Finding the best colored pencils for professional artists all depends on the task you’re about to undertake and your personal preference. Some pencils are hard and work best when it comes to detailed drawing, while others are soft, appearing more painterly because of its ability to lay thick, opaque layers. At times, choosing a type of colored pencil depends on how the artist draws or the kind of paper used. The choices make it a daunting task to buy a set, so here’s a handy guide to make the task easier.
Water-based, Oil, or Wax?
Colored pencils have different binders depending on the manufacturer, which have an effect on the pencil’s use. Water-based pencils are a bit unstable, but it’s one of the top choices since it can be used dry or wet, allowing the artist to have more control when it comes to texture.
Oil-based colored pencils do not easily break and last longer than water-based pencils, but more pigment needs to be applied to achieve the intensity that the artist wants. Finally, wax-based pencils are the softest among the bunch, which means they provide more coverage on the chosen material and the artist gets more intense colors too. However, they wear out quickly and easily break.
Student Colored Pencils vs. Professional Colored Pencils
There are generally two grades of pencils — one for students and one for professionals. The price difference between the two grades is fairly significant. Student grade pencils are obviously more affordable, but the pigment to binder ratio is lower. If you want more color intensity, then professional grade pencils would be a perfect choice.
Considerations in Choosing Colored Pencils
Vibrancy refers to the liveliness of the color a pencil produces. Some pencils require the artist to make more layers or strokes in order to reach the needed color brightness, while others do not require heavy strokes to make lively colors. It depends on the preference of the artist and the project.
As colored pencils are bought in sets, it’s important to consider how many kinds of shades you will need. There are sets with as little as 8 colors, but there are also those that come with 48 different shades or more.
What you should remember is that the more colors a set has, the pricier it will become. Professional artists may need a large set to accommodate commissions that require a lot of colors.
Unlike regular pencils with leads made from graphite, the lead of colored pencils is made from a choice of binder and pigments. Most colored pencils have a hard lead, which is great for artists that heavy strokes. They don’t break easily and are a common choice for beginners.
There are softer leads too for professionals with light hands. However, you really need to be extra careful with them because they easily break when used too hard.
Binders are either wax-based or oil-based. Colored pencils with a wax binder commonly have softer leads, but they’re perfect for artists working on a large canvass. Oil-based binders, meanwhile are harder, and you will need layers and strokes to make the colors come alive.
Like regular pencils, colored pencils come in different sizes. Of course, the short ones don’t last long, so professional artists, always choose the regular-sized ones. The usage of the pencils is also a determining factor when it comes to choosing a pencil size.
Poorly-manufactured colored pencils tend to break easily. For longer usage and longevity, you might have to invest in brands with established names to make sure that your pencils are durable and produce the right shade.
If you order your colored pencils online, make sure to check them immediately after receiving them to make sure there aren’t any broken pieces or lacking tips. If the product incurred damage, return them at once to have it replaced or get reimbursed.
Taking Care of Your Colored Pencils
It’s not enough that you store it in a box where your pencils belong. Here are additional tips on maintaining the quality of your colored pencils.
- To keep the pencil lead intact, store them in a hard pencil case.
- Use the right sharpener in accordance with the size of your pencils.
- Some artists actually turn the sharpener instead of the pencil to sharpen them with less tension.
- Be careful in exerting force when using pencils. Pencils with soft leads need to be used lightly, but if you have heavy fingers, choose a pencil with a harder lead.
- You can use a little heat on wax-based pencils in order to keep the wax fused together.
- Always return your colored pencils to their storage case.
- Keep them in a dry place and don’t allow the pencils to be soaked in water for too long.
Top 10 Best Colored Pencils for Professional Artists Reviewed
This particular set comes in 72 different colors for a price that won’t go over the intended budget. This is wax-based color pencil perfect for coloring, shading, and sketching that not only professional artists will love — it’s a perfect choice for beginners too.
Non-toxic, which is safe even for children’s use
Has stable, comfortable barrels
Produces vibrant colors for maximum coverage
Available in many different colors
There might be problems with the quality of wood
Some pencil leads may break upon sharpening
Art-n-Fly Artist Grade Oil-Based Colored Pencils
Art-n-Fly’s artist grade pencils are oil-based pencils that come in 48 different colors. The pencils produce lively and vibrant colors that blend well with other mediums such as pens and markers. This set has soft, thick cores, making it perfect for drawing, coloring, and shading. It also has sturdy and thick leads that prevent the pencils from chipping and cracking easily.
Affordable price for a set of 48
Can be smudged or blended using the fingertips
High lightfast pencils level on most colors
Pencil packaging easily wears out
The Sela Art colored pencils set has 54 pieces all in all, which includes 10 sketch pencils, 10 colored pencils, 10 metallic pencils, 10 charcoal pencils, 10 watercolor pencils, and 4 extra accessories: a sharpener, eraser, brush, and a buffer.
Apart from the wide variety of colors and textures, what sets Sela Art apart from other brands is its stylish packaging. Its design makes it easier to track your pencils and store them where they belong.
The pencils are designed by artists themselves
Perfect gift for budding and professional artists
Wide variety of colors and textures
Vivid and bright colors
The item is often out of stock and hard to find
This incredible art kit is created to help professional artist bring their imagination to form. Each pencil is made of high-quality lead that produces vibrant shades with a smooth texture. The set has 100 pieces all in all, which includes 36 colored pencils, 36 watercolor pencils, 12 graphite pencils, 6 charcoal pencils, 3 blending stumps, 1 watercolor brush, 1 pencil extender, 1 sandpaper block, 1 metal cutter knife and sharpener, and 1 rubber eraser. It makes the perfect gift for your artistic friend.
Wide selection of colors and textures
Comes in a sturdy case that makes organizing the pencils easier
Pencils have a high-quality core
Some users complained of the pencils having dry leads
Holbein Artist Colored Pencil
This colored pencil set from Holbein comes in 150 different colors — perfect for the artist who loves to experiment and expand creativity. The Holbein colored pencil set can be used for daubing the whole surface of the canvass evenly and has a thick lead which can draw smooth lines. With its quality pigment, discoloration and fading won’t be a problem.
The pencils are almost 8 milliliters thick, making it easy to hold
Has a thick lead for wider coverage
Comes in a sturdy packaging
While the packaging itself is one of its pros, storage could be difficult as it is too bulky
If you’re in search of a reliable set that will work for any project, you can always rely on the Faber-Castell Polychromos, the colored pencils favorite of many students and professionals. The price may take a toll on many artists, but these pencils have proved itself worthy and provide excellent value.
These pencils are perfect for layering and produce smooth and lush pigments. It doesn’t crumble and the casting is sturdy and reliable.
Non-smudge and waterproof
Leads are strong and don’t easily break
Manufacturers are trusted
Derwent is another brand trusted by many artists around the world. This particular set has 48 different colors to choose from encased in a beautiful wooden box. These pencils can be used wet or dry which allows the artist to paint or draw. You can mix it with water to create amazing color flows and watercolor effects.
A trusted brand
The texture of the lead allows artists to mix and blend colors easily
The pencils produce vivid and rich colors
The lead does not easily break
The wood of the pencils may look a bit rough
This amazing set has 72 different colors perfect for drawing, writing, and sketching. The pencils are made of recycled wood, which means its non-toxic and environment-friendly. Along with its good selection of colors, the pencils go on smoothly and artists won’t have trouble with them breaking. It’s one of the best alternatives to other expensive brands.
A wide range of colors
The pencils don’t feel scratchy and produce smooth textures
Easy to layer and blend colors
Very affordable price for a set of 72
Customers have complained of broken tips, which the manufacturer says is all due to shipping and handling
The Caran d’Ache Pablo pencils have one of the highest lightfastness ratings, which means that you won’t have a problem with fading. While the pencils appear to produce scratchy on the paper, you can still easily blend and layer them. This particular set has 120 different colored pencils that are water resistant and produce soft and creamy textures. Its metal casing makes it a perfect gift even without having to wrap it.
Wide selection of colors
Can be easily layered and blended to create different effects
Pigments are resistant to UV rays
A bit expensive
Some customers complain that it’s hard to get the pigment out in some pencils in the set
For professional artists keen on coloring adult mandala books, Colorarty’s 72 cedar wood finish artist colored pencils is one of the best choices. They can be used as regular colored pencils or take your art to the next level and incorporate paint brushes to add more layer and texture.
The pencils are 7 inches in length all having 3.5mm soft cores encased in a roll-up bag for easy access and portability. This set also includes two paint brushes, a metal pencil extender, a sharpener, and an eraser.
The roll-up bag both serve as storage and protection for the pencils
A wide range of colors
Has additional accessories
Colors can be blended easily
Non-toxic and environment-friendly
Customers complain about how the tip breaks easily when sharpening the pencil
Browsing your local art shop or a website that offers colored pencils can be an overwhelming experience as there are hundreds of different kinds of sets that all offer features you find useful. As an artist or a friend of one, you shouldn’t be just a price conscious buyer. The considerations above should be your guide to find the perfect colored pencils.
All of the products listed above are perfect on their own — all you have to do now is assess how the colored pencil is going to be used. That said, this guide should make your colored pencil shopping experience a whole lot easier.