Dec 18, 2018How to

Tips for choosing the right coloured pencil.



There are a few things to consider when trying to choose the right coloured pencil for you artistic needs: Lightfastness, Core Strength, Quality and base (wax, oil, water).


Lightfastness is its ability to resist fading over time when exposed to sunlight. Artists tend to worry about lightfastness (coloured pencil artists more so than others). If they sell a piece of artwork, they don’t want the buyer coming back after a year complaining that many of the colours have faded. If you are just starting out with colour pencil artwork, lightfastness is less important while you are getting the hang of different techniques as pencils that have a higher lightfast rating, generally cost more.

Core Strength

What is the core? The core is the coloured bit inside the wooden casing of the pencil. It can be very soft and buttery, or it can feel quite firm as you run the pencil over the paper.

Pencils that have a very soft core tend to produce the most intense and vibrant colours and they are especially good for blending colours that have been layered on top of each other. Being soft, they tend to break more easily and they won’t hold a point for very long.

Pencils that have a hard core won’t give you the same colour intensity and they are more difficult to blend and layer although they are great for fine detail and crisp edges because they hold a point really well.

Many artists like to have a mix of soft core and harder core pencils to get the best of both worlds.




All coloured pencils consist of pigment and a binder to hold the pigment so it can be applied to the paper. The more pigment a pencil contains, the more it costs.

Artist quality pencils contain more pigments and less binder compared to student quality pencils. This means they make richer, more intense marks with less pressure. Also the colours can be layered on top of each other and blended more easily. They also tend to be more lightfast.



Pencils can be categorised by base: Wax-based, Oil-based and Water-based.

Wax-based pencils contain a wax binder, which is generally softer and allows you to easily apply rich colour without much pressure.

Oil-based pencils contain an oil binder meaning you have to apply more pressure to lay down colour but they are more hard-wearing and therefore last longer.  

Water-based, or water-soluble pencils use gum arabic for the binder. The pigment can be wetted and moved around on the paper with a brush and water after it’s been applied with the pencil.


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