Best Colored Pencils For Coloring and Shading

Best Colored Pencils for Coloring and Blending

Colored pencils offer experts and hobbyists alike many possibilities to produce marvelous effects in their drawings. Regarded by many graphic artists to be a fundamental and indispensable item of equipment for any artist who enjoys drawing. They also take me back to my childhood, with many afternoons spent coloring in shapes and lines in a coloring book.

However, I soon started to realize the potential colored pencils have for blending, shading and layering colors and appearances in a far more advanced manner.

How to select a premium quality pencil set. If you are looking to buy a premium quality colored pencil set, there are many important considerations you will need to make to ensure to are purchasing the best equipment.

  • Is it a student or artist-grade pencil set you need?
  • What is of the level of lightfastness?
  • Is the pencil barrel made from premium quality wood?
  • What is the core diameter of the pencil lead?

When purchasing a set of colored pencils, one of the fundamental questions you need to acknowledge is the quality of the pencils. Is it an artist's grade or a student-grade pencil, if you are a professional artist looking for the very best quality gear, then you should consider buying an artists grade pencil set. For further information about premuim quality graphite pencils, please read my post, Best Pencils: For Drawing, Shading, and Sketching

Not all colored pencils are distributed with a lightfastness rating, but this is essential when buying colored pencils. How long will the pigment last without fading? Plus, various pigments fade at different rates. A professional artist looking to sell their drawings will require a high level of lightfastness, which is guaranteed not to fade.

Is the Barrel of the Pencil made from High-Quality Materials?

A high-quality barrel will compose of high-quality cedarwood, thus ensuring that the lead of the pencil is protected if accidentally dropped. Also, an artist's grade pencil will be lacquered to the same color as the pencil core, and contain the pigment code and a lightfastness rating.

A good quality colored pencil set will supply information regarding the composition of the lead core. One question you may want to ask is, the pencil core oil or wax based. For example, a wax based core will improve the pigments ability to stick to the paper when blending? Are any additional solvents added to the lead center to increase its strength or durability?

Which are the Best Color Pencils for Shading and Blending?

This article will outline how to select a good quality colored pencil set. Plus I review what I think are the five best premium color pencil sets on the market. All offer great value and help achieve a professional level of finish in your drawing.

The following brands of color pencils will achieve excellent results and all-around value for money.

  • Caran D’ache Luminance Colored Pencils
  • Prismacolor Softcore
  • Faber-Castell Polychromos Colored Pencils
  • Stabilo CarbOthello Chalk-Pastel Colored Pencils
  • Derwent Artist Watercolor Pencils

Caran D’ache Luminance Colored Pencils

This is a premium quality wax-based colored pencil, which offers high concentrations of pigmentation. If you are looking to add intense areas of color shading onto your drawings. These color pencils have excellent levels of lightfastness, which means the colors will not fade with time.

Caran D’ache Luminance Colored Pencils  The durability of these color pencils is superb, as is the lack of breakages experienced after sharpening them.


  • Available in sets of 12-80
  • High-quality round wooden barrel
  • Encased in environmentally friendly California cedar
  • Limited range of dull colors
  • Excellent lightfastness

Prismacolor Premier Soft-Core Colored Pencils

Markers vs Colored Pencils
Prismacolor Premier Softcore Pencils

Prismacolor is an artist-quality colored pencil. They offer an excellent range of versatility when layering and blending colors onto different surfaces. Prismacolor has a lush, richly pigmented range of colors which are excellent for blending and shading.

Additionally, Prismacolors can easily be blended and layered from dark to light by applying parallel combinations of colors in the pencil set. Prismacolors are also suited to graduated shading with different colors on paper.

Prismacolor Premier Soft-Core Colored Pencils The pencils' coverage when layering colors is excellent, with coverage similar to oil pastels.

Prismacolors can be purchased at both artist and student grade, with the artist grade pencils offering a high vibrancy of color. The pens can also be purchased individually.

However, the 72 pencil sets offer great value with their quality range of colors, from variations on primary and secondary colors to more specialist pencils like gold and silver. Wax is added to the core pigment to increase the softness of the tool when blending.

Markers Vs Colored Pencils Whats the Difference?


  • Premium quality pencils
  • Available in both artist and students' grade
  • Purchasable individually or in sets of 72
  • Excellent versatility when blending
  • High level of pigment and wax

Faber-Castell Polychromos Colored Pencils

This is a premium quality pencil set available in sets of 120- 12 pencils. The more extensive set of 120 individual Polychromos pencils is organized into three color-coded trays, with handles for ease of movement. The collection has a large wooden barrel that protects the pencil core from accidental dropping.

Faber-Castell Polychromos Colored Pencils Each individual pencil is clearly labeled with Faber-Castell brand, color and pigment serial color, which makes reordering broken or missing items easy.

The polychrome colors offer an excellent range of colors, which arrive in color-coded sturdy trays with the lighter transparent colors arranged to the right and the dark opaque shades to the left.

These pencils have a harder core than Prismacolor pencils and will hold a point for longer, they lend themselves exceptionally well to the blending and layering colors onto darker colored paper. Also, these pencils do not wear down as quickly as other brands and will retain their point for longer.


  • Premium artist grade pencil sets of 120 pencils
  • 3.8mm bonded lead core protects from breakage
  • 3 Star lightfast pigments which are guaranteed to hold their color
  • Holds point well after sharpening
  • Excellent blending and layering characteristics
  • Thick oil based lead, which is water resistant and smudge proof

Stabilo CarbOthello Chalk-Pastel Colored Pencils

Stabilo CarbOthello Chalk-Pastel Colored Pencils  This is a premium quality chalk pastel colored pencil set available to buy in sets of 60 pencils. This brand of pencils offers a high level of color brilliance regarding blending, shading, and layering colors.

Additionally, if you want to sharpen your pastel pencils to an acute point. This pencil will solve that problem and allow you to a high level of fine detail in your drawing.

For color coding purposes, the pencil barrel is lacquered to the same color as the pencil pigment, which makes color selection easier when drawing. However, the pigment color is not labeled on the pencil barrel, as it is with the other pencil sets reviewed in this post.

All colors in this set are marked with a lightfast rating, which details how well the individual pencils retain their colors on paper.

The set of 60 pencils comes equipped with a kneaded rubber and a specially design pastel sharpener. A blending stump is also added to aid the blending of the pigments onto paper.

Derwent Artist Watercolor Pencils

These artist-grade watercolor pencils are available in large sets of 72 colors. The colors are packaged in a sturdy tin case and covered in a plastic wrapper that protects them if accidentally dropped. The core of the pencils is water-soluble and can be applied to both wet and dry surfaces.

Derwent Artist Watercolor Pencils  These pencils are encased in a 7mm hexagonal barrel of California cedarwood. With a generous 3.4mm core and color end cap. The hexagonal barrel ensures the colors will not roll and break.

The range of colors offered in this set is excellent, with a good variety of greens and browns. Which makes them highly suited to the drawing of natural features in landscapes.

The pencil pigment can be activated in two ways. Firstly, the colors can be applied to a dry surface, and water added with a fine brush. The second method is to use the color directly onto a wet surface; the pencil lines will appear a little more saturated if this technique is applied. In both ways the pigments with dissolving without excessive scrubbing onto the surface of the paper.