The Best Way to Sharpen Colored Pencils

The Best Way to Sharpen Colored Pencils

What’s the best way to sharpen colored pencils? That’s what today’s reader wants to know.

Hello, Carrie,

I thoroughly enjoy your posts. Although I’ve followed you for a couple of years now, this is only my second attempt at using colored pencils to create an artwork. The first time was for a class project and I drew my dog. This time it is once again a class project and it will be a self portrait in the style of a famous artist.

What is the best way to sharpen colored pencils? I have an Carl Angel-5 pencil sharpener I use for all of my pencils. Would that be appropriate? And should I sharpen often to keep a sharp point (as is done with charcoal pencils)?

Thank you for offering to help all of us with our art journey,

Katherine Collmer

Thank you for your question, Katherine. I’ve been blogging about colored pencils long enough to know that a lot of people wonder about sharpeners. Thank you for taking the time to ask.

The Best Way to Sharpen Colored Pencils

Katherine actually asked two questions, so let me tackle them in the order in which she asked them.

The Best Way to Sharpen Pencils

The best way I’ve found to sharpen all of my pencils (including Prismacolor pencils) is an old crank sharpener my husband bought when he was in school.

Made by Apsco, this sharpener holds a pencil firmly during sharpening, and is capable of sharpening different sizes of pencils.

The Best Way to Sharpen Colored Pencils

This sharpener is so old, it’s all metal, which makes it ideal for heavy use. You can still buy crank sharpeners, but many modern models are no long all metal. If you want a sharpener like what I use, you’ll have to buy a used one through eBay or similar websites.

But any high quality sharpener made for colored pencils should deliver the same sharpening capabilities.

I have used some electric, battery, and hand-held sharpeners with good results, but I prefer that old crank sharpener! It is the best way to sharpen colored pencils for me.

I’m not familiar with a Carl Angel 5-Pencil sharpener, but if it’s working, there’s no reason to change. That’s why I continue using the old sharpener I use.

How Often You Should Sharpen Pencils

The rule of thumb is to sharpen frequently. Some artists recommend sharpening every minute or two to keep pencils needle sharp.

That’s a good policy, but hard to do. I often work until my pencils have a flat edge! Mostly because I forget to sharpen them. But I’ve also learned to turn a pencil as I draw, which seems to make sharpening as often less necessary.

In general, sharp pencils work better because they get color down into the tooth of the paper more easily than a dull pencil. But there are times when a dull (or even a blunt pencil) is the best tool for the job.

And there are some papers on which sharp pencils are not necessary. Sanded art papers, for example.

So the short answer to this question to sharpen your pencils as often as you need to in order to get the results you want.

In the end, the method that works best for you is the method you should use.

Got a question? Ask Carrie!

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