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What Are The Best Colored Pencils?

Posted by Martina Trejo on

ColorIt Colored Pencil Reviw

 

It’s no secret that coloring for grown-ups is a trend with no end in sight. According to Amazon, 5 adult coloring books ranked in the top 20 on their Best Sellers of 2015 list. This surge in the amount of adults who color is impacting the pencil industry.

 

The Independent reports “the number of people buying adult colouring books has threatened pencil stocks worldwide.” Faber-Castell, Staedtler, and Stabilo are all struggling to keep up with demand. If this wasn't enough of a problem customers are posing a greater challenge to pencil manufacturers. They want a wider assortment of colors and larger quantities all at affordable prices.

 

Customers also care about lead quality and whether pencils are wax or oil based. But why do people go through all of this trouble? The answer is simple. Adult coloring known for its therapeutic benefits requires the perfect environment and best coloring tools.

 

 

 

 ColorIt's Search For The Best Coloring Pencils

Obviously, ColorIt is no stranger to the adult coloring market. Besides selling coloring books, we also sell colored pencils. Despite this, we're always asked by customers what the BEST color pencil brand is. We know enough about the industry to make an educated guess but we decided to take it upon ourselves to do some serious research.

 

I was put in charge of this fun project. To get to the bottom of this million dollar question I did a little reconnaissance. My goal was to find eight different types of pencils that represented a broad range of the spectrum. The price, quality of pigments, and durability were all considered.

 

First things first, I colored in a mandala from our Mandalas to Color Adult Coloring Book to sample each product. Talk about a hard couple of days at work. The photo above shows the finished design. While coloring, I jotted down the pros and cons of each pencil type, which are in the chart below.

Colored Pencil Brands At A Glance

 

Colored Pencil Brand

Pros

Cons

Special Features

Student Grade Pencils

Cra-Z-Art Colored Pencils

-Affordable

-Wide selection of colors

-Hard core great for durability

-Light pencil flaking 

-Lower quality of pigments compared to Crayola

-Colors show up lightly; not vibrant

-Continuous pencil tip breakage

 

-Colors are labeled on pencils

Crayola Colored Pencils

-Vibrant colors for price point

-Colors smoothly on paper

-No white spaces left behind

-Hard core great for durability

-Grip of pencil is comfortable

-No pencil flaking

-No cons 

-Colors are labeled on pencils

Sargent Art Colored Pencils

-Hard core great for durability

-Pencils require little to no sharpening

-No pencil flaking

-Lower quality of pigments compared to Crayola and Cra-Z-Art

-Colors show up lightly and look faded

-Requires tight grip on pencils to apply more pressure

 

-Colors are labeled on pencils

Scholastic Grade Pencils

ColorIt Premium Pencil Set

-Convenient travel case

-Wide selection of colors

-Colors smoothly on paper

-Soft core ideal for blending and shading

-Vibrant pigments

-Light pencil flaking

-Pencil sharpener difficult to use

-Some pencil tip breakage

-Colors are not labeled on pencils

-Comes with a portable travel case, sharpener, and gift box

-Nylon travel case contains slot for each pencil

Faber-Castell Soft Lead Tri-colour Pencils

-Hard core great for durability

-Colors smoothly on paper

-Pencils stay sharp

-Easy to fill in tiny areas

-Sharpens easily

-Colors are not labeled on pencils

-Triangular shape for better control  -Pencil lead is bonded to prevent lead breakage

 

Staedtler Ergo Soft Colored Pencils

-Ergo soft grip

-Glides smoothly  

-Soft core ideal for blending and shading

-Vibrant and high quality pigments

-Light pencil flaking

-Sharpens easily

 

-Pencil grip hurts after a while

 

-Triangular pencil shape for better control

-White protective coating to prevent breakage

-Patented stand-up easel case 

-Color stamp on each pencil

Professional Grade

Derwent Colorsoft Pencils

-Glides smoothly on paper

-Soft core ideal for blending and shading

-Vibrant and high quality pigments

-Color fills in easily

 

-Thicker pencil core compared to others

-Moderate pencil flaking

-Pencils come in metal tin with slot for each pencil

-Colors are labeled on pencils

Prismacolor Premier Soft Core Colored Pencils

 

-Rich color and smooth texture

-Vibrant and high quality pigments

-Glides the smoothest on paper compared to other brands

-Soft core ideal for blending and shading

-Color fills in easily and completely

-Moderate pencil flaking

-Harder to color in small areas when pencil is dull

-Requires more sharpening to keep fine point

-Pencils come in metal tin with slot for each pencil

-Colors are labeled on pencils

 

 ColorIt Fans Weigh In On The Topic

After experimenting with a variety of colored pencils, something was missing from my research. I wanted to know what the everyday colorist looks for when they're on the hunt for the best color pencils. I did what any normal person would do and went straight to social media. Luckily for me, the ColorIt Facebook Page has a following of 20,000+ fans who are more than willing to share. Below are the qualities they look for in order of importance:

 

  1. Vibrancy and brightness of colors
  2. Variety and range of colors
  3. Price
  4. Soft lead vs strong lead  
  5. Smoothness
  6. Breakage
  7. Ease of sharpening
  8. Ease of blending
  9. Durability
  10. Wax or oil

 

Using some of the qualities mentioned by our Facebook fans I’m going to share what I think of each brand. I'll leave my review and rate them from a scale of 1-5. With 1 (★) being the lowest score and 5 (★★★★★) being the highest score. Ready to see the results?

Cra-Z-Art Colored Pencils

 

 

Vibrancy   ★★☆☆☆

 

Variety of colors   ★★★★★

 

Price   ★★★★★

 

Softness of lead   ★☆☆☆☆

 

Ease of use/ durability   ★★☆☆☆


ColorIt Rating   ★★☆☆☆

 

 

 

At first glance Cra-Z-Art Colored Pencils are a dream. The wide selection of colors is a major selling point. Another bonus is the affordable price. For close to $10 you get a pack of 72 pre-sharpened pencils made of real wood with wax cores. The thick and strong lead are ideal if you tend to apply a lot of pressure when coloring. To compare performance, I used standard printer paper and high-quality ColorIt paper. Below are the results.  

        Printer Paper                                 ColorIt Paper

 

 

The saying “you get what you pay for” describes my exact sentiments. While the price and variety of colors are attractive, the quality is not. Sharpening was a challenge with pencil tips breaking constantly. For color vibrancy, Cra-Z-Art pencils showed up lighter on ColorIt paper than most of the other brands tested. Overall, this product is ideal if having a variety of colors at an affordable price is a must. Just beware the quality will not be as great and your pencils may not last as long as other competing brands.

 Crayola Colored Pencils

 

 

Vibrancy   ★★★☆☆

 

Variety of colors   ★★★★★

 

Price   ★★★★★

 

Softness of lead   ★☆☆☆☆

 

Ease of use/ durability   ★★★


ColorIt Rating   ★★★☆☆

 

 

 

 

Crayola Colored Pencils were a welcomed surprise. This brand has been around for over a century and I was happy that the quality I enjoyed as a child didn’t disappoint. Don’t get me wrong — if you’re looking for artist grade pencils that are smooth like butter, Crayola won’t do. But, if you’re working on a budget and need to stay in the student grade pencil range, this is your safest bet. Take a look for yourself to see how they color on paper.

        Printer Paper                                 ColorIt Paper

 

What I loved most about Crayola is that the color was vivid on ColorIt paper. This was not the case with Cra-Z-Art or Sargent Art. I found the round Crayola pencil shape more comfortable compared to other intricate designs. Looking at the actual pencil, the hard wax makes these pencils durable. Sharpening to a fine point wasn't difficult and made coloring in tiny areas easy. The end result was a smooth coloring finish with no white spaces. For this price range and the options available, Crayola is an investment worth making. 

Sargent Art Colored Pencils

 

 

  

  Vibrancy   ★☆☆☆☆

 

  Variety of colors   ★★★★★

 

  Price   ★★★★★

 

  Softness of lead   ★☆☆☆☆

 

  Ease of use/ durability   ★★☆☆☆

 

  ColorIt Rating   ★☆☆☆☆

 

Before beginning my colored pencil research I heard such great things about Sargent Art. Like Cra-Z-Art, their price and the variety of colors are competitive. Sets come in a range of pigments starting at a 12 pack all the way up to a 52 pack. This provides a great deal of options for colorists expanding their colored pencil collection. Pencil lead is 3.3 millimeters thick making it easy to sharpen and quite durable. Pencil cores are wax.

           Printer Paper                          ColorIt Paper 

                

 

While I wanted to love the Sargent Art pencils they turned out to be my least favorite. Out of all eight brands tested, I had to apply the most amount of pressure to these pencils. For this reason, I experienced some discomfort because of the tight grip. Despite my best efforts, Sargent Art pencils showed up the lightest on the mandala pictured above. On the plus side, there was little to no sharpening required and no lead breakage issues. Although these pencils weren't a hit for me, they are definitely well-liked. I would only caution colorists who are unable to supply heavy pressure when coloring to think twice before purchasing this brand.

ColorIt Premium Pencil Set

 

  Vibrancy   ★★★☆☆

 

  Variety of colors   ★★★★★

 

  Price   ★★★★☆

 

  Softness of lead   ★★★★★

 

  Ease of use/ durability   ★★★★☆

 

  ColorIt Rating   ★★★★☆

 

 

Our company prides itself in the outstanding quality of our books. While this is how we got our start, we’ve expanded to include premium colored pencils. What sets our pencils apart is the packaging. When customers receive their order it comes in a custom ColorIt gift box. Inside, tissue paper is wrapped around the set with a thank you card. The nylon travel case that houses our pencils is the biggest selling point. The case includes a slot for all 48 wax-based colored pencils.

          Printer Paper                            ColorIt Paper

                

 

Being on the consumer end while using our pencils was interesting. I did find our premium set to be on the smoother side compared to the other brands in the scholastic bracket. Although they’re wax based, they weren’t scratchy and had a nice texture. The soft core made them perfect for blending and shading. The only flaw I noticed was our colors weren’t as vibrant as other competing brands. The pencil sharpener that comes with the set also was a hit or miss. After switching over to a higher quality sharpener I had no issues. For the price and everything included, our set is a great value for colorists on the go.

Faber-Castell Soft Lead Tri-colour Pencils

   Vibrancy   ★★★★☆

 

   Variety of colors   ★★★★★

 

   Price   ★★★★★

 

   Softness of lead   ★★★☆☆

 

   Ease of use/ durability   ★★★★☆

 

   ColorIt Rating   ★★★★☆

 

 

The Faber-Castell soft lead pencils are a step up from the student grade pencils. With the packaging and price, they’re not all that different from Crayola. Once you start using the pencils, you do see a change in the quality. The 24 pack provides a good variety of colors which include silver and three shades of brown. Something else that sets them apart is the shape. Each pencil is triangular to allow for better control and limit rolling. Pencils are wax-based.

           Printer Paper                           ColorIt Paper

              

 

While using these pencils I had very little issues. The lead was harder than ColorIt and Staedtler pencils but still smooth. I never used pencils with a triangular design and found the grip to be quite comfortable. Sharpening was easy with just a few turns to get a sharp point. This was useful when it came time to fill in tiny areas. When the tip of my yellow pencil broke it took less effort to restore than it did with the Cra-Z-Art pencils. Similar to ColorIt, I did notice pigments were a little less vibrant on the mandala. Faber-Castell pencils are definitely a good buy for a hobbyist on a budget.

Staedtler Ergo Soft Colored Pencils

  Vibrancy   ★★★★★

 

  Variety of colors   ★★★★☆

 

  Price   ★★★★★

 

  Softness of lead   ★★★★★

 

  Ease of use/ durability   ★★★★☆

 

  ColorIt Rating   ★★★★★

 

Out of all the scholastic grade brands reviewed, these were by far my favorite. From the stand-up easel case to the ergo soft grip, these pencils made a statement. Aside from the appearance, the quality was outstanding. Each pencil features an A.B.S. (anti-break-system) protective coating. Pencils also come coated in their respective colors with a white label stamped. The pencil shape is triangular just like Faber-Castell. Sets are available in 12 to 36 pieces.

           Printer Paper                           ColorIt Paper

                 

 

This was the first brand I sampled and I was pretty impressed. Although the largest set is 36 pieces, the quality makes them worth having. When it was time to color, they glided on paper and completely filled in every space. The colors are rich and stunning on ColorIt paper. For colorists who love to shade and blend colors, these are a must. As much as I loved these pencils the ergo soft grip was not comfortable. This could've been me holding the pencils too tight but I had to take breaks between coloring. These pencils are ideal for anyone who takes coloring as a serious hobby. They allow you to explore more techniques and the case is convenient when you’re coloring on the go.

Derwent Colorsoft Pencils

  Vibrancy ★★★★★

 

  Variety of colors ★★★★

 

  Price ★★★★

 

  Softness of lead ★★★★

 

  Ease of use/ durability ★★★★☆

 

  ColorIt Rating ★★★★

 

The major difference between scholastic and professional grade pencils is the richness of color. This is the first thing I noticed with the Derwent brand. Because of how soft the lead is they almost color like pastel pencils. This makes them ideal for blending and laying down a heavy layer of color. If you prefer coloring with thicker pencils these are a great option. With a 4 mm round core and a 6.9 mm barrel you won’t have to worry about lead breaking if they’re dropped. Metal tin packs are available in packs of 12 to 72.

           Printer Paper                          ColorIt Paper

               

 

There was a visible difference with the coloring experience. These pencils glide on our paper and don't require much pressure to get vibrant hues. My only challenge was coloring tiny areas because of the pencil thickness. Since pencil points wear down easily you have to sharpen more than with other brands. Despite the thickness sharpening wasn’t an issue. Generally speaking pricing for these pencils varies. You won’t be able to get a set of 72 Derwent Colorsoft Pencils at the same price as Crayola but the quality is worth it. These pencils are ideal for hobbyists looking to take their coloring to the next level. If you love experimenting with mixing colors these are a good buy.

Prismacolor Premier Soft Core Colored Pencils

Vibrancy   ★★★★★

 

Variety of colors   ★★★★★

 

Price   ★★★★☆

 

Softness of lead   ★★★★★

 

Ease of use/ durability   ★★★★☆


ColorIt Rating   ★★★★★

 

When it comes to the most talked about colored pencils Prismacolor is always mentioned. It’s for good reason too. The quality is unlike any other brand we’ve reviewed. You won’t find pencils as buttery or vibrant as these. The creamy application and soft lead make them perfect for blending or shading. In short, they’re a colorist’s dream! If there’s a hue you can’t find you can just create it. You can also forget about tiny white spaces left behind after coloring in a design. These pencils lay color down nice and even. You can find an impressive range of pigments in sets of 12 to 150 count.

         Printer Paper                                  ColorIt Paper

                     

 

Now for the moment everyone has been waiting for — are Prismacolor colored pencils worthy of all the praise? Yes! Out of all the brands sampled, there’s no comparison. The only minor issue we could find is that pencil points wear down fast. This requires more sharpening since it's hard to color in small areas when pencils are dull. I expected this since this is common when using a softer lead. If you’re just starting out with coloring as a hobby, Prismacolor may be a bit pricey. However, once you experience the quality, you won’t regret spending a little more. Having pencils that not only last but allow you to create beautiful designs are priceless.

To Wrap it Up . . . 

 

When it comes to buying the best colored pencils it all depends on what you’re looking for. If blending or shading are not techniques you use you won’t need pencils made of a softer lead. If you love coloring while on the go it may be beneficial to invest in a good travel case. Either way, all of the brands we reviewed have great selling points. Take the information we provided and make a decision that enhances your coloring experience. We'd also like you to share your favorite colored pencils with us in the comments section below. Happy coloring!

 

 


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20 comments

  • Thank you for the honest review of the types of pencils available. I love my Prismacolors. I wish they were a tad less pricey.

    Julia Sexton on
  • I also have Marco Raffines, Fantasia, & koh-I-noor in addition to the crayola & CraZart. I don’t like the crayola, love the prismas & koh-I-noors. Prisma makes a very thin premier that gets into tight spaces. I find what I use depends on the type of picture I do.

    Diane duggan on
  • I found that the staedtler pencils, being triangular in shape, are harder to sharpen using a standard pencil sharpener. I was gifted with a basic set, and now I can’t sharpen them, since I was given a nice heavy duty pencil sharpener. Still trying to find a way to get them sharpened, since they are colors I don’t have in my regular sets (crayola and prismacolor). All in all I prefer the prismacolor pencils – they’re awesome!

    gabrielle on
  • I am a beginer, I have Craola pencils, I like, Marrco Rafinnes & a few water colors. it was a good run down on the different pencils out there & the price. I keep seeing Prismacolors

    Cyndi Zimmerman on
  • I love my prismacolor premiers! I won’t use anything else. I think they’re worth the money and you can get deals on them through Blick Art Supplies. I got a 150ct set for only $125! I also have Marco Raffine pencils but they aren’t as vibrant as the prismacolors and seem scratchy when coloring with them. My kids or hubby tend to use them to color. I have a Derwent coloursoft skin tone set that I really like too. I guess it all depends on how serious you take your coloring and how much you’re willing to spend in the end.

    Lonna Lane on

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