Colored Pencils Options
Colored Pencils are the most used item for those folks that are truly addicted to adult coloring books. If that sounds like someone you know then this is the list for you.
Everything we have learned about the best coloring supplies for the most discerning Adult Coloring Book Addicts!
The first question you will have to answer is pencils or markers? If pencils are your answer then you just have to decide your budget and buy the best line you can of the biggest color selection you can. Buying a smaller set will only frustrate you so it’s best to just wait and order the big set.
We loving shopping for colored pencils at Dick Blick because you can order individual pencils in your favorite colors to check them out before you waste you money on your artist pencils. Our recommended top brands are Prismacolor, Faber-Castell Polychromos, Caran d’Ache Pablos,
Oil-Based Colored Pencils include:
At the top of the list are the beloved Faber-Castell Polychromos Colored Pencils. They are not THE most expensive but they are near the top. These pencils are creamy, smooth, blend easily, layer forever and will give you a gorgeous result with practice and patience if you are new to this skill. The largest tin has 120 luscious colors including 3 metallic pencils.
- Click to Order Faber Castell Polychromos set of 120 Colored Pencils
- Faber Castell Polychromos set of 36 Colored Pencils
- Faber Castell Polychromos set of 60 Colored Pencils
- Faber Castell Trio Pencil Sharpener
- Faber Castell Dual Metal Sharpener
- Polychromos Colored Pencils UK
- Polychromos Colored Pencils Canada
- Poly’s in Spain
We have found that the sharpener that is made for the specific brand of pencils works fairly well but I always have my trusty Kum sharpeners with me as well as you can never have enough of them.
Lyra Rembrandt Colored Pencils
- LYRA Rembrandt Polycolor Art Pencils, Set of 72
- LYRA Rembrandt Polycolor Art Pencils, Set of 36
- LYRA Rembrandt Aquarell Artists’ Colored Pencils, Set of 72 (Note: These are watercolor colored pencils)
- Lyra’s in the UK
- Lyra’s in Canada
- Lyra’s in Spain
- Lyra’s are available at Dick Blick in individual colors and sets.
Only recently have we discovered these gorgeous sticks of color and we are currently in serious crush status with them. (pictured at the top of this page) They are soft and luminous and the colors are different than the Polycromos so you get a completely unique look when you use them instead of the polys. The only complaint we have is that the largest box is 72 pencils. Lyra’s are oil-based so no pesky wax bloom and they layer and blend nicely. They also come with their own blending pencil in the box but it seems completely useless and has zero effect so stick with your Derwent or Prismacolor blender colorless pencils instead. (More about those later)
Caran d’Ache Colored Pencils
Apparently, the finest colored pencil money can buy.
We can’t speak about these from our own experience I SPLURGED! After reading the glowing only 5-star reviews and from coloring friends! We bought the small box of 20 just to see and WOW!!! I now have to rave about them too!!! If you can afford them, give them a try as you won’t’ be sorry. Caran D’ache Luminance pencils are simply the best-colored pencils money can buy.”
Each pencil is pocketed in its own foam bed within the box. I have enjoyed my set of 20 and the white pencil does amazing things for highlights and special effects. Read the description and reviews carefully as Caran D’ache makes several lines of colored pencils including these two top artist varieties which get fabulous reviews and then the and student and watercolor pencils which didn’t get great reviews for use on adult coloring books. These Luminance pencils have the highest lightfast rating meaning that they won’t fade over time like wax and other oil-based color pencils do. They have SO much pigment and go on SO easily, they really are so lovely. One day I’ll have the big set!! Maybe!
- Caran d’Ache Luminance Colored Pencils – set of 20
- Caran d’Ache Luminance Colored Pencils – Set of 40
- Caran d’Ache Luminance Colored Pencils – set of 76
- Caran d’Ache Supracolor Set of 120 (use wet or dry)
- Caran d’ache Luminance in UK
- Caran d’ache Luminance in Canada
- Caran d’Ache Luminance in Spain
- Sold individually and in several sets at Dick Blick
Pablo Colored Pencil Set Of 120 Metal Box “They are delicious. No wax bloom, no flaky bits. Gorgeous colors that lay down over each other well and blend beautifully. Plus the pencil wood casing is harder, easier to sharpen.” These pencils aren’t quite as pricey and get rave reviews in all the groups on Facebook.
- Caran D’ache Pablo Colored Pencil Set of 12 US UK Canada
- Caran D’ache Pablo Colored Pencil set of 30 US UK Canada
- Caran D’ache Pablo Colored Pencil Set of 18 – US Canada Spain
- Caran D’ache Pablo Colored Pencil Set of 80 – US UK Canada Spain
- Caran D’ache Pablo Colored Pencil Set of 120 US UK Canada Spain
- Sold Indivdually and in several sizes of sets at Dick Blick
Marco Raffine Colored Pencils
The least expensive wax-based colored pencil that performs like its oil-based more expensive cousins are the Marco Raffine line from Japan. You can buy these from Amazon here.
Marco Raffine 48 Amazon US UK Canada
Marco Raffine 72 Amazon US UK Canada Spain
Other brands that are gorgeous but only sold in high-end fine art stores are these Bruynzeel Colored Pencils are uber soft and creamy, possibly too creamy if there is such a thing but I would test these pencils at the nearest high-end fine arts store near you before you invest in a set of these. I have a few to fill in missing greens I wanted for Enchanted Forest.
Wax Based Colored Pencils
Prismacolor Premier Artist Pencils – These very nice pencils come in the biggest set and for a price below all but the Marco Raffine pencils in the oil-based pencils above. They are a huge step up from Crayola or other schools / student-grade colored pencils and I’ve had no difficulty with mine breaking or chipping when they get sharpened. They do get a wax bloom if you want to layer your colors to blend and they aren’t colorfast, meaning your colors will fade over time particularly if your pictures are exposed to light.
I recently learned something else about these coloring work-horses for mixed media use. These are THE go-to pencils for many mixed-media artists and art journaling enthusiasts because they DO seal in the color from water-based art supplies you might use in proximity and completely seal the colors if you are doing encaustic work or sealing with beeswax.
What does “wax bloom” mean?
Wax bloom is a natural oxidation process of wax-based materials, just like rust is an oxidation of iron. It appears as a cloudy white film over a drawing or color lay down. If you are plagued with wax bloom, simply wipe your drawing with a clean, dry cloth and spray it with a final fixative to seal out air. If you find your drawings are prone to wax bloom, you may want to use a workable fixative intermittently as you layer your artwork and then finish with a final fixative. Wax bloom is especially prevalent in warmer climates and for artists who apply greater pressure when working with colored pencils. Prismacolor FAQ’
- Prismacolor Premier Soft Core Colored Pencils 150 colors – every color they make including a few neons and metallics. I wish the packaging was nicer for the biggest purchase but it’s a cardboard box that isn’t handy for coloring. I’ve removed them all and have each color family in a mason jar. They look pretty that way too.
- CLICK to Order US UK Canada France Spain
- Prismacolor Premier Soft Core 72 Colored Pencils
- Prismacolor 48 Premier Soft Core Colored Pencils
- Prismacolor Colored Pencils UK
- Prismacolor Colored Pencils Canada
- Sold Individually and in all size sets at Dick Blick
Prismacolor Verithins Colored Pencils are not to be confused with the Prismacolor Premier. These pencils are very hard and to be used for details and tiny spaces. They do not work well for blending or shading. Many people like to use them for the tiny spaces in books like Secret Garden or Time Garden.
COLORED PENCIL TIP
You want to be careful with these colored pencils because the wax core can break and if that happens it pretty much ruins the pencil because you can’t sharpen it without it falling apart. Some people swear by microwaving them if that happens but Prismacolor FAQs warn against that and instead tell you to lay them in a sunny hot window and then firmly press the cores back together. Another person in our Facebook group suggested laying them on a heating pad. I think that would work well too.
Prismacolors are usually available open stock at Hobby Lobby, Michaels and Guirys so you can always buy a couple to test them. Once you try any of these nicer quality pencils you won’t be able to color with a Crayola colored pencil or <GASP> a crayon ever again. But those are great to have around for the kids or grandkids.
These pencils remind me of a cross between a Lyra Oil-based pencil and Prismacolor Verithins. These pencils sharpen to a nice sharp point and keep the point nicely. The one thing I really LOVE about the Tombow line is that they come in small packs of 30 colors that don’t overlap one another so you can continue to add to your collection without having to buy a small pack and then have duplicates when you decide to buy the bigger set. They are HARD pencils though and don’t have the pigment of either then Prismas or the Polys.
Chel had this to say in an Amazon review, I’ve only a small pack of these so this explains how the colors are organized brilliantly.
A few things to note:
The Irojitens are pretty hard, as far as colored pencils go. They are not a smooth, creamy pencil that seems to melt over the paper with the lightest of stroke. They cover beautifully, and a little goes a long way, but they definitely require a little more “push” than the softer color pencils on the market. HOWEVER, they are super rich and creamy, and even if you push down on them quite a lot, the leads do not crumble or turn into dust. They maintain a sharp point for a long time. And the ability to shade with these pencils is incredible- because they are slightly harder, you can get very very light layers of color, and layer many different colors together without losing the surface of the paper under a waxy buildup.
The color range is very untraditional- there is one set of “Vibrant” colors that has your basic red, blue, green, yellow, orange, but the rest of the range are mostly pastel, “dull” (their name, not mine), and softer, creamier colors (also, one set of ten neon color, which are SO bright and vibrant!)
If you are looking for a collection of bright, traditional, clear jewel-tone colors, you may not love the colors that are available in the Irotijens. I happen to LOVE the colors- they are all creamy, beautiful, painterly… but again, very unusual, especially for colored pencils. It’s almost as if the opaque paint was made into a pencil.
The color names are equally unusual- there’s no Cadmium Red or Gamboge or Cobalt Blue. There’s “Lettuce Green”, “Firefly Yellow”, “Verbena”, and “Jay Blue”, just to name a few.
The pencils are grouped into nine “Volumes” of ten different colored pencils, each following a color theme. There’s Vibrant, Pale (I and II), Very Pale, Dull, Deep I (I and II), Fluorescent, and Light Grayish. The pencils are packaged inside a little box shaped like a book, ten pencils per “Volume”. The packaging is beautiful, but for regular use, I eventually had to give in and store the pencils in a more traditional holder (I wish there was a ton available for the complete set of 90.) Even though I store them out of their book-packaging, I couldn’t bear to separate them out of their color Volumes because they are grouped so perfectly (and I’m the kind of person who obsessively swatches everything and rearranges colors according to my eye rather than whatever numeric system/order they come in).
- Tombow Irojiten Woodland 30 Pack US
- Tombow Irojiten Rainforest 30 Pack
- Tombow Irojiten Seascape 30 Pack
I do wish more colored pencil brands split up their pencils into color volumes like this.
Johanna Basford Recommended Colored Pencils Staedtler Colored Pencils
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. The triangular shape is also easy to hold. Click here to Order There just aren’t enough colors here to keep me happy but I do like to take these pencils with me when I color at the coffee shop, the stand is really nice and makes it easy to share with friends.
Since Adult Coloring Books are gaining such a huge market share, lots of manufacturers are jumping in to produce coloring supplies. So far NONE of the new colored pencils that have come to the market is anything I would recommend.
Things to look for before you buy Colored Pencils
- Do the core colors match the outsides of the pencils?
- Are the cores centered in the wood? If not you will never be able to sharpen them correctly and the cores will break.
- Do the colored pencils have color names or numbers?
- Are there actually as many colors as the label says or are there duplicates? I was recently sent a set of 50 colored pencils. As I pulled them out to see what the difference was between the 36 and 50 set, I was so disappointed to find that the extras were just that extras of the same colors that are in the 36 set. If you stick with one of the suggestions above that fits your budget you will be much happier.
Honestly simple Crayola Colored Pencils give ok results, you just have to work harder to get the color onto the paper.
Blending Pencils & Medium
A blending pencil is a colorless pencil that you use to blend your color together and smash the pigment into the tooth of the paper so those white speckles aren’t showing anymore. They give you a very painted look instead of the scratchy appearance you might think of with colored pencils.
I have both the Prismacolor blender colorless pencils and the Derwent blender, they both work well for me. Test them with the colored pencils you have decided on to see which one gives you the effect you are looking for. I find that each book with its paper and binding takes me at least one picture to find the pencils I prefer for it. It’s hard not to go right for your favorite image but try so you won’t be disappointed.
Many people prefer to use solvents to help with their color blending in their coloring books.
Baby Oil* – I like this pack of 3 small bottles because no matter what, I am constantly misplacing my coloring supplies. This is the one I choose to use as it’s the non-toxic option.
Vaseline* – I’ve seen both a method using a q-tip dipped in vaseline and also where you put the pencil itself into the pot of Vaseline.
*As always please test these methods on a scrap page of your coloring book.
Yes, you CAN erase particularly if you have a light hand with the pencils. I like the erasers that come inside a plastic tube like a pen but any good quality artist eraser will work at least partially. Each brand erases to a different degree. Kneadable erasers are something I’ve loved ever since I dated a commercial artist, these little gems are fun Derwent also makes a battery-powered eraser for the truly addicted. There is a list of my favorite erasers on the Stocking Stuffers page here.
While taking an online art class one of the teachers recommended this amazing erasing tool the Tombow MONO and I immediately ordered both the round and square versions. I use these in my art work quite a bit!
Colored Pencil Sharpeners
Really you can never have enough sharpeners! They are easy to lose and they do wear out if you are coloring often.
The biggest bang for your buck is the German-made KUM sharpeners. There are a few varieties but this little metal guy is a workhorse. You can find them anywhere you see fine art supplies.
Kum Sharpener If you have any 2 hole sharpeners and use just one side of this sharpener you can save a little cash by switching the blades to the size you use most often
Click to Order Amazon US, UK or Canada
Staedtler double hole colored pencil sharpener – a great tip shared by Peta Hewitt in one of her videos is to get double duty out of these types of sharpeners. You mostly use the smaller hole so when that blade starts to get dull, simply switch the blades. That way you get double the amount of use out of the sharpener. That would work with the Kum Sharpeners as well.
Prismacolor Pencil Sharpener – works well on… you guessed it Prismacolor Colored Pencils. For the life of me I can’t get this to open so I can empty it so it’s not one I use at all. The Kum brand works just as well.
Prismacolor Sharpener + two blending pencils
I have all of these and keep them in different spots where I like to color. Another tip is to sharpen a regular #2 pencil with them every couple of weeks to clean off the wax and the oily buildup from the blades. The Kum Sharpeners also let you change out the dull blades for new ones.
Colored Pencil Storage
How to carry around your colored pencils. I like to color in public so the first thing I started looking for was ways to bring my new favorite hobby with me so I could share. This Derwent Canvas bag came very highly recommended by the pro colorists I’ve met in Facebook groups.
Two pencils fit in each space on the 3 dividers that fit on the binder rings and you can buy more of these if you have more than 132 pencils. Pens also fit nicely in this bag but it’s not big enough to stick a full-size coloring book into but the postcards and portable books fit nicely on the inside or the outside pocket. There is a zipper pocket inside for your erasers and sharpeners too. The shoulder strap is removable.
Several people in our coloring group have recommended this jumbo pack that holds 216 pencils and/or gel pens. There are also 2 pockets for erasers and sharpeners and a zippered mesh pocket to hold your favorite coloring book. It comes in green, pink and black.
I recently started adding Mixed Media pieces into my coloring books and stumbled upon this bag that one of the people in my class had. I fell instantly in love with it. SO many supplies will fit in this bag and all the zippers keep things nice and organized.
I have heard RAVE reviews about these pencil drawers for all of your coloring supplies too.
If I worked at a desk they would be a must-have for me but since I seem to color everywhere, I will stick to my bags and baskets full of pencils for now.
Not addicted yet? Overwhelmed by all of this pencil chatter? No worries, check out
- How to Get Started with Adult Coloring Books
- 13 Tips for New Colorists
- Best Markers for Adult Coloring Books
- Best Gel Pens for Adult Coloring Books
- Colored Pencil Tutorials
- Best Budget-Friendly Colored Pencils
Did I miss anything? Do you have other favorites? Let us know in the comments below.