Updated June 24, 2018 by Jordan Melcher

The 10 Best Colored Pencil Sets

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We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Whether you're looking for a fun pastime for your kids or are a serious artist or art student needing supplies, one of these colored pencil sets should suit you nicely. We've included both affordable and professional-quality options, as well as water-soluble and oil-based versions. You can use these to craft your latest masterpiece or to simply de-stress with a coloring book. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best colored pencil set on Amazon.

10. Castle Art Supplies Premium

9. LyraA Rembrandt Polycolor

8. Art 101 53142

7. Derwent Coloursoft

6. Thornton's Art Supply 01504

5. Faber-Castell 110024

4. Imaginesty IM

3. JNW Direct Jazmine

2. Prismacolor Premier

1. Faber-Castell Polychromos 120

The Myriad Advantages of Working With a Colored Pencil Set

Colored pencils also feature UV-resistant pigment, meaning that while a sheet of paper may fade due to sunlight, the pigment that is left there by a colored pencil will not.

Colored pencils have only been around for a fraction of the time that paint and artist's charcoal have - a fact which might explain why colored pencils are often afforded such short shrift. This is unfortunate, especially considering that colored pencils can offer an entire litany of advantages, even if an artist is only using this medium to create an early mock-up of his work.

Consider, as an example, that the point of a colored pencil allows for greater precision than almost any other handheld implement. Colored pencils also feature UV-resistant pigment, meaning that while a sheet of paper may fade due to sunlight, the pigment that is left there by a colored pencil will not.

Working in colored pencil means that there's no need for any prep work or clean-up. Colored pencils are self-sufficient, in that an artist doesn't need anything more than a canvas or a page in order to get to work. What's more, these pencils take up little space, and they don't produce fumes, like certain paints, or a marker can.

Artist-grade colored pencil sets can feature up to 120 shades, displayed in a consecutive array like swatches. These sets are sold in cases, rendering them entirely portable, and they're ideal for taking with you on a road trip, or for sketching freehand in the park.

How to Care for & Preserve Your Colored Pencils

Most people who own a colored-pencil set have their favorite colors, which they consistently use without a lot of forethought. While this may be convenient, it doesn't bode well for maintaining a complete set of pencils, long-term. For in the end you wind up with 90% of your pencils completely unused, while the other 10% have been worn down to a nub.

That being the case, you'll want to be sure and wipe down the tips of any pencils that have been used to blend colors or fine-tune a shade.

The first way to avoid this is by designating secondary colors for everyday use. If you're accustomed to using a primary red, for example, then perhaps you should switch to a shade of red that you wouldn't otherwise try. This way you can preserve most of your primary colors, while getting use out of some of your secondary colors at the same time.

Much like a crayon that picks up resin from another color's wax, tracing over one shade of wax- or oil-based color pencil can tarnish the color and quality of another. That being the case, you'll want to be sure and wipe down the tips of any pencils that have been used to blend colors or fine-tune a shade. You'll also want to invest in a kneaded eraser, which you can use whenever "knead" be.

Ideally, you'll want to use a utility knife to sharpen the point of any colored pencils. Mechanical and electrical sharpeners tend to shave off a lot of unnecessary wood. On top of which, wax-based pencils can cause a pencil sharpener to jam. Utility knives, when used correctly, are not only efficient, but they'll provide your pencils with a much finer point, as well.

How The Colored Pencil Came To Be

The word pencil, meaning little tail, was initially used to refer to the bristles of an artist's brush. That began to change, however, during the 16th Century, after British prospectors discovered graphite while excavating a series of mines beneath Grey Knotts.

The British Government immediately seized these mines, intent on using graphite as a resource for building armaments. Civilian use of graphite was strictly prohibited, a fact which did not stop British artists from breaking in and stripping the mines. These bandits soon found that there was an issue with using graphite for artistic purposes in that the composition was soft, and it would often break if grasped too hard.

As it turned out, powdered graphite was abundant across any number of continents.

That problem was solved by an Italian couple in 1560. Inspired by draftsmen who had taken to wrapping graphite between sheepskin, this couple experimented with encasing graphite inside an oval piece of wood. The result gave birth to what affectionately became known as the graphite pencil - an industry that England lorded over as a result of owning the only supply.

As it turned out, powdered graphite was abundant across any number of continents. And during the 1800s, several entrepreneurs began refining powdered graphite into a hardened form. One of these entrepreneurs, an American named Joseph Dixon, came up with a process for mass producing graphite pencils at a meager cost. Dixon died in 1869, but the company that he founded, Dixon Ticonderoga, was already on the verge of becoming the largest pencil manufacturer in the world.

Given the viability of wooden pencils, it wasn't long before manufacturers began to use wax, as opposed to graphite, for developing colored pencils, as well. The first colored pencils were introduced by a German company named Faber-Castell in 1908. Despite some initial success, the watershed moment for colored pencils didn't occur until 30 years later, when a company named Prismacolor came to market with a line of pencils that transformed the concept from passing novelty to artist prestige.

Today, colored pencils remain popular. These pencils are largely sold to artists, fashion designers, graphic designers, and advertisers, but they are also marketed to college students, along with families with young kids.

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Jordan Melcher
Last updated on June 24, 2018 by Jordan Melcher

Born in California, Jordan moved all over the country before deciding that maybe he should just come back to the Golden State and stay for a bit. He’s a writer and musician who holds strong opinions about most things. Jordan holds a bachelor's of arts from Columbia College, where he majored in film & video studies. Having worked extensively in the film and TV industries, Jordan is an expert on anything related, and has extensively contributed his expertise on TVs, camera equipment, lighting, tripods, lenses to the Wiki.


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