Best Colored Pencils For Artists, Architects, And Designers

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Colored pencils are just one of the many tools that one can find in an artist's kit. The right set can allow you to transform much more than what lies on the canvas.

Professional artists use colored pencils as they offer a range of possibilities, especially in hues.

The best-colored pencils for artists should provide you a choice of vibrant colors that you can layer and blend easily and beautifully. Whether you enjoy filling in adult coloring books or sketches, your set should afford you the choice to express yourself creatively. Depending on your preference and skill set, there are colored pencils that are specifically designed for professionals, while others are more geared towards beginners and hobbyists. Regardless, you're looking for a set that is durable and meets your creative need.

With various brands on the market, it can seem like quite the task settling on one. That's why we created this guide outlining the best-colored pencils for artists, architects, and designers and features to consider when buying them.

Best Colored Pencils For Artists, Architects, and Designers

1. Faber-Castell Polychromos Artists’ Color Pencils

Faber-Castell Polychromos Artists' Color Pencils - Tin...
  • 24 COLORS IN METAL TIN - Includes all colors from the Polychromos...
  • UNSURPASSED LIGHTFASTNESS - Each Polychromos pencils contains the...
  • EASY TO BLEND - Buttery smooth color laydown, Polychromos Pencils...
  • BREAK RESISTANT LEADS - Polychromos Pencils feature thick 3.8 mm...
  • FABER-CASTELL QUALITY ART MATERIALS - See your artwork come to...

These are the best-colored pencils if you're looking for a durable set that is sure to last and offers vivid colors.

The Faber Castell Polychromos pencils come in a metal tin offering 24 professional-grade colored pencils.

Each Faber Castell colored pencil is designed to contain the highest quality pigments for permanent color and unsurpassed lightfastness, making it resistant to fading. It is also water-resistant and doesn't smudge once dry. The Faber Castell colored pencil tip is strong as it features a thick 3.8 mm lead and resists breakage. The entire length of the lead is SV bonded, resulting in easy sharpening and longer-lasting art materials.

The Faber Castell Polychromos colored pencils feature oil-based lead; hence they can easily be blended for layered effects, highlights, and transitions without the concern of wax bloom that results with wax-based pencils.

Lastly, the Faber Castell colored pencil set offers a wide array of colors affording you the creative freedom to blend as many shades as you possibly can. In addition, though they are professional-grade colored pencils, there is the option to purchase individual Faber Castel Pencils. This is especially great if you cannot afford the whole set or are looking for a particular range of colors.


  • All shades are available for individual purchase
  • High-quality pigments with incredible lightfastness, helping artworks resist abrasion and fading
  • Oil-based colored pencils hence colors are moist and is ideal for making changes when necessary
  • Provides a wide range of bright colors
  • Soft colored pencils making them great for blending
  • Easy to sharpen and break-resistant


  • Expensive
  • Some reviews noted that they leave residue on your hand after coloring

2. Caran d’Ache Pablo Colored Pencil Set

Caran d'Ache Pablo Colored Pencil Set Of 120 Metal Box...
  • Creamy - soft - water-resistant
  • Set of 120 pencils
  • Ideal for shading - mixied media
  • Exceptional covering power and superb lightfastness
  • 3.7mm leads

These colored pencils come in a set of 120, and each pencil features a 3.7 mm lead core.

The colored pencils are wax-based and water-resistant. They also give off a soft and creamy effect whilst featuring strong pigments with amazing coverage and intense effect. The colored pencils also provide fantastic lightfastness.

The colored pencil features a slim lead that is best suited for fine lines and minor details, allowing for spot-on accuracy. It is also astonishingly sturdy for its size and does not easily break even after applying a certain amount of force. Hence making the process of application quite easy and, at the same time, allowing you not to have to worry about any waxy effects.

The colored pencils are availed in smaller sets whilst this set offers more color choices. It also gives you more control in mixing colors, unlike oil-based pencils, where you have to do several passes and layers before getting the right depth of color. 


  • The colored pencil holds a point well
  • Sharpens smoothly
  • Layer and blend colors stunningly
  • High-quality colored pencils
  • Water-resistant and don't show signs of wax bloom


  • Quite pricey

3. Derwent Colored Pencils

Derwent Colored Pencils, Inktense Ink Pencils, Drawing,...
  • VIBRANT SHADES – The round 4mm soft lead core is perfect for...
  • WATER SOLUBLE – Expand your creative possibilities. Water...
  • PERMANENT COLOUR – Pigments dry quickly and permanently when...
  • SURFACE VARIETY – Switch up your artistic canvas. As the colour...
  • COLOUR CREATION – Make custom shades by mixing colours...

These are the best-colored pencils for artists if you're looking for an affordable set with dual usability.

The Derwent Watercolor pencils pack contains an assortment of 72 color options. The colored pencils can be used dry to achieve expressive, bold drawings or washed out with water to create a bright, translucent ink-like effect.

The colored pencils have around 4mm soft lead core that allows you to achieve those bold and creative pieces. The pigments dry quickly and permanently when washed out, minimizing color bleeding. Once dry, colors can be placed next to each other or layered without fear of color bleeding.

The colored pencils can also be used on fabrics like silk or cotton, thus allowing you to vary your canvas.


  • Good colored pencils
  • Work well for adult coloring books with high-quality paper
  • Feature a soft and smooth core that prevents breakage while sharpening
  • You get access to both wet and dry media from the pencils


  • Some reviews noted that some of the colors appear to be the same when dry

4. Arteza Colored Pencils

Arteza Colored Pencils, Set of 72 Colors, Soft...
  • Superior Quality, Sensible Price: Why pay a fortune for premium...
  • Blend & Layer Like a Pro: Go ahead. Layer it on. These expert...
  • Vivid, Varied Colors: Why settle for dull & boring? These bright...
  • Crafted for Keeps: From their sturdy, comfortable barrels to...
  • Metal Storage Case & Iron-Clad Guarantee: 100% safe & nontoxic,...

These are the best colored pencils for beginner artists or people that enjoy coloring as a hobby. The colored pencils come in a set of 72 in a double-hinged tin box.

The Arteza colored pencils are wax-based hence allowing you to blend beautifully and layer easily. Furthermore, the set comes in vivid, varied colors; hence you can creatively express yourself. In addition, each colored pencil is labeled and numbered for easy identification.

The Arteza colored pencils are designed to be sturdy and break-resistant. In addition, they feature comfortable barrels that ensure they remain durable, allowing you to sharpen them easily.


  • Blend easily and beautifully
  • The set offers in vivid colors
  • Designed for beginners
  • Budget-friendly colored pencils


  • Not water soluble

5. Prismacolor Woodless Colored Pencils

Prismacolor 2165 Premier Art Stix Woodless Colored...
  • Thick, soft cores without the wood case help you quickly lay down...
  • Never need sharpening– can be used both dull to cover large...
  • Robust, 0.25-inch leads provide smooth coverage
  • Richly saturated lightfast pigments help you create timeless art
  • Includes 48 premium Art Stix coloring book pencils

Prismacolor premier colored pencils are considered to be one of the best by professional artists.

The artist-grade pencils are wax-based and feature very rich pigments. Prismacolor colored pencils are very easy to blend and have the softest feel. However, this makes them prone to break, and they also produce wax bloom that's hard to get rid off.

The wax-based colored pencils come in 48 shades allowing you a great choice of bright colors.


  • Wax-based colored pencils
  • Perfect for filling in large areas quickly
  • Contains lightfastness and high-quality pigments
  • Very easy to blend
  • Vibrant colored pencils


  • Can produce wax bloom
  • Breaks easily
  • The colored pencil doesn't hold a sharp point for too long

Features To Consider When Buying Best Colored Pencils For Artists, Architects, and Designers

a) Base of the Colored Pencils

When searching for the best colored pencils, you're likely to come across three types: Wax-based, Oil-based, and Water-based colored pencils.

  • Wax-based pencils: They use a wax binder, which is basically softer, allowing you to apply rich color without a lot of pressure easily.
  • Oil-based pencils: They use an oil binder and require you to apply pressure to achieve the color. Oil-based colored pencils tend to be more hard-wearing, hold a point better, and are more durable.
  • Water-based or water-soluble pencils: They use gum arabic as a binder. You can use a brush and water to move around the pigment as it can be wetted once applied with the pencil.

Traditional colored pencil art is usually created either with oil or wax-based pencils. Unless going for a watercolor effect, you wouldn't typically use water-based pencils even though they can be used dry.

b) Softer or Harder Core Colored Pencils

The core refers to the colored part inside the wooden casing of the pencil. It can either be super soft and buttery, or it can feel quite firm as you run the pencil over the paper.

Soft colored pencils tend to produce very intense and vibrant colors. They are best suited for blending colors that have been layered on top of each other. Since they are soft, they tend to break easily and won't hold a point for very long.

Hard colored pencils don't give you the same color intensity and tend to be more difficult to blend and layer. However, they are best for achieving fine detail and crisp edges as they hold a point really well.

Depending on your skill set and level, you'll often find that the more experienced you are, the more likely you are to want the right colored pencils that are a combination of hard and soft pencils, as this allows you to experience the best of both worlds. However, if you're a beginner, you don't need to do this just yet.

c) Lightfastness

This refers to a color's ability to resist fading over time when exposed to sunlight.

This is majorly a concern for professional creatives and artists, especially those who might be selling their art pieces. However, if you're a beginner, this may not be a concern just yet.

There are, however, brands that do cater to this and design colored pencils that are resistant. The downside is they tend to be quite expensive.

d) Vibrancy of Colored Pencils

When searching for the best-colored pencils for artists, what you select will be dependent on what you're aiming to do. For example, some require colored pencil sets with more layers or darker strokes to create color brightness, while others need soft strokes to create lively colors.

e) Quality of Lead

It's essential to think about lead quality when searching for the best choice of colored pencils. Compared to conventional pencils made from graphite, the lead of colored pencils is a combination of binder and pigments. This tends to make it quite hard for most artists to draw comfortably. Additionally, if too much force is used, it can break. Therefore, it's important to stick with quality brands and manufacturers.

e) Wide Selection of Colors

Having a large selection affords you the choice to express yourself creatively. For example, some colored pencil sets can be up to 48 different shades or more, while others may have less than ten colors in a box.

Frequently Asked Question About Best Colored Pencils (FAQ)

1. What Type Of Coloured Pencil Is Right For Me?

Colored Pencils come in different forms, but the core is usually wax or oil-based and combined with a pigment, binding agents, and additives.

i) Artist Grade Pencils

These generally contain higher concentrations of high-quality pigments. In addition, they come with lightfastness, and the core is more durable than student-grade colored pencils.

Due to the softer core with more pigment concentration, artist-grade colored pencils result in more vivid colors that blend and layer well on paper. They also offer a broader selection in their sets and can often be purchased as individual pencils.

Artist-grade products are ideal for intermediates and professionals.

ii) Student Grade Pencils

These tend to have more binders and less pigment in their core compared to artist-grade pencils, resulting in less intense colors.

The hardcore makes them difficult to blend or layer with. Additionally, the artist must apply a lot of force to get the color to appear on the canvas.

Student grade colored pencils rarely feature the lightfastness rating. In addition, they have a much more limited range of colors compared to artist-grade.

These colored pencils are best-suited for coloring book enthusiasts, beginners, or children.

iii) Pastel Pencils

Though they are not really colored pencils, many people consider them to be and combine them together with wax-based pencils. However, they are not considered true colored pencils as they do not feature a wax or oil binder in their core. Instead, the core binder is made from gum arabic or methylcellulose.

Pastel pencils are best suited for when you want to achieve more detail and control. They are also less messy. However, they do smear easily and have to be fixed to the paper to prevent them from coming off. They also don't blend as easily.

iv) Watercolor Pencils

This colored pencil has a water-soluble binder in its core. Hence, you can use water as a solvent to blend the pencil on your chosen canvas.

Watercolor pencils can either be used wet or dry. When dry they cover they don't cover the paper completely and also don't layer well. However, when using a light application and going over it with water, it blends the colored pencil marks and spreads the pigment, thus creating a watercolor effect.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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