UPDATED (ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED MAY 7, 2020 11:42 PM)
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Colored pencils are an essential tool for artists, illustrators, and coloring-book devotees alike. An immediate source of mess-free color in a wide range of hues, they’re an ideal medium for everything from preliminary sketches to finished drawings and from pattern design to interior decorating. Our picks below will help you find the best brand for your project.
1. Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils
Founded as the Eagle Pencil Company in 1856, Prismacolor has long maintained its reputation as a purveyor of high-quality materials for artists. The company’s soft, pigment-rich Premier colored pencils deliver smooth, saturated color on most papers. The pencil’s wax-based, as opposed to a harder oil-based, core makes blending, layering, and shading easy while still being hard enough to sharpen to a fine point. This product is available in boxes in quantities from 24 to 150 pencils; the 72-count tin, featuring a full spectrum of hues as well as neutrals, metallic, and several gradations of gray, offers a wide enough range of colors for most projects. And, because the pencils can also be purchased individually, colors can be added or replaced as needed without having to buy a whole new set.
2. Arteza Colored Pencils
Nearly as good in terms of variety and quality is Arteza’s set of 120 colored pencils. Though their cores are also wax based, the pencils are slightly harder, making them a bit more resistant to breakage and more easily sharpened to a precision point. It also means that coverage is lighter overall, but this is more than offset by the pencils’ suitability for fine work. Marketed as professional quality, this set is affordable enough for nonprofessionals, as well as for professionals wanting a separate set for detailed work.
3. Sargent Art Colored Pencils
Sargent Art’s colored pencil set is an economical choice for schools and helping organizations. For a fraction of the cost per pencil of the other sets, this product offers 50 good-quality pencils in a very usable range of colors, including white. While the box is not as durable as the tins offered by other manufacturers, and coverage can vary according to color, this is an above-average set for a great price, perfect for buying in bulk.
4. Faber-Castell Polychromos Colour Pencils
The only colored pencil on our list with an oil-based core, these pencils lay down rich, fade-resistant color that will never “bloom” as some wax-based colors can. Tending on the hard side and featuring strong, pigment-rich color, they are ideal for layering. A bonded core makes the leads resistant to breaking inside the barrel if the pencil is dropped. While oil-based pencils can be pricey, this top-quality pencil delivers.
5. Caran d’Ache Luminance colored pencils
Featuring unsurpassed lightfastness and concentrated pigments, Caran d’Ache’s Luminance pencils are the ne plus ultra of colored pencils. Color permanence, a fine-grained texture, and a range of hues corresponding to those of traditional oil paints make this pencil a top choice for fine artists. While they may be too soft for some, they blend well with harder pencils like Polychromos and Prismacolor. Responsibly sourced cedar shafts with colored tops make these pencils a joy to look at and to hold. Be forewarned, however, they do not fit into a standard size pencil sharpener. This 76-piece assortment includes 2 blender pencils.