Colored Pencil Comparison Chart

Colored Pencil Comparison

Are you looking to purchase colored pencils, but are overwhelmed by the options? There are a lot of options out there for you. It can definitely be a little intimidating, especially if you’re not really sure what you’re looking for. It’s important to realize that what’s considered to be “the best pencil” to one artist may not be the best to another. There is so much variety in brands and forms of colored pencils that you have to find the brand that suites your style.

Since experimentation can become very expensive, I decided to put together a comprehensive comparison chart for you to help you make an informed decision about which colored pencils to buy. The pencil brands are sorted based on manufacturer. There are many different brands out there, but I chose to narrow the list to the best and most popular pencils that are in use. If there is a brand that you would like see, just contact me and let me know.

Colored Pencil Comparison Chart

Colored Pencil BrandPriceBinderQualitiesMy Rating
Colored Pencil BrandPriceBinderQualitiesMy Rating
Prismacolor Premier Soft Core Colored Pencils

$$$WaxPros
- Rich pigment and velvety application
- Huge selection of colors
- Easy to blend
- Artist quality (Highest quality)

Cons
- Soft core breaks easily
- Expensive, but worth it.
4.8 out of 5

Watch my review

Prismacolor Verithin Colored Pencils

$$$WaxPros
- Rich pigment
- Core is not easily broken
- Huge selection of colors
- Keeps a sharp point
- Artist quality (Highest quality)

Cons
- More difficult to blend
- Expensive
4.5 out of 5
Prismacolor Scholar Pencils

$$WaxPros
- Above average pigment
- High quality student grade pencils
- Huge selection of colors
- Blends easily
- Student quality (Very good quality)
- Great for intermediate artists
- Great value for price

Cons
- Difference in quality is noticeable compared to Premier and Verithin
- Not as many color choices
3.8 out of 5

Faber-Castell Polychromos Colored Pencils

$$$OilPros
- Rich pigment
- Huge selection of colors
- Smooth application
- Artist quality (Highest quality)
- Keeps sharp point
-Doesn't break easily

Cons
- Doesn't layer as easily
- Expensive
4.6 out of 5

Watch these pencils in action

Derwent Colorsoft Pencils

$$$WaxPros
- Rich pigment and very soft core
- Smooth application
- Less wax bloom
- Artist quality (Excellent quality)

Cons
- Doesn't keep a sharp point
- Pricey
4.2 out of 5
Derwent Studio Colored Pencils

$$$WaxPros
- Rich color
- Layers easily
- Less wax bloom
- Artist quality (Excellent quality)
- Hexagonal shaft for easy grip

Cons
- Pricey
4.4 out of 5

Watch these pencils in action

LYRA Rembrandt Polycolor Art Pencils

$$$OilPros
- Water resistant
- Semi - transparent layering
- Artist quality (Excellent quality)
- Intense pigmentation

Cons
- Priced higher than Polychromos pencils
4.0 out of 5
Sax Colored Pencils

$$WaxPros
- Good pigment quality
- High quality student grade pencils
- Great for classrooms
- Layers easily
- Student quality (Very good quality)
- Great for beginner or intermediate artists
- Decent value for price

Cons
- Not as many color choices
3.6 out of 5
Prang Thick Core Colored Pencil

$WaxPros
- Very inexpensive
- Decent quality student grade pencils
- Great for students on a budget
- Layers easily
- Great for beginner artists

Cons
- Not artist quality
- Weak pigmentation
2.5 out of 5



* I recommend these pencils for absolute beginners
Crayola Colored Pencils

$WaxPros
- Very inexpensive
- "Okay" quality

Cons
- Low quality pigment
- Does not blend easily
- Difficult to produce quality results
1.8 out of 5

What’s considered in this chart…

This chart is compiled with the assumption that the colored pencils are to be used as a traditional drawing medium. Once considered more of an obscure medium for fine drawing, colored pencils have seen a recent surge in popularity. This new popularity is due in part to adult coloring books, new products and techniques, and a collection of highly-skilled colored pencil artists that are able to share what they create with folks around the world through the internet.

No matter how you plan to use colored pencils, the quality of the pencil remains indifferent. In other words, there isn’t a perfect brand for adult coloring books compared to traditional drawing. If a pencil is of high quality, then it is considered high quality for both coloring and drawing.

Price

The first factor is obviously the price. For the most part with colored pencils, you get what you pay for. I understand that not everyone can afford the top quality pencils, but you’ll see the difference in your work, if you can afford it. The range in price reflected in this chart is pretty wide – but so is the range in quality.

Binder Type

Binder is the material that holds the pigment together so that it can be applied to a drawing surface. The binder affects the marks and the way that the pencils behave on a surface. It also affects the tip of the pencil and the softness of the core. Most of the pencils evaluated here feature wax-based binders. The waxy binder allows them to be layered and burnished as additional layers are added. A drawback to wax-based binders is wax bloom. Wax bloom is what happens when a white surface appears on the drawing after a few weeks. It can be easily wiped away and potentially prevented using fixative. You can read more about wax bloom here.

Another option is oil-based binders. The binders in these pencils are different from wax-based binders. The difference in mark and layering is noticeable, especially if you are accustomed to a wax-based experience. Oil-based pencils layer nicely and provide rich color, just like their wax-based counterparts. Wax bloom is less of an issue with these pencils since they are oil-based.

Not all “colored pencils” are colored pencils. There are many specialty pencils that some people mistaken for traditional colored pencils. Watercolor pencils, for example, are different than traditional colored pencils and the manner in which they are used is also different.

If you want a bit more information on the differences between different types of colored pencils check out the following resources…

Qualities of the Colored Pencil

In my opinion, a quality colored pencil should possess a few qualities.

1. Rich color or pigmentation
2. Easily layered
3. Easy to burnish
4. Strong core (Doesn’t break easily)

Of course, there are other considerations, but these four qualities are important to me. Unfortunately, no one pencil on the chart is the best in all of these categories. Prismacolor Premier pencils are easily layered and burnish easily, yet the core is very soft and brittle. Polychromos pencils feature a strong core, but Premier pencils are better for layering and burnishing.

My Recommendations

My recommendation for an artist quality wax colored pencil is Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencil . Premier pencils are super soft and buttery when layered. The colors can easily be worked together to create nice transitions between color and value. An incredible amount of colors are available and can be picked up at most art stores. The core is soft and breaks easily. If it weren’t for that, I would give these pencils a “5”. These pencils are pricey, but well worth the investment.

My recommendation for an artist quality oil colored pencil is Faber-Castell Polychromos Colored Pencils . Polychromos pencils are simply awesome. These pencils are soft, yet keep a strong point. They layer nicely and mix easily. The core is very strong, so breaking is not an issue. Again, these pencils are expensive, but worth it.

My recommendation for Intermediate artists is the Prismacolor Scholar Pencil. You get a great value with this pencil. The pigment is not quite as strong as you’ll find in the Premier series, but it’s good enough to be a solid pencil. The colors blend and layer easily. Burnishing is also easily achieved. If you are learning and not quite ready to invest in the higher quality pencils, then this pencil is your best bet.

My recommendation for Beginners are Prang Colored Pencils. These pencils are great for those on a budget or for those just starting out. There are lots of color options and the pencils are medium soft. They are difficult to blend and layer, but for the price – you can’t do much better.

I hope this helps those of you out there that are looking for colored pencils and are unsure of where to start. If you have any other experiences with these pencils and want to share leave a comment below…

Check out the colored pencil tutorials.

Ready to Learn More?

The Colored Pencil Course
Colored Pencil Drawings
“The Colored Pencil Course” is designed to guide absolute beginners and intermediate artists to a level of producing professional quality colored pencil drawings through concise and “easy to digest” modules that include HD videos and Ebooks.

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  • airi

    I would add Koh-I-Noor Polycolor. It is very good price and quality, speacially for beginners!

  • Pam

    I disagree with your review on Crayola’s!

  • Keaira

    I was wondering about Koh-I-Noor.. glad itś listed here. In Europe I can’t seem to get prismacolours. Given my local art shop I have to choose between Derwent, Faber-Castell and Koh-I-Noor. Right now I’m using a much cheaper set of Spectrum Noir’s. They feel ok, but they’re not perfect for me.. Suppose I’ll go with the polychromos.

    Do you happen to have any recommendations on watercolour pencils? I see in your videos you use mostly Derwent, but are those the best in your opinion? Again, I have to choose between Derwent, Koh-I-Noor and Faber-Castells.

  • Jacqueline

    I agree that crayons is bad. I like master series because their is a variety of color and it is easy to blend, the tip does not break often and it makes smoth lines

  • Debbie Ischer Hickerson

    I have read that you can put your colored pencils in an oven on the lowest setting and bake an hour or two then let them cool to harden the wax to help prevent breaking. Is this a good idea or does it effect the quality?

  • Melissa Henson

    I read to only bake them 3-5 minutes on 250

  • Debbie Ischer Hickerson

    Oh! Thank you! I wonder if the info I read was wrong…or if I read it wrong. Lol

  • kelleypen

    I would add Tombow Irotjen. I love the way they lay down. But the price? WAY expensive. Still, if you get lucky and see them on clearance, grab some.

  • kelleypen

    Who makes Master Series?

  • phil gray

    Hi Debbie – I have heard about putting color pencils in a microwave oven for a few seconds, but this was only for pencils that have constant breakages.
    Putting them in the microwave is supposed to fuse the lead together – although I have not actually tried this out as yet.
    Personally, I would not really try it at all unless you have a particularly problematic pencil where it is clear that the lead is breaking all the time.
    I am also not really sure what the effect might be on the actual pencil lead if you were to bake all your pencils (if that was your intention), there may possibly be some detrimental effect on the quality of the pencil after baking (?)

  • Megan Kathleen Smith

    Prismacolor does break easily but I found a solution for that. If they do drop just microwave them for about 10 seconds. That will melt the wax allowing them to fix themselves. I hope that helps.

  • Judy

    Any thoughts on the Crafters Companion pencils?

  • BrS

    Interestingly the Lyra Polycolor are much cheaper than Polychromos here. I can get a 72 set for the equivalent of about $40. A set of 24 Polychromos costs more than that. Prismacolor on the other hand is almost impossible to get and those few places that do sell them charge more for a set of 24 than for the 36 set of Lyra.

  • Adeline Hanna

    In a good or bad way. I love crayola. I disagreed on them calling Prangs recommended. Crayola are much better.

  • artlover

    I agree with your Crayola review. I find they are too waxy. I used to prefer the Laurentian brand before they went out of business. I miss those inexpensive pencil crayons

  • Catherine Poon

    How about Caran d’Ache?