Colored pencils are usually associated with children and it’s not hard to see why. Most of us have had an experience with them but it doesn’t mean we have to stop just because we are all grown up. Coloring is not just for kids. In fact, in recent years, even adults have started using them, bringing back joyful childhood memories in the process. Besides, colored pencils are important even in the art world. It is true one can discover new coloring techniques with colored pencils. We have seen celebrated artists use the best colored pencils to create world-class artwork.
Well, in case you are planning to start coloring, then you have no choice but to get the best quality colored pencils. The good news is that there is a great diversity of options out there but knowing which pencils to choose can sometimes be a little difficult.
However, there is no need to worry. As long as you take your time, it should be easy to find high-quality pencils in the market that will help you hone your skills. We are also going to help you with the search. First, we will give you a simple buyer’s guide on colored pencils and also highlight some of the products we believe are leading the way in terms of quality.
How to Distinguish Between High-Quality Pencils and the Rest
Quality colored pencils can be differentiated from the rest in the market using a number of factors. But, of course, one of the most important things is the color. Artist-grade pencils tend to offer better color quality than products designed for students.
In essence, such pencils will come with better hues and more vibrant colors once they are used on paper. It is also advisable to avoid dull and pale tones when buying the best colored pencils for black paper. Such pencils can sometimes lack enough color quality to produce vibrant pigments.
You may also want to check how the pencil glides into the paper. High-quality pencils will move effortlessly as you drag them across the paper. They will also create an even shade of color as they move around the surface. This is probably because high-end pencils are oil-based as opposed to wax-based. Oil is flexible and can glide over any surface with ease.
Wax, on the other hand, is brittle so you have to really press the pencil on the paper to get the best quality color. Additionally, wax doesn’t blend easily with colors. That’s why most wax-based pencils will have lower color quality compared to their oil-based counterparts. (Yes, pencils do need sharpening! Read our review of the best pencil sharpener)
PLAN - PRICE
START UP - $ 29
Derwent Colored Pencils, WaterColour, Water Color Pencils, Drawing, Art, Wooden Box, 72 Count (32891)
BUSINESS - $ 49
Prismacolor 3599TN Premier Soft Core 72 Colored Pencils, Perfect for Layering, Blending and Shading
ADVANCED - $ 99
Caran d'Ache Pablo Colored Pencil Set Of 120 Metal Box (666.420), Ideal for Shading, Exceptional Covering Power
ADVANCED - $ 99
Caran D'ache Luminance Colored Pencil Set of 40 (6901.740), High lightfastness, Can be Blended & Layered for Effects
ADVANCED - $ 99
Stabilo CarbOthello Pastel Pencil, 60-Color Set, Light-proof, Non-Toxic, Break-Resistant, Blendable & Partially Soluble
Wax vs. Oil vs. Water-Based Pencils
As we have already hinted above, colored pencils come in three broad categories. We have already talked about oil-based and wax-based options. Let’s add the category of water-based colored pencils as well.
So, the question is what is the best option out of these three? Well, it depends on what you prefer but some color pencils are definitely better than others.
For instance, wax-based pencils are actually softer compared to water-based ones. This means they are able to provide color intensity and better coverage. However, wax-based color pencils tend to break easily and will not last for long.
Besides, if you press too heavily on the paper, you may end up getting a wax bloom. This is basically a coat of powdered layer on the surface of the paper that can negatively affect the vibrancy and intensity of colors.
On the other end, oil-based coloring pencils are generally harder compared to wax and water-based ones. They will, therefore, last longer and are less likely to break even when pressed hard on the surface. The great thing about oil-based coloring pencils is the fact that you actually don’t need to apply a lot of pigment to get the best color intensity.
Water-based coloring pencils are not bad either. However, even though they offer better control over the coloring texture, if you have the option of using wax or oil then you should consider them first before going to water. Oil-based products, in particular, are rated as some of the best colored pencils out there.
Soft vs. Hard Pencils
You will also get the chance to choose between hard or soft color pencils and of course professional or student grade options. If you want to create broad opaque strokes, you will be better off going for soft pencils that offer creamy colors. Harder pencils tend to work very well in detailing but may not cover too many large areas.
In addition to this, manufacturers these days make two broad grades of coloring pencils. You can either go for a student grade option or a professional grade.
Student grade pencils tend to cost less but you will be getting a lower pigment to binder ratio. Professional grade pencils will cost relatively more no doubt. But they will offer better color intensity. Student grade options are the best colored pencils for beginners.
Things to Look for When Shopping for the Best Colored Pencils
Choosing the right coloring pencils takes a little bit more time than what most people expect. But there are certain important factors you will need to keep in mind before deciding which one to buy.
Here are some of these factors:
The vibrancy of colors is a crucial factor that will define the kind of image quality you get with coloring pencils. Vibrancy refers to how lively the colors are. Some pencils will need you to make additional layers or strokes just to hit the required color vibrancy.
Others do not require too many strokes. It’s often easier to work with the latter, especially if you don’t want to spend too much time and effort enhancing the image quality.
Colored pencils are of course bought in sets. In that case, it is important to consider the variety of colors or shades available in each set. Many manufacturers tend to do well in providing as much variety as possible.
You will notice that some pencil sets may offer up to 8 colors while others could give you up to 48 color options. As a rule of thumb, it is always better to have a bigger diversity of colors if you want the best colored pencils for realistic drawing.
This allows you to be more versatile. Even though pencil sets that offer a better color diversity will cost more, they are going to be worth it in the long run.
Your regular pencils use graphite to make the lead but colored pencils are actually different. The lead in a colored pencil is made using a combination of binders and pigments. A majority of coloring pencils in the market tends to have a hard lead.
This is actually not bad, especially for artists that love heavy strokes. Hard leads are also not going to break easily so even if you are a beginner, you can press the pencils hard on the paper without any fear.
Despite this, you can still get the best colored pencils with softer leads. They are perfectly suited for professionals with light hands. However, you need to be very careful not to break them every time you use them.
Colored pencils are also available in a wide variety of sizes as well. The size will determine how long the pencils will last. As a professional artist, you may want to go for regular-sized pencils. They will last relatively longer compared to short ones. They will also offer more value for money. However, some people prefer shorter pencils simply because they are easy to hold and use.
The binder is basically the solution that keeps the color pigments in the pencil together. Three broad categories of binders are used in most coloring pencils. You can either go for oil, wax, or water-based binders.
Wax binders tend to be softer while oil ones are harder. Soft binders don’t need hard strokes to produce the required color intensity. On the other hand, hard binders don’t break easily and will last for a long time.
The overall quality will also have a huge effect on the kind of coloring experience you have with pencils. Poorly manufactured products will not last for long. They will always break every time you use them. This can be very annoying. In case you want longevity and quality, you have no choice but to invest in the best colored pencils for coloring books.
Established brands in the market with a track record of quality and reliable reviews should be the perfect place to start. Always inspect the sets before you start using them so you can ensure they are not broken. If there is any damage on any of the pencils, return the entire set and get refunded or order a new shipment.
Best Colored Pencils Sets in the World
Well, now that you have a clear understanding of what you need to look for in the best colored pencils for portraits, it’s now time to take a look at some of the best products on the market. Keep in mind that the right set makes it easy to learn how to color with colored pencils professionally.
As we have already noted above, colored pencils are available in a huge variety. Knowing what to choose and what not to is not always the easiest thing. The good news is that we have done some research for you. We have looked at some of the major pencils in the market and narrowed them down to just ten.
Here is our full list of the top ten coloring pencils including their features, pros, and cons.
1 – Derwent Artist Watercolor Colored Pencils Review
Derwent Colored Pencils are one of the more popular options in the market right and for good reasons. First, they are very easy to sharpen. They are also break-resistant, making them a perfect choice for long-term use.
The pencils feature a 3.4mm core built inside a hexagonal barrel for easy grip and precision drawing. Derwent is a major brand popular with professional artists and people looking for the best colored pencils. It has a track record of producing high-quality coloring pencils so you can be sure you are buying into a great brand.
You will also be getting 48 different colors in each set. The pencils are encased in a beautiful and highly durable wooden case. You can use them wet or dry so they can work for both painting and drawing.
The Derwent Colored Pencils also allow you to customize colors using water. Just add water to the pigments and make the perfect watercolor washes. The pigment in the pencil is not permanent. You can wash it off and start again if needed even if the paint has already dried.
It is also advisable to combine the Derwent Colored Pencils with other Derwent products for the best results. The Derwent canvas, water brush, paper pads, and technique brushes should come handy.
Trusted brand with years of experience in the market
Offers vibrant rich colors
The lead’s texture can be customized by mixing it with a blend of colors
Hard lead that can last long without breaking
The wood around the pencils is a bit rough for some people
2 – Prismacolor 3599TN Premier Soft Core 72 Colored Pencils – (One of the Best Colored Pencil Brands)
In case you are one of those people who love soft wax colored pencils, then you have to consider the Prismacolor 3599TN. It’s one of the best color pencil brands. The pencils are silky smooth and come with a great variety of color choices as well.
You will get outstanding blending. Although we have seen a few complaints about breakage and lead shattering online, these are minor compared to the array of benefits you get with these pencils. It is one of the best brand colored pencils for an artist.
Besides, Prismacolor 3599TN pencils are also affordable. They are designed to offer high-end features at a smaller fee so it’s a great bargain for everyone. The pencils feature a 5mm core, surrounded by an 8mm hexagonal barrel.
One single package can have as many as 72 pencils, each with a different color. This kind of versatility in color choices means that you can draw or paint anything using these pencils. They will simply open up your creativity to new heights.
Outstanding variety of colors for great versatility
Silk smooth wax
Produces vibrant and vivid images
Up to 72 pencils in one set
Some users have complained about breakages and lead shattering
3 – Caran d’Ache Pablo Colored Pencil Set – (Water-Resistant & Offers Excellent Covering Power)
There are a number of things that distinguish the Caran d’Ache Pablo Colored Pencil Set from many other brands out there. First of all, the pencils have one of the highest lightfastness ratings. This means that they are able to produce high-quality colors without fading.
The pencils can also be easily layered and blended to produce solid hues and rich images on paper. The diversity of colors is also outstanding. Each set of the Caran d’Ache Pablo Colored Pencil Set comes with 120 differently colored pencils. It is probably one of the best color diversities in the market right now.
We also loved that the pencils are water-resistant. They are housed inside a strong and sturdy metal casing that protects them from any possible damage.
The Caran d’Ache Pablo Colored Pencil Set is a perfect novelty item that can be given as a gift to someone who loves to paint or draw. It’s also one of the best colored pencils for professional artists.
Comes with up to 120 different color options
High light-fastness rating
The pigments are UV resistant to prevent fading
Made in Switzerland under very high standards
Can be layered and blended easily to produce stunning effects
Costs relatively more compared to other brands out there
4 – Caran D’ache Luminance Colored Pencil Set – (Good for Blending and Layering to Create Various Effects)
The Caran D’ache Luminance Colored Pencil Set is designed to deliver superior quality for professional painters. The set comes with 40 different pieces and has one of the highest lightfastness ratings in the market.
The lead is smooth and each shade has actually been formulated using soft and finely ground pigments. The pigments are also pure offer one of the best color intensities.
The colors can be blended, burnished, and even layered on any surface that you want. However, this shouldn’t be a surprise. If anything, Caran D’ache Luminance Colored Pencils are actually known for their ability to blend.
In case you are looking for a smaller color set that won’t cost you a lot of money, then this is probably the best option to go for.
One of the highest light-fastness ratings in the market
Easy to blend, layer, and burnish the colors
More affordable than other options in the market
Pure high-intensity UV resistant pigment
Others have noted that the texture can be very grainy
5 – Stabilo CarbOthello Pastel Pencil
A lot of people who have had the chance to use the Stabilo CarbOthello Pastel Pencils will love the fact that they are delightfully chalky. But they are not too chalky to leave a lot of powder residue on the paper.
The pencils are also rich in color and will deliver high-intensity pigmentation anytime. You will be happy to know that the Stabilo CarbOthello Pastel Pencils are easy to layer. Each set comes with 60 pieces of different colors. This kind of color diversity is remarkable, especially for users that love to experiment with different pigments.
The Stabilo CarbOthello Pastel Pencils have a good rating on Amazon. It looks like a lot of people using them have been extremely happy with the quality.
Very good color variety
Rich and intense pigments
Chalky in a delightful way
High ratings on Amazon
The casing is a little brittle
6 – Prismacolor Premier Art Stix Woodless Colored Pencils – (Best Colored Pencils for Professional Artists)
The Prismacolor Premier Art Stix Woodless Colored Pencils are designed to help you lay thick and rich blends of color in an instant.
These creamy colored pencils feature 36 pieces in one set. Each piece comes with a supple lead and a durable wooden casing. The pencils are also perfect for blending and the good news is that they actually don’t need any kind of sharpening.
The pigments in the Prismacolor Premier Art Stix Woodless Colored Pencils are of unparalleled quality. They can be used straight out of the box as well and will require very little maintenance in the long run.
Whether you are looking for simplicity or class delivered at an affordable price, the Prismacolor Premier Art Stix Woodless Colored Pencils will deliver great value for everybody. They are some of the best cheap colored pencils.
Comes with a soft core for easy shading and blending
Very good lightfast rating
Thick core, measuring up to 25 inches in diameter for expansive coverage
Great diversity of vibrant colors as well
Doesn’t require sharpening and can be used right out of the box
Some users have complained that the erasers provided with the pencils do not work well
7 – Colore Watercolor Pencils – (Excellent Water Soluble Colored Pencils For Professionals & Art Students)
The Colore Watercolor Pencils are designed to deliver extensive color variety. The pencils are also ideal for both dry and wet creations. We also liked that they are professional grade. This allows you to develop rich and versatile creations with bold and vibrant color effects.
The Colore Watercolor Pencils are made using conventional watercolors that feature very high pigment content. The set also comes with a total of 72 differently colored pencils. This should be enough for any type of drawings that you may have in mind.
Besides, each pencil is already pre-sharpened so you can use them right out of the box if you want to. The Colore Watercolor Pencils are seen as the perfect alternative to wax pencils in the market. The thick break-resistant core measures 3.4 mm in diameter to allow for expansive coverage as well.
The pencils are also easier to handle and you can use them to develop intense colors. There is no doubt the product ranks high among some of the best-colored pencils out there.
Available in 72 different colors
Comes with thick break-resistant lead
Offers rich and intense colors
Very easy to hold especially for precision coloring
Some users have complained that the casing is a little brittle
8 – Staedtler Ergosoft Colored Pencils, Set of 24 Colors
The Staedtler Ergosoft Colored Pencils may not offer the highest diversity of colors out there but they are definitely worth your time. A single set comes with 24 different pencils, each with its own colors.
What we love most about the product, however, is the fact that it’s actually easy to layer. In addition to this, the colors are just as vibrant as what you’d expect from some of the top brands in the market.
The pencils also feature a richly colored soft lead. You will get a stand-up box that can hold the pencils and keep them organized.
The Staedtler Ergosoft Colored Pencils are designed for the average painter or someone who just wants to have fun with colors. They are very affordable, easy to use, and highly durable as well.
Feature-rich and vibrant colors
One of the more affordable options in the market
Comes with a richly colored soft lead
A stand-up box to keep the pencils organized is also included
The cores can also be scratchy in some of the pencils in the set
9 – ARTEZA Colored Pencils – (Best Colored Pencils for Portraits & Anime)
In case you are on a budget and you still want to get a high-quality set of pencils then the ARTEZA Colored Pencils are definitely up your alley.
They are designed to deliver the same professional quality without necessarily costing you a lot of money. Each set comes with 72 differently colored pieces. The wax-based color pencils are simply perfect for a wide range of things including shading, coloring, sketching, and other creative creations.
Even though the set is designed for beginners, it can be used by any professional to great effect. The ARTEZA Colored Pencils also comes with soft break resistance cores enclosed in a sturdy wooden barrel.
The pencils are also easy to sharpen and do not need a lot of maintenance to keep them working for years. The ARTEZA brand is the perfect definition of value for money. It’s definitely one of the best-colored pencils out there.
Uses non-toxic materials, making it ideal for kids
The barrels are comfortable to use and hold
Comes in a wide variety of colors
Offers vibrant colors for maximum coverage
Pencil leads also break easily when they are sharpened
10 – SUDEE STILE Colored Pencils
The SUDEE STILE Colored Pencils are designed with color diversity in mind. Each set comes with 150 pencils, one of the highest color varieties in the market. The set is also very affordable. In essence, you are getting an outstanding variety of colors at a very affordable price. The SUDEE STILE Colored Pencils are simply economical and they come with many features as well.
First, the pencils have a 3.3 mm sturdy lead that offers a smooth and uninterrupted color feeling. The pencils are also easy to sharpen and come in convenient packaging for easy organization. The manufacturer offers reliable customer support in case you run into any problems with the product.
The SUDEE STILE Colored Pencils are simply designed for beginners who don’t want to spend too much money on coloring pencils.
Comes with over 150 different colors, one of the highest in the market
Features a 3.3 mm smooth core for quality coloring
Customer support from the manufacturer is offered in case of any issues with the product
One of the most affordable brands that deliver great value for money
Some users have had issues with sharpening the pencils
Other users have also complained that the pencils are too waxy
How to Care for Your Colored Pencils
In order to get long term service from your colored pencils, you will need to take care of them. It’s just not enough to keep them locked up in the box they came in.
Other care techniques are also needed and here are a few suggestions that may actually help:
A – Always store your pencils in a hard pencil case to keep the leads intact.
B – Make sure you turn the sharpener, not the pencil when you are sharpening the leads. This puts less tension on the pencil and reduces any chance of breakage.
C – You must always use the right sharpener based on the size of your coloring pencil.
D – Don’t exert too much force when using pencils. Even though sometimes you may need to press a little harder to get the color intensity you are looking for, be as gentle as you can.
E – Colored pencils must be returned to their storage case if they are not in use.
F – Make sure the pencils are also kept in a dry place. Don’t soak them in water for too long either.
G – For some wax-based pencils, it is okay to use a little heat to keep the wax fused together. But don’t overheat otherwise the binder will completely melt.
PLAN - PRICE
START UP - $ 29
Prismacolor Premier Art Stix Woodless Colored Pencils, 36-Count (2164), lightfast, Good for Thick Layers & Supple Blends
BUSINESS - $ 49
Colore Watercolor Pencils - Water Soluble Colored Pencils For Art Students & Professionals, Assorted Colors
ADVANCED - $ 99
Staedtler Ergosoft Colored Pencils, Set of 24 Colors in Stand-up Easel Case (157SB24), Ergonomic Shape
ADVANCED - $ 99
ARTEZA Colored Pencils, Professional Set of 48 Colors, Soft Wax-Based Cores, Ideal for Drawing Art, Sketching
ADVANCED - $ 99
SUDEE STILE Colored Pencils 150 Unique Colors (No Duplicates) Art Drawing Colored Pencils Set, Multiple Colors
Getting the best-colored pencils that meet all your needs should be easy. After all, the diversity of products available in the market is huge. However, there are of course some products that are better than others. In case you are looking for excellent quality without the high price, then you should consider the Derwent Colored Pencils.
These pencils offer rich colors and an intense vibrancy that will make all your colored creations stunning. They also have a rich texture and their break-resistant leads will last for a very long time. Hopefully, this review of the best-colored pencils in the world provided different sets and brands to suit the needs of both beginners and professional artists.