Colored Pencils: for Fun, Work and Art

Colored pencils are loved all over the globe, because they are a universal art tool. Thanks to incredibly rich palettes, ease of use, excellent blending capabilities and availability, they are equally popular with kids, their parents, art therapists and professionals. Coloring or drawing with pencils contributes to improving fine motor skills in children. It has a strong therapeutic effect on adults complaining stress and burning out, and many people just like to create marvelous pictures in coloring books. Finally, good colored pencils are utilized by artists, who produce colorful landscapes, true-to-life portraits and realistic still-lifes.

But when it comes to picking out the best colored pencils for personal use, most people feel confused, because there are so many brands on sale. After some hesitation, a typical buyer makes decision relying of three criteria: number of colors, price and brand. But with such an approach, chances to obtain best quality colored pencils in the desired price bracket are low. To make the right choice one needs to understand how he or she will use pencils, what kinds of this art tool exist, and what peculiarities need to be taken into account in every particular case.

Are All Colored Pencils Similar?

Of course, no. Moreover, there is more than one classification. Thus, based on the intended use colored pencils are divided into 3 general categories:

  • for kids and scholars;
  • for adult non-professionals;
  • for professional artists.

Based on the core material non-aquarelle pencils are of 2 kinds:

  • with an oil base;
  • with a wax base.

Based on the section shape, 3 forms of pencils are distinguished:

  • round;
  • triangular;
  • hexagon-shaped.

There are also some other criteria to consider, such as core diameter, hardness, thickness of the lead and the wooden shell, light resistance, number of shades in a palette and, of course price.

Five Facts You Didn’t Know about Colored Pencils

  1. The widest palette of colored pencils is produced by a Japanese brand Felissimo. This is their famous Felissimo 500 set, consisting of 500 unique colors.
  2. Pencils can be used under the water and in the space in the null-gravity conditions. It is a really universal tool!
  3. More than 50% of all pencils in the world are produced in China, while the best colored pencils for artists are made in Switzerland and Japan.
  4. In the UK there is a museum of pencils where one can see unique pieces, such as a 7.91 meter long pencil.
  5. It’s not a secret that pencils’ barrels are made of wood. One average tree is sufficient for production of 300 thousand pencils.

Testing of Colored Pencils in Detail: How We Picked out Best of the Best

For testing and estimating, popular titles from various brands were picked out. Some categories were deliberately excluded from the reviewing. Thus, we didn’t consider colored mechanical pencils as well as erasable colored pencils and other specific subcategories. We also excluded very expensive elite sets as well as very cheap low-grade items that can be bought at any retail store. Instead, we’ve taken low-budget and medium-priced sets with the number of colors varying from 24 to 72. As far as the primary goal was set as figuring out the best colored pencils for adult coloring, we also didn’t review the ones designed for kids. Finally, we were not interested in old or “perennial classic” items and reviewed only new colored pencils to choose the top-7 titles of the year 2017.

During testing, we compared the participating brands based on several criteria:

  • number of colors;
  • vibrancy of pigments;
  • color accuracy;
  • blending ability;
  • sphere of application;
  • price per pencil;
  • package.

The result of testing is the list of seven best colored pencils of the year. It means that they can boast the best possible quality/price ratio. All of the titles included have proved their decent quality and are suited for drawing, sketching and coloring.

Meet the Winners: Top 7 Medium-Priced Colored Pencils of the Year

Comparison table on characteristics

Sargent Art Assorted Colored Pencils

Everyday Essentials Premium

Prismacolor Premier Soft Core

Castle Art Supplies

Crayola for Adult Coloring

Platinum Soft Core

US Art Supply

Number of Colors  24 72 48 72 50 72 50
 Vibrancy  OK for coloring  Vibrant, pleasant to eye  Almost ideal  Overwhelming vibrancy  Good  Good  A bit dull, comparing to similarly priced sets
 Accuracy of color rendering  Good  In most cases complies with expectations  Accurate colors; leads matches to a barrel  Perfect accuracy  Almost  ideal  Quite accurate, though some colors do not match barrels  

Quite accurate

 Blending Lead feels a bit waxy, which prevents smooth blending  Good  Colors blend smoothly and evenly  Pro level  Colors blend smoothly and evenly  Rather smooth transitions of color shades  Smooth
 Sphere of application  Non-professional application; a set for neophytes  Coloring as a hobby, improving skills in drawing Semi-professional and pro drawing. Illustrating  Suit for any purpose  For kids & adults  Adult coloring  

For adult beginners

 Average price for one pencil  approx. $0.20  approx. $0.26  approx. $0.33  approx. $0.32  approx. $0.13  approx. $0.18  approx. $0.20
 Package/case Cardboard box False leather bag  Tin metal case  Tin metal case  Cardboard box  Tin metal case Transparent case made of recyclable plastic


Sargent Art Assorted Colored Pencils (24 Colors Option)

First and foremost, Sargent art colored pencils are a fantastic low-budget option for newbies – those who want to develop from scratch their drawing skills. Apparently, they are not for professionals, but if someone just needs to learn how to use colored pencils properly, this set gives an opportunity of doing it without spending much. 24 colors are enough for making nice colorings and simple drawings.

Disadvantages: Colors are not too vibrant, and sometimes you have to apply pressure to get the desired brightness and saturation. Also, some buyers in their Sargent art colored pencils review complain that some colors seem very close to each other.

Everyday Essentials Premium (72 Colors Option)

A magnificent color selection, intensity and accurate rendering of colors make these pencils ones of the best colored pencils for coloring books. They are quite smoothly blended, forming an endless variety of shades. And finally, they last extremely long before they need sharpening. All things taken together, this set makes a perfect price/quality ratio.

Disadvantages: Some colors do not match barrels and there is not too much pigment in the lead. A pouch bag looks great, but feels very unnatural and has a fake leather odor.

Prismacolor Premier Soft Core (48 Colors Option)

Prismacolor premier colored pencils 48 are forty-eight unique pencils packed in a premium metal container. When applied on paper, they are soft, saturated, and their quality in general is close to the quality of “pro” pencils for artists. These Prismas are not only for coloring books, but also for drawing portraits and landscapes, though some artists say that 48 colors are not enough for this and opt for Prismacolor 72 colored pencils.

Disadvantages: The brand sharpener that comes with pencils mars the impression. It apparently doesn’t do its work as it should, just breaking the lead.

Castle Art Supplies (72 Colors Option)

If you are seeking for the best colored pencils for drawing, chances are you’ve found them. This is one of those rare cases when it’s really hard to find any drawback. Castle Art Supplies are bright and vibrant; they provide very smooth, evenly saturated layers and subtle color transitions. For their price, Castle Art Supplies are a real bargain. The tin case is beyond praise too.

Disadvantages: The only small disadvantage is no color names on the barrels.

Crayola for Adult Coloring (50 Colors Option)

Though this particular set of Crayola colored pencils is intended for adults, these pencils are equally loved by kids, students and adults for their bright colors and an enormously rich palette of 50 unique shades. They can be rightfully called the best cheap colored pencils available.

Disadvantages: They tend to break during sharpening, and a cardboard case doesn’t suit for pencils storage.

Platinum Soft Core (72 Colors Option)

Some buyers describe Platinum Soft Core pencils as a low-budget version of Prismacolor premier soft core colored pencils. Though they lack this sophisticated premium touch of Prismacolor, they still give very good colors, while being soft enough to be used without putting much pressure on them. They are finely blended, forming subtle shades and color transitions.

Disadvantages: One disappointment is medium color accuracy. Another problem is fragile leads that are prone to breakage during sharpening.

US Art Supply (50 Colors Option)

There are two main things to be said about the US Art Supply set: they are very affordable and there are lots of them in the box! Colors are beautiful though not too bright. Of course, they are not the best colored pencils for blending in the world, but one can make nice shades with them. A reusable package is another strong point.

Disadvantages: Vibrancy of colors is medium, and you need to apply pressure them to get a bright picture.

Increase Lifetime of Your Pencils by Proper Maintenance

The most annoying thing about colored pencils is fragility of their leads. Breakage is often a result of improper sharpening, so to avoid it one needs to know how to sharpen colored pencils correctly. The most popular method is a handheld sharpener. There are also electric sharpeners and more exotic methods, such as with a knife or sandblocks, but they are uncommon. Here are some tips how to make the process of sharpening more efficient and safe.

  1. No matter what brand you prefer – Prismacolor scholar colored pencils, or Crazart colored pencils 72, or something else, always use high-quality sharpeners with sharp (ideally – replaceable) blades.
  2. During the process, hold a pencil still and gently move a sharpener (not vice versa!).
  3. Hold a pencil in a vertical position, not horizontal. Don’t hurry, move a sharpener slowly and gently, without putting much pressure.


We’ve reviewed top 7 titles of colored pencils for non-professional adult drawing and coloring. But let’s return to our question: what are the best colored pencils? Well, the answer will depend on your goal, your experience and personal preferences.

If you are an absolute neophyte and at this stage all you want is to understand how to color with colored pencils, try Sargent Art. Don’t buy sets with 50 or 72 colors: chances you won’t use 50% of them. 24 is more than enough

If you want a decent quality at the minimal price, consider Crayola colored pencils 50. They are really cheap, while their quality is on a par with medium-priced options.

If you have some experience and now want to try quality close to professional, consider Prismacolor Premier or Castle Art Supplies. Both options can boast a superb quality, while being quite affordable.


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