Top 10 Best Colored Pencils for Drawing

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best colored pencils, adult coloring books, artist colored pencils

Though all students are likely to need a pencil for writing at some point in their academic career, art students and other creative types may well have a need for a little bit of color in their pencil choices. In many ways, a decent set of colored pencils is like grown-up crayons, which is not to say you won’t want some of those, too.

While the market for colored pencils used to be limited to drawing students, the continuing popularity of adult coloring books has brought an influx of demand to the market. This, in turn, has affected some change.

When I was in high school, the de facto quality colored pencil was Prismacolor, but you really wouldn’t spend the money unless you were a dedicated visual artist. Now, with an influx of adults with disposable income buying relatively up-market pencils, makers of the world’s best colored pencils are increasing demand, according to this Independent article from last year. In that article, representatives from the companies discuss how this demand has driven increases in pencil pack size and diversification of colors, which are positive developments that benefit anyone who needs to buy them.

Whatever your reason for buying them, the beginning of the school year is a good time to stock up. We’ve chosen colored pencil sets from the best makers in the industry so your work — whether merely meditative or in pursuit of artistic expression — can be its best. We’ve also included a couple of relatively inexpensive options for those who just want to pick up a set to have on hand.

For all your coloring, blending, and shading needs, here are our top ten best colored pencils for drawing.

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1. Koh-I-Noor Polycolor Drawing Pencil Set

best colored pencils, adult coloring books, artist colored pencils

Koh-I-Noor

Founded in 1790, Koh-I-Noor makes a wide variety of top-notch art and office materials and this expanded set of colored pencils is no different. These are 3.8 millimeter core pencils that feature a special oil binder that confers two benefits: 1. The resulting color is water-resistant; 2. The core is hard and will resist breakage while forming a fine tip. Excellent for shading and blending, and 72 colors is quite a palette with which to work.

Specs:

  • Binder medium: Oil
  • Country of manufacture: Czech Republic
  • Quality grade: Artist
  • Hardness: Hard

Price: $59.79 for 72 colors

Buy the Koh-I-Noor Polycolor Drawing Pencil Set here.


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2. Faber-Castell Polychromos Color Pencil Set

best colored pencils, adult coloring books, artist colored pencils

Faber-Castell

As we discussed in our best pens for writing post, Faber-Castell makes extremely fine writing and drawing implements. You would not be disappointed buying any of their products, but these pencils are especially among the best on the market. These are oil-based pastels with very hard lead, which is combined with the company’s proprietary SV lead bonding process that keeps the wood casing firmly affixed to the lead. Like the option above, they’re water resistant for working in mixed media. The massive set of 120 colors are part of the company’s color matching system that ensures that regardless of the product, the hues will match. These don’t blend quite as well as some other options, but that’s more than made up for by the excellent coloration.

Specs:

  • Binder medium: Oil
  • Country of manufacture: Germany
  • Quality grade: Professional artist
  • Hardness: Hard

Price: $154.99 for 120 colors (52 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Faber-Castell Polychromos Color Pencil Set here.


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3. Derwent Coloursoft Colored Pencils

best colored pencils, adult coloring books, artist colored pencils

Derwent

The first two picks used hard cores in the traditional colored pencil approach. This Derwent set utilizes a wax-based lead for a pastel-like experience. This allows for bold color application and is a bit easier to blend and mix. That means you’ll be sharpening a little more often, but some people prefer the forgiving nature of the soft pastel texture. The reusable metal tin includes a plastic insert to double as a holder for the 72 colors in this set.

Specs:

  • Binder medium: Wax
  • Country of manufacture: United Kingdom
  • Quality grade: Artist
  • Hardness: Soft

Price: $65.97 for 72 colors (58 percent off MSRP)

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Buy the Derwent Coloursoft Colored Pencils here.



4. Tombow Irojiten Colored Pencils

best colored pencils, adult coloring books, artist colored pencils

Tombow

Tombow pencils made an appearance on our best pencils for students post because they’re something of a phenomenon in Japan and well worth your consideration here. This series of colored pencils takes a slightly different approach than the rest of this list. These are presented in themed, limited color palettes of 30 pencils each. They’re perfect for working on a series or for coloring books that focus on nature scenes. The Rainforest set featured here would be perfect for Annika Bernhard’s Rain Forest Coloring Book, while the Woodland pack would work in Johanna Basford’s Enchanted Forest, and the Seascape set in Basford’s Lost Ocean. Though these are easily blended and mixed wax, they’re still hard lead and won’t break while sharpening. These are also excellent for layering. If you’d prefer a more traditional approach from Tombow, check out their Recycled Colored Pencils 24-pack.

Specs:

  • Binder medium: Wax
  • Country of manufacture: Japan
  • Quality grade: Artist
  • Hardness: Hard

Price: $26.98 to $28 for 30 colors

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Buy the Tombow Irojiten Colored Pencils here.



5. Staedtler 1270 Triangular Barrel Colored Pencils

best colored pencils, adult coloring books, artist colored pencils

Staedtler

If you want something a bit more basic to get started, consider this set from Staedtler. Utilizing one of the company’s hallmarks, these have ergonomic triangular barrels, perfect for long coloring sessions. The 48 colors in this set should be more than enough to get you started, and you can opt for smaller packs of 12 colors here and 24 colors here. These are soft, wax-based colors with a 2.9 millimeter lead, which is just right for casual drawing and coloring.

Specs:

  • Binder medium: Wax
  • Country of manufacture: Indonesia
  • Quality grade: Student
  • Hardness: Soft

Price: $8.05 for 48 colors

Buy the Staedtler 1270 Triangular Barrel Colored Pencils here.



6. Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils

best colored pencils, adult coloring books, artist colored pencils

Prismacolor

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As I said before, I recall that when I was in high school and college, Prismacolors were the brand to buy when it came to colored pencils. I also recall that they were far more expensive than they are now, thanks in part to a move to Mexican production. If you can overlook that minor detail, you can snag an absolutely enormous number of colors in these premium, professional-level pencils for less than the premium options at the top of this list. These are soft core, which means they’re good for rich color application and blending. (If you need something for detail work, look to the hard core Verithin versions.) These are very good and this particular set will keep you good company for colors for awhile.

Specs:

  • Binder medium: Wax
  • Country of manufacture: Mexico
  • Quality grade: Professional artist
  • Hardness: Soft

Price: $68 for 150 colors

Buy Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils here.



7. Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor Art Pencils

best colored pencils, adult coloring books, artist colored pencils

Lyra

Just edging the Faber-Castells above in both cost and quality, these Lyra pencils in fact used to feature pigment made by that company. Now owned by an Italian outfit, these pencils reportedly suffer from less bloom that the FC counterparts, as well as better, more brilliant pigmentation from four millimeter lead. The largest kit on offer comes in a display stand wooden box that includes a kneadable eraser, paper wipers, a knife, a sandpaper block, and, of course, a sharpener. Not only will this give you a large number of colors to choose from, you’ll have everything you need to get started right away with incredibly high-quality coloring implements. If the other options have let you down, these might be worth considering.

Specs:

  • Binder medium: Oil
  • Country of manufacture: Germany
  • Quality grade: Professional artist
  • Hardness: Hard

Price: $147.28 for 100 colors

Buy the Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor Art Pencils here.



8. Caran D’ache Pablo Set

best colored pencils, adult coloring books, artist colored pencils

Caran D’ache

The last of our picks at the very top of the market (and thus price) are these very fine pencils made in Geneva, Switzerland. These are extremely high-grade pencils that can be perfectly blended in many applications. The soft, wax-based 3.7 millimeter lead is water-resistant and makes for fantastic layering. The 80 color set is the second from the largest they offer, with the 120 color set being the largest and the only one we’ve mentioned coming in over $200. Otherwise, you can choose from 12 colors, 18 colors, 30 colors, and 40 colors. As an additional bonus, these are Forest Stewardship Council certified.

Specs:

  • Binder medium: Wax
  • Country of manufacture: Switzerland
  • Quality grade: Professional artist
  • Hardness: Soft

Price: $147.93

Buy the Caran D’ache Pablo Set here.



9. Ohuhu Colored Drawing Pencils

best colored pencils, adult coloring books, artist colored pencils

Ohuhu

To come back to more general-purpose pencils, this set from Ohuhu would make an excellent beginner or casual use pencil and are very inexpensive. Partly that’s because of being made in China, and partly it’s due to a slightly higher wax content. That means more shine on the results and slightly less blendability, but for relaxing coloring book work, these will be excellent. These are especially good for filling large areas with color, so consider these if the other options are too pricey.

Specs:

  • Binder medium: Wax
  • Country of manufacture: China
  • Quality grade: Artist
  • Hardness: Hard

Price: $14.99 for 72 colors

Buy the Ohuhu Colored Drawing Pencils here.



10. Color Escapes Colored Pencils By Crayola

best colored pencils, adult coloring books, artist colored pencils

Crayola

Not to be left behind by a craze they arguably started in the youth of all Millenials, Crayola have released this set of colored pencils to compete in the same arena with the rest of our list. They feature 3.3 millimeter, wax-based soft cores, which are great for filling large areas with vibrant color. The box they ship in can be used as a stand, while the pencils have a color-dipped end to identify their shade. They’re among the cheapest on this list and make a fine effort from the company many of us (in the U.S. at least) started with years ago. A smaller and cheaper set from Crayola is available here.

Specs:

  • Binder medium: Wax
  • Country of manufacture: Unknown
  • Quality grade: Student
  • Hardness: Soft

Price: $22.49 for 72 colors

Buy the Color Escapes Colored Pencils By Crayola here.


For more posts to help you get ready to head back to school, check out our Back to School category with posts from our whole team.


Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.

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