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Colored pencils aren’t just for kids; serious artists rely on them to create unique masterpieces and the fact that some of the best colored pencils cost a pretty penny proves that they aren’t just a child’s play toy reserved for coloring books.
Below we will take a look at some of the top colored pencil brands.
Whether you are in need of something inexpensive for daily doodling or more serious colored pencils to help you achieve professional results, you can easily compare and contrast the top products here.
Top 10 Colored Pencils Comparison Table
How to Choose Colored Pencils
When it comes to selecting colored pencils, the price should not be the determining factor.
True, it will influence your final decision, but there are plenty of things you should take into consideration as you shop and we will go over them with you next.
- Number of Pencils. Beginners don’t need a ton of pencils to choose from; 24 or 36 is just the right amount to give you selection without overwhelming you with choices.
It isn’t hard to learn blending techniques with a smaller selection of pencils, and once you get the basics down, then a larger set would come in handy.
If you have more experience and more serious intentions, then you can opt for the sets with more color options.
- What Type of Pigment Binder Do You Need? Colored pencils are made with three different pigment binders, including wax, oil and water-soluble binders. These materials make up the core of the pencil (or the entire pencil, as is the case with the Ashleigh Nicole Arts Woodless Colored Pencils since they are woodless).
- Wax. Wax-based colored pencils provide excellent coverage and have a softer core. They tend to be more cost-efficient and come in a wider selection of colors, but the one con to using them is the amount of debris and “crumbs” they leave as you draw.
“Bloom” is another problem with wax colored pencils; this is a technical term used to describe how the wax binder rises to the topmost color layer on your paper and hazes it.
You can always do a few test runs on some scratch paper to get an idea of what this looks like and how to avoid it. If you create lighter layers on your paper or use a spray fixative as you work, this can help prevent bloom.
Since they have a hard core, it makes it easier to sharpen them to a finer point, thus allowing you to use them for finer detail work. Remember that the harder core also means that they might require more pressure for you to achieve deeper pigmentation on your paper or require more passes in one single spot.
These also last longer than wax colored pencils do, and unlike wax colored pencils, you don’t have to worry about bloom or using any fixatives, but these can smear, so be careful as you draw.
- Water-Soluble. Thanks to an emulsifier added to the core’s mixture, the pigment in these pencils will liquefy when they come in contact with water.
They go on like regular wax or oil colored pencils, but when you add water to the paper, the magic happens.
You’ll need to have some additional accessories on hand when using these (special paper, brushes, ), but the colors will be more intense, and you won’t have the “dry” look to your work as you would with regular colored pencils.
Don’t Forget the Blenders and Burnishers
Blender pencils are colorless (they have no pigment) and allow you to (as the name suggests) blend your colors to create flawless seams.
We included two great options for you in our guide: the Prismacolor Premier Colorless Blender Pencils and the Derwent Blender and Burnisher Pencil Set.
Burnisher pencils are also colorless but rather than blend two colors; they allow you to add a glossy finish to the top.
Top 5 Best Colored Pencils Reviews
It’s hard to beat a set of Farber Castell colored pencils, and many experienced artists will agree that they are some of the best colored pencils on the market.
These richly pigmented colored pencils are easy to blend and can be sharpened to a fine point in spite of the fact that they are oil-based. Usually, oil-based colored pencils tend to smudge, but Farber Castell has a few centuries of practice under their belt and has created a formula for the perfect colored pencil.
It’s easy to fine-tune the details, and they are quite easy to layer as long as you don’t have a heavy hand.
These really are the top choice when it comes to serious artwork, but with such a hefty price tag, we can understand why some of you might look for an alternative.
Remember that if this set is too pricey for you, it does come in a 12-piece, 24-piece, 36-piece, and 60-piece set.
Prismacolor is another favorite among serious artists and amateurs alike. In fact, we recommend this as a starter set for those of you who have just started getting serious about your colored pencil drawings.
These are the opposite of the Faber Castell pencils since they have a soft, wax-based core. They apply smoothly to paper, and they’re quite easy to layer aswell.
Be careful if you use these in an electric sharpener because the soft core might cause it problems. We recommend a manual sharpener for this particular type of pencil, especially since the quality of the wood casing has proven to be an issue for some users. Splitting can happen, and broken tips are common if you don’t sharpen them carefully, but when they are sharpened, they color like a dream.
These are rather unique colored pencils since they don’t have a wood casing like most of the others do.
The sheath is made of a lacquer rather than wood, which means that you don’t have to deal with the messy shavings and they actually last longer than wood casing colored pencils do (Prismacolor, we’re looking at you). You won’t have to replace these as frequently, and they are also more environmentally friendly, which is appealing to some shoppers.
How are they in terms of coloring power?
We thought that they pigmentation was great and found them quite easy to blend. You also get intense color with just a few layers and don’t have to push hard as you do with some other colored pencils out there.
These are the ideal solution for adults who don’t want to drop a fortune on Prismacolor or Faber Castells.
Regardless of which colored pencil set you choose on this list, we still think that you should purchase this set of blender pencils to go along with it.
These are ridiculously cheap, and you can use them with any type of colored pencil: wax-based, oil-based or water-soluble. They will soften your colors without changing the brightness. You can also use them with water-soluble pencils!
They are packaged whole (meaning they are not sharpened), and you’ll find that their blending powers are incredible once you put them to paper.
There’s not much more we can say about them other than you need to buy some. If you have never tried using a blender pencil before, you will absolutely love these!
Our final suggestion is this simple set of 24 colored pencils from Derwent.
You can achieve quite a lot with just 24 of these pencils, and the best part is that they don’t cost much!
Their soft, wax-based core makes them easy to mix, but there is a noticeable difference in quality when comparing them to the Prismacolor or Faber Castell pencils.
These don’t layer as well, and you won’t be able to achieve the level of detail that you do with the other higher quality brands.
Serious artists find that this makes a great “extra” set to offer new color choices to their existing set as well as give them the flexibility to achieve different textures by mixing.