One of the questions that we often hear is, “Which colored pencils are the best?”

This is not an easy question for us to answer. There are so many pencils on the market today that it can be difficult for us to know what one is best for you. We might even recommend a different type of pencil depending on what you like to color.

If you ask a group of colorists, what they prefer, you’re likely to get several different answers. Everyone has their favorite. It all depends on what you like.

So “what are the best” is a matter of opinion.

Colored pencils come in many type and grades, and they are available in sets or individually.  Most of them have a wood casing, but a few are just sticks of color without a casing.

At their core, most colored pencils are simply wooden shafts filled with a colored pigment. The pigment is held together with a binding agent which helps it spread the color to your drawing. The binder is what determines how the pencil performs for you.

The three most popular types of binders used in colored pencils are wax, oil, and water-based.

Wax Based Colored Pencils

Wax based pencils are are very popular with grown-ups who color because they are inexpensive, and available almost everywhere.  

Two of the drawbacks to wax binders is that they tend to wear quicker, and break more easily. Another drawback to wax-based binders is wax bloom. Wax bloom is a waxy buildup that appears on your page after you have finished coloring it.

Prismacolor Premiers are one of the most well-liked wax-based pencils. They are available online and in most stores and come in a wide color range (up to 150 colors). Unfortunately, they require careful handling because they are subject to internal breakage.

Oil-based Colored Pencils

Oil-based pencils are also popular with adult colorists because they layer nicely and provide rich color, just like their wax-based counterparts.

These pencils use an oil based binder which makes them harder than wax-based pencils. As a result, they last longer. A huge benefit is that oil-based colored pencils eliminate the problem of wax bloom.

The best selling oil-based colored pencils are the Faber-Castell Polychromos, which come in sets of up to 120 colors. They are soft enough for you to blend easily but hard enough to hold a fine point.

Another best selling oil-based colored pencil is the Marco Raffine. Marco Raffine’s are a much more cost-effective choice if you are looking for a wax-based colored pencil, and we recently found a 72 color set selling for only $21.95 on Amazon.

Water-Soluble Colored Pencils

Water-Soluble Colored Pencils can have either a wax-based or oil-based binder.  What separates them from the ordinary wax-based and oil-based pencils is the addition of an emulsifier.  This emulsifier allows the pigment to be liquefied with water, allowing you to create a watercolor effect.

Water-soluble pencils can be used dry like normal colored pencils, or they can be applied wet to create the desired watercolor effect. For a wet application, color as you normally would, and then you go over your completed work with a damp paint brush to intensify and spread the colors.

This technique can also be used to blend colors together, and some colorists love the results!  

Both Prismacolor and Faber-Castell offer watercolor pencils, and many colorists also recommend Derwent  Watercolor Pencils.

As you can see, picking the out the perfect colored pencils for your next coloring project can be a challenge. You’ll need to try several colored pencils before you find the one that creates the results that you want.

The good news is that there a lot of colored pencils on the market today. The bad news is that because there are so many choices, it can be a bit daunting trying to find the best ones for your needs.

You can start by buying single pencils from open stock at art stores or purchasing a small set one of the pencils recommended above and experiment for yourself. We recommend trying as many different brands as you can because colored pencils are NOT one brand fits all!

What colored pencil do you recommend?