Whether for art classes or for projects that need pizzazz, a set of good-quality colored pencils is a must for every back-to-school season. It can be overwhelming finding the right one, however, as many colored pencils are geared toward pros. For most students, a solid beginner set—while not necessarily lightfast—will suffice. You’ll quickly see that you don’t have to spend a lot to bring a new world of color to a young artist’s fingertips. Read on for our top picks, which all come in sets of at least two dozen colors with a diverse selection of hues and sharpen easily for frustration-free use.
How we pick each product:
Our mission is to recommend the most appropriate artists’ tool or supply for your needs. Whether you are looking for top-of-the line equipment or beginners’ basics, we’ll make sure that you get good value for your money by doing the research for you. We scour the Internet for information on how art supplies are used and read customer reviews by real users; we ask experts for their advice; and of course, we rely on our own accumulated expertise as artists, teachers, and craftspeople.
1. Prismacolor Scholar Pencil Set
These student-grade pencils from the biggest name in colored pencils sit at the top of our list for many reasons. First, they are economical, at about 50 cents a pencil. Secondly, they deliver rich, blendable color that can lay down lightly or intensely. Their cores are softer than Prismacolor’s premier line of colored pencils, allowing students to practice blending colors, but they nevertheless resist breakage. This set also comes in a durable plastic case that opens to double as an upright holder you can stand on your desk.
2. Sargent Art Color Pencils
Sargent Art’s colored pencil set is a budget-friendly choice that is especially good for pre-k or elementary students. They don’t require a lot of pressure to create marks, but the cores can withstand a good amount of force should kids push down hard. The colors may not be as vibrant as others on our list, but the tips glide across paper and are capable of producing sharp, crisp lines.
3. Derwent Academy Colored Pencil Sets
These rather highbrow sets may not be an intuitive buy for students, but we recommend them 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 aren’t scratchy and are very easy to blend. They’re a worthy purchase for the whole family. Because Derwent’s colored pencils are a small step up from our first two picks, expect to shell out a little more for this 24-pencil set. Are they worth every penny? You bet.
4. Prang Duo 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 up to 18. Of course, each color will be half the length of a full-size colored pencil, but they allow you to fit twice the amount of colors in a tight pencil case.The pigments are vibrant and lay down smoothly.
5. Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor Colored Pencils
If you want a set that is slightly more sophisticated but still suitable for students and beginners, we recommend Lyra’s pencils. They feature oil-based cores densely loaded with pigments that disperse effortlessly over paper with no wax buildup. Vibrant and blendable, the pencils offer good lightfastness, with ratings for each color printed inside the included tin.