My Favorite Paper-Pencil Combinations

My Favorite Paper-Pencil Combinations

There are a lot of brands and types of pencils and many different papers available to the colored pencil artist today. So many that it’s reasonable to wonder what the best paper-pencil combinations are. That varies for every artist, so today I’m sharing my favorite paper-pencil combinations.

First, I want to thank the reader who asked the question that prompted this post. I’ve learned over the years that if one reader has a question, it’s likely others do, too, so I’m grateful for everyone who asks questions!

If you have a question, may I encourage you to ask it? It’s easy to do. Just follow this link. Fill out the form, hit SEND, and that’s it. I will answer you directly, of course, but you may also provide the topic for a more in-depth post!

Now, on to the answer to this reader’s questions!

My Favorite Paper-Pencil Combinations

Let’s start with the reader’s question.

I have been using Pablo pencils. Recently I bought a set of [Faber-Castell] Polychromos. They seem to be fine on the Stonehenge paper but not so much on my other paper. I have never heard or read anyone saying a certain pencil works better on one paper or another. Have you experienced a difference? Or is this just me getting used to a different pencil?

Pablo and Polychromos Pencils

Caran d’Ache Pablo pencils are the same basic formulation as Caran d’Ache Luminance, except that the pigment cores are harder. They hold a point longer and are better for fine detail. If you’ve ever used Prismacolor Verithin, Pablos are similar. They’re all wax-based pencils, but the ratio of pigment to wax binder is different. In short, the Pablos have less wax.

However, they still have a smooth feel when applied to paper. To me, they feel somewhere between the buttery smoothness of Prismacolor and the drier feel of Polychromos.

Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils are oil-based pencils. They are quite a bit harder than Prismacolor Soft Core pencils and a little bit harder than Pablo pencils. They are not as hard as Verithin pencils. As with the Pablos, the hardness is due to there being less wax in the Polychromos.

But the oil binder also makes a difference. It responds differently to paper than wax binder. Some artists refer to the feel of oil-based pencils as “scratchy.”

The Pencil-Paper Combinations I Like Best

I have experienced differences in the way my favorite pencils perform on different papers.

For me, Prismacolor Soft Core pencils and Stonehenge paper are made for each other. The feel of a Prismacolor pencil gliding over Stonehenge is unlike any other pencil I’ve ever used on Stonehenge paper. Drawing with Prismacolor is just plain fun, and I do a lot of sketching on Stonehenge with Prismacolor pencils.

Using Prismacolor pencils on Pastelmat isn’t nearly as much fun. The color still glides onto the paper, but I don’t care for the feel of it. I wouldn’t say Prismacolors are scratchy. They’re too soft for that. But I don’t get the good “feel” with them when I’m drawing on Pastelmat.

On the other hand, Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils and Clairefontaine Pastelmat are a very good combination. Most of my recent work has been on Pastelmat and I’ve used Polychromos pencils almost exclusively.

I also like Caran d’Ache Pablo pencils on Pastelmat. They’re a little softer than Polychromos, but they layer so nicely.

For Canson Mi-Teintes, I’m good with either Prismacolor or Polychromos, but I much prefer drawing on Pastelmat.


In short, I have noticed that my favorite pencils do perform differently on different papers. In general, the softer pencils work better on regular drawing papers like Stonehenge and Canson Mi-Teintes, while harder or drier pencils seem to do better on sanded papers like Pastelmat.

The fact of the matter is that you can use almost any pencil on almost any drawing paper, but the results will vary. Some pencils will seem to fight with some papers while gliding onto others. My favorite paper-pencil combinations are Prismacolor on Stonehenge and Polychromos on Pastelmat.

Your ideal combinations may be totally different.

There is also a lot to be said for having to learn how to use a new brand or type of pencil. They do behave differently. I’ve used Prismacolor pencils for years and the Polychromos disappointed me the first time I put them to paper. But they are good pencils once you learn how they behave and feel.

So I recommend you spend time trying similar drawing methods with each pencil on different types of paper. Figure out which pencils work best for your drawing method and on which paper. Yes, it takes time, but you’re far more likely to learn the best way to use those tools with your drawing methods by simply using them.

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