Today, colored pencils come in different forms and packaging, options are countless!
We are sure that everyone has held a colored pencil before but to actually tell the quality of it can be tricky unless you’re a seasoned artist. If you’re a beginner or a professional artist looking for the right set, you’re in the right place.
Hunting for a set that best suits your work can take a long time, especially if you’re not experienced with this media. For this reason, we made sure to select only the best-reviewed colored pencils and prepared a guide.
Having top-notch colored pencils is not enough to get colorful and vibrant art. Here, you need to understand how to blend colored pencils without creating a mess. Check out our article exclusive to pencil color blending to get enough information, to begin with.
In this guide, you’ll see the features each set of best water-colored pencils offers as well as its pros and cons.
Best Colored Pencils
So, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced artist, here’s the list of the 8 best-colored pencils to help take your coloring game to the next level.
1. Derwent Artist Watercolor Colored Pencils – Best for Versatility
As the name suggests, these colored pencils by Derwent have dual usage in that they perform as a pencil but produce results like watercolors. They can be used as both wet and dry media for any paper artwork.
The pack contains 72 sticks whose cores are 3.4mm and 6.9mm in diameter with a hexagonal, wooden casing.
- VIBRANT SHADES – The round 4mm soft lead core is...
- WATER SOLUBLE – Expand your creative...
One of the many reasons we liked the Derwent Watercolor Colored pencil is its versatility which allows us to switch between using two types of media – dry and wet. Not a lot of coloring products offer the same kinds of options.
Working with a pencil is also easy. All we need is a little water to dip the tip and the next moment, we’re creating magnificent work of art. Use it dry for outlines and wet for softening the edges or filling up the area.
The 72 colors are not a problem for two reasons:
1. They can easily be blended to achieve a desired shade and
2. The pencils are available for individual purchase which means we don’t necessarily have to get a whole new set in case one color runs out.
The price is decent for anyone and on top of it, we also get to save extra bucks since we can buy one shade separately or simply blend them to create a new color.
While the pigments are stable depending on the amount of water the artist mixes, some users found the colors lacking in vibrancy.
Apart from that, many have reviewed the colored pencil set as perfect since it contains colors that are more distinctive compared to other usual collections. Colors such as Juniper Green, Burnt Yellow Ochre, and Vandyke Brown along with sea greens and aqua blues are included inside the box highlight picks rarely find making this an artist-grade colored pencil set, and professional colored pencils for artists and enthusiasts alike.
This set will make a good bet if you’re looking for affordable colored pencils with dual usability.
2. Holbein Artist Colored Pencils – Best for Color Range
The Holbein Artist Pencil’s lead is 3.8 mm thick which helps fill up an area quicker along with a diameter of 7.8 mm to make handling more comfortable.
Its lead is a product of fine combinations such as oils, waxes, and fats. This combination makes its pigments strong and long-lasting. The box comes with a quantity of 150 wax-based colored pencils.
- It is adjusted to meet the high demands of...
- Soft and shaped oil-based colouring pencils with...
We found that this colored pencil gets our artwork done at a much faster pace than other options with a flimsy or thinner build. Not to mention that with a thick lead, the pencil still produces fine edges with a smooth touch to it.
There is no need to order one specific color separately because, with 150 different colors, it has made finding a desired shade very easy. Not just that but the core lead is both soft and smooth, so we can simply blend two or more colors together to achieve a completely unique shade.
Holbein is a well-known, professional-grade brand which is why their colored pencil sets are high-end as well as expensive. The same applies to this particular set of colored pencils whose core is made of high-quality ingredients that one does not easily find in most regular colored pencils. Therefore, the price is one drawback for artists with a restricted budget.
It does, however, lack certain darker shades such as brown, black, and gray, which can be a problem when we want to do some shading and detailing work.
Inside the box with a color collection of rich yellows and purples, there are also unique shades such as Easter pinks and Easter greens. These are useful when creating an exclusive, valuable work of art.
All in all, the Holbein Artist Colored pencils are an excellent pick if you’re in for the quality of cores and a wide selection of colors for producing professional-like drawings. There is not much we can say any further except that you can try them and see the results for yourself.
3. Faber Castell Polychromos Colored Pencils – Best for Lightfastness
Here, we have the oil-based Faber Castell Polychromos Colored Pencils that come in a box of 120 sticks with cores secured in wooden barrels.
The pigments of these pencils have strong lightfastness, leaving artworks lasting for years without fading. They are also water-resistant and can’t get smudged once dry. The tips are strong and resist breakage.
- Polychromes Colored Pencil Set In Metal Tin 24pc
- This 8-3/8x7-3/8 inch metal tin contains...
Let’s start off with these pencils’ core – it is thick, highly pigmented, and offers smooth blending. The color does not dry out instantly as it is thick and soft which makes it easy to work with changes even after leaving the drawing idle for some time.
The wide range of colors leaves us with the ability to blend as many shades as we possibly can. Also, the color of the casing is exactly the same as that of the core so there is no case of being misled. There is no problem with the intensity of pigments too and being oil-based, the pencils do not require the assistance of spirits to make blending easy.
These pencils are professional-grade, hence, when it comes to price, they are expensive and may not fit every artist’s budget. However, the good thing about the Faber Castell Polychromos Colored Pencils is that they are also available for individual purchase, which means it eliminates the need to buy a new set altogether.
Overall, if you’re looking for a set of soft-core colored pencils packed with bright shades that will last for years to come, we urge giving this option a try and you won’t be disappointed.
Similar to the previous set by Faber Castell, these colored pencils also resist fading and UV influence, thanks to their high lightfastness. The only difference is these are wax-based instead of oil.
The box comes with 40 assorted pencils of different shades with the cores encased in tight barrels. This particular set stresses more on bright, popping colors.
- High lightfastness and smoothness
- Swiss made
Mixing different shades comes pretty easy with this set, thanks to the waxy composition. A much more worthy mention is the drawings show no signs of wax effects that one normally gets with wax-based pencils. On the contrary, the result actually comes out clean and neat.
Moreover, both papers and paintings appear fresh for a very long time. We can also manipulate the consistency of colors to make them fit for fine details, especially since the pencil stays sturdily sharp. The tip is strong enough to handle a hard force without breaking.
We can say the single drawback of this set is that it contains fewer dark shades which create a problem when working on pieces that require them.
However, what is exciting about these colored pencils is the outcome after applying layers of shades which produce an exceptional effect on the paintings that will make them stand out from the rest.
Finally, these pencils are also premium-grade which means they don’t come at a cheap price. You can expect to pay a fairly high amount for them but that’s because of the quality and unique features it offers.
These pencils are constructed pretty well with a reliable and stable built. They are not reserved only for professionals so anyone can use them for creating magnificent pieces. And if you’re hunting for colors that will stay fresh for years, this set will be a joy to use.
The Faber Castell Albrecht Durer Watercolor Colored Pencils come in a pack of 120 assorted sticks, all wrapped in a hexagonal wooden casing. These pencils offer both strong pigments and high lightfastness, ideal for creating extraordinary art. The pigments can be dissolved in water to produce watercolor effects.
Its core is robust to prevent breaking and serves a dual purpose, which is dry and wet media.
- Pigments dissolve completely when brushed with...
- Pencils set 120 albrecht durer watercolor pencils
Even with a box of 120 shades, we are still able to buy individual sticks if necessary. This offer comes in very handy when working on a monochrome drawing that requires a single shade throughout. It pretty much chucks off the need to purchase a complete set all over again.
Now it may not score the highest points for its dry effects but the kind of blending you’ll get with these pencils is simply phenomenal once you’ve added water. The reason is that the core is oil-based which means only a small amount of paint can help provide a very thick coverage with one layer.
What is also noticeable with the pencils is the quality of the end results. Because the pigment is thick and has high lightfastness, the drawings stay fresh for months, and hopefully, as time passes too.
It is no surprise to say these colored pencils are premium-grade and expensive but since the application is very easy, that makes the pencils suitable for all users including beginners.
Here we have the Caran d’Ache Pablo Colored Pencils set that comes with 120 sticks. Each lead core is 3.7mm wide and secured in a hexagonal barrel.
What sets these pencils apart from the rest is that they are water-resistant as well as soft and creamy. Its strong pigments give amazing coverage and popping effects. It also has incredible lightfastness.
- Creamy - soft - water-resistant
- Set of 120 pencils
The slim lead is perfect to use for fine lines and minor details with spot-on accuracy. It is also surprisingly sturdy for its size and it does not easily break even after applying a certain amount of force. This makes the process of application quite easy and at the same time, we don’t have to worry about waxy effects.
These pencils are available in smaller sets too but this particular set offers more color choices. We also have complete control in mixing colors, especially yellows, and greens, to get interesting shades. However, unlike oil-based pencils, we need several passes and layers before getting the right dept. of a color.
If compared to other regular wax-based colored pencils we’ve tried before, we can say this pack gives us the best results since the colors do not show any sign of wax bloom.
Instead, the pigments are very much like that of oil-based pencils even if the same cannot be said about the final results. These wax-based pencils produce a unique and distinguishable outcome altogether.
Like every other high-end colored pencil on this list, these are quite expensive too. But for the features, they offer along with their quality performance, they are worth having.
Another set of colored pencils that offers a wide range of colors is the Prismacolor Artist Set of Colored Pencils which contains 150 sticks of assorted colors.
The lead is very soft, thick, and robust to prevent breakage and make way for faster application. All the colors are rich in pigment.
- Soft, thick cores are perfect for shading and...
- Lightfast, richly saturated pigments
If you’re looking for professional-grade, wax-based colored pencils filled with different colors, the Prismacolor Artist Set might be a good bet. Before we go on any further, we have to say that this pack is one of the most expensive options on the list of wax-based colored pencils.
Keeping that in mind, the soft colored pencils have the best core we’ve ever experienced. Everything about the core is smooth – the build, the blending, and even the feel after application. When it comes to colors and pigments, these are simply the best to get.
However, we have to say that all the smoothness comes with a few cons including breakage. Many artists said that they have to be extra careful with these soft pencils. In case the pencil accidentally drops, the chance of breaking is always high.
Still, we cannot hide the fact that the number of shades and color selection is beyond compare we like to think that is the main reason these pencils are much more expensive than other similar high-end brands on the list.
Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced artist, this set is made to serve every level. Drawings, too, appear fresh for a very long time.
Last, but not the least, we have the Stabilo CarbOthello Chalk-Pastel Colored Pencils set. As the name suggests, these pencils are highly distinguishable from the rest on this list because of their composition – chalk, and pastel.
There are 60 sticks in the pack that have incredible lightfastness, and excellent pigmentation, and can be blended without putting in the extra effort.
- Charcoal-like feel
- Highly pigmented colors
Once a drawing is done, we can carry on with the blending process simply with the use of fingertips or even a brush. Only a small amount of wet colors is enough to cover a very large area. However, the colors can get pretty messy during the drawing process.
The outcome is completely different from the one we get by using oil-based pencils. Rather, they produce a unique chalk effect which we don’t normally see with traditional colored pencils. Whether it is a dry or wet application, the results come out absolutely stunning.
While the pack may contain fewer shades than expected, we cannot deny the fact that these colors can easily be blended or mixed to form a new shade. In our personal opinion, this makes way for plenty of fun experiments. Larger packs, however, contain more colors that are all assorted.
If you’re wondering about the price, these colored pencils range between average to high depending on the packing and number of sticks. This particular set is a little pricey but if we consider its offers, features, and performance, we can frankly say that the price is reasonable.
Best Colored Pencils Comparison Table
|Product||Type||Core Type||Number of Colors||Water Soluble||Lightfastness||Pigment Quality|
|Derwent Artist Watercolor Colored Pencils||Watercolor||Wax-based||72 colors||Yes||Good||High|
|Holbein Artist Colored Pencils||Artist||Oil-based||150 colors||No||Excellent||High|
|Faber Castell Polychromos Colored Pencils||Artist||Oil-based||24 colors||No||Excellent||High|
|Caran D’ache Luminance Colored Pencils||Artist||Wax-based||40 colors||No||Excellent||High|
|Faber Castell Albrecht Durer Watercolor Colored Pencils||Watercolor||Wax-based||120 colors||Yes||Good||High|
|Caran d’Ache Pablo Colored Pencils||Artist||Wax-based||120 colors||No||Excellent||High|
|Prismacolor Artist Set of Colored Pencils||Artist||Wax-based||150 colors||No||Good||High|
|Stabilo CarbOthello Chalk-Pastel Coloured Pencils||Chalk-Pastel||Chalk-based||60 colors||No||Good||Medium|
Buying Guide For The Best Colored Pencils
Frequently Asked Questions?
Do colored pencils dry out?
Yes, the tip of a colored pencil can dry out in case you expose it to sunlight for too long or store it in warm surroundings.
This will naturally reduce the effectiveness of color transfer from the pencil during use. As a result, the pigment would look slightly faded on the canvas, and the drawing might fall short of your expectations. That’s why we’d advise storing them in a cool and dry place and keeping them away from sunlight.
How to obtain a deeper and more vibrant hue from colored pencils?
Firstly, know that all colored pencils consist of wax or oil-based binder to hold the pigment together and ensure it spreads on the canvas evenly. That’s why you can enhance the vibrance of the color within the pencil by softening the binder. Following are the best softening techniques you can apply as per the need:
Warming the pencils in a microwave
Soaking in alcohol and water
Using drawing boards
Are colored pencils waterproof?
Yes, traditional colored pencils are waterproof unless you’re specifically using water-soluble graphite pencils or watercolor pencils. That’s because the oil or wax-based binders used in the leads of these pencils aren’t water-soluble. In comparison, the water-soluble types use Gum Arabic, a substance that easily dissolves in water.
A point worth noting is that the waterproof nature of colored pencils makes them suitable for use over watercolor paintings to seal the colors. You can even use them for layering or blending, unlike many other variants.
What is the most suitable paper for colored pencils?
The ideal paper for colored pencil drawings should be strong and stiff so that it stands up well to multiple layers of dry colors. As such, it’s best to use varieties like Bristol paper and toned paper for such drawings. Note that going for the latter can save you time as it provides a mid-tone backdrop, doing away with the need for rendering middle-color values. On the other hand, Bristol paper is more suited for working on white backgrounds.
How to prevent colored pencils from smudging?
Artists often lay the heel of their arms on the paper during work so that the page remains steady. But if the heel comes in contact with the paper, it might lead to color contamination or smudging. So, make it a practice to lay wax or trace paper under the hands. You can also prevent this by lifting your hands for a short while and resting between paintings.
Thank you for taking the time to read our article on the best-colored pencils! We deeply appreciate your time and interest in finding the right colored pencils to help you create stunning artwork. It’s been an exciting journey putting these different products to the test and diving into their performance and various attributes.
Out of these 8 best-colored pencils, here are the top three expert recommendations:
- Best for Versatility: Derwent Artist Watercolor Colored Pencils: Derwent’s watercolor colored pencils offer dual functionality, allowing you to easily switch between dry and wet media. With its unique and distinctive colors and the ability to buy individual shades, this set is an ideal option for those seeking versatility in their colored pencil collection.
- Best for Color Range: Holbein Artist Colored Pencils: With a massive collection of 150 high-quality pigments, Holbein Artist Colored Pencils provide you with endless opportunities to achieve your desired shade. Despite its somewhat steep price, this set is a good option for artists prioritizing a wide selection of colors and professional-quality cores.
- Best for Lightfastness: Faber Castell Polychromos Colored Pencils: If you’re looking for colored pencils with strong lightfastness to ensure your artwork stands the test of time, the Faber Castell Polychromos Colored Pencils are the right choice. With a soft, oil-based core that offers smooth blending, these high-quality pencils deliver exceptional results.
We hope these recommendations help you find the perfect colored pencil set for your artistic endeavors. Enjoy the process of creating breathtaking art and grow in your skills as an artist with the best tools on hand. Remember, practice makes perfect, and a great set of colored pencils can assist you in achieving your artistic goals. Happy coloring!