My Colored Pencils...so far (Episode I of The Coloring Nerd Supplies Guide)

by Michelle M. Johnson

For as long as I have been leading folks through coloring and creativity workshops, I have been asked to create a guide for all of the coloring supplies that I have used and/or taught with...so, for about two years...that's how long I have been procrastinating creating this guide of my familiar supplies for folks! Why have I procrastinated SO long? Well, every few weeks or so, I come across yet another coloring tool that I want to explore, so I delay writing my coloring tool guide as I go about gathering up more knowledge and experience (that, and I have been incredibly busy these last two years, but that's not a good excuse: EVERYBODY is busy!). If you haven't noticed, coloring is rather popular now, so popular in fact I don't think it is too far off to say that coloring for adults has helped to reignite a demand for art supplies as well as to reinvigorate the art market all together - new tools are popping up left and right: shimmering brush tip markers? gel pens from Crayola? Just a year ago, these products just didn't exist, and you have coloring books and coloring to thank for that. Coloring is cool, y'all. 

On to my guide to all of coloring tools, with photos, buying links, the works! This is Episode I of a proposed Coloring Nerd Supplies Guide Trilogy (you have no idea how awesome it feels to call my coloring tools guide a "trilogy" - the depth of my nerdiness seriously knows no bounds!). Why a trilogy? Well, I have quite a lot of coloring tools as I do this sort of thing professionally, and I have a lot of opinions on each of the supplies (which is why I assume you are reading this blog post, for my impression of these tools), so rather than smack y'all with a eye-bending monster of a saga of all the coloring supplies I'm acquainted with, I thought I would break it into bite-sized chunks of three categories: Colored Pencils, Markers & Pens, and Watercolor vs. Water Soluble Colored Pencils.

One disclaimer I feel I should add though: the links that I attach to my blog posts are Amazon Affiliate links, which means that should you decide to purchase an item based on clicking the link from here in this post, I earn a small (really small, but every penny counts!) amount of money per purchase. I'm not suggesting that you do anything with this post besides read it and hopefully gain some useful information from it. But, should you decide to purchase something while reading this post or after reading this post, it would be lovely if you used the links found here in this post. Thank you:)

Episode I: Colored Pencils

Prismacolor Premiere Colored Pencils 150 Count Set


Up until just recently, Prismacolor Premiere Soft Core Colored Pencils were the top of the line colored pencil a coloring enthusiast could have. I bought my set back in early 2015, and I was thrilled by the selection of colors: the numerous greys, the enormous depth of purples, blues, oranges, browns, etc. What I was not so thrilled with was the quality. Prismacolor Colored Pencils do have a great lay down feel, soft and smooth, their colors are vibrant and blend well, and they still can't be beat by any product for size of color collection, but they are quite fragile. Additionally, the color core of these pencils is not always intact, which leads me to believe that there must be decreased quality control at the manufacturing level than what there used to be before coloring got big. Don't get me wrong, I love my Prismacolors and I am very happy to have them! But, if you have a heavy hand when coloring or your pencil sharpener is a brute, these expensive pencils will not last you long. 


I stumbled upon this little workhorse of a colored pencil when I was trying to outfit many loved ones with their own collection of colored pencils for Christmas a few years ago. For the price (which oscillates on Amazon between as high as $25 and as low as $17 depending on the season), the collection of colors one gets with the Marco Raffine 72 Colored Pencil set can't be beat. Where these pencils may frustrate some folks is that they are hard rather than creamy. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially if you have a heavy hand when coloring. But, if you have any issues with your hand joints or grip, getting deep dark colors out of these pencils will be difficult. I still recommend these pencils to folks just getting into coloring because they are very easy to shade with given the lovely color values  of the major color families present in this set. These pencils also respond to using Vaseline as a blending and softening agent very well, so the problem of color lay down is easily solved if you are on a creative-cash budget. Additionally, if you color with children, these tough pencils hold up nicely to immature hands trying to sharpen them and to being dropped and/or stepped on. These are not a preferred artist tool like the Prismacolors, but because of the price, the color selection, and the durability, they cannot be beat, even by Crayola, which typically is the brand of colored pencil folks think of as the place to start for adult coloring.


I love coloring in coloring books with Koh-I-Noor colored pencils! The colors are vibrant, the color cores are soft and creamy, and they lay down color easily and without much pressure. Polycolors are also durable, so these pencils make a great "step-up" colored pencil for folks looking to invest in an artist's quality colored pencil. I have even used this set successfully with my nieces and nephew, who were pre-schoolers at the time, and had no pencils broken and smiles all around at being encouraged to be big coloring with Auntie. There is one caveat to these lovelies though: they have a very limited color selection. The largest collection Koh-I-Noor makes in their Polycolor line is 72, which for me is a huge let down. I absolutely prefer coloring with my Polycolors to my Prismacolors, but when I am trying to create color gradients and depth in my coloring, I find I have to reach for my other colored pencil sets to achieve the look I am going for due to their limited color selection. 


As I said before, I absolutely LOVE coloring with Koh-I-Noor colored pencils, and their Progresso Woodless Colored Pencils are some of my absolute favorites! These pencils respond the best, I think, to coloring techniques that utilize pressure and hatch-marks because they hold a point beautifully for a really long time, much longer than my Prismacolors or my Polycolors. I also love that they come in this handy, dandy traveling case, making them my go-to colored pencil for when I travel. But (and this is a BIG but!), these lovelies are VERY fragile, not when you color with them, of course, but if (or really when) you drop them onto a hard surface (like a floor or table, two things that are required when coloring). Progresso Woodless colored pencils are a solid core of color, no wood barrier to protect them from any impact, so despite the fact that they have a thin lacquer on them to keep the color from getting all over you, that coating does NOTHING should a pencil be dropped onto a hard surface...nothing. These pencils shatter on impact, no joke (I bet you're asking how I know that's true...yes, I learned the hard way.). So, these are not a pencil for the rough and tumble sort, the clumsy sort, the under 13 sort. They are also probably not a pencil for folks who have issues with their grip as they are very slick as well. That being said, I love them. Even with the 24 count set being their largest selection of colors, I find myself turning to my Koh-I-Noor Woodless more often than not, probably because when I get to color for myself, it is that we are traveling, and these are my traveling coloring buddies:)


Another option for the coloring enthusiast who is looking to take a step up in their colored pencil game is the Faber-Castell Art Grip Colored Pencil. This pencil has similar qualities to the Marco Raffines, but the color lay down is smoother, the barrels are triangular making them easier to hold, and they have a grippy texture, great for hands that have issues with gripping. My creative son prefers these pencils to my other sets as he deeply loves to shade and create gradients with layers and pressure. These pencils have a very dry feel to them, which is why they are so great for layering colors and varying pressure. They are neither expensive nor inexpensive. They only come in 36 colors, which I find to be a downfall. They are durable, come with a carrying case, and are easy to color with. They are pleasant middle of the road pencil, in my experience, so if you find them for under $25, grab them and add them to your collection:)







Well, there you have it: a buyer's guide to all the colored pencils I have thus far had the opportunity to explore. And, I say a "buyer's guide" because I have quite few other sets of colored pencils that I still use that are no longer being produced. In fact my favorite colored pencil of all time, Spectracolor (colors so lush and dreamy, absolutely buttery color lay down), are all but extinct. A quick Google search will show you that they go for a pretty penny on eBay as there are many folks like me that still love using this pencil. I have a set of 48 colors that I received as a Christmas gift when I was in high school that I use sparingly as they are quite literally irreplaceable. But, I still use them because how sad it would be for such beautiful colored pencils to become museum pieces!

As I said before, this is Episode I of my proposed Coloring Nerd Supplies Guide Trilogy, so stay tuned for Episode II, Markers & Pens, to be published sooner rather than later...I hope ;)





Comments

  1. What are the odds that I can get you to go in-depth on coloring storage? I'm off to buy storage for all my supplies today and pinterest is basically useless.. "Have an entire empty closet or wall to devote to your tools? We have the solution for you!" I'd love to see which plastic bins you bought in particular for what tools. I want to get a bin for my colored pencils but I'm afraid of anything with too much room giving them space to rattle around, break tips, and the colored lead (is it lead? idk) inside... What works for my markers likely won't work for my paint brushes, etc.

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    1. You are spot on that there is good and bad storage options out there for your coloring supplies. I love the idea of having an episode of my coloring supplies guide devoted to coloring storage!Thank you for the idea:) I have gone through much trial and error to get the storage solutions that I love and that work for me, so it is great to know that I can use all that work to the benefit of others. I was planning on writing a trilogy, but perhaps there are more than three stories to tell in this epic saga;)

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