One of the problems with colored pencil as an art medium is that the first exposure is usually in grade school with low-quality pencils. School kids have to be equipped with colored pencils for their Social Studies classes, so they can color in their maps. The Crayola brand are better than many at $3 or less. But, get your kids some decent ones, even if it means you are spending $10.
Here are six brands that I’ve picked up thinking they would be better than average. I’ve been using the Utrecht and Blick store brands for many years. I think these are the best for my type of usage, and they hold up well. I recommend them to start if you don’t want to read the rest of this article. But I thought I would check some other types that you might be tempted to buy.
From left to right they are:
1.) Dixon Ticonderoga erasable checking pencils
2.) SOHO Austrian colored pencils, developed by Cretacolor
3.) Stabilo GreenColors
4.) Cretacolor Artist’s Studio colored pencils
5.) Alpino colored pencils from Spain
6.) Pentel Japanese colored pencils
All of the brands are reputable. However, it turns out that they do not all lay down color well. And that’s the problem time after time with poor quality pencils. Kids get better results with crayons, and certainly with markers. It would be pretty easy to ignore colored pencils after being exposed to even the cheapest of markers.
After testing I could tell you I would rate them like this:
6.) Dixon colored erasable pencils: These are the worst. They might actually be the second worst colored pencils I’ve ever used. And by the way, they don’t erase any better than any other brand. Presumably these would be the choice of teachers because of the brand, and that teachers are doing lots of grading and checking. Teachers, I would say you should get yourself a set of Col-erase Carmine red pencils and use those for checking for the rest of your career.
5.) Alpino Los colores de tu vida: I did not have high expectations for these. They are not well known in the US. I had to search for them in stores in Spain. Even in Spain, artist stores stock the German Faber Polychromos. You really have to press hard to get a good color. It’s hardly worth it.
4.) Stabilo Greencolors: Maybe you feel good inside when you buy them. But that’s all lost when you use them. They are no worse than some no name brands. But, don’t waste your money. You are not really making that much of an difference on the environment with 12 woodcase pencils any way you choose.
3.) Pentel Arts colored pencils: Probably this was the most disappointing, as I had high hopes for this brand. But you still have to work hard to get a good color laydown. At $3 a box online, if you are going to bargain shop, these are the best three dollars a dozen your money can buy.
2.) Brevillier’s Cretacolor artist studio coloring pencils: These are readily available on Amazon or at Hobby Lobby for $12-13. They give a nice coverage. But these are not the best value for your money.
1.) SOHO Professional Colored Pencils. These are the brand carried at Jerry’s Artrama. They can be had on line for $10 + shipping. Get these, or the Dick Blick colored pencil set, also comparably priced at $10. These are some of the best quality , yet easy to use colored pencils available today.
As you can see, I also included the Faber-Castell Polychromos for color comparison.
Once you start getting into the higher end ones, like the Faber and Prismacolor brands, they get hard to sharpen and break easily. It takes a steady light hand to use those brands.
Here’s a look at erasing your colored pencil work with high-quality erasers:
And Finally some blending, including some other brands. By the way, the Ticonderoga ones look REALLY BAD in this exercise. Prismacolor pencils are your one of your best blending bets.
As a postscript, I also tried the Staedtler 12 color basic set. I found it at Marshall’s.
This one can be skipped as well.