.
The grade, color range, quality, and price are all important things to consider. Let’s look at the first three of them in more detail below.
Not all pencils are made the same. Most producers divide their products into two categories: student grade and artist grade. Although these two grades differ from each other in several ways, the main difference is the amount of pigment in the pencil.
The pigment is what gives the pencil its color. A higher amount of pigment will give more vibrant colors. Since student grade coloring pencils have a lower amount of pigment, it will be difficult to make intense color no matter how hard you push the pencil down on the paper.
Artist grade colored pencils, on the other hand, will be much easier to handle.
The first time buying colored pencils you are probably looking to buy an entire set with a wide range of different colors.
But don’t forget that same colors are used more than other colors. Green and blue shades are used way more than purple for example.
Before buying a full set, it might be useful to check if the producer also sells individuals pencils. This way you only have to buy the pencils you run out of on a case by case basis instead of having to buy the whole set again.
Many producers will offer a colored pencil set of a varying amount of different colors, ranging from 24 to over a hundred different colors.
A beginner might want to start out with a small to medium set of 36 to 72 pencils and try to make any missing color by blending the other ones. Although you can buy only the pencils that you need, it is normally cheaper to buy a set that covers the entire color spectrum.
Buying pencils from different brands is usually not a problem, as long as they are the same type.
— natosha miller (@airmonkey120) 25 November 2017
Best Colored Pencils
In the end, even the most comprehensive colored pencil comparison chart might not be able to tell you which are the best colored pencils for you.
Whether you decide to buy oil colored pencils or wax colored pencils, whether you decide to buy soft or hard colored pencils, it all comes down to preference.
If you are still not sure which ones to buy, below are a few high-quality colored pencils you can’t go wrong with.
Prismacolor offers small sets starting with only 48 pencils all the way to an extra big 150 different colored pencils. If the precise color you are looking for is not among the 150 pencils provided, you can easily make it yourself since Prismacolor pencils allow for good blending and easy shading.
Moreover, due to their hexagonal shape they are easier to handle compared to round pencils. Despite all their amazing features, they do tend to wear down pretty fast. So you will often have to sharpen them again, especially if you are drawing a lot of details.
Although they are oil based colored pencils, they are soft enough to allow for good layering while maintaining a high resistance to breaking and are easy to sharpen.
Sets with up to 120 different colors are sold and the medium to big sets include several metallic colored pencils.
If you can get used to their triangular shape they will be an excellent choice.
These are relatively thick colored pencils allowing you to apply a heavy layer of color and blend if necessary. Even with minimal effort, these pencils produce a vivid color but their thickness might make it difficult to fill in small areas.
Although Derwent pencils don’t break very easily, they do wear down pretty fast so keep your electric sharpener ready. The pigment can be changed into ink by applying a little water, so make sure to use the right type of paper.
Luminance (Caran d’ache)
True experts will tell you these are some of the best colored pencils you can possibly get. Everyone else will tell you these are some of the most expensive colored pencils they have ever seen before.
For their high price tag, the Luminance colored pencils offer the highest lightfastness and most intense colors amongst any of the other brands. This makes them great pencils for coloring books.
Although they are easy to blend due to their very soft tip, there is next to no smudging or smearing and wax bloom hardly ever occurs. Moreover, due to their thick core they don’t break often either.
Although their biggest set includes only 76 different coloring pencils, with some simple blending you can achieve most colors you need.