What is the Best Colored Pencil Set You Should Buy?

Updated: Oct 20, 2020

There are so many brands of color pencils out there and everyone has a strong opinion on which one is best. If you are one of those people who have been searching the internet trying to decide what set of pencils is the best one to buy, but you are swimming in information overload, let me help you navigate your way to finding a set you will be happy with. There are three things I think about when buying pencils which I think will be helpful for you in your purchasing decision.

I know lots of artists swear by their favorite brand and will scream from the rooftops that all other brands are a waste of money. Bottom line, all artists are different. Everyone has a different way they color. Some people like to lay down a heavy base color and then glaze shades over top of it. Some like to layer different colors together to create the color they are looking for. Some like to burnish to create a super smooth look. There are so many different ways to color and none of them are bad or wrong. How can it be wrong when it's your art - your creativity on paper. You should create your coloring the way you feel comfortable, so you have the confidence to color amazing stuff. So, take a grain of salt every time you hear someone say brand X is the best colored pencil in the world and nothing else compares. What they are really saying is this is the best brand for how they like to color. Now if you and that person color exactly the same then yes that might be a good brand but it's more about finding the pencil you like.

I'm sure you are thinking, “Frankie, how in the world am I supposed to figure out what brand I like without buying all the pencils on the planet?” Since I was foolish and tried buying all the colored pencils in the world, I can share my experience to keep you from falling into the same traps. I have asked myself these three questions which have helped me:

  • What pencil pressure do I feel most comfortable using?

  • How comfortable do I feel about layering different colors to make a new color?

  • What do I plan on coloring most of the time?

These questions may not make sense right away, so let me explain my thoughts here.

Pencil pressure

When picking up a new colored pencil from a brand I have never used before it is important to understand how the color will lay down on the paper. Most of that has to do with how soft the core of the pencil is. A soft core pencil will be easy to get a good amount of pigment on the paper with very little pressure but also with a soft core pencil you can easily burnish. A hard core pencil would be very difficult to burnish with because it would tear up the paper when using the same amount of pressure you use with the soft core pencil. Think about the pressure level you like to work at. What do you find most comfortable for you. If you like coloring with a level 1 pressure then you may enjoy a hard core pencil. If you like to lay down lots of color in just a few layers, then soft core is the way to go.

Layering colors

This is important to determine the size of the set you should buy. You should always buy the most pencils for the money you are willing to spend. Unfortunately, for me I was always buying the biggest set because I thought I was missing out on colors, but I was sooooo wrong. I know how tempting it is to save money to buy the biggest and best set the company has because you want to have alllllllll the colors. Here is the reality - you won't use all of them. I am serious! You just won't. I know, I know, seeing all the pretty blues and oh look at all the shades of green you simply must have every single one right . . . WRONG. This is what I have grown to learn about colored pencils - layering different colors on top of one another is the true magic of pencils to come up with the exact color and shade you are looking for. I am serious - if you don't believe head over to YouTube right now and look up "Art made with 5 pencils or less". You will be amazed by what they created and the level of realism they are able to achieve. This is because you do not need a lot of pencils to create beautiful pieces. What you do need to do is be comfortable layering colors together to create the color you want. If you paint you know what I mean. You can create a magnificent painting with just 4 colors - but that is from being comfortable understanding how to mix your paint. This is what I mean about getting comfortable layering colors. Maybe the blues you have are not quite dark enough for the jeans you are trying to color. What other colors do you have that you can layer in-between your blues to create the shade you need. If you are feeling comfortable layering colors or you want to challenge yourself to create beautiful colors on your own, then don’t buy the biggest set. Buy a mid-range, but always buy what you can afford. If it is an expensive brand but you really think it is the best one then buy the smallest set. You can make all the colors you dream of with the basic 12 color set.

What will you color most

This is where you need to be realistic with yourself? If you plan on only coloring things like greeting cards that will not be framed on a wall forever, then you do not need to buy a super expensive brand. Most of the expensive brands will rate how lightfast their pencils are. If you are not selling your work or it is not something that is intended to last forever, then don’t put your money into the super expensive brands. You will get more pencils with a brand that is suited best for you and what you plan to create. If you want to create things that will be framed, but know you need to practice more to feel confident in putting something on the wall to last forever, then I say you should still buy the expensive brand but a small set. This way you learn the way the pencils behave as you grow with them. When you practice with expensive pencils you should work on small projects. This will give you the experience you need with the pencils and use less pencil.

I am sure you clicked on this article to hear me tell you which brand you should buy. Here we are at the end of the article and I have not mentioned one single brand - on purpose. Being a lover of all pencils, I know how important it is to find the right type of pencil that helps you enjoy the colored pencil craft. Each person will find their own connection that only makes sense to them. Just like picking out a new puppy you must find the right one for you. Some of us like to color portraits, some like to color animals, etc., and each of these things can be done with different materials from the paper to the colored pencils. To top that off each of us live in different climates where the pencils will act differently too. There is no way I can tell you what pencil is best for you. You will have to find that out for yourself but if you ask yourself the three questions I just shared with you you will be headed in the right direction to find the best brand and set for you.

I am curious to hear your pencil exploration and if you have found the pencil of your dreams yet. Let me know in the comments below.

Here's what we're practicing

now in the Corner . . .

Don’t you just love the longer days of summer. Even after a day of errands or chores there is time in the evening for most of us to practice our coloring skills. This month we are working on adding shadows to our coloring projects to create more realism in our art.

If you want to learn more about adding shadows to your images why don't you come hang out with us in the Practice Corner for the month of July as we guide you though practicing this technique.

If you are reading this after July, don’t despair, you can still explore and practice creating shadows for more realism in your coloring by purchasing the "Shadows" Technique Practice Pack here.

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