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Has your child stepped up a level from crayons and started seeking something a little more grown-up to color with? A solid colored pencil set is the quickest, most cost-effective way to bring a new world of color to a young artist’s fingertips. We judged a whole bunch of them on variety, creativity, and user-friendliness (that is, how easily they can be erased or sharpened). Read on for our top picks.
Koh-I-Noor Progresso Woodless Colored Pencils
We recognize that this is an offbeat pick, but hear us out: No wood means no splinters, and five times the lead for your child’s coloring pleasure. There’s a protective painted coating not unlike what you’d find on a traditional wooden pencil, meaning your kids’ hands stay (mostly) clean while coloring. Even better, thanks to Koh-I-Noor’s unconventional design, your child’s coloring horizons are nearly limitless. Try peeling the coating away down the side for a wide-brush effect, or blunting the pointy tip to experiment with line thickness. And when you need to sharpen them, just stick them in any traditional pencil sharpener. Buy these pencils in a 12-pack or a 24-pack, or individually.
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Derwent Academy Colored Pencil Sets
These rather highbrow sets may not be an intuitive buy for little artists, but it cinches our runner-up spot for a few reasons. First off—and this is a big one—these pencils come in a sturdy tin, so you can bid farewell to flimsy, dirty cardboard boxes. The pencils themselves are simply gorgeous: brilliantly hued 3.3-millimeter leads in a glossy black casing, finished with correspondingly colored ends. They’re a worthy purchase for the whole family. Because Derwent’s colored pencils are a step up from your standard Crayola set (no shade to Crayola—see the next pick on our list), expect to shell out a little more for these 12- and 24-pencil sets. Are they worth every penny? You bet.
Crayola Colored Pencils
No list of this sort would be complete without Crayola, of course. When it comes to sheer color variety, Crayola takes the cake, selling its colored pencils in packs of 8 to 100. That alone makes it a serious challenger to our top picks. Ultimately, though, what this art supply stand-by really does best is cater to educators. Its 240- and 462-count “class packs” both boast a color roster beyond the usual suspects. Even the pickiest prima donna in your class will be satisfied by the hues on hand.
Blick Essentials Colored Pencils
Though known as a premier art retailer, Blick put its skin in the game in a big way with these inexpensive colored pencil sets. They list at a lower unit price than Crayola in smaller quantities, albeit with more limited bulk options. (Blick only offers sets of 12, 24, and a class pack of 240 pencils split among 12 colors.) All things being equal, we prefer the color options in Blick’s 24-pack to those of Crayola’s; they’re a little more nuanced and grown-up. The pencils are better quality, to boot, with the blending and smoothness of a much more expensive colored pencil. They’re perfect for a cash-strapped student, or for a young artist with an old soul.
A GREAT ALTERNATIVE
Prang Duo-Color Colored Pencils
Yes, this is a two-in-one pencil. No, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but the novelty of a double-ended pencil is sure to thrill your little ones. These used to be the holy grail at crafting parties and in elementary school art class. Now, they can be yours in sets of 6, 12, or 18. You have to admit, two colors for the price of one is a darn good deal. Of course, each color will be half the length of a full-size colored pencil; consider these a creative and economical option if you’ve never known the sad sight of a totally whittled-down Sky Blue.