My Three Favorite Pencil Sharpeners for Colored Pencils (Episode VI of The Coloring Nerd's Supplies Guide)

 by Michelle M. Johnson

A collection of pencil sharpeners and a bit of colored pencil shavings scattered about.
Why have  one favorite pencils sharpener
when you can have three?!
I love the T'Gaal Multisharpener, the KUM 4-in-1,
and the KUM Automatic Long Point sharpener all
equally!


Hands down the most common question I receive at the coloring & creativity workshops I host is "what sort of pencil sharpener should I use on my colored pencils?" This question usually comes from folks who've spent a good chunk of creative cash on an artist quality set of colored pencils and they want to make sure they get the most bang for their buck - a priority I totally understand! 

Even if you've only been coloring for a short while, you've learned that all pencil sharpeners are NOT created equal, and worse, many of them actually eat your colored pencils rather than sharpen them. There are loads of pencil sharpeners out there to choose from, many that even carry the brand names of quality colored pencil makers. It's a very confusing and little discussed part of the art market, so I understand why folks are motivated to get my opinion on the subject. 

But, before we begin this mini Pencil Sharpeners w/ Colored Pencils 101 class, I want to let you know that if you're more into video tutorials than the written word these days, scroll to the bottom of this blog post for an up close and personal look at my current three favorite pencil sharpeners and how they work. You'll won't get all the pointers written here in this blog post, but you will finish up with the info you need to get the best pencil sharpener possible for your coloring needs all the same. And, folks who prefer to read rather than stare at a moving and talking screen, I do hope you'll take a moment to scan the YouTube tutorial because video is the best tool I've found for showing y'all exactly how each of the three awesome pencil sharpeners work.

After coloring with high quality colored pencils for most of my life (I was a very lucky child - my first colored pencils collection was a 42 count set of Spectracolors, a deliciously creamy cored colored pencil that is sadly no longer made, and yes, I still have that set), I've falling in and out of love with different pencil sharpeners over the decades. Along the way I've also learned a few lessons about them that I will happily share here with you! 

Firstly, DON'T:
  • use an electric sharpener on your colored pencils. They might give you sharp points, but they will tear through your precious colored pencils quickly.
  • sharpen your graphite pencils (ex. Ticonderoga #2 pencils) with the same sharpener that you sharpen your colored pencils with. You'll get graphite streaks in your colored pencil core and colored pencil flecks on your graphite cores. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if you don't want streaks of graphite or colored pencil popping up willy nilly where you didn't expect it, then you will need TWO pencils sharpeners.
  • over sharpen your colored pencils. It's tempting to reach for our sharpeners as we color illustrations with very small spaces (no matter how old we get, there is still a deep need in most of us to avoid coloring outside the lines🙄), but super sharp tips tend to break easily, making us have to pick the sharpener back up again. A better practice to give a try is when your colored pencil feels like it is getting dull, rotate it in your hand. Chances are you have created a nice edge by coloring down the opposite side of the pencil and by just rotating your pencil around a bit, you've rediscovered your pencil's "point." Teach this art trick to the kids you color with. They love to peer at their colored pencils looking for the hidden point and then returning to their coloring art!
Secondly, DO:
  • consider your colored pencils before selecting your pencil sharpener. Look at the casing: is it round, beveled, triangular? Not all pencils sharpeners will accept non-round pencils. Compare your colored pencil's circumference to that of a regular #2 graphite pencil: is it smaller or larger? Most pencil sharpeners are designed to accept only standard sized pencils, around 7mm, but many of the best and most popular artist quality colored pencils are 8mm or larger. Taking into account these little details will ensure you don't end up with a pencil sharpener you can't even use.
  • consider the hand dexterity of the person using the pencil sharpener. The best pencil sharpeners for high quality colored pencils are all manually operated (they are literally in your hands as you sharpen), so if you have joint pain or grip issues or if children with small hands will be regularly using this pencil sharpener, keep that in mind as you select a sharpener. They are not all created equal for folks with special hand concerns.
  • buy yourself more than one pencil sharpener, even you're the only one who will be using it. Trust me you are going to love being able to stick a fabulous pencil sharpener wherever you enjoy coloring. If you are fortunate enough to have a dedicated creative space, put a pencil sharpener there. Put another pencil sharpener in whatever bag you travel with when you decide to take a little coloring fun with you (come on, if you're reading this blog, then you know you have one of those bags). And if you are the sort of person who's able to enjoy coloring while watching television (I, a las, do not have the vision for that😕), put a sharpener next to your TV remotes! It feels so luxurious to have a quality pencil sharpener wherever you need one, and feeling like this fancy won't break your bank! 

I promised y'all I was going to share my three favorite pencil sharpeners, so here we go!

1. The T'Gaal Multisharpener

Four T'Gaal multisharpeners positioned flat on a white background. They are pink, blue, orange, and green.
I have been using a T'Gaal sharpener with my
colored pencils for about 5 years now. They
are very useful little pencil sharpeners!
I have been talking about the T'Gaal Multisharpener in my coloring & creativity workshops for years! This lovely comes in a variety of colors (these are just the colors I personally have), and has the ability to sharpen pencils with a circumference of 7mm or smaller. It is what I call a graduated sharpener (it has the ability to create pencil points ranging from 1 - 5, 1 being the sharpest point and 5 being the widest) and it is used by folks in and out of the art world.
A close-up of a blue T'Gaal pencil sharpener focused on the dial of the sharpener. It is being held in the hand of a woman.
The dial of the T'Gaal Multisharpener is very easy
to read, in my opinion. One is the finest point, and five
is the thickest point.
I love these little sharpeners from Japan because they sharpen a pencil inward not downward, thus extending the life of your colored pencils, especially if you stick to the first 2 settings (creating a wider tip requires the sharpener to shave through more of your pencil). The T'Gaal Multisharpener also creates an exceptionally sharp point that is fairly sturdy, depending on how hard your colored pencil core is (the harder your pencil's color core, the more fragile the pencil tip when it is really sharp.)

However if you have difficulty with hand joint pain/grip or you will be sharing your pencil sharpener with young children, the T'Gaal may not be the right choice for you. It takes a good deal of dexterity and grip to work this sharpener well, and if you are not careful, you can break your colored pencils when using a T'Gaal sharpener. It also requires a bit of force as you turn the pencil in the sharpener to get the sharpest points. I attribute these difficulties to the design of the body of this sharpener - its odd shape is difficult to hold in a balanced way. 

2. KUM 4-in-1 

Red KUM 4-in-1 and Automatic Long Point pencil sharpeners are displayed on a white background.
I am so happy I've found the KUM brand of 
sharpeners! With their 4-in-1 and their Automatic
Long Point
sharpeners, I have all the needs of
my colored pencils cover!
The reason I went on a hunt for an additional pencil sharpener for my colored pencils (I did already say that I love the T'Gaall Multisharpener) is because my art supply collection of pencils had expanded considerably in recent years, and many of my now favorite colored pencils (Faber-Castells, Derwents) are 8mm and larger! After a bit of research, I determined that these two German pencil sharpeners by KUM in the above photo were must haves, and this photo below of the 4-in-1 explains why.
The red KUM 4-in-1 pencil sharpener held in a woman's hand up close, and the lid of the blade cover is open.
The KUM 4-in-1 pencil sharpener can accommodate
7mm, 8mm, 10mm, and 11mm pencils. 

The 4-in-1 pencil sharpener by KUM has the ability to sharpen pencils that are 7mm, 8mm, 10mm, AND 11mm! It also sharpens pencils really well and quickly! On each side of this oval shaped sharpener is a flap that reveals where your pencils go to get freshened up (7mm & 10mm on one side, and 8mm & 11mm on the other), and the size information is legibly printed on the side so that you don't have to go around opening and closing flaps trying to see where your pencils will fit. This pencil sharpener works fabulously with my Faber-Castell Polychromos (which did fit in my T'Gaal sharpener, but it was a bit of a tight fit) and my Derwent Inktense pencils (which did not fit in my T'Gaal at all), and it brings them to a point that I had not enjoyed since I first bought them!

The 4-in-1's shape design is much easier to hold and requires very little hand strength to operate, which makes it a better sharpener choice for folks with hand issue or for coloring with young children. However, getting it open to empty it out is challenging. I am hoping that with time that will change, that the seal of the shavings chamber will ease up and I will be able to dump my pencil shavings more...gracefully.

This pencil sharpener also comes in a variety of colors, but when one orders from the company as I did through Amazon, you get what you get (and I got red). If the color of your sharpener matters to you (and your colored pencils are 7mm and smaller), you may want to go with the T'Gaal instead.

3. KUM Automatic Long Point

This is the point of the blog post where watching the YouTube tutorial I created about these three pencil sharpeners is helpful because seeing the KUM Automatic Long Point sharpener in action is honestly the best way to find out if it is for you.


The KUM Automatic Long Point sharpener is a two stage pencil sharpener: one blade for preparing your pencil for sharpening, and another blade for creating a very fine, long tip. I decided I "needed" this sharpener (I mean, after all, I already had multiple T'Gaals and the KUM 4-in-1) because it handles hard lead colored pencils well (I have some of those) and it can help extend the life of my precious Palomino Blackwing pencils that I love to draw with. This sharpener is the ONLY pencil sharpener I have ever found that sharpens my Prismacolor Verithins effectively (every other sharpener trashes these very hard core colored pencils), and sometimes you just want/need a very long, sharp point to get the art job your doing done!

The Automatic Long Point is a hand held, hand powered pencil sharpener (don't let the name fool you!) that takes a bit of practice to get used to. Despite that, it feels comfortable in the hand, doesn't require a lot of force to effectively sharpen, is easy to hold, and is very reasonably priced (I had been eyeing 2 Stage pencil sharpeners three times as expensive as this one!). But, this is not your pencil sharpener if you have a lot of larger pencils (this sharpener only accommodates pencils 8mm and smaller in size), or if you are coloring with small children (if you do not pay attention to which hole you insert your pencil into - they are labelled 1 and 2 - or you sharpen the pencil with too much force, then you will break your pencils). 




As with all good things, there is no one perfect pencil sharpener that fits everybody's needs. Which is why I personally have THREE favorite pencil sharpeners instead!
A closeup of a woman in her 40's with short hair holding three colorful pencil sharpeners. She is happy and curious.
Me and my pencil sharpeners because why not?🤓
Also, please take note of my Russian nesting doll earrings;
I absolutely adore those, too!

Will I someday have FOUR favorite pencil sharpeners? Maybe, but I doubt it. I'm ridiculously happy with the T'Gaal Multisharpener, the KUM 4-in-1, and the KUM Automatic Long Point sharpeners. Until I encounter a colored pencil need that they aren't able to serve, these are the three I'm sticking with!

I hope y'all have found a few useful nuggets in this post and now feel empowered to go out there at get yourself not one, but even two pencils sharpeners for your beloved colored pencils! And, if you go crazy (like me) and treat yourself to three pencil sharpeners, drop me a line in the comments below and let me know which ones you brought home! I love talking art supplies!🤓

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