June 1, 2023 6:25 am

Michelle Waters

Are you an artist looking to elevate your artwork to the next level? Are you searching for the best colored pencils that will bring your imagination to life on paper? Look no further! In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the top-rated colored pencils loved by professional artists worldwide. Whether you're a seasoned artist or just starting your creative journey, these pencils will unlock endless possibilities and help you create vibrant masterpieces. So, grab your sketchbook, and let's dive into the world of the best colored pencils for artists.

Best Colored Pencils for Artists

Colored pencils have long been a beloved tool in the artistic community. They offer a versatile and portable medium for creating stunning works of art. With their blendable pigments and precision, they allow artists to achieve incredible detail and vibrant colors. However, not all colored pencils are created equal. Some brands excel in pigment quality, while others offer superior durability or a wide range of colors. Choosing the right colored pencils can make a significant difference in your artistic journey. That's why we've curated this list of the very best options available, ensuring that you have the perfect tools to express your creativity.

Best Colored Pencils for Artists

Faber-Castell Polychromos

When it comes to quality, the Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils reign supreme. These artist-grade pencils offer exceptional lightfastness, ensuring your artwork stays vibrant for years to come. With a buttery smooth laydown, intense pigmentation, and a wide color range, these pencils are a favorite among professionals. Whether you're creating realistic portraits or intricate landscapes, the Polychromos pencils deliver outstanding results.

Artist Sarah Renae Clark unboxed a 120-count box of these pencils and reported that these are some of the best colored pencils money can buy:

The Faber-Castell Polychromos are the go-to pencils for many professional artists and they are one of the highest quality pencils money can buy. They have a high lightfast rating, meaning the colors last over many years, making them a great choice for professional artists.

Oil based pencils do take a bit more skill and practice to blend and layer than wax-based pencils. But they have a very strong core and are easy to keep sharp, so they are perfect for fine details, which is something that most pencils advertised as blendable, lack.

Many artists choose to use Polychromos pencils alongside another brand like Prismacolor or Caran d’Ache Luminance to get the best of both blending and fine details. In fact, this is how I will probably be using them!
Prismacolor Premier

Prismacolor Premier colored pencils have long been a staple in the artistic community. Renowned for their rich, creamy cores and superior blending capabilities, these pencils allow artists to achieve smooth gradients and vibrant colors. The high-quality pigments ensure excellent lightfastness, so your artwork stays true to its original brilliance. Prismacolor Premier pencils are available in a vast array of colors, making them perfect for a wide range of artistic styles and techniques.

New York Times Wirecutter review column writer Laura Fenton reports that these artist-quality pencils are great for everyone:

Although Prismacolor’s Premier Colored Pencils are considered artist grade, we think they’re a great choice for most people—from older elementary-school-age kids to adults—because they’re so satisfying to work with and affordable. They’re also widely available at art-supply stores and online, in case you ever want to replace or add colors. The pencils are well-made and easy to sharpen, and they come in a durable metal box. The 24-count offers enough colors for most beginners, but if you want to expand your palette, the 72-count set is a great upgrade.
Caran d'Ache Luminance

If you're searching for the ultimate in color intensity and lightfastness, look no further than the Caran d'Ache Luminance colored pencils. These premium pencils boast a unique formulation, combining the smoothness of a wax-based pencil with the permanence of oil-based pencils. The creamy cores allow for effortless blending, while the lightfast pigments ensure your artwork withstands the test of time. With their exceptional quality, Caran d'Ache Luminance pencils are a favorite among professional artists.

Monica Lim of Art Pandemic reported that the color saturation of the Luminance is unparalleled with both light and dark colors. However, she did report one drawback:

The only drawback about the Luminance pencils is that they're not great for keeping a sharp point, so I still had to turn to the Polychromos for details. But honestly, the colour saturation of the Luminance makes them worth the price if you're a coloured pencil artist.
Derwent Coloursoft

Derwent Coloursoft colored pencils are designed with the needs of professional artists in mind. With their unique formulation, these pencils offer a perfect balance between softness and durability. The rich, vibrant pigments provide excellent coverage and blending capabilities. The Coloursoft range also features a strong core that resists breakage, ensuring that your pencils last longer. Whether you're creating detailed illustrations or expressive artwork, Derwent Coloursoft pencils deliver exceptional results.

Don Low of Parka Blogs reports a positive experience with these pencils:

Since they are so soft, these pencils (Colorsoft) enable easy blending and burnishing and working with many layers. I do think that the Colorsoft colored pencils are softer than Caran D'Ache Luminance and Prismacolor pencils. After I tried the initial 6 colors I bought, I love them so much I bought a box of 24 colors. After testing, I derived the following benefits of using Colorsoft; able to active soft gradients; fast coverage (even with heavy strokes); and quick sketching even with strong lines; they glide smoothly on any kind of support; work well with other colored pencils and medium even with ink; they also feel like paint while I work with multiple layers at one time; while I can achieve quite opaque and bright colors with them. If I need a one-stroke accent, Colorsoft will go on thick and "pop" in the colors. They also allow me to add on moist paper with either water or watercolors. Further more, since the pencils are made quite fat and round probably with more wood to protect the core, they have less internal breakage.
Staedtler Ergosoft

For artists seeking comfort and precision, Staedtler Ergosoft colored pencils are an excellent choice. These ergonomically designed pencils feature a triangular shape for a relaxed grip and reduced hand fatigue during extended drawing sessions. The smooth, pigmented cores allow for effortless color application, while the soft leads blend easily for seamless transitions. Staedtler Ergosoft pencils are perfect for artists of all skill levels, providing both comfort and quality.

Lucy of Colouring in the Midst of Madness reports that Staedtler produces two types of Ergosoft pencils: Watercolor and regular colored pencil. She states that she likes the triangular, ergonomic shape of the pencil, but has problems with the hardness of the lead:

The leads are quite hard but they have a good vibrant pigment meaning you get a bright colour without needing a lot of pressure. However, because the leads are quite hard, you do need to use quite a bit of pressure when colouring toothier paper so I’d advise these for smoother paper if you have joint problems or you’re going to have to press quite hard to get a bold, full colour with no white gaps. I also noticed that while the pigment is very vibrant, you do get a wax bloom when using the hardest pressure and this makes blending more difficult than with oil-based pencils because you can’t get many layers before the wax bloom builds up so much that it interferes with colour lay down.
Koh-I-Noor Polycolor

Koh-I-Noor Polycolor colored pencils offer exceptional value for artists on a budget without compromising on quality. These versatile pencils feature a soft, vibrant core that delivers rich, consistent color laydown. With their excellent lightfastness and blendability, Polycolor pencils allow you to create stunning artworks at an affordable price. Whether you're a student or a professional, these pencils provide an excellent entry point into the world of colored pencil artistry.

Veronica Winters reports that the Koh-I-Noor pencils are a fairly good buy for the money, but not as creamy as the Prismacolor Premier or Luminance.

Because they are not as creamy as Luminance or Prismacolor, they don’t have exceptional saturation/vividness. However, these pencils will pleasantly surprise you with their range of beautiful colors and considerable color saturation. Some colors seem to be a bit softer and more vivid than the others in a set.
Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor

Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor colored pencils combine traditional craftsmanship with modern technology to offer artists exceptional quality. These pencils feature a durable, break-resistant core that maintains its shape even under heavy pressure. The high-quality pigments provide intense, fade-resistant colors, allowing your artwork to shine. With their smooth, creamy consistency, Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor pencils are perfect for both layering and blending techniques.

Rebecca Fleming of artdragon86 reports that she wasn't fond of these pencils, but can see why some artists might like them:

They are among the harder ranges of pencils and their relative transparency means they are well-suited to glazing techniques, but I found it more difficult and time consuming to build up solid layers of colour than I do with some of my other pencils. If you’re after strong, opaque pencils, these are not for you. But if you like to work with delicate layers of colour or you’re trying to add a lot colours to your pencil collection without breaking the bank, you should probably try at least a few individual Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor pencils to see if you like them.
Tombow Irojiten

Tombow Irojiten colored pencils are renowned for their unique color palettes inspired by nature and culture. Each set features carefully curated colors that blend harmoniously together, allowing artists to effortlessly create stunning gradients and color schemes. The high-quality pigments deliver vibrant, long-lasting results, while the sturdy, well-crafted barrels ensure comfort and control during use. Tombow Irojiten pencils are perfect for artists who seek a touch of artistic inspiration in their color selection.

Tina Koyama of Fueled by Clouds & Coffee spent quite a bit of time extolling the virtues of the beautifully designed boxes alone in her commemoration of the Tombow Irojiten line of colored pencils and followed that up with her appreciation for the color wheel-like range of colors, shades, and tints. She did, however, note one problem with one of the pencils:

...one of my favorite urban sketching subjects is heavy equipment at construction sites. Often the barriers, signage and workers’ vests are fluorescent orange, and one day I remembered these neon Irojiten colors. I carried the orange with me for a while, and the next time I sketched a construction scene, I happily pulled it out. It looked great on paper, but the strange part was when I scanned and photographed my sketch – the color did not look fluorescent at all. In my samples below, the photographed green and pink are closer to the colors on the page, but the orange (which looks fairly close to the pencil’s end cap) is entirely different on paper. It didn’t seem worth carrying this one additional pencil if the color was so inaccurate when photographed or scanned. Very strange.

When it comes to bringing your artistic visions to life, having the best colored pencils is essential. The right set of colored pencils can make a remarkable difference in the quality and vibrancy of your artwork. From the renowned Faber-Castell Polychromos to the versatile Arteza Professional, the market offers a wide range of options to suit every artist's needs and preferences. Whether you're a professional seeking the highest quality or a beginner on a budget, there's a set of colored pencils out there that will inspire your creativity and help you create breathtaking masterpieces.

So, don't hold back—grab a set of the best colored pencils for artists and unlock a world of color and imagination. Let your creativity soar as you blend, layer, and shade your way to artistic brilliance. With the right tools in your hands, there are no limits to what you can achieve. Happy creating!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are colored pencils suitable for professional artists?

Absolutely! Colored pencils are a versatile and widely-used medium among professional artists. They offer precision, control, and the ability to create intricate details. With the right set of colored pencils, artists can achieve stunning results and bring their imagination to life.

Can colored pencils be blended together?

Yes, colored pencils can be easily blended together to create smooth transitions and gradients. You can achieve this by layering different colors or using specialized blending tools such as blending stumps or tortillons. Blending colors with colored pencils opens up endless possibilities for creating depth and dimension in your artwork.

Do all colored pencils have the same level of lightfastness?

No, the level of lightfastness can vary between different brands and ranges of colored pencils. It's essential to choose pencils that have good lightfastness ratings to ensure that your artwork doesn't fade over time. Always check the manufacturer's information or look for pencils specifically labeled as lightfast.

Can colored pencil artwork be preserved for a long time?

Yes, with proper care and handling, colored pencil artwork can last for a long time. To protect your artwork, it's recommended to use high-quality acid-free paper and store it away from direct sunlight or excessive humidity. You can also use fixatives to seal the artwork and provide an additional layer of protection.

How do I choose the right colored pencils for my artistic style?

Choosing the right colored pencils depends on your personal preferences and artistic style. Consider factors such as pigment quality, color range, blendability, and the type of artwork you create. It's helpful to read reviews, experiment with different brands, and find the pencils that best suit your needs and artistic vision.

Can I use colored pencils for different art techniques?

Absolutely! Colored pencils are incredibly versatile and can be used for various art techniques. Whether you prefer realistic drawings, vibrant illustrations, or mixed media creations, colored pencils can be a valuable addition to your artistic toolkit. Experimenting with different techniques and exploring the possibilities of colored pencils can lead to exciting discoveries and unique artworks.

As Editor and Publisher, Michelle oversees the content creation for the site. With a background in art, design, and writing, her interests are in color theory, mixed media, and gestalt.

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