Friday, March 12, 2021

Coloring Therapy Thursday: Which Colored Pencils are the BEST?!

The number one question found on coloring groups, within coloring communities, on coloring sites, and in other coloring gathering spots is: Which Colored Pencils are the BEST? Everyone is on the hunt for that perfect colored pencil set that surpasses all others.

This simple question causes pencil wars to erupt! One person says, "Prismacolor Premier are the best!" Another person says, "Faber-Castell Polychromos are the best!" Still another says, "You can make beautiful art with plain old Crayola!" And with the introduction of low-cost colored pencils coming out of China by the...well, by the boatload, the pencil wars are at an all-time high!

(Prismacolor Premiere)

So, which colored pencils ARE the best?

This is an easy question to answer, because, they are ALL the best for someone! Choosing colored pencils, like choosing many art mediums, is different for every artist. There are many factors that account for what you choose. For example, what are you creating? Are you drawing or illustrating? Are you coloring in coloring books? Are you creating fine art to sell? Are you a student, a beginner, or a professional? Are you coloring for a relaxation hobby or is art your job? The list is endless.


If you are a hobby colorist, ask yourself: What is my maximum budget? Closely followed by: Do I wish to have several sets of pencils or just one set? Once you have established how much you wish to pay for pencils and determined what you plan to color with the pencils, then you can explore different brands from budget-friendly to horribly expensive (as in, a car payment expensive).

The misinformation about colored pencils is also endless.I have seen YouTuber colorists compare popular wax-based pencils with popular oil-based pencils, which is like comparing apples to avocados. I have seen colored pencil reviews where the only thing the artist did was talk about how pretty the pencils look in the tin, and then scribble a little color onto some random paper. Frankly, you cannot actually REVIEW a product if you've not created something with said product! 

(Power Poppy Rose all Day digital image, colored with Schpirerr Farben pencils)

You can glean some information by reading reviews and watching YouTube videos. But in all honesty, you may have to simply purchase a set of pencils and see how YOU like them. Make sure you purchase something that has a money-back guarantee. That way if you dislike the product, you can get a refund.

Also, remember, Amazon may not have the cheapest price! Check local art supply stores, online art stores, chain craft stores, discount stores, Ebay, and Etsy. If you are looking for one of the "new on the market" Chinese brands of colored pencils, Amazon may be your best bet. I have also ordered hard-to-find items from Amazon Japan for a good price and excellent results.  

I currently have nine (9) brands of colored pencils in my studio. I like all of them to some degree. I have favorites and not so favorites, but each set is unique and fills a need in my coloring arsenal. (To see which brands I have, and hear my thoughts, check back next month for a new Coloring Therapy post!)

I have created something nice with EVERY set of pencils that I own, regardless of price, style, type, or manufacturing origin. I have also created something awful with every set! Let's remember, the Sistine Chapel was not painted in a day, nor did every piece created by Rembrandt or Monet end up in a museum!
I recently purchased this little set of 24 Marco colored pencils from Amazon for just under $15. They are all pastel colors, which is something that many larger sets lack. (I also purchased a new coloring book so the pencils would not be lonely!) The "buzz" on these pencils is mixed, but I decided to take a risk on them. I figured, I am experienced enough to make them work.

There is no law or rule that says you must only purchase one brand or be loyal to only one brand. There is also no reason why you cannot mix brands! I mix and match all the time! I also mix my colored pencils with other art mediums such as Copic markers, acrylic paint, chalk pastels, and more!
This piece was created with Crayola pencils. The ones that come in the yellow box. Yes, the ones for kids! Was it more difficult to create what I wanted with Crayola versus a high-end brand? Not really. I had to learn how the pencils reacted and adjust my technique slightly, but I don't think they were more difficult to use.

As I have preached before, learning art fundamentals, color theory, art skills, and by practicing, you can use pretty much whatever you fancy to good results. The techniques you learn are invaluable and can be used across mediums. 

This picture is a work in progress from a coloring book called "Fantomorphia" by Kerby Rosanes. I am coloring it with Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils. This is a new brand for me. I purchased a partial set with Christmas money, but I am slowly collecting the full 120 complement of pencils. They are on the high-end price point, and they are an oil-based pencil rather than wax. (The background for this was painted with black gouache, a type of opaque watercolor paint.)

I have found the Polychromos to be PERFECT for coloring the rusty metal in the picture, but...I am not loving the selection of greens as much as I love the selection I have in other sets. In the future I will probably mix and match brands to get exactly the colors I want. That is the beauty of having multiple sets of pencils!
Speaking of having color choices...I have three sets of pencils that do not have color names on the pencil barrels. They have a number, but no name. I decided to name them myself! I spent a few happy hours doing this! Here is what I came up with for the Marco Raffine 72 set. (Click the picture for a larger view or use your device's zoom feature.) I went with names of flowers, fruit, and natural elements. Such as Tangerine, Buttermilk, Rainforest, and Apple Cider. 
I have also named the Wanshui/Brutfuner pencils (168 set). This was a lot of work as there really are 168 unique pencils in the set! I thought of names that were very descriptive so that when you read the name you get a picture in your head of the color. I chose names such as Carved Pumpkins, Ruby Slippers, Red Gingham Tablecloth, Saltwater Taffy, Morning Glory, Robin's Egg, Parrot Green, Cinnamon, Paprika, and Burnt Toast. I get a splash of joy just reading the names!
I also named the cute set of 24 pastel colors from  Marco. I used colors like Butter Yellow, Raspberry, Lagoon, and Lime Popsicle. 

My love of pencils is vast! My Copic markers are still my beloved, but...there is just something special about pencils! I hope you will come back next month to see which sets I have, and see what I like about each set. I will also show you some work created with each brand of pencils.

Have an excellent weekend! Color some stuff! Have fun! 

If you have any of the three pencil brands that I named, please use the contact form on the right sidebar to email me and ask for the BLANK swatch sheets. I am happy to provide them as long as you credit me with the naming.


  1. Wonderful post and just in time as I am looking for another colored pencil to add to my collection of Prismacolor. You are so creative and adventuresome to do this post. Loved it.

  2. Love, love, love what you had to say in this post because I believe so much in what you said... "they are ALL the best for someone." I also think what you said about what your use is for that product that will determine what works best for you... and each product has its purpose. Thank you so much for sharing this post.

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    thank you very much