Colored Pencils: Finding the Perfect Pencil.

Finding the right brand of an art supply can be tricky. Ultimately it comes down to personal preference however, quality and affordability play a factor as well. From Crayola to Caran d’Ache and everything in between I have spent a lot of time and money using all different brands of colored pencils and I have finally found one that satisfies all of my needs and expectations.

But first, a little back story… When it comes to finding the right pencil you have to know what it’s made of. Colored pencils are either wax based or oil based. Wax based pencils have softer cores and tend to break. Ever drop a pencil or colored pencil only to have the tip fall out when you go to write? The core of the pencil runs through from end to end. When it is dropped that core can break inside and when you sharpen the pencil to that break, it falls out. They say that wax based pencils are a little easier to erase. Yeah, to be honest, your really can’t erase colored pencils. You can try but usually it becomes a smudgy mess. Many brands of pencils are waxed base such as Crayola and Prismacolor. There are more colors available to us because of the pigments and binders that are used. Another bonus is this type of pencil is very affordable.

Avocado Anyone?

Oil based colored pencils have harder cores. They tend to blend better than the wax based cores. Oil based pencils do not have as many color variations as the wax type, but the pigment used in oil based pencils are more vibrant. This type of pencil could set you back a car payment, seriously… But they are SO worth it. Even though they have a harder core they write like butter. Drawing with these pencils are so smooth and when sharpened they are very precise.

Once you have a through understanding on how the medium works, it will be easier to apply the elements and principals of art for instance, Color. When it comes to color, we learn about theory. Value, hue, shade, monochromatic, triad, primary, secondary etc… all these things become our language of art. So, in order to express this language of color using our pencils it is key we learn how to blend them. When blending colors with colored pencils you can layer the colors on top of one another or use a blending stub, or wait for it …baby oil or Gamisol. I heard someone used odorless turpentine for blending colored pencils and although I have never used odorless turpentine with my color pencils, I am curious to see how that works.

A Very Yummy Samoa

Another one of the elements of art is Value. Value refers to how light or dark an object or area is. Shading is a technique used to show volume/form. So when using colored pencil we can achieve value in one of two ways. First, how much pressure applied on the tip of the pencil will give you a gradation of value. Second, applying black or white over the initial color will enhance the value. Here’s a tip for creating lighter values: use lighter pressure, use the white space of the paper, or use lighter values of the same hue if you have them. (Not all of us can have 500 different colors at our disposal…) The struggle is real.

Based on these two elements of art, and my budget I bought a set of Faber-Castell Polychromos Color Pencils. Before I bought a full set I bought a few individual pencils to try them out first and I fell in love. The colors are vibrant and intense, and they blend beautifully. Like I said before this is my personal preference. I like Crayola, they are really good quality for the young students. Prismacolor is also another one of my favorites because there are like a million colors. These pencils blend really well when you use baby oil. Derwent, Irojiten, Caran D’Ache and many other brands are all amazing in their own ways.

I love colored pencils. I found the pencil that makes my art sing. Some say it’s not the tool it’s how you use it. I’m calling B.S. on this one. It’s definitely the tools.

Artfully yours,


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