12 Reasons to Love Colored Pencils

12 Reasons to Love Colored Pencils

For those among us who use them as our primary medium—or as one of our primary mediums—there are a lot of reasons to love colored pencils. If you’ve used them for any length of time at all, you can probably list five or six with no hesitation at all.

And I’ll wager that if each of us listed our top twelve reasons, every one of us would have at least one reason that was unique to us. That’s just human nature.

And the nature of the medium.

Following are my top twelve reasons for loving colored pencils.

Why I Love Colored Pencils

1. Colored pencils are easy to use.

Open the box, sharpen the pencils (if necessary), grab a piece of paper, and start drawing. You don’t need to prepare a painting surface, mix a palette, or—best of all—wear protective clothing.

2. Colored pencils are clean.

You don’t have to worry about getting them on your hands, clothing, or the things around you. You won’t find traces of them in some unexpected place in the house because you brushed against wet paint without knowing it.

3. No drying time with colored pencils.

One of my chief complaints about oil painting was waiting for paint to dry. That’s not a concern with colored pencils.

Unless you use solvents to blend or you work with watercolor pencils.

4. All those luscious colors!

What artist doesn’t love color? And there are so many in every full set. Get full sets from several brands and you have even more colors!

5. Colored pencils go everywhere.

Colored pencils are easily transportable. Throw a few supplies into your field kit or a tote bag or purse (depending how big the set—or your purse—is) and you’re ready to go.



6. No smelly solvents (unless I want them.)

I can make a beautiful drawing without having to breathe solvent fumes.

But they also work beautifully with solvents if that’s what you want to do.

7. I can create a range of affects from soft focus to tight detail.

Fine art colored pencils are much more versatile than the colored pencils I used in grade school.

What’s more, almost everything that could be done with brush and paint can be done with colored pencils.

12 Reasons to Love Colored Pencils
8. Colored pencils look—and work—great on so many different surfaces.

We all know about drawing on paper. A lot of us have tried mat board, too.

But what about sanded art papers, wood, canvas, or even drafting film?

Colored pencils work on all of them, and produce unique and interesting affects on each type of surface.

9. Nothing else captures ‘found’ texture quite as well as colored pencils.

I’ve added interesting and unique textures to more than one drawing simply by laying the paper on a textured surface and lightly—or maybe not so lightly—shading over the paper. What a great way to add visual interest quickly and easily.

10. Colored pencils are perfect for making small format and miniature art.

The thing that turns so many people away from colored pencil is the very thing that makes them ideal for small format and miniature art. The thin color core. What better medium for drawing details on artwork that’s 4×6 or less?

Bonus: You don’t need special tools…except for maybe a magnifying glass.

11. Colored pencils are perfect for drawing hair.

Colored pencils are also fabulous for drawing hair.

One of the things I love most about drawing horses is drawing those long manes and tails. I can paint a decent mane or tail with oils and very small brushes, but colored pencils are far more satisfactory.

You know what? They’re also perfect for drawing grass, or anything else with a similar texture.

12. The cat can play in my art box and I don’t have to worry about hazardous materials sticking to paws.

This is important in a house with indoor cats. Cats like to climb. Cats like to explore.

They also like to help.

Years ago, one of our cats once threw himself on an oil painting while I was working on it (I worked flat, sitting on the floor with the painting lying on the floor in front of me.) I had to take time to clean the paint off the cat before repairing the damage to the painting.

That doesn’t happen with colored pencils.

(Not that I can sit on the floor and work on artwork anymore!)

Those are My Reasons to Love Colored Pencils.

Why do you love them?

Sign up for Carrie’s free weekly newsletter and be among the first to know when she publishes new articles.


  1. John P Garrett

    Hi Carrie!

    I hope you had great holidays.

    You pretty much covered all of the reasons Colored Pencils are wonderful, but I may have one more. I’ve always had a “love affair” with pencils since age 5 and I flirted with paints but there was no “chemistry” there (to continue with the analogy). I didn’t do art for a long time due to medical issues, but rediscovered art around 2009 and discovered CP’s were not for only map coloring early in 2011 after discovering what amazing things they could do after viewing art by Christine Langman (Big Cat Art).

    Well on to the one more reason:
    I like CP’s because it feels like taking a journey with an old friend when working on a drawing. Like they say it’s the journey not the destination.

    Well take care and I look forward to your posts in the coming year.


    1. John,

      We did indeed have a very pleasant holiday season. I hope you did, too.

      I love the journey analogy!

      And I know what you mean about chemistry. I’ve used oils for a long, long time, but the older I get, the more I appreciate the neat things about colored pencils.

      Thanks for reading!


  2. Marie

    I do enjoy colored pencils for about the same reasons than you;
    Portable and clean safe. I used them as a child until I had a set of oil paint at 8 yo and did work with oil for decades until I discovered acrylic and got hooked. In the 90’s with a beginning of chronic pain that left me with brain fog and without imagination, I went to decorative painting for a long time I had a scroll saw and love to work with wood I don’t anymore it is asking too much of me and acrylic paint is more work to clean……
    Went back to pencils with discovering adult coloring books last year but now I want to do my own thing

    I have a question for you: A friend of mine want to start with coloring pencils I do not recommend set because there are colors we never use like metallic or neon I have a nice art supply store closed by where we can buy by the unit . How many pencils and which colors are needed to start, she wants to do coloring books.

    1. Marie,

      I am so sorry, but I completely missed this comment! I shall have to do better!

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on colored pencils and why you love them. There’s so much to like, isn’t there?

      You’re right to recommend caution in buying sets of pencils, because a lot of sets include colors that are never used, including those metallics. Buying by the pencil is an excellent way to begin. I don’t know where you are or what brands of pencils are available in your location, so I won’t give specific names. But here is what I can tell you (and it applies no matter where you are.) In case you’re familiar with Prismacolor, I’ll use those names as examples.

      1 cool red (Scarlet Lake)
      1 warm red (Poppy Red)
      1 cool yellow (Lemon Yellow)
      1 warm yellow (Canary Yellow)
      1 cool blue (Copenhagen Blue)
      1 warm blue (China Blue)
      1 cool brown (Chocolate)
      1 warm brown (Burnt Sienna)
      1 Black
      1 White

      That’s ten colors. From those colors, you can blend any color, and value you might need and they will give you enough variety to be able to do adult coloring books, too.

      I hope that helps. If you’d like more specific information, let me know which pencil brands are available in your area and I might be able to give you specific colors.

      Thank you again for your question, and my apologies for taking so long to answer it.


  3. Marie

    Sorry Carrie to ask that stupid question about how many colored pencils needed to start coloring books and maybe drawing by herself. You see, and I am sure you understand this: I have so many pencils of different marks and uses that she panicked when she saw my “stuff”
    So as you can see it is difficult for me to advise someone to be minimalist… -“Oh I love that word minimalist something I can not be” ;(
    Thank you for you patience .

    1. Marie,

      There is no such thing as a stupid question.

      And I need to apologize to you, because I totally missed your previous question. That’s why I didn’t answer.

      You asked how many pencils an artist new to colored pencils should begin with. The surprising answer is that you can begin and make great art with as few as half a dozen. One of each of the primaries (red, blue, and yellow,) black, white, and a brown. That’s a good way to get a feel for what colored pencils can do, and you can blend any other color you want from those six. I’d suggest two primaries (cool and warm of each of the primaries and the browns), a white and a black.

      Dick Blick makes a line of artist-grade colored pencils that they designed with input from the Colored Pencil Society of America and which are actually manufactured by Utrecht (they are really Utrecht Premium Pencils relabeled, or that’s my understanding.) They come in sets of 12, 24, 36, 48, and 72 at very reasonable prices. They also offer a set of grays (12), a landscape set (24), and a portrait set (24.)

      But the neatest thing is that they don’t even produce metallic colors!

      The only place to get them is through Dick Blick (https://www.dickblick.com/products/blick-studio-artists-colored-pencils-and-sets/#description).

      Sorry for the raving product recommendation, but I’m so excited about these pencils that they’re the next pencils on my To Be Purchased list.

      So let your friend know she can buy just a few open stock pencils if she wants to test them first, or she can get a smaller set. Either way, she’ll have plenty of pencils to play with and learn about.

      I hope that helps, and I apologize again for not seeing your first question.


      1. Marie

        That helps a lot, I really was not sure how to advise someone who has to start from scratch. I will give her the list. I agree with you fewer is better to start. I find myself always buying the same color as replacement and those that I bought on impulse ( which I do a lot) stay there. It is why I bought a coloring book a while ago to use them and, mind you they are not used more, I like to layer a lot.
        We have a fantastic store nestled in the country when I go there it is like a candy store, I have to hold my hands so I don’t pick up stuff I don’t need but when is there something we don’t need in art?
        I used to order from the net until I saw that she was online too and I like to favor local when I can, so many small stores closed when big boxes came around and after a while, they left.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *