Coloured Pencil Crash Course

So you guys may have seen over the last few months, I’ve been swatching like crazy. So I figured after all that, I would put together a bit of a coloured pencil crash course for you to check out! A bit like a summary of the brands, and the pros and cons of each. I mainly use Prismacolor pencils on a day to day basis, but im going to try my best not to be too biased!

So far I’ve done the full 150 set of Prismacolors and 120 piece set of Faber-Castell Polychromos, the 72 piece sets of Arteza Expert coloured pencils & Watercolour pencils, and now a smaller selection of my Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils. A total of almost 450 pencils. Let’s just say my sharpener isn’t very happy with me.

Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencil SwatchesSo I’m going to dive right In with the Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils

These are an oil based pencil, with a soft waterproof lead, and are advertised as “smooth and resistant to smudging.”  To put it simply, yes they are resistant to smudging, but they’re not immune. Oil mixes with oil, so I’ve noticed that the natural oils on your hands can interfere and make the colour travel a little if you’re not careful. In terms of smooth, I would agree to a certain extent, but I think I’ve been spoilt with my Prismacolors so nothing will live up to that level of smoothness. 

Polychromos are one of my favourite pencils for portrait drawing because, being oil based rather than wax based, they hold a good point, meaning you don’t have to sharpen them as much, and they’re a little more resistant to breaking. They’re also a lot easier to layer, before you hit the wax bloom level of pigment packing. 

On the grand scale of coloured pencils, these are towards the cheaper side if you want to buy them individually or need to replace single pencils in a set. They retail on the Coloured Pencil shop for £1.40 Per pencil. 

Next up is the Arteza pencils, so I’ll start with the standard Coloured pencils; I only have the 72 sets of these because I bought them before they released the bigger sets, so my opinions about the lack of colour variation is a bit irrelevant now. 

These pencils have a strong wax based core, which are slightly less breakable than Prismacolor’s, but not by any major margin. This means that while they do sharpen to a good point, they do wear down pretty quickly meaning they have to be sharpened pretty often. 

I haven’t really used these for many projects besides swatching them, so I can’t say too much about their blend-ability over all, but from what testing I have done, they’re not too bad. 

The biggest pro going for these pencils is the price. The 72 piece set is just £29.99 online.. that’s almost what it cost me to buy 10 Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils.. 10. 

For the price, these are a fantastic starter pencil, or even for practicing if you want to save the more expensive pencils for a special occasion. I’ve used far worse, but I would advise anyone who gets them to swatch test them all first! The colour on the pencils barrel does NOT match up to the pigment colour on quite a few pencils, resulting in me overlooking literally the perfect blush pink because the outer coating made it look like Barbie’s favourite lipstick!

One downside of these pencils is that there currently is no open stock options, but when the sets are so cheap, its not really the end of the world!

Still on the Arteza wagon here, but this time talking about the watercolour versions. I’m not going to lie, I wish there was a way to make these bad boys waterproof, because they’re so smooth, and the colour pay off is amazing, but being watercolour pencils means the second they see moisture, it’s game over. If anyone knows of a magic trick, seriously let me know! 

I know, I know, they’re water colour pencils, they’re supposed to do that, but they’re so nice to draw with that I kind of wish that the regular coloured pencil versions of these were this nice! 

These are a little bit more expensive than the regular pencils (unless you buy them on Amazon) but not by a huge margin, and they’re still a lot cheaper than many other brands of watercolour pencil, making them another good starter option. 

On to my trusty Prismacolor pencils now. 

As I’d already briefly mentioned earlier, these are a wax based pencil, which makes them super smooth to draw with, and gives them a great colour pay off. They’re also really nice to blend, especially if you get a colourless blender pencil! 

On the downside, when I say these guys break, I mean these guys BREAK. I’ve gone from an almost brand new pencil to a 1” nub in one project because they just keep on breaking. A couple of things that seem to help is leaving them in a nice sunny spot so that they warm up a little and melt back together within the pencil, or even putting them in a cool oven for a couple of minutes.

DO NOT MICROWAVE THESE PENCILS! They’re printed with metallic paint for the colour names and numbers. Its not worth the risk.

Another downside of these is that because they’re waxy, when you layer and build up colour you get a waxy bloom on the surface. I tend to just wipe it away with a tissue, but this can make it smudge all over the place. 

Price point: These retail individually for about £1.80 per pencil, which is a little more than the Faber-Castell Polychromos, but I only know of one shop that actually stocks these in open stock in the UK, so its a bit hit and miss whether I can get the colours I need.

Now that I’m writing all this down I’m starting to question why this is even one of my favourite pencils…

Now that I’ve started questioning my taste in pencils, its onto the grand finale. And by grand I mean expensive.

Caran d’Ache Luminance.. “THE MOST LIGHTFAST PERMANENT COLOUR PENCIL EVER DESIGNED.” 

These pencils are beautiful to work with. They have a soft, smooth core that’s somewhere between Prismacolor and Polychromos in texture. They don’t break too easily, and they hold a mean point.

I have a slight obsession with these pencils because they genuinely are the ultimate coloured pencil, and I can’t even put into words how nice they are to work with… BUT! (Yep there’s a but) man are they expensive! 

Open stock these retail for about £3 per pencil. The set of 76 will set you back a whopping £269.99!

I know you get what you pay for, and they really are the best, but first of all I’m a broke artist, and second, try explaining that you spent £30 on 10 pencils to a non-arty person and you’ll understand. 

These pencils are serious goals, and one day I aspire to have the full set, but for now I’ll settle for buying a few pencils here and there to add to the collection. So far I have 23/100 so it might take me a while…

So that’s it for my coloured pencil crash course so far. I hope it’s been helpful if you’re struggling to decide which pencils are right for you. If you have any specific questions, feel free as always to drop me a message on here or Instagram and I’ll do my best to help!