In this edition of the Art Tools, we take a look at the best artist grade colored pencils. “Artist grade” means pencils that are high enough quality to produce a professional looking drawing. It may be tempting to pick up some Crayola pencils for drawing because of the rock bottom price. This is a bad idea. Cheap pencils contain mostly wax and very little pigment. This composition inhibits the layering and blending techniques required to produce a well rendered drawing like this:
Let’s start with the Prismacolor color pencils, used in art school drawing classes around the United States, and a great entry level, low cost option. These pencils are easily blended and water-resistant. They have thick break resistant leads and rich pigments. Papers with a medium tooth, or roughness, are the best for use with Prismacolor pencils. The leads are soft and do not hold a fine point for detail work. Prismacolor pencils represent an excellent balance between quality and value.
I personally like the richness of the pigments and the excellent layering abilities of these pencils, but some people have had problems with the manufacturing quality of these pencils – still a good low priced set of colored drawing pencils A pack of 48 Prismacolor color pencils in a metal case sells for $32.50 on Amazon.
Next are the Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils. These are artist quality oil based pencils which contain vibrant light fast pigments. They feature break resistant tips and are color matched to other Faber-Castell art materials. Polychromos pencils are waterproof and smudge resistant for the sharpest drawings. The oil base of the Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils makes them ideal for mixed media work with oil paints. The leads are break resistant and provide a smooth creamy texture, and they blend well and keep a good point. A pack of 36 Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils in a metal case sells for $58.05 on Amazon.
Derwent Studio colored pencils are another good artist grade pencil. These pencils have light fast pigments and hold a fine point for detail work. These pencils have a harder lead than the Prismacolor pencils. The hexagonal wood barrel allows for a better grip and the bottom color tab allows for easy color identification. The colors are vibrant, smooth and blend well. Reviewers say these pencils sharpen well and have a soft flowing texture. A pack of 36 Derwent Studio colored pencils in a metal case sells for $46.59 on Amazon.
Caran D’ache Supracolor pencils are excellent artist grade water-soluble pencils. These pencils can be used wet or dry and are made to be used in mixed media applications with watercolor paints or on their own. They feature hexagonal wood barrels for grip and rich light-fast pigments. The barrels of these pencils are color matched to the leads for quick and easy color selection. With these pencils, a high degree of coverage can be achieved due to the high quality pigments they contain. Many consider Caran D’ache Supracolor pencils to be in a class all their own. These pencils are the most expensive mentioned but are also the highest regarded. A pack of 40 Caran D’ache Supracolor pencils in a metal case sells for $72.92 on Amazon.