Any artist, regardless of their style or their subject matter, needs quality and reliable products with which to create their masterpieces. As a beginner artist, you may wonder what the difference is between all the pencils you see at the art store, or wonder what on earth ‘lightfast’ means.
As a professional artist, you may be struggling to keep up with all the new art-supply makers out there or not know what is the new best, and if that new best is even right for you.
There are so many suppliers out there now, and they are even more accessible than before, everyone has a website, everyone sells on major retailing sites, but what is the best? How can you know when there are so many?
Don’t worry, we have got you covered, we review and test products to ensure that they are up to the best quality standards, we can let you know what product is best for what type of artwork, what budget level, and if it is right for you.
If you are a student artist wondering what all the terminology means, we also have your back and will let you know what all that artist jargon means, so you are ready and raring to answer any questions you may be asked in art class.
In a Hurry?
If you are in a rush to source your new set of colored pencils, don’t fret, you can stop off here and find out what we have selected as the best overall pencils, so you do not have to go sifting through a sea of words to find out what pencils you should get.
Whether you are a student or professional, our top pick, the best overall is great for you.
Covering all grounds of excellence, with fantastic ratings, and a budget that doesn’t send your bank wondering if you are okay is the Prismacolor softcore pencil set. They are considered a leading manufacturer of colored pencils for low prices.
Their quality brushes the hairs of the expensive leading brands, making them a near competitor of brands such as Faber-Castell, but for lower prices.
This set, in particular, can come in packs ranging from 12 pencils to 500 pencils, and each pencil has a 5mm core and an 8mm hexagonal barrel, with a color range of up to 150 colors, making a need to blend, nearly obsolete.
The best facts about Prismacolor softcore;
- Amazing blending ability, not that it is needed with the larger packs.
- Renowned company for quality product production.
- Exceptional color vibrancy.
- Soft wax core with a buttery application.
- Great for beginners and professionals.
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
Looking for pencils that are affordable, offer fantastic, vibrant colors, and blend well can be very challenging.
Whether you’re a professional or beginner artist you will want something that will blend well, enabling you to create new colors that a pencil may not provide, something that will last without any fading, standing the test of time, and provide vibrancy.
You also don’t want to break your bank with the costs of a decent pencil set.
Prismacolor offers the perfect solution for artists of all types, they are the leading brand for colored pencils at low costs.
They come close to the more expensive pencil brands but without the painful price tag. They are made of soft wax and blend well with a buttery application. They are silky smooth with excellent color variations which make them brilliant for blending work.
This being said, breakages can happen but for the costs, it is not something that will cause much cause for concern, they also come in packs ranging between 12 pencils and 500 pencils, though the 72 pack stands at a happy middle ground, providing you many fantastic colors for a low price and giving you enough wiggle room to blend if that is something you enjoy.
They provide a 5mm core and an 8mm hexagonal barrel. They range up to 150 colors, with a vast selection of reds, greens, and blues, and even if they don’t provide the exact color you’re after, you can easily blend with these pencils to create the color you seek.
We certainly enjoy the vibrancy of these colors for outdoor settings. The variations provide plenty of options for budget and personal preference.
- Blends very well.
- Vibrant colors.
- The company is well known for its very good quality.
- Lead is very soft so it is somewhat susceptible to breakages.
Perhaps you need something that will provide you with just enough quality while being on a budget.
We all know the pain of being an artist, the expensive equipment that doesn't always give you your money back in art production, if you’re a hobbyist you may not want to spend a professional targeted amount of money on a set of pencils, but you probably still want High-quality for your work.
That's where Arteza comes in.
This Arteza pack offers beautiful and very affordable, soft wax-based core pencils at professional quality.
They are a relatively new company that has taken the online market by storm with a diverse line-up of new, wonderful, and artist affordable products.
These pencils are perfect for blending and experimenting with new blending techniques for beginners. They have a soft wax-based lead that provides great tones and rich colors.
They come in a protective tin case and the company aims to compete with the top pro-grade colored pencils on the market for a fraction of the costs.
They are available as either a 48 or 72 pack. All having color outputs of exceptional quality that matches their pro competitors, especially in their browns and greens.
Although some of the purples and pinks could do with a slight intensity boost, most of the colors you will get are just fine.
The blending ability voids the gap between shades that smaller sets tend to possess. Though the 72 piece is more recommended than the smaller options.
It has been labeled as a worthy competitor of Faber-Castell.
- Blending is exquisite.
- Very protective case.
- Vast color range.
- Above-average hardness so may be more prone to breakages
If you are looking for something that provides more than just pencils, you may be considering getting a large pack that offers other tools within, so that you don’t have to spend a lot of money buying different pieces here and there.
Why not just splurge on one fantastic kit that has it all right there for you?
That is exactly what LYRA Rembrandt Polycolor does, it has a full set of drawing and coloring equipment right there for you.
With a fantastically large range of colored pencils and all you will need, you cannot go wrong here.
They offer high-quality oil-based colored pencils tailored to professional artists. In addition to the 100 pencils, you will get in the pack you also get a kneadable eraser, paper wipers, a sandpaper block, sharpener, and a knife.
They can be used on many materials, not just paper, capable of producing vibrant colors and synthetic materials, wood, and textiles.
The core offers a wide 4mm though the circular barrel is narrow. It has been designed to compete with Faber-Castell, which does seem to be the leading competitive brand for colored artist pencils.
These do, however, require a heavy application to achieve the best results in places. But the color variation range depends on which set you to go for as there are many available options, obviously if you go for a larger set you will get a wider variety of color options.
The oil in these pencils also means that you don't have to deal with any wax bloom that may occur, this helps it stick to the page better and allows better color staking if that is your thing.
The only real downside to these is that there can be some variance from the labeled color, so it is always best to do a quick check test before you apply the color to your works.
It can also be a bit scratchy for an oil-based pencil, it is worse on thick or rough paper, so for thin papers, this may not be an issue at all.
- High-quality wooden box for storage.
- Cedar casings for a fantastic feel.
- Thick core.
- Above-average blending ability.
- A bit scratchy for an oil pencil.
If you are looking into getting a pencil set that is friendly to be used every day for many different styles of art and that will last you a long time, we would recommend Derwent Procolor.
These pencils really stand out, Derwent being somewhat of a newcomer to the colored pencil competitive stage and they've made quite a name for themselves, showing up in every search for colored pencils already.
Derwent aims to find a happy medium between the hard and controlled cores of Derwent Artist pencils and the pigmented cores in the Colorsoft series. This has resulted in a versatile pencil that feels perfect in any setting. It has a 4mm core to match and show this progression.
This pencil set can come in either a pack of 12 or any up to a pack of 72. The color options vary depending on what size pack you get.
If you are looking for a relatively small set that provides enough color options then the 36 pack is probably a good choice for you, as this will keep you self-sustaining and it provides you with more greens, blues, and yellows.
However, the 72 pack seems to cover the entire color spectrum much better than even some competing 100 pack options.
Derwent have even released a handy color chart that you can get with your purchase that provides lightfast ratings of each pencil in your set, these ratings for this kit range from 1-8.
What's best about these pencils is that the color really pops, and the yellows, oranges, and pinks really jump off the page at you.
- Intense Colors.
- It looks amazing.
- Free lightfast rating sheet.
- Require large sets for best use.
We’ve mentioned this brand a few times over already. Faber-Castell is well known as one of the best and most revered makers of artist supplies, and their colored pencils win a lot of medals in their quality.
They are a comparison brand for new pencil makers that want to reach new heights. You could think of them as the big dogs of the art world, holding all the amazing qualities you seek in your supplies. Their downfall- the expense.
They are not a cheap brand and you will pay for what you get, which in this case is exceeding quality and expectations.
If you are seeking an upgrade and have some cash to spare, giving Faber-Castell is well worth it, especially if you are a professional artist who will get a lot of use out of these pencils.
These pencils are brilliantly colored and are made of superior quality, however, they are at the highest ends of costliness. They are best suited for developed professional artists.
They use a color matching system so all Faber-Castell pencils match, meaning that they match the colors of other types such as their watercolor selection or their pastel selection.
These pencils are made from quality sustainable California Cedar which smells amazing and is aesthetically pleasing.
The cores are also bonded to the wood to prevent any breakages. These same cores are also oil-based, water-resistant, and acid-free, though they may crumble under heavy pressure.
This being said, it is also possible for smudging to occur but this can in many cases be useful to the blending process.
They have a high lightfastness, and though they are expensive they are worth it when compared to other brands, as they are breakage resistant and so you get much more use out of your pencils than you otherwise would.
It is best to invest in a larger set to get use from a variety of colors. They have options in sizes such as 12, 24, 36, 60, and 120.
- Very vibrant.
- Color matching system.
- Very high quality.
- Not bank-friendly.
Best Colored Pencils For Artists Buying Guide
Lightfastness is a term you will hear if you go searching for quality artist pencils, however, if you are new to this, it may seem rather confusing to you. It's a fairly useful tool to use if you want to judge what pencils will provide you with the most vibrant longevity.
It refers to how well the color is preserved when exposed to light, basically meaning that extensive light will not cause it to fade or discolor over time.
The least stable colors are generally pinks, purples, blues, reds, and oranges, whereas browns, greys, and other neutral colors will usually last, totally unchanged.
Light lightfastness colors tend to have more resistance to discoloration. They are usually rated on a spectrum of 1-5. Though, each color will have its own rating so a pack will not have an overall lightfastness rating and so some suppliers may provide rated individual ratings per pencil color.
The lower the number is the more lightfast color is. Do remember that the more expensive options will usually have a higher lightfastness rating, but this is not a rule of thumb and does not apply to all.
With pencils, you will have either student grade or artist-grade sets. We always recommend leaning towards artist-grade sets.
While these are usually more on the expensive side, they also typically contain higher pigments and yield richer colors, they are also more lightfast and are generally softer.
Soft V Hard.
Choosing soft or hard colors may have you confused, but soft is generally preferable in colored pencils by many artists, as they lay down color much more easily.
They are creamy while the alternative is crumbly and grainy. Artist-grade is usually soft as they contain less binder and filler which results in more vibrant colors.
Hard, on the other hand, can be sharpened to a very fine point, without crumbling. This is great for allowing detailed, best used in fine line work. Most student grade pencils are hard, but this leads to cutting pigment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Faber-Castell pencils worth it?
They are considered the artist's quality pencil of choice. They are oil-based and so are firmer than other options, they also have outstandingly intense pigments and are super easy to lay down.
Their great quality also makes it easy to blend and layer very well.
Are Crayola pencils any good for art?
Crayola is very good, they are intended for basic coloring and drawing. They can be used very well depending on your own personal skill. If you do not yet feel like jumping to higher quality, more expensive brands, Crayola can do you well as long as you know how to use them.
They are still very apt at shading, layering, and blending.