5 Best Cheap Colored Pencils (That Still Color Well) in 2024

a drawing of an orange mclaren sabre half covered with a box of derwent coloursoft colore dpencilsHere are the top 5 best cheap colored pencils that are affordable AND professional-quality. 

So, if you're seeking vibrant colors, superior blendability, and lasting artwork without breaking the bank, keep reading.

Disclaimer: In the name of full transparency, please be aware that this blog post
contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will result in a
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What are the Best Cheap Colored Pencils?

  1. Prismacolor Premier Soft Core
  2. Faber-Castell Polychromos
  3. Derwent Coloursoft
  4. Arteza Professional Colored Pencils
  5. Koh-I-Noor Polycolor Artists' Colored Pencils

1. Prismacolor Premier Soft Core

Best for Blending

Prismacolor Premier Soft Core colored pencils have become a go-to choice for many artists. This isn't surprising as they are one of the best and one of the cheapest colored pencils out there.

Easy Blending

Prismacolor Premier pencils are one of the best and easiest blending colored pencils out there. Without too much effort you can create seamless color transitions which is great for drawing the sky, cars, portraits, and other things that contain smooth gradients and color nuances.

Wide Color Range

With 150 colors available, there is always one pencil that is the color you're looking for, and if that's not the case you can easily mix that color with other pencils.

You can create any color you like without feeling limited or needing to mix lots of colors.

Solid and Opaque Colors

With some brands of colored pencils when you're burnishing the colors can turn out very grainy or you actually remove more pigment off the paper than you add resulting in an uneven finish.

However, this isn't the case with these colored pencils. You can easily layer and burnish and the result will be flawless and the colors will look solid and not grainy at all.

The pigment of these colored pencils is also more opaque than most other brands of pencils. You can easily draw on black paper and it will only look slightly darker than if you had drawn it on white paper.

This makes the Prismacolor Premier Soft Core pencils perfect for drawing on grey-toned paper.


With all of these pros also come a few cons.

First of all, the Prismacolor Premier pencils produce a white translucent film that forms over time called wax-bloom, especially on the parts you burnished.

You can however easily wipe it off with a brush.

Not the Best Build Quality

The build quality might be a bigger concern. The barrel of these pencils is very narrow and so is the lead. This makes the pencils not break-resistant like some other more expensive colored pencils are.

Sometimes the lead will also just break when you're sharpening...

So be careful with these pencils and never ever drop them.

Final Thoughts

Overall these pencils are a great choice, especially if you're on a tight budget. You can easily create the most amazing drawings with these pencils if you combine them with your drawing skills.

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2. Faber-Castell Polychromos

Perfect for Fine Details

Realistic Car Drawing of a purple lamborghini aventador svj Made With Faber-Castell Polychromos Colored pencils

The Faber-Castell Polychromos strike a perfect balance between cost and quality, offering a high-end drawing experience without breaking the bank too much. 

Their oil-based core and vibrant color range make them a top pick for artists looking for affordability without compromising on professional-grade features.

I've been using these pencils for years now and they are still up there with my favorites.

Perfect for Details

The Polychromoos colored pencils have a very hard core which makes them ideal for drawing the finest details.

They are perfect for drawing hair or fur and anything that has a ton of small details.

I use them all the time for drawing the tiny details on the cars I draw. 

Wide Color Range

The Faber-Castell Polychromos are available in 120 colors which is more than enough in most cases. There are a few skin tones, many grey tones, yellows, greens, etc. There are even 3 metallic colors: Silver, Gold, and Copper.

However, I wish they had more purple tones. Every time I want to draw a purple car I wish there was a lighter purple. Maybe that's just me, but I'd love a few more purple tones.

Good Build Quality

Faber-Castell has a reputation for crafting durable art supplies, and the Polychromos series is no exception. The pencils are encased in high-quality wood, preventing breakages and ensuring longevity. Furthermore, the oil-based core is resistant to crumbling, even under pressure.

The Polychromos pencils are high up there with their build quality. The barrel is quite thick which protects the core pretty well. The core itself is also quite thick.

However, the core will still break if you drop them too hard... So you still need to be careful with them.

Fade-Resistant Colors

A critical feature for professionals is how well the colors resist fading over time. Polychromos pencils excel in this regard, offering high lightfastness ratings. This ensures that artworks remain vibrant and true-to-color even after prolonged exposure to light.

These pencils are very lightfast, which means that the colors barely fade over time when they are exposed to light.

80% of the pencils have the highest lightfastness rating which means that the colors won't fade for over 100 years (I believe). The other colors are fade-resistant for over 5 years and 25 years which is more than enough in most cases.

Take More Effort to Blend

Now onto some of the cons of these pencils.

These pencils can be a slight paint to blend. The core is less smooth and creamy than the core of the Prismacolor pencils. 

You need to layer very lightly and be patient when creating color transitions, but when you get the hang of it it will become easier.

Colors Look a Bit Grainy Sometimes

Another thing I've noticed with these pencils is that the colors will sometimes turn out a bit grainy, especially when you burnish them too much.

Final Thoughts

If you care about your drawing looking good for many years and being able to draw the finest details, then these pencils are your best choice. They are a bit more expensive than the Prismacolor pencils, but they are very much worth it in my opinion.

Read my full review here.

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3. Derwent Coloursoft

A Great Allrounder

Realistic Car Drawing of an orange mclaren sabre Made With derwent coloursoft colored pencils

Another great brand of cheap colored pencils are the Derwent Coloursoft pencils

Pigmented Colors

Derwent Coloursoft pencils are one of the most pigmented colors, though not quite as vibrant as the Polychromos.

Most of these pencils give off their pigment really easily and some of the colors are quite opaque making them great for drawing on grey-toned paper.

Good Build Quality

The Coloursoft pencils have a good build quality. The barrel is quite thick and protects the core well and the core is quite thick itself too. 

This makes the core more resistant to breaking when you drop them, though it's not a 100% guarantee they will survive it.

Fade-Resistant Colors

Most of the colors are lightfastness, although not all of them. Mainly the pinks, purples, and blues have bad lightfastness ratings, but most other colors have good to excellent ratings.

Okay Color Range

The Coloursoft pencils are available in 72 colors which is in most cases just about enough. 

They do have a great color selection though. Most of the colors you'll ever need are included in those 72.

Maybe they could do with some more reds, pinks, and browns.

Some Colors Don't Layer and Mix Well

When testing out these pencils I noticed that there are big differences between the texture of the cores. Some are quite creamy and blend well, others are quite hard and don't dive off their pigment easily.

This makes it difficult to layer and mix certain colors.

A Little Too Soft for Fine Details

The Colorsoft pencils have a softer core than average, but the core is also more brittle than average, making them not a great fit for drawing tiny details as the sharp tip easily breaks when a bit of pressure is applied.

Final Thoughts

These pencils have a great build quality, but for the rest, they are quite average. They don't excel at anything, but they also don't fall behind too much on anything. In short, they are a great allrounder.

Read my full review here.

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4. Arteza Pro Series Colored Pencils

Low Priced Top-Tier Colored Pencils

Arteza Pro Series colored pencils are one of the cheapest colored pencils out there. However, that doesn't mean they are also one of the worst pencils out there.

They are a great option for artists who are on a tight budget.

Great Build Quality

The Arteza Pro Series pencils have a pretty good construction, protecting the core as well as possible. 

And the core is quite strong as well making them great for burnishing. And they don't break easily when sharpening.

Very Vibrant Colors

These pencils are one of the most vibrant colored pencils out there, very much competing with the color vibrancy of the Polychromos.

While many colors are beautifully intense, there are not many earthy tones...

Easy to Blend

The Arteza Pro Series pencils are surprisingly easy to blend, especially as they are so cheap.

You can easily create a smooth color transition, even on very textured paper.

Mixing new colors is also a piece of cake and they look solid and smooth too.

Okay Color Range

The Pro Series colored pencils are available in 72 colors which could be enough for most use cases.

However, I find that there are not enough skin tones, browns, and other earthy tones and way too many yellows and oranges.

But apart from that it's an okay color selection.

Fade-Resistant Pigments

Each pencil has a lightfastness rating with + being the lowest and +++ being the highest. 12 pencils are + rated, 20 pencils ++, and 40 pencils +++.

I have to say I don't what the scale is they base these ratings on, so I'm not able to tell how lightfast they are.

Final Thoughts

The Arteza Pro Series colored pencils are perfect for artists who have a low budget but do want to get top-tier performance from their colored pencils.

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5. Koh-I-Noor Polycolor Artists' Colored Pencils

Effortless Blending with Great Build Quality

The Czech-made Koh-i-Nor Polycolor Artists' Colored Pencils are the last, but definitely not least cheap colored pencils on this list.

Great Build Quality

The Polycolor pencils have a thick wooden barrel that protects the core pretty well. The lead is also nice and thick and doesn't break easily.

The barrel is hexanol shaped which means they won't roll off your table when you're drawing.

Bright and Opaque Pigments

These pencils have great coverage and are very vibrant. The way they lay down is very similar to the Prismacolor Premier pencils. They apply very smoothly and are a blast to color with.

Great for Blending

Not only do the Polycolor pencils lay down very very smoothly, they also blend effortlessly, just like the Prismacolors. This makes them great for drawing subjects with intricate color transitions like portraits.

Good Color Range

The Koh-i-Noor Polycolor pencils are available in 92 colors which cover most of the spectrum. Although they lack skin tones and darker reds. Apart from that it's pretty well spread.

These colored pencils are available in sets of 72, 48, 36, 24, and 12. For some reason, you can't buy all 92 unique colors in one set...

Final Thoughts

The Polycolor colored pencils are a great option for people who want the qualities of the Prismacolor Premier pencils but don't want the lack of build quality that comes with them.

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What to Look for in the Best Cheap Colored Pencils

When you're on a budget but still want professional-quality results, it's essential to know what to prioritize. Here's a guide to help you find the best cheap pencils without breaking the bank:

1. Pigmentation and Coverage

The first thing you should take into account is how pigmented the colored pencils are and how well they cover the paper.

Pencils with a higher pigmentation tend to be more opaque. This is especially useful if you want to draw on colored or grey-toned paper.

2. Blendability

The next thing to keep in mind is how well the colored pencils blend, especially if you're planning on drawing portraits, cars, and other subjects that contain smooth color transitions.

Having colored pencils that blend well oftentimes makes them less ideal for drawing details, though.

3. Drawing Fine Details

Some colored pencils are great for blending, but they are too soft to draw fine details. 

Most of the time this isn't too big of a problem, but if you're planning on drawing highly details subjects you might want to choose precision over blending.

4. Durability

If you want your pencils to last long you'll need to take the durability and build quality into account.

Most pencils have a good build quality and a strong lead, but some pencils have leads that break easily. 

This makes them a lot more difficult to sharpen and you'll need to sharpen them more often and for longer until you get a sharp point.

5. Color Range

Another thing to keep in mind when choosing which colored pencils to buy is the color selection.

Some pencils have plenty of colors to choose from, but others only have half of that. Most of the time that isn't too much of a problem, but sometimes they lack certain colors like skin tones, purples, and earthy tones.

So when looking for colored pencils, make sure to check out the color chart to see if the colors you think you're going to need are available.

6. Lightfastness

The last thing you need to keep in mind is the lightfastness or fade-resistance. This defines how much the colors will or won't fade over time.

Some brands specially make their pigments lightfast like Faber-Castel and Derwent, others don't like Prismacolor.

If you want your drawings to look good for years from now and you're planning on displaying them on your walls, then it might be a good idea to buy lightfast colored pencils.

If you plan on selling your work, lightfastness pencils might be the better choice for you too.

But if you just want to draw for fun and don't care about how well they will look years from now, then you don't need to care about the lightfastness ratings.

More Articles You Might Like

How to Choose the Best Colored Pencils for Your Needs
5 Best Colored Pencils for Professional Artists
5 Best Colored Pencils for Portrait Drawing in 2024
5 Best Colored Pencils of 2024 (Blending, Lightfastness, Vibrancy)

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Your articles on coloured pencils and pens for artists were very informative, but I'm still indecisive. I'm a card crafter, so the items I'll be colouring are much smaller than the artworks I've seen, and much less intricate. I'm unable to spend a lot of money on either colouring pens or pencils (preferable blendable), so I'd be really grateful if you could offer me personal advice. Many thanks.

JEAN WRIGHT - Nov. 23, 2023, 3:42 p.m.