Wax-Based Colored Pencils: A Comprehensive Guide

Wax-based colored pencils have long been a favorite tool for artists and hobbyists alike. And they are definitely a favorite of mine.

But what exactly are they, and what sets them apart from other types of colored pencils?

Let's dive into the world of wax-based colored pencils to find out.

What are Wax-Based Colored Pencils?

Wax-based colored pencils are made using a wax binder that holds the pigment together, allowing it to be easily transferred to paper or other surfaces. The formula typically consists of a combination of pigment, wax, and various additives, resulting in a colored pencil that is smooth, creamy, and vibrant.

The wax binder is essential to the unique characteristics of these pencils. When you use a wax-based colored pencil, you'll find that the colors glide effortlessly on the surface. This smoothness is all thanks to the wax, which also aids in blending and layering colors effectively.

It's important not to confuse wax-based colored pencils with oil-based ones. Both types have their advantages, but they differ in the binders they use and the overall feel they provide. Oil-based colored pencils utilize an oil binder, resulting in a harder, less waxy texture compared to their wax-based counterparts.

Advantages of Wax-Based Colored Pencils

Wax-based colored pencils come with a variety of benefits that make them a popular choice for artists. Let's take a look at some of their key advantages:

  1. Blendability: The wax binder in these pencils makes blending colors a breeze. You can effortlessly create smooth transitions and gradients, making your artwork look seamless and polished. This is especially helpful when working on realistic drawings or when you need to achieve a specific effect.

  2. Layering: With wax-based colored pencils, you can easily build up layers of color to create depth and dimension in your artwork. The wax binder allows the colors to adhere to the surface and each other without becoming too heavy or muddy.

  3. Vibrant Colors: The combination of high-quality pigments and wax binder results in rich, vibrant colors. Wax-based colored pencils produce strong, saturated hues that can make your artwork truly stand out.

  4. Ease of Use: Wax-based colored pencils are known for their smoothness and ease of use. They glide on the surface effortlessly, making them a pleasure to work with. This is especially appealing to beginners or those who prefer a more intuitive drawing experience.

  5. Glazing: The soft core of wax-based colored pencils makes it possible to glaze colors on top of other colors as it gives off its pigment more easily than oil-based colored pencils do. This makes them perfect to make small color corrections.

With these advantages in mind, it's no wonder that wax-based colored pencils have become a staple in the art world. However, it's also important to consider their drawbacks, which we'll explore next.

Disadvantages of Wax-Based Colored Pencils

While wax-based colored pencils have numerous benefits, they also come with some drawbacks. Let's explore some of their disadvantages:

  1. Wax Bloom: One of the most common issues with wax-based colored pencils is a phenomenon called "wax bloom." This occurs when the wax binder rises to the surface of the drawing, creating a hazy, whitish film. Wax bloom can be frustrating, but it can be removed with a soft cloth or tissue. To prevent it, some artists use a fixative spray to seal their artwork.

  2. Less Sharp Detail: Due to their softer nature, wax-based colored pencils may not be the best choice for extremely detailed or intricate work. It can be challenging to maintain a sharp point for fine lines and precision drawing.

  3. Less Durable: As wax-based colored pencils are softer, they tend to wear down more quickly than oil-based colored pencils. This means you may need to replace them more frequently, which could be a concern for those looking to minimize their art supply expenses.

While these disadvantages may be concerning to some artists, it's essential to weigh the pros and cons and choose the right colored pencils for your specific needs and preferences.

Drawing Styles and Subjects Best Suited for Wax-Based Colored Pencils

Wax-based colored pencils are incredibly versatile and can be used for a variety of drawing styles and subjects. Their blendability, layering capabilities, and vibrant colors make them a popular choice for many artists. Let's explore some of the styles and subjects that wax-based colored pencils excel at:

  1. Portraits: Wax-based colored pencils are ideal for creating realistic portraits because they blend so easily, allowing for smooth skin tones and seamless transitions between colors. The ability to layer colors also helps to achieve a more lifelike appearance and depth in facial features.

  2. Anime and Manga: The smooth, flat colors that wax-based colored pencils can produce are perfect for creating anime and manga-style drawings. These pencils make it simple to fill large areas with consistent color, and their blendability allows for smooth shading and gradients, resulting in a polished, professional look.

  3. Nature and Wildlife: Artists looking to capture the beauty of nature and wildlife will appreciate the vibrancy and richness of colors that wax-based colored pencils provide. The blendability and layering capabilities make it easier to achieve realistic textures and effects, such as fur, feathers, and foliage.

  4. Still Life: Wax-based colored pencils are an excellent choice for still-life drawings, as they allow artists to create a wide range of textures and effects. From the smoothness of glass to the intricate details of fabric, these pencils provide the versatility needed to bring still-life subjects to life.

  5. Coloring Books: For those who enjoy coloring books, wax-based colored pencils are a fantastic option. Their smooth application and vibrant colors make filling in intricate designs a joyful and relaxing experience.

While wax-based colored pencils are well-suited for these styles and subjects, they can be used for countless other applications as well. The key is to experiment and find the techniques that work best for you and your artistic vision.

Popular Brands and Sets of Wax-Based Colored Pencils

With so many wax-based colored pencils available on the market, it can be challenging to decide which brand or set to choose. To help you with your decision, let's take a look at some popular brands and sets of wax-based colored pencils:

  1. Prismacolor Premier: Prismacolor is a well-known and respected brand in the art world, and their Premier line of wax-based colored pencils is a favorite among artists. These high-quality pencils are known for their exceptional blendability, vibrant colors, and soft, creamy texture.

  2. Caran d'Ache Luminance: Caran d'Ache Luminance colored pencils are another top-of-the-line option, offering artists professional-grade quality. These wax-based pencils boast exceptional lightfastness, rich pigmentation, and a smooth, creamy texture that is perfect for blending and layering.

  3. Derwent Coloursoft: Derwent's Coloursoft line is an excellent choice for artists who want a more budget-friendly option without compromising on quality. These wax-based colored pencils offer a smooth, velvety texture and strong, vibrant colors that blend and layer well.

When selecting wax-based colored pencils, it's essential to consider your needs, preferences, and budget. Don't be afraid to experiment with different brands and sets to find the perfect fit for your artistic style.

Overview of the Features of Wax-Based Colored Pencils

BlendabilityVery good
LayeringVery good
Wax BloomCan be an issue
Ability to Draw Fine DetailsNot the best
DurabilityWears down quicker than oil-based colored pencils
Best Suited for the Following Drawing StylesPortraits, anime and manga, nature and wildlife, still life, and coloring books
Popular BrandsPrismacolor Premier, Caran d'Ache Luminance and Derwent Coloursoft


Wax-based colored pencils are a versatile and popular medium among artists and hobbyists alike.

Their blendability, ease of use, and vibrant colors make them suitable for various drawing styles and subjects, from portraits and anime to nature and wildlife.

However, it's essential to be aware of their disadvantages, such as wax bloom, less sharp detail, and durability concerns.

When choosing wax-based colored pencils, take the time to explore different brands and sets, keeping your artistic needs and budget in mind. From high-quality options like Caran d'Ache Luminance to more affordable choices like Prismacolor Premier and Derwent Coloursoft, there's a wax-based colored pencil set out there for everyone.

Ultimately, the key to success with wax-based colored pencils is to experiment, practice, and find the techniques that work best for your unique artistic vision.

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