My Preferred Colored Pencils

My Preferred Colored Pencils

This post is a follow up to a previous post in which I talked about my preferred drawing papers. Today, I want to discuss my preferred colored pencils, including when and how I use each brand and/or type.

Before I Begin

As I mentioned in the post about papers, I can’t give specific recommendations because so many factors come into play. No two artists draw exactly the same way, even if they like the same subjects. Every artist has a favorite paper and a preferred drawing method.

Even if every artist liked the same paper, the same pencils, and the same drawing methods, physical limitations and other types of limitations influence the choices each artist makes for the pencils they reach for most often.

So the best I can do is tell you the pencils I like, why I like them, and how I use them.

My Preferred Colored Pencils

Prismacolor Premier Soft Core

I started out with Prismacolor pencils way back in the 1980s and 1990s. Back then, they were the most easily accessible pencils. You could buy them almost anywhere.

So everything I learned about using colored pencils, I learned with Prismacolor pencils.

I still like using them, and I absolutely love the way they work with Stonehenge paper. In my opinion, Stonehenge paper and Prismacolor pencils are a near perfect match.

This selection of pencils represents the colors I use most often for landscape and animal art. They are all lightfast, and work well with Polychromos colors.

I use Prismacolor pencils more for sketching than portrait work or landscape art these days, but I do still use them for portraits and landscapes. For most drawings, I use them in combination with Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils because these two types of pencils work so well together.

Most of the time, I start with Polychromos for the initial and middle layers. I use Prismacolor toward the end of the drawing process. They are much softer than Polychromos and layer very well over Polychromos.

However, if I need a color that isn’t available in Polychromos and is available in Prismacolor, I use that color no matter where I am in the drawing process.

My biggest complaint about Prismacolor is that so many of the colors are not lightfast. They fade over time, some of them very quickly.

Breakage during sharpening and crumbling while drawing (especially under heavy pressure) are also problems.

Faber-Castell Polychromos

The next brand of pencils I purchased as a full set was Faber-Castell Polychromos. (Thank you to my husband for actually making the purchase!)

Polychromos pencils are oil-based. That means they are made with a binding agent that has more oil than wax.

That also means they are harder and drier than Prismacolor pencils, which are wax-based. They hold a point longer and they don’t fill the tooth of the paper as quickly. So you can do more layers without waxy buildup or filling the tooth of the paper too soon.

But that also means they don’t layer quite as easily as the softer Prismacolor pencils. You can get the same results, but depending on the paper you use, it may take a little more effort and more layers.

However, almost all of the Polychromos pencils rate well for lightfastness. There are only a few that are in the bottom ranking.

The dryness of Polychromos makes them ideal for using in the early stages of a drawing, and I use them almost exclusively in the first several layers of my work. Sometimes, I can do complete drawings without any other pencils.

Other Pencils

Those are the main pencils in my collection. Over recent months, I have come into possession of a number of other top-grade colored pencils. They include Derwent Drawing Colored Pencils, Derwent Lightfast, Caran d’Ache Luminance and Pablo, to name just a few.

I don’t have more than a dozen colors in any of these pencils, and I have only three or four (or less) colors in most of them, so I haven’t used them extensively.

However, I have sketched enough with all of them to know I do want to get more colors and do more serious drawing with them. Are they preferred colored pencils? Not yet.

But I can easily see that they might become favorites.

Those are My Preferred Colored Pencils

For now. Tastes changes and so do requirements.

Please remember that these are the pencils I use and like. That doesn’t mean you will like them as much as I do.

Nor does it mean you’ll find them as useful to you for the same applications I described above. Drawing is a very personal thing and what works for one artist doesn’t work for all of us!

But I do hope you’ve found this article helpful in finding your preferred pencils.

If you would like more information on colored pencils, read What Are the Best Colored Pencils for Fine Art?.

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  1. Patricia Wilson

    Really liked this article and all the information provided. I have several different brands of colored pencils and like you find that paper and cardstock, also, make a big difference. I purchased the Faber Castell pencils but don’t seem to work for me any better than cheaper ones. I think the best set I have is one I purchased at Holly Lobby at a great markdown. I did purchase a pencil sharpener to use for these pencils and it made a world of difference. Thanks for this information.

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