Choosing Brands of Colored Pencils Drawing by Drawing

Choosing Brands of Colored Pencils Drawing by Drawing

The topic for today is choosing the brands of colored pencils to use on a project-by-project basis. I’ve written before about the brands of pencils I use most of the time (Faber-Castell Polychromos and Prismacolor,) but never before about how I choose the pencils for each project.

Choosing Brands of Colored Pencils

Obviously, if you have only one brand of pencils, that’s the brand you use all the time, no matter what you’re drawing at the moment or what paper you’re drawing on. I understand that because for years, I used only Prismacolor colored pencils.

But I now have full sets of Faber-Castell Polychromos, Caran d’Ache Pablo, and Derwent Drawing Colored Pencils, as well as the lightfast colors of Prismacolor pencils. They can be used together on a single artwork, but I usually end up choosing one brand for each project and use other brands only when necessary.

So how do I go about choosing the brands of colored pencils for each drawing?

How I Decide Which Pencil to Use for a New Drawing

Most of the time, I’m using Pastelmat paper, so the pencil choice is almost automatic. Polychromos with Prismacolor mixed in if needed. As mentioned above, I also add Pablo as needed.

But when that combination is not a given, I base the selection of pencils on the project and on the paper.

The Paper I’m Using

Of course, the first thing I consider is the paper I’ll be using for the project. If the new drawing will be on Stonehenge or Canson Mi-Teintes, then I’m more likely to use Prismacolor pencils than Polychromos. If I’m using Pastelmat, then the pencil of choice will be Polychromos.

That’s not always true, as I’ll describe next, but that is the first deciding factor. I’ve learned from experience that some pencils perform best on some papers and when the pencil and paper combination clicks, the work goes faster! So that’s always my first consideration.

Color Schemes

Sometimes the color scheme for a subject suggestions a certain brand of pencils.

For example, I’m working part-time on a portrait using Derwent Drawing Colored Pencils on Canson Mi-Teintes Tobacco. Tobacco is a lovely, medium brown paper and I chose it because the horse I’m drawing is dark brown. The project was initially designed to be a three-color portrait, but I’ve since expanded it to nearly a dozen colors.

I chose the Derwent Drawing pencils because I’d never given them a serious test before and because the selection of muted earth tones and highlight colors seemed perfect for this project.

Choosing Brands of Colored Pencils
PASTURE PATRIARCH, work in progress. Derwent Drawing Colored Pencils on Canson Mi-Teintes paper.
What’s Available

I like to keep my pencils organized. Since I always have at least two works in progress, that means I keep the colors I’m using for each project separate. That makes it easier to keep track of colors I’ve used and makes them more easily accessible. I don’t have to get out the whole tin!

But sometimes, that means that when I start a new project, I use whatever pencils aren’t being used anywhere else.

House Lion is a good example of that. I wanted to do this cat portrait on Pastelmat. Ordinarily I would have used Polychromos pencils. But those pencils were already in use on another subject, so I opted for Caran d’Ache Pablo pencils instead.

This also gave me the opportunity to see how well these pencils worked with my drawing method, since I’d never used them before.

HOUSE LION, work in progress. Caran d’Ache Pablo on Pastelmat.
What’s New

Both of the examples listed above also involved trying out new pencils for the first time. I often do a complete project using only new pencils just to see how well they perform. This also tells me how enjoyable they are to use.

In addition, doing things this way provides the information and experience necessary to decide how best to combine brands in the future.

Speaking of Combining Brands….

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with combining different brands of pencils on the same project. As I mentioned above, I’ve discovered that Caran d’Ache Pablo pencils are ideal for adding details and accents on drawings completed mostly with Faber-Castell Polychromos.

Polychromos and Prismacolor work well together, and the few Luminance and Lyra Polycolor pencils I have can also be used with most of my other pencils.

So if you prefer to make brand selections based on available colors and mix all the brands all the time, there’s nothing wrong with that.

The Bottom Line

The simple truth is that for most drawings, I reach automatically for Pastelmat and Polychromos pencils. Those are my go-to selections right now. I thoroughly enjoy the drawing process when I use Polychromos pencils on Pastelmat.

But I’m not opposed to adding pencils from other brands when I need a specific color that isn’t available in Polychromos, or when I want to create a certain affect. Highlights at the end of the drawing process, for example.

As I mentioned above, there is no right way to make these choices. You may find that you have a favorite pencil/paper combination that works well for you almost every time.

On the other hand, you may find that you enjoy using all kinds of pencils on all kinds of paper.

Both methods are perfectly acceptable.

Got a question? Ask Carrie!

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  1. Gail Jones

    Carrie, this is a great article! I liked learning what pencils you preferred on certain substrates. I would also add that to me, the Luminance pencils are very buttery like Prismacolors, so would use them together or on the same kinds of paper.

    1. Thank you, Gail.

      I have only one Luminance pencil: White. I bought that because I heard it was a nice opaque white. It is a nice white, but I don’t use it very much because I think Derwent Drawing’s Chinese White and Caran d’Ache Pablo White do a nicer job of adding opaque highlights.

      So I can’t say that you’re right about using Luminance the same way you use Prismacolor, but that seems like a reasonable conclusion.

  2. Patricia E Wilson

    Yes, sometimes it’s the pencils and sometimes the paper that makes the drawing or coloring better. Thanks for all the information on this. I don’t use my colored pencils enough.

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