A Guide to the Best Colored Pencils

We usually like to select a nice big set of colored pencils to get started with, so it can be a bit daunting trying to choose the best ones for our needs. I love colored pencil so I've become familiar with a good selection of different brands in my own work, as well as buying a few different ones just to try. If you're not sure, get a small set of a reputable brand, which will be good and serviceable for general drawing whether you're a 'fan' or not. Then select a few different pencils in a range of colors from loose stock of other brands, and experiment for yourself. Several things will influence your choice, such as the type of paper that you prefer to use, how 'heavy handed' you are when drawing, and the way you use pencil, using a single-layer or multi-layered application. My way of working may well be different to yours, but here's my opinion on a range of colored pencil options, which I hope you find helpful.

polychromos pencils

If you're looking for a reliable colored pencil that will work for any project, look no further than the Faber-Castell Polychromos, a longstanding favorite of art school students and professionals. Costing around $40 for a set of twelve pencils, these might seem like a big investment, but they are an excellent value. These pencils are soft enough to layer beautifully, without crumbling, the pigments are lush and smooth, and the casting strong and dependable.  More »

Another artist-grade classic, the Prismacolor pencils are easy to layer and blend, beautifully pigmented, and have a smooth finish that doesn't feel dry or scratchy. Some Prismacolor hues have questionable lightfastness, but for a beginner artist or student, these pencils are an excellent value.  More »

Derwent pencils

Derwent Studio is a cousin of the Derwent Artist range, offering a finer, harder pencil that delivers a crisper line and more precise handling than the softer Artist pencils. These are a favorite with many artists who prefer the drier, waxier feel of the Derwent as well as their more robust handling. More »

albrecht durer pencils

These water-soluble pencils may not have the waterproof security that a waxy colored pencil does, but in terms of laying down lots of gorgeous colors, handling beautifully, blending, and of course, working well with water, you can't find a better tool than Faber-Castell's Albrecht Dürer pencils.  More »

The Caran d'Ache Luminance colored pencils have some of the highest lightfastness ratings, which means that their brilliant color won't fade as easily over time as other brands. These pencils have a waxy formulation that tends to feel a bit crumbly and scratchy on the paper but allows them to be layered almost like an oil pastel. Many artists use these in combination with another brand of colored pencil, using the less waxy pencil for the under-layers of drawing and then using the Carna d'Ache for the final layers to add a splash of brilliant color. More »

set of colored pencils

If your budding artist has graduated from Crayola, allow them to take their coloring to the next level with the Imaginesty colored pencil set. These pencils are easy to use, non-toxic, and wallet-friendly, costing around $20 for a set of 48 pencils.  More »