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As a child, you would draw all the time. No matter if it was on a piece of paper or on your parents’ walls, you would always have a pack of crayons on you. How else would you bring some color into your life?
As a grown-up, you decided that art was no longer about creating pencil graffiti on the wall; now you want to actually make a hobby – or even a living – out of it. However, unless you have the best colored pencils, you can’t really get those results that you want.
If you are a young (or veteran) artist looking for the best quality colored pencils, here’s a guide on how you can pick them.
Best Colored Pencils
Our recommendation for the best colored pencils:
Winner: Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils
The Prismacolor set is something that caused love at first sight for many professional artists. Made with a wax-base, these pencils have a buttery consistency that is perfect for blending – particularly if you are using the white pencil.
Unlike most wax-based pencils, the Prismacolor has a fairly rich and intense pigment. Granted, you will have to use lighter layers to prevent waxing – but otherwise, they’re the best colored pencils for coloring books that you can find.
Considering that these are “Premier” pencils, the Prismacolor set is more advanced than the average scholar pencils. Not only will the coverage be perfect, but they will also be lighter and easier to use. They are perfect for every type of artist.
This box set contains a total of 150 colors, so it’s perfect for those who want as many color options as possible. Plus, they have a highly compact form, so you can easily drop these crayons into your bag without them turning into an inconvenience.
The wood casing of these coloring pencils is of a very high quality and prevents breakage. Provided that you use a high-quality sharpening tool, these pencils should last a long time and offer you sharp results – as literally speaking as possible.
For better blending, you may want to try warming up the core. By doing so, the result will be ultra-smooth and the color much richer. However, bear in mind that they need to be cooled down before you store or sharpen them again – to preserve their longevity.
Overall, the Prismacolor set is a high-grade set, and they are certainly the best colored pencils when it comes to blending and shading.
Runner-Up: Derwent Inktense Ink Colored Pencils
These pencils have received a lot of hype recently, and there are many people who actually consider them the best colored pencils they have ever owned. You can buy them in sets of 12, 24, and 36 pencils as a beginner, but they can go as high as 72 pencils per set.
The design for these pencils is pretty sleek. Each wooden barrel is a dark blue that has been color-coded at the bottom, making them a joy to take out in public. The slightly larger barrel is also very comfortable to hold, without causing you any discomfort.
One aspect that is most appreciated for these pencils is their versatility. The reason is that these pencils are watercolor. This means that they turn into acrylic once they get into contact with water, offering you that water colored pencil effect.
This feature also makes them easier to blend. You do not even have to use a lot of water or solvent; just use a slightly damp brush and you will get the desired results in no time. Once it has dried, you may add another layer and create more shadings and highlights.
If you are not a fan of the watercolor effect, these pencils may also be used traditionally, on a dry surface. Their pigment intensity will be similar to artist-grade pencils, which is why a lot of people think of them as the best colored pencils for coloring books.
Overall, these pencils are a great way to help you express your creative side. They are highly versatile, and the color is intense enough to provide a satisfying, professional result.
Alternative: Derwent Coloursoft Colored Pencils
The British company Derwent strikes again with another set of colored pencils – this time in the form of Coloursoft. 0 have been quite the hype for some time, and a lot of people seem to appreciate them.
One thing that is highly appreciated by most users is that, despite them being rather professional-grade crayons, they do not charge an arm and two kidneys for them. This is especially surprising, considering they arrive in an elegant wooden box.
The casing of these pencils was made from cedar that was rounded up to offer a comfortable hold. The tip is color-coded, and you also have the name and code of the color marked on the pencil.
The core of the colored pencil is of a generous 4mm, which means that it might take a while until you go through all the pencils. Considering that they have a soft core, this is a great asset.
The wood and core are of a high quality even when it comes to breakage – in the sense that it rarely ever happens. They are sturdier compared to other professional color pencils, and they are also easy to use. The fact that the set offers 72 color choices is also a pro.
Unlike other wax-based pencils, these can take a decent number of layers – but keep in mind that the more you add, the lighter the layer should be. The Coloursoft, however, is a great option for anyone, no matter if you are starting off or continuing a journey.
2nd Alternative: Faber Castell Polychromos Color Pencil Set
When people ask themselves “what are the best colored pencils,” a lot of them look to Faber Castell. The reason is that they were the first ones to produce colored pencils for artists, so they are the ones with the most experience.
Using high-quality pigments that can’t be matched by your average colored crayons, this set offers a range of deep, rich pigments that will beautifully color any of your drawings or adult coloring books. They represent the perfect gift for children and adults alike.
These pencils feature an oil-based core that will relieve you of the wax bloom problem. Every stroke is smooth, clear, and bulge-free. Furthermore, considering that they feature a hard lead, they’re perfect for margins – yet are soft enough to provide a smooth stroke.
The consistency of the core is butter-like, which is unlike most oil-based coloring tools. Still, they are also fairly strong, and they are less likely to crumble or break. They will keep a nice point for a fairly long time, so you will not have to sharpen them after every use.
Featuring a total of 120 colors, you have many options to go for. No matter if you are a blending master or not, these pencils will help you reach your goal on your coloring journey.
3rd Alternative: Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor Art Pencils
No matter if you just found your calling in art or are a professional artist, you might appreciate the features brought by Lyra’s Rembrandt. Considered by many to be the best colored pencils, this set can be used on both adult coloring books and personal works.
This set comes in a nice wooden box that is easily accessed. The size of the set is dependent on your preferences. You may go for the 12-piece set, or you may go for this more professional 105-piece set.
Regardless of your blending skills, these colored crayons will offer you a lot of shading and layering opportunities. You may use them on anything from paper and cardboard to wood, synthetic materials, and textiles.
The core has a soft, butter-like consistency, further enabling you to properly blend the colors. Furthermore, they’re water-compatible, meaning that you can use a damp brush to create a watercolor effect.
Furthermore, aside from the best colored pencils, this set also includes a few extras that every artist might need. Therefore, in the biggest set, you will get one kneadable eraser, one knife, one sandpaper block, two paper wipers, and one sharpener.
What Features To Look Out For
Picking the best colored pencils is going to take a while – especially since every artist has different preferences. Some may like them soft and “blendy,” others may want them hard and sharp.
Depending what you are coloring and how you want to use those colors, here’s what you may want to look out for in the best colored pencils for artists.
You may want to get your regular, old school pencils – or you may purchase one that looks a bit fancier. The difference between the best colored pencils for adults and a kid set is that the adult version should not make you embarrassed when using them in public.
Many professional color pencils still keep the old “stick” design, but there are also others that opt for a fancier (or sometimes funkier) approach.
You may also go for the mechanical design rather than regular wood since it’s sharpen-free and easier to use. Or, if you want, you may go completely “nude” and opt for the woodless option.
Furthermore, design can go as far as the case that they are in, so pay attention to that as well.
Generally, what matters the most is the functionality – not really the looks. However, if the design matter to you, then you may want to avoid colored pencils with Rudy the Elephant strapped on the case or wood.
Type Of Pencil
No color pencil set will ever be the same – no matter how similar they may look. Depending where you are on your artistic journey, here are the colored pencil types that you may want to consider”
Beginner/Student Grade Colored Pencils
Student grade colored pencils are likely the most affordable option that you can find when it comes to adult coloring pencils. Since they are not as professional and expensive as other colored pencils, they are suitable for those starting out as artists.
These pencils generally have a harder core that makes them more durable than other expensive pencils. At the same time, however, these pencils may not provide the same color intensity as other professional models.
Student grade colored pencils come in packs of 24 to 36, so you have fairly limited choices when it comes to picking a color. However, if you know how to layer and blend the colors, you may be able to find your way around this minor drawback.
If you are just starting out on your artistic journey and are not entirely sure if you want to go professional, then these pencils will be a better option than spending loads of money on something you might not use in the future.
These are more expensive than student grade, but they are definitely the best colored pencils when it comes to color richness. Since they have a higher pigment concentration, they will offer brighter, less faded results that will impress more.
These types of pencils have a softer core compared to colored pencils, and it will make it all the easier for you to blend the colors. The drawback, however, is that this soft core will make the tip dull faster – which means you’ll have to sharpen them fairly often.
If you use these pencils fairly often, they might cost you a lot in the long run. The reason is that the more you sharpen, the less time you will have until you reach the end of the pencil. You will have more colors to pick from, so that’s a plus.
If you aren’t into continuously sharpening your pencils, then a mechanical one may be a better solution. All you have to do is “click” the core through the mechanical device, and it will pop up like a ballpoint pen.
The drawback of these pencils is that they are rare to come across – and it might not be easy to find someone that can sell you a core refill. Furthermore, since they are fairly rare, the color selection is also quite limited – making them only a good choice for beginners.
Woodless Colored Pencils
When you buy a set of traditional pens, most of them will be made of wood. These pens, however, are all core, no wood – which means you will get more out of the pigment. They are the best colored pencils if you have massive amounts of background to fill.
The drawback, however, is that it’s easy for them to lose their sharp point – and when you are sharping them, you are sharpening away a good amount of core as well. Many consider this a waste of pigment, which is why they are better suited for wide coloring areas.
Watercolor And Pastel Pencils
Having a certain composition that can be mixed with water, these colored pencils may be used as regular pencils – or blended into the water with a brush, providing the watercolor effect.
The color palette can be fairly high, going from 72 to 120 colors – depending on the grade that you are going for. The same goes for pastels; the only difference between them and hard pastels is that these can be sharpened.
Wax Vs. Oil Based
The best colored pencils basically have two core types: wax-based and oil based. Wax-based colored pencils are the most popular of the batch due to their affordability. If you were to go to the corner shop to grab a random set, the chances are that they have a wax base.
These types of pencils are easier to erase, simply because the pigment is not that bound into the formula. Their core is also softer, which means that you may easily blend in the colors – but they may not be as durable.
The drawback, however, is that the wax tends to “bloom,” forming a thin layer of film over the color. This can be avoided by using lighter layers or cleaning the wax off with a damp cloth.
Oil-based cores, on the other hand, are on the more “professional” side – which means that they also have a somewhat more elevated price. They have a fairly unique color application, and they are generally brighter and richer than wax-based colors.
They also have a harder core, which means you won’t have to sharpen them that often – therefore increasing their durability. It is why many people consider them the best colored pencils for drawing.
Before purchasing a set of colored pencils, ask yourself this question: can you control how they blend? Do you plan on actually blending the colors, or do you just need them to fill some margins of a coloring book?
Blending may be a good solution for those that have a limited range of colors. However, not all colors are that easy to blend. The easiest to blend are watercolors and pastels, but other bases can also be fairly good, depending on the brand.
Wax pencils (and generally soft cores) are easy to blend as well, but oil-based ones can also be blended – provided you prep the pencils right. Some artists prefer warming up the tip in order to help the colors blend much easier.
Generally, all colored pencils can be blended as long as you use the right techniques. Layering and burnishing are two of the most important ones, complementing one another if used in the correct order.
Weight And Size
No matter if you are looking for the best colored pencils for adult coloring books or you simply want something to bring to life a personal outline, you will need to consider the size of the package. How many colors does it have? Will they be enough for you?
Depending on how or where you plan on using them, you might also want to consider their weight. Are they portable enough to be carried around? If you only use them at home, weight should not be a problem.
However, if the plan is to carry them to class every day, you don’t want to get a set that you’ll dread carrying with you all day long. In these circumstances, you’ll want to go for something lightweight.
Buying the best colored pencils is never going to be easy – especially if you are very picky as an artist. However, with just a little bit of research, it can be done. All you have to do is keep your own requirements in mind.
Hopefully, our colored pencils reviews helped you narrow down your choices. From the budget versions to more expensive yet professional pencils, these tools can help you turn from a wannabe to an actual artist.
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