Best Colored Pencils for Artists

As an artist, you’re probably looking for the best drawing tools to express your creative talent. Colored pencils most likely have a privileged space in your arsenal, but as you might know by now, not all pencils were created equal.

Various brands cater to the needs of various artists, proposing pencils with softer or harder lead, with vibrant or more pastel colors, and we could go on and on.

Regardless of your style, though, the rule of thumb is to choose a reputable brand when buying a set of pencils. These might cost more, but their quality is usually hard to match by cheaper brands.

With this in mind, let’s find out which are the best colored pencils for artists around.

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Some links in the post are affiliate links meaning we may earn a commission. This does not affect the price you pay.)

Prismacolor Premier Soft Core Colored Pencils

Prismacolor Premier Soft Core Colored Pencil, Set of 48 Assorted Colors (3598T) + Prismacolor...
  • Soft, thick cores are perfect for shading and shadows
  • Lightfast, richly saturated pigments
  • Ultra-smooth, even color laydown

// Last update on 2021-02-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

  • Brand: Prismacolor
  • Model: 3598T
  • Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Dimensions: 9.2 x 3.6 x 9.8 inches
  • Number of colors: 48

Prismacolor manufactures colored pencils for artists of all levels. Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned artist, the Premier Soft Core will surely satisfy your needs. This set comprises 48 colored pencils with soft, thick cores.

They’re designed for shading and shadowing, while the richly saturated pigments make it very easy to achieve the hue intensity of your dreams. We particularly like the assortment of shades that allow you to unleash your imagination and draw anything from portraits to landscapes to abstract art.

The ultra-smooth, even color laydown is another highlight, as you’ll be able to easily blend the colors should you want to. For even easier blending, you can even buy the transparent color blender from the same brand.

Color identification is made easy by the color-coded wood casing. Pencils aside, we also like that they come with a sharpener designed specifically for colored pencils that’s easy to use and easy to clean.

Packed in a sophisticated tin case, these colors are more than perfect for artists; they also make a beautiful gift at a price that won’t break the bank.

Caran D’Ache Luminance Colored Pencil Set

CREATIVE ART MATERIALS Caran D'ache Luminance Colored Pencil Set of 20 (6901.720)
  • High lightfastness and smoothness
  • Swiss made
  • 20 piece assortment

// Last update on 2021-02-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

  • Brand: Caran D’Ache
  • Model: 6901.720
  • Weight: 7 ounces
  • Dimensions: 7.8 x 0.9 x 10.8 inches
  • Number of colors: 20

Caran D’Ache Luminance is a set of high-quality pencils geared towards the serious artist who doesn’t mind spending a buck. They’re expensive, but the quality of the pigments and brightness of the colors are truly worth every dime.

From first glance, it’s clear that these colors were designed with the color image professionals in mind. The leads are intended for exhibition or collection purposes, making it very easy to create the artworks of your dreams.

As you can expect from such pencils, they’re permanent and UV-resistant. There is no need to worry about fading.

Easy to blend and layer on most surfaces, these pencils are perfect for drawing on paper, cardboard, canvas, and a variety of other substrates. Neatly packed in a Californian Cedar casing, they are perfect for yourself or as a gift for your favorite artist.

Just keep in mind they must be sharpened with a well-sharpened pencil sharpener, or you might damage the smooth lead.

Faber-Castell Polychromos Artists’ Color Pencils

Faber-Castell Polychromos Artists' Color Pencils - Tin of 120 Colors - Premium Quality Artist...
  • 120 COLORS IN METAL TIN - Includes all colors from the Polychromos Artist Pencil...
  • UNSURPASSED LIGHTFASTNESS - Each Polychromos pencils contains the highest quality...
  • EASY TO BLEND - Buttery smooth color laydown, Polychromos Pencils feature oil based...

// Last update on 2021-02-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

  • Brand: Faber-Castell
  • Model: F110011
  • Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Dimensions: 3.9 x 2 x 7.9 inches
  • Number of colors: 120

Faber-Castell is one of the biggest names in the industry. Their mid-level pencils deliver excellent value for money – they can easily satisfy professional artists without producing excessive wallet damage, especially when you choose a product such as the Polychromos set.

Consisting of 120 vibrant colors, the Polycromos is valued worldwide for its unsurpassed quality. Ideal for graphics, comic books, artistic freestyle, or exact rendition of plans, they are up to anything. Like the Prismacolor, they come with a soft, break-resistant lead that allows for quick and seamless blending and layering.

As you’d expect from quality artist’s pencils, they are also permanent, water-resistant, smudge-proof, and UV resistant.

High-quality, acid-free pigments deliver bright colors that won’t fade. Furthermore, the 3.8mm leads can suit all projects, from drawing fine lines to quick filling. Needless to say that you can blend the shades for layered effects, highlights, and transitions.

Waxier than other pencils around, they are still smooth enough to eliminate the concern of waxy bloom. Just what you need if you want lots of colors without draining your bank account.

ARTEZA Professional Set of 120 Colored Pencils

Arteza Professional Colored Pencils, Set of 120 Colors, Soft Wax-Based Cores, Art Supplies for...
  • 120 Unique Colors: Create stunning color combinations with these durable coloring...
  • Blendable Colored Pencils: This bulk set includes highly pigmented colors that are...
  • Break-Resistant Cores: The strong wood barrels help to protect each pencil’s soft...

// Last update on 2021-02-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

  • Brand: ARTEZA
  • Model: ARTZ-8361
  • Weight: 2.76 pounds
  • Dimensions: 9.3 x 7.6 x 2.6 inches
  • Number of colors: 120

Unlike the other brands on this list, ARTEZA isn’t renowned for its exceptional quality pencils. The brand focuses majorly on amateurs and beginners; yet, a professional artist could be satisfied by this set of 120 colored pencils.

Comprising unique shades for each color, the set is ideal for creating stunning color combinations on a variety of substrates. Number labels allow for easy color identification, while the blendable leads make it easy to create new hues, shadows, and shades.

What makes this set stand out is the rich pigment used for each color. They might not be as vibrant as Prismacolor, but all it takes is a bit of layering to quickly achieve the desired intensity.

We also like the break-resistant cores and the strong wood barrels that protect them. This kind of construction makes them suitable for all kinds of drawing.

Durable and portable, they come in an aesthetically pleasing metal tin with trays. Keeping your pencils organized has never been easier, not to mention that you can simply slip the case in a backpack and take with you wherever you go.

Suitable for beginners or as a gift, these colored pencils are ideal for artists looking for an affordable yet good quality set.

Types of Pencils for Artists

Did you think that buying colored pencils for artists is easy? Think again. Not all pencils were created equal, and depending on the drawing style and result you want to achieve, you should choose a suitable type of pencils.

A drawing of some colored pencils

The most popular types include:

Permanent Color Pencils

Perhaps the most popular type of artist pencils, the permanent color kind, are suitable for most types of art. Their lead can vary from smooth and precise to soft and smudgy, depending on its hardness, and you can use them for sketching, watercolor drawing, realistic drawing, abstract art, and more.

Due to their versatility, these pencils let you experiment with various drawing styles and techniques, and they are perfect for the artists who still look to define their personal style.

Watercolor Pencils

A tad more versatile than the permanent kind, watercolor pencils can also serve most purposes. Use them dry for normal drawing, or add a bit of water to your substrate with a brush to create those sought-after watercolor effects.

Watercolor pencils come in all imaginable colors and usually have a soft lead that’s easy to layer, blend, and shadow.

Graphite Pencils

Designed for sketching, graphite pencils aren’t usually colored. They typically come in various shades of black, ranging from dark grey to intense black. Although they might seem an inappropriate choice for anyone looking for colored pencils, they are indispensable in an artist’s kit.

You can use these pencils to create dark details, shadows, and various shades of grey, either by layering or by blending them with white or other shades.

Monochrome Sketching Pencils

When thinking about colored pencils, we automatically think about vivid, bright colors. However, monochrome sketching pencils are colored too.

They typically come in shades of sepia, greys, blue-grey, or black and white, and are used by artists to draw vintage-inspired portraits or sketches.

Skin Tone Pencils

Artists focusing on drawing portraits will most likely appreciate a set of skin tone pencils. These can be either permanent or blendable pastels, and what makes them different is the range of shades selected specifically to help artists draw all kinds of skin tones.

These pencils usually come in sets for fair, medium, and dark skin colors.

Pastel Pencils

Pastel pencils are known for their versatility and adaptable nature and are highly appreciated for not coming with the mess associated with soft pastels. They can have soft or waxier leads, allowing you to achieve a variety of shades and effects.

How to Choose the Right Colored Pencils

Knowing what types of colored pencils are out there is just the first step to picking a set that suits your needs. Here are a few other things to consider.

Type of Lead

Colored pencils come with three types of leads, wax-based, oil-based, and water-soluble.

  • Wax-based leads: Are seen in a wide range of pencils for artists and the general population alike. Artists usually choose wax-based pencils with a softer lead, that are easier to blend than oil-based ones, but also more expensive. Needless to say, this type of lead is permanent, meaning it’s quite hard – if not impossible – to erase once it’s on the paper. Their main downside is the mess they create, as well as the oily residue that can be absorbed by some types of paper.
  • Oil-based leads: Deliver bright, permanent colors, but use vegetable oil rather than wax to bind the pigments. They don’t blend as easily as the wax-based leads and are harder to layer, but they have a harder lead than the wax and are less likely to break. Due to this feature, they are usually more expensive than wax-based pencils and can typically be found in art supply stores only.
  • Water-soluble leads: These leads are usually found on watercolor pencils developed specifically for this purpose. They are not permanent, meaning that if your artwork gets wet after it’s finished, there are high chances for it to be destroyed. However, they are still preferred by artists using the watercolor techniques or who, for one reason or another, want to be able to blend the pencil’s pigment with water.


A brand name is not always a guarantee for the quality, but more often than not, you’ll get what you pay for. Some brands have invested a lot of money and time into developing leads that can suit most drawing techniques, while others have focused on keeping the costs low while providing average-quality leads. The former is ideal for established artists, whereas the latter may suit amateurs and beginners.


When selecting the pencils, it is recommended to consider the type of paper you use. Most pencils are incompatible with very smooth paper – perhaps colored pens made specifically for smooth paper would be a better choice in this case. If the paper you use has some tooth in it, then you can typically use either wax, oil, or water-soluble pencils and crayons.

Sharpening Ease

Don’t ever underestimate this detail. Keeping your pencils sharp is essential if you want to get the brightest details in the shortest possible time. However, if the lead keeps breaking whenever you try to sharpen the pencil, all you’ll get is a frustrating experience.

Typically, a razor-sharp, manual sharpener is your best bet, as it will give you more control over the process.


In a nutshell, once the color is on paper, it’s almost impossible to erase a colored pencil. At least with a regular eraser, that is. Some colored pencils – more often than not, the wax-based type – can be erased using a bloating technique.

To do this, you will have to use small pieces of scotch tape to lift color off the paper. The process can be laborious, so it’s always advisable to start with a thin layer and build up the color to fasten up the process.


With this in mind, all you have to do is choose the best colored pencils for artists and get started with your creative projects.


Richard Hammond

I am the founder of 9Mousai and am deeply interested in creativity and what inspires it. My main passions are writing, film and music but I have huge respect for all the arts. I'm also an animal lover and have a little cat called Winston and enjoy the occasional whiskey or two...

Related Articles

Back to top button