5 Best Colored Pencils of 2024 (Blending, Lightfastness, Vibrancy)

Best colored pencils

As a seasoned artist, I've had the chance to experiment with a wide range of colored pencils over the years. I know how essential it is to have the right tools to create vibrant, detailed, and long-lasting artwork. And today, I'll share my top five picks for the best colored pencils on the market.

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What are the best colored pencils?

Good pencils can make a huge difference in the outcome. The transitions will look better. The colors will look vibrant and pigmented. And sharpening won't be a pain anymore. So here's a list of the best colored pencils that make the drawing process a lot more enjoyable.

1. Caran d'Ache Luminance 6901

Highest quality and lightfastness, and best blending

Top colored pencils

In my opinion, Caran d'Ache Luminance colored pencils are the cream of the crop. These Swiss-made, wax-based pencils are known for their exceptional quality, blending, and superb lightfastness. The majority of the Luminance pencils have an LFI rating, meaning they'll resist fading for over 100 years. This is a must for any artist who wants their work to stand the test of time.

The Luminance colored pencils are incredibly creamy and blendable, thanks to their high pigment concentration and soft and creamy wax-based lead. These pencils glide smoothly on paper, making it a breeze to create detailed, richly colored artwork.

The only downside? They're on the pricier side. But I believe that the superior quality and longevity of these pencils make the investment well worth it.

Read my full review here.

2. Derwent Lightfast

Best balance for drawing details and blending, while remaining very lightfast

Professional colored pencils

Next up, we have the Derwent Lightfast colored pencils. Made in the UK, these pencils are specifically designed to be lightfast, ensuring that your artwork remains vibrant and resistant to fading. Derwent claims that these pencils are 100% lightfast under museum conditions, and the majority of their pencils have an impressive LFI or LFII rating.

One key feature of the Derwent Lightfast pencils is their oil-based core. Unlike other oil-based pencils, Derwent has managed to create a soft and creamy lead that still allows for precision and detailed work. These pencils also boast high pigmentation and saturation, making your colors pop.

The thick cedar wood barrel ensures easy sharpening and added protection for the lead. The Derwent Lightfast colored pencils come in a range of 100 colors, offering a diverse palette to choose from.

Read my full review here.

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3. Faber-Castell Polychromos

Best for drawing details and vibrancy

High-quality colored pencils

If you're all about vibrancy, Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils are the ones for you. These German-made pencils are renowned for their intense pigmentation, giving your artwork that extra wow factor.

Polychromos pencils are oil-based, with a harder core that's perfect for detailed work. You can sharpen them to a fine point for those intricate details, but be careful as the lead can be a bit fragile. Just be gentle when sharpening and avoid dropping them to prevent breakage.

Though oil-based pencils can be more challenging to blend, with the right techniques, you can achieve smooth color transitions with Polychromos. These pencils are also highly lightfast, ensuring your artwork's longevity.

With a color range of 120 shades, you'll have plenty of options to choose from, although the skin tones and purples could be more diverse.

Read my full review here.

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4. Derwent Chromaflow

Best blending for a tighter budget

For those who prioritize blending but find Caran d'Ache Luminance a bit expensive, Derwent Chromaflow colored pencils are a fantastic alternative. These wax-based pencils have a soft core that's easy to blend and strong enough to resist breakage when sharpening and drawing.

While Derwent claims that these pencils meet high standards, their lightfastness isn't explicitly mentioned on their website. However, they do state that Chromaflow pencils have comparable lightfastness to other products within the same price range.

With a color range of 72 shades, Derwent Chromaflow offers a decent selection of colors for your artwork. The only downside is the limited number of skin tones in the set.

The Chromaflow pencils feature a harder wood barrel, making them slightly more challenging to sharpen. However, the black barrel design with colored ends and gold lettering gives these pencils an exclusive, luxurious appearance.

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5. Prismacolor Premier

Best option for beginners

Last but not least, we have the Prismacolor Premier colored pencils. These are the most budget-friendly option among the top five, making them an excellent choice for beginners or those who don't plan on selling their artwork.

Prismacolor Premier pencils are wax-based, resulting in a soft and creamy texture that's perfect for blending. However, this softness means they're not as ideal for detailed work, as the point tends to wear down quickly.

While these pencils offer a wide range of 150 colors, they are not as pigmented and saturated as other brands, and their lightfastness is generally lower. Some colors have LFI ratings, but most fall within the LFIII to LFV range. Additionally, these pencils are prone to wax bloom, which can be remedied by gently wiping the drawing's surface.

The build quality of Prismacolor Premier pencils is not as high as the other options on this list. The narrow barrel and core make them more susceptible to breakage when sharpening or if accidentally dropped. However, their affordability and ease of blending make them a popular choice for artists new to colored pencils or for practicing techniques.

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In conclusion, these top five colored pencil brands each have their unique strengths and qualities. Ultimately, the best choice for you will depend on your specific needs, preferences, and budget.

  • For the highest quality and lightfastness, go for Caran d'Ache Luminance.
  • For a great balance of lightfastness and blendability with an oil-based core, consider Derwent Lightfast.
  • If vibrancy and detail are your priorities, Faber Castell Polychromos is the way to go.
  • If blending is essential and you're on a tighter budget, Derwent Chromaflow is an excellent alternative.
  • For beginners or those looking for a more affordable option, Prismacolor Premier is a solid choice.

As an experienced artist, I can attest that investing in high-quality colored pencils can truly elevate your artwork.

How to Choose the Best Colored Pencils for Your Needs

When choosing colored pencils, consider your artistic needs and skill level. 

For beginners or students, budget-friendly sets can be a good starting point, providing a range of colors for practice. Pay attention to the pencil's core thickness, as thicker cores often indicate higher quality and more pigment. 

Artist-grade pencils, with their lightfastness and blendability, are ideal for more advanced artists or professionals seeking vibrant and long-lasting results. Additionally, test pencils for smoothness and break resistance by applying light strokes on paper. 

Brands like Faber-Castell, Prismacolor, and Caran d'Ache are known for producing quality colored pencils. 

Ultimately, the best choice depends on your preferences, budget, and the level of detail and color intensity you aim to achieve in your artwork. 

For a more in-depth guide on how to choose which colored pencils fit you best, check out this article.

What is the Difference Between Student-Grade and Artist-Grade Colored Pencils?

Student-grade colored pencils are typically more affordable and designed for beginners or casual artists. They may have a lower pigment concentration, resulting in less vibrant colors and a tendency to wear down more quickly. 

On the other hand, artist-grade colored pencils are crafted with higher-quality materials, offering richer pigments, better lightfastness, and enhanced blendability. These pencils are favored by professional artists for their superior performance and ability to create intricate and detailed artwork. 

While both student and artist-grade colored pencils serve their respective purposes, the difference lies in the quality of materials and the level of artistic results they can achieve.

You can read more on the difference between student-grade and artist-grade colored pencils in this article.

What are the Best Colored Pencils for Professional Artists?

The best colored pencils for professional artists are the Caran d'Ache Luminance, the Derwent Lightfast and the Faber Castell Polychromos.

The single most important thing, if you want to sell your drawings, is that the pencils are lightfast. The Luminance, Lightfast, and Polychromos are the most lightfast pencils on the market at the moment.

Another important thing is vibrancy. These three brands of pencils are all very vibrant, especially the Polychromos.

Easy blending is for most professional artists also a must. The Caran d'Ache Luminance is the easiest to blend with and has the smoothest drawing experience. The Derwent Lighfast pencils are also good at blending, but not as good as the Luminance. But the Faber Castel Polychromos are more difficult the blend with.

These pencils have an excellent build quality which makes them last longer than most other colored pencils.

Here's a full list of the best colored pencils for professional artists in case you're interested.

What are the Best Colored Pencils for Blending?

Wax-based pencils are by far the best for blending. The Caran d'Ache Luminance are the easiest to blend with. The Derwent Coloursoft and the Prismacolor Premier pencils are also very good wax-based pencils for blending.

Here's a list of the top 5 best blending colored pencils.

What are the most vibrant and pigmented colored pencils?

The most pigmented colored pencils are the Faber Castell Polychromos by far. But if blending is very important for you than the Caran d'Ache Luminance are a good alternative.

Try the Faber Castell Polychromos

Try the Caran d'Ache Luminance

What are the most lightfast/light-resistant colored pencils?

Colored pencils are often given a rating from LFI to LFV against the ASTM D-6901 standard with LFI being the best with a fade resistance of over 100 years and LFV being the worst.

The Caran d'Ache Luminance are one of the most lightfast colored pencils on the market right now.

If you'd like to check out the full list of the most lightfast colored pencils, make sure to visit this article.

What is the main difference between wax-based and oil-based colored pencils?

Wax-based colored pencils have a softer core made with a wax binder, making them easier to blend and ideal for creating smooth color transitions. However, they can suffer from wax bloom and might break more easily. Oil-based colored pencils have a harder core made with an oil binder, offering better control for fine details and more resistance to breakage. They usually have less wax bloom but can be more challenging to blend.

Here is a more comprehensive list of the differences between wax-based and oil-based colored pencils.

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