Most adults who are just starting to color are not willing to invest a bunch of cash for colored pencils or other art supplies until they decide that they want or need to, and honestly, you can get beautiful results from the cheapest of pencils.
There are three differences between student grade and artist grade colored pencils.
- Colorfastness – if you are just coloring for fun, you don’t need to worry about this at all! What it means is that your colors if exposed to light will fade over time. Sometimes they even do that right in the book even if it’s not exposed to light.
- Ease of Coloring – the artist quality pencils have more pigment in them so the colors are easier for older fingers to apply. , Luminance pencils, for example, the most expensive of the artist pencils glide on your paper like silk.
- The intensity of Colors – the intensity of the colors is much deeper and richer with fewer layers.
All that being said, if you are coloring for fun, recreation and relaxation, those things really don’t matter, so these are our favorite inexpensive colored pencils.
Best Budget-Friendly Colored Pencils
Marco Raffine Colored Pencils
The least expensive wax-based colored pencil that performs like it’s oil-based more expensive cousins are the Marco Raffine line from Japan. These were the first set of cheaper pencils we tried out and we are still a huge fan. They are my go to set to take with me on outings because for one thing, the whole set fits in my pencil roll-up AND if I lose them or one gets broken, my investment is minimal. You can buy these from Amazon here. The full-color spectrum of 72 is available for under $25 on Amazon.
Pros: Lost Cost, Nice Colors, Ease of Coloring
Cons: Only 72 colors, no color names on pencils (just a number) and the barrel is silver so it’s sometimes hard to see what color the pencil is. No tin.
Crayola Colored Pencils
These are a fantastic option and for the price, you can’t beat it. You can invest in better pencils later and let the kids or your friends use these, but some colorists find they like the results they get from these as much as they do the expensive artist brands.
- Walmart – Crayola Colored Pencils 100 pack
- Amazon – Crayola Colored Pencils 100 pack
- Amazon – Crayola Colored Pencils 50 pack
- Walmart – Crayola Colored Pencils 36 Pack
- Amazon – Crayola Colored Pencils 36 Pack
Pros: Low Price, a large variety of colors, easy to sharpen, barrel of pencils is the color of the lead and the color name is clearly printed on the barrel.
Cons: Very waxy making them hard to layer, no tin.
If you really hate to sharpen pencils, you might give Crayola Twistables a try.
Prang Colored Pencils
I found a few Prangs in my stash from my kids’ school supplies and played with them a bit and I like them a bit better than my Crayola’s. The color selection isn’t as large but what is there is nice.
This set is the largest variety of colors in our list of cheaper colored pencils and gives you 150 different colors. Some shades are close as is the case with all large sets of colored pencils, for instance, I find there are always too many shades of yellow that are virtually identical to one another. There is some talk about these pencils having a strong unpleasant smell. That smell seems to come from the case so when you get rid of that and use a pencil cup or a pencil wrap, the bad smell disappears.
Pros: LOTS of colors, low price
Cons: no color name on pencils, barrels aren’t the color of the lead.
Johanna Basford’s recommended colored pencils are the Staedtler’s.
Johanna really likes these colored pencils for use in her books because you can sharpen them to a very fine point and they blend nicely. They have a coating around the led that produces less breakage than other pencils. I also really love this stand-up plastic case.
Click here to Order Amazon US ~ UK ~ Canada
I was set a gorgeous tin of 36 Staedtler Ergosoft Colored Pencils from the manufacturer and I adore them, however, they still don’t seem to be available to the public. The tin has Johanna Basford designs on it so it’s even more special. As soon as they are available I’ll alert everyone on social media.
Coleen Colored Pencils
This set of double ended pencils are really fun to use, particularly for a travel set since twice as many colors fit into half as big of a spot. They lay down nicely and layer pretty well, particularly for the price.
Click to Order Amazon US, UK or Canada – The newer version (787’s) includes a couple of neon colors too.
There are a few special techniques to make your cheap pencils perform like artist quality and that’s blending tool. There are specific blending pencils that will take your coloring pages to the next level. Different blenders work with different paper and pencils, so I’d buy both and play with them.
Many people love to use baby oil for blending. You apply a VERY small amount with a paper blending stump and blend it. Put a piece of paper underneath and leave the book open for the oil to evaporate. You can also dip your pencil in the oil or in Vaseline. I would play with this on a book where the pages are removable just to see what you think. There are expensive blending mediums and mineral oils but they are toxic so why not use something you may already have in your house.
Cheapest Background Coloring Materials
If you want a nice easy and inexpensive background idea, head to your dollar store and find some eyeshadows and blush colors or use your own old makeup. You can use either a makeup applicator, a cotton bud or a makeup applicator which you can also purchase at the $1 store if you don’t have some at home to use.
Colored pencils we can’t recommend yet
I’ve just started hearing great things about these pencils but haven’t tried them out myself yet. The advertising says they are easy to sharpen but reviewers say the opposite. They are difficult to sharpen and tend to be eaten up easily by the sharpener. They are similar to the Marco’s in that they have a black barrel and no color numbers and only come in a set of 24 colors, really not enough to bother with and your money would be better spent on a set of 100 Crayolas. Reviewers also say they have hardly any pigment at all when using them in coloring books. They come with or without a tin with a $5 price variation, really the best part about them is the cool tin with a cool picture of a scorpion on it.. NOT a Black Widow Spider! They are made in China. If you look on all the listings you will see lots of negative reviews however one of our readers was really upset that I gave them this review because she loves them. I’d love to hear from my readers about them if you have tried these spider inspired pencils.
Original Black Widow Pencils
Scorpion Set of Black Widow Colored Pencils
Hopefully, Black Widow Manufacturers are listening to their audience and will improve the product. You can check them out here.
If you have any favorite cost saving ideas for your coloring please let us know on social media or in the comments here.