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The Best Colored Pencils – A Detailed Review for Artists

Colored pencils are a fantastic medium – they are easy to use, the cleanup time is minimal and you get exposure to the wonderful world of color. But with so many great brands of colored pencils available, it can be confusing to determine which colored pencils you should go with.

In this post, I will review some of the best colored pencils available for artists. If you want to learn about the standard drawing pencils (graphite and charcoal), you should read this post. Below are the pencils which have been reviewed:

Here are my full reviews:

Painting the Landscape (Free Workshop)

I’ll walk you through the entire process using one of my recent paintings. You’ll see how I go from idea all the way through to reflecting on the finished painting.

Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils

Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils are widely considered to be the leading colored pencils in terms of quality for the cost. The quality of these pencils tends to match or come close to the more expensive colored pencils which are tailored to seasoned artists.

These are my number one all-around pick for the best-colored pencils for artists. You cannot really go wrong here.


  • Affordable
  • Available in most leading art retailers
  • Reliable quality (the company has a very proven track record)
  • Vibrant colors
  • Blend well
  • Wide range of beautiful colors


  • Tend to leave a waxy bloom (as they are wax-based)
  • The lead is so soft it tends to break
  • No individual pencil holders in the tin making it pretty worthless as a carry case

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Staedtler Ergosoft Colored Pencils

These are decent colored pencils of comparable quality to the Prismacolor pencils. However, these are more expensive so Prismacolor has the clear edge.

In my opinion, the only reason you would choose these over the Prismacolor pencils is if you want the ergosoft grip or just for personal preference.


  • Great vibrancy in the colors
  • A case that holds the individual pencils in place
  • Triangular ergonomic non-slip grip


  • Wax-based, so tends to leave a waxy bloom
  • More expensive than the very similar Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils

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Faber Castell Polychromos Colored Pencils

These are brilliant colored pencils which are of very high quality. However, they are at the high end of the price spectrum, so I would recommend these for more developed artists.

Beginners, children, and hobbyists may want to stick to the cheaper alternatives.


  • Extremely high quality
  • High lightfastness and color vibrancy
  • Break-resistant
  • Oil-based (no waxy bloom)
  • A color matching system in place (the colors of these pencils match the Faber Castell watercolor pencils and pastels)


  • Expensive

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LYRA Rembrandt Polycolor Art Pencils

These are very high-quality, oil-based colored pencils that are tailored to professional artists. These pencils would make for the perfect gift for any artist’s friends.

The price range will probably not suit beginners or more casual artists.


  • High-quality wooden box (making this set a perfect gift for artists)
  • Beautiful cedar casings to hold the lead
  • Great lightfast rating
  • Overall high quality pencils


  • Moderate to high price range
  • The internal trays are a bit flimsy

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Caran D’ache Luminance Colored Pencil Set

These are premium wax-based colored pencils. The only real downside is the price.


  • Great lightfast rating
  • Smooth
  • Great blending
  • Beautiful cedar casing
  • Individual pencil slots in the case


  • Expensive
  • Wax based, so may leave a waxy bloom

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Best All-Round Colored Pencils

The Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils are in my opinion the best all-round colored pencils based on quality and price.

Best Colored Pencils For Artists

Best Colored Pencils for Seasoned Artists

Whilst you could create beautiful artworks with any of the colored pencils listed in this post, I would suggest any of these:

Faber Castell Polychromos Color Pencils

LYRA Rembrandt Polycolor Art Pencils

Caran D’ache Luminance Colored Pencils

These colored pencils are geared towards more seasoned artists and are of very high quality. They are more expensive but you generally get what you pay for.

Best Colored Pencils for Children, Beginners and Hobbyists

For children, beginners and hobbyists, I recommend the Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils. They are affordable, easy to use and still have great quality.

What Makes a Great Colored Pencil?

Lightfastness: This refers to how well a color is preserved when exposed to light. The last thing you want when you create a beautiful artwork is for it to fade or discolor over time.

The least stable colors are hot pinks, purples, blues, reds and oranges, while browns, grays and other neutrals generally remain unchanged.

Pencils with a high lightfast rating will have more resistance to fading and discoloring over time. The American Standard Test Measure rates the lightfastness of pigments from one to five. The lower the number, the more lightfast a color is. However, as different colors have different lightfast ratings, many-colored pencil sets do not display a lightfast rating.

In general, the more expensive colored pencils which are tailored to more serious artists will have a high lightfast rating (but this is not a strict rule and you will need to do your research on each brand).

Overall Quality: How well the pencils are made and the quality control standards of the brand.

Blending: How well the colored pencils are able to be blended on the paper.

Quality Of The Pigment: The intensity and overall quality of the pigments used in the pencils.

Want to Learn More?

You might be interested in my Painting Academy course. I’ll walk you through the time-tested fundamentals of painting. It’s perfect for absolute beginner to intermediate painters.

Thanks for Reading!

I appreciate you taking the time to read this post and I hope you found it helpful. Feel free to share it with friends.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy

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Dan Scott is the founder of Draw Paint Academy. He's a self-taught artist from Australia with a particular interest in landscape painting. Draw Paint Academy is run by Dan and his wife, Chontele, with the aim of helping you get the most out of the art life. You can read more on the About page.

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10 comments on “The Best Colored Pencils – A Detailed Review for Artists”

  1. I love Caran D’ache! Soft, Great vibrancy and blendability. Does not leave grooves in watercolor paper. I have Prismacolor too. Harder lead. I don’t use it like my Caran’s.

    • Interesting. I use Prismacolor on watercolor pencil most of the time. I love the combination. Haven’t noticed grooves. I prefer the creamy mixing they give me.

  2. This is very informative. I’m just starting to get into working with professional colored pencils for my drawings. I not only brought the prismacolor pencils, I also brought the arteza colored pencils as well. I don’t know how good the arteza pencils are or if they were worth buying. Any thoughts.

    • Hi Chariss

      I have not used Arteza myself, but they seem to be well reviewed. It probably just comes down to personal preference.



    • Prismacolor also has a line of pencils called verithin that have much harder leads and are good for detail work. You can use them to supplement the softer Premier when you need hard lines and sharp points.

  3. Well I was just researching Caran D’ache Luminescent CP. Just FYI they are not just wax based they have combined oil giving these pencils best of both worlds!! 🙂 At least that’s what I’ve found! With this in mind I’m going to purchase a small set to try!! I’ve mostly have used Faber Castell poliychomos and Prismacolor Premier! Love them both. In fact I constantly combine the two in an art piece!!


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