The Best Colored Pencils

Colored pencils, when used properly, can impart a wonderful quality to artwork. When combined with markers, colored pencils can add tints and values to an otherwise flat image. Having said this, I haven’t always been so fond of colored pencils (or pencils crayons as we used to say in Canada) for use in the elementary classroom.

Unless you use the good ones, the results can be less than satisfying. Cheap pencils can leave the art with an  “unfinished” quality. I don’t like to nag children to press harder, so I searched for better quality pencils. After 8 years of experimenting, I finally decided that my favorite brand is:

KOH-I-NOOR WOODLESS COLOUR PENCILS 

Like the name suggests, these beauties are woodless, which means that they are all lead. The color lays down velvety smooth and encourages even coloring and dark tones. Almost as good as painting! The only drawback (okay, there are two) is that they have a tendency to snap  and they are expensive (but only compared to the cheaper ones.)

A set of 24 is only $10.92 at Dick Blick. Do not go to a craft store and purchase these. Very expensive there!

Another thing I like about them is that they are super weighty. Really feels like you got something worthwhile in your hands. I know my students love them, too. They take very special care with them.

Other Brands:

Since I purchased the Koh-I-Noor brand, other woodless pencil sticks have surfaced. Prismacolor has some and so does Crayola. I don’t like the short sticks as much because you don’t get a good point but Crayola has a large variety of kid-friendly pencils that won’t break the bank (although their woodless pencil sticks are as expensive as the brand I prefer).

I adore Prismacolor for the application and color intensity but dang it all, they are really hard to sharpen without the lead breaking.

I did a little demonstration to show the color intensity the different colored pencils. It was not at all scientific. I just tried to place equal amount of pressure per pencil rendering.

For me, the Koh-I-Noor are the best at laying down a good saturation of color. What are your favorite brands? Do you go all out and buy the expensive ones or do you try to get by with the office supply store specials?

Do you have a favorite colored pencil art project?

Here are a couple of art projects in which we used these pencils:

Pre-Historic Fish 

How to Draw a Bird

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20 comments

  1. angie says:

    I love prismacolor pencils…and I am lucky enough to live in the town where they are made! Sometimes I am blessed with donations…
    I have just ordered some of the color sticks (woodless pencils), and am hoping for the best. I get so tired of sharpening pencils!

    • Pam says:

      Yes, isn’t it funny how much time we spend sharpening pencils. I have lots of crayola colored pencils to use up before I can get any new ones. But at the rate they are being sharpened and the tips broken off again, it won’t be long. I keep thinking about the woodless kind, in a dreamy, wistful sort of way.

      It seems that it would save money in the long run to buy the good woodless ones since most of the regular colored pencil ends up in the pencil sharpener because the tips break off in there, anyway! Maybe it is my pencil sharpener. Do you have a good one to recommend?

      • jess ott says:

        I have an xacto pencil sharpener and it rocks. expensive, but awesome. The kids like using it too much and I have to watch so that I don’t end up with nubs for pencils.

        I agree that prismacolor is the best, but I usually use mostly crayola (I am a personal crayola lover.)

        -jess

        • Noreen says:

          My Montessori class has a new Bostitch that can handle colored pencils and stops automatically when pencils are sharp. In the past, we’ve sharpened the colored pencils by hand because they seemed to jamb the sharpener – whew – glad not to have to do THAT anymore!

          Patty, happy to find you. See you at BYW!

          Noreen

      • Jessica says:

        We use the KUM brand that came with the very large set of prismacolors. Now it is the only sharpener I use for ALL pencils. You can also purchase the sharpeners separately (about $2-4 a piece, but very worth it). I have used them in both primary and elementary Montessori classes, our current Montessori co-op, our homeschool and a couple of CGS atriums and all the children have been able to sharpen with wonderful results.

        I’ve not had the problem with pencils breaking unless I’m using any other sharpener, so I am not much help there.

  2. J. Cooper says:

    I love Prismacolor pencils. They’re the only thing I use in my own work because of how much depth and layering are possible. Also, with the Prismacolor colorless blending marker, the colored pencils will bleed and blend further and this creates a watercolor look to the pencils. Try it sometime – you’ll love the effect!

  3. Anna says:

    I know with prisma colors you can heat them in the microwave a little bit if they are breaking a lot. It melts the color inside back together. I haven’t tried that though with regular colored pencils. Might be worth a shot if your colored pencils have a lot of breakage running through them!

  4. K-Sue says:

    Wow, what a helpful post and helpful comments. We like Prismacolors, too, and my daughter has a set of other pencils, no name on them, that came from an art set from Coldwater Creek. Those pencils are great! You can never tell until you start coloring with them.

  5. Street Art says:

    Hi,
    I’ve tried all these steps including commenting on other blogs.. but I never got any comments on my post. Hard Luck for me.

    thanks…

  6. Jen says:

    Thanks for the great feedback on KIN’s progresso woodless pencils! I work for the company that distributes these and it’s always great to see a review like this :)

  7. justine says:

    Terrific! I have just started messing with pencil sketching and grabbed a package of colored pencils.
    My simple doodles hopefully will coem to life with some color ;)

  8. Caroline says:

    The only colored pencils I have ever used with my children are Lyra brand from Germany. They are are very expensive, about $2.25 per pencil when bought individually at waldorfsupplies.com Dick Blick has skin tone, color, and metallic sets, all three are the best prices on the web. I only use the Lyra Color GIANTS. (The other thin pencils Lyra makes, break quite easily, in my experience.) Can’t wait to use them on all of the cool art projects on this site. We are homeschoolers and the pencils are obviously very cost-prohibitive for a class room.

    • Tammy says:

      I agree, I taught art at a Waldorf school, which my kids also attended and a large portion of the art and their lesson books where done with these (brand Lyra type was Stockmar or maybe visa versa). Expensive but worth it…they last a very long time and great saturation and they just feel good in your hands…HIGH QUALITY! AND you can also use the “splender” to blend the colors and soften them…wonderful!

  9. Rebecca says:

    I was very fortunate my dad use to be a chemist at Empire Pencils where they made Prismacolors. Us five kids would be his quinine pigs for all the new graphites he created and we just ended up with free stuff. I’m glad I got the exposure to good quality materials at a young age, because now as an art teacher I know it’s worth the money to invest in quality materials. The kids I notice take more ownership in their artwork because they use professional grade materials.

  10. jkleasa@hotmail.com says:

    Does anyone know if you can find Koh-I-Noor woodless in Canada?

  11. Art supplies says:

    Nice and informative post because we use color pencils in our day to day life from childhood but rarely think about these vast benefits that you have discussed. I like Mont Marte color pencils.

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About Patty

Welcome to DSS. I'm an art teacher to 400 elementary kids in Goleta, California. This is where you will find a library of art lessons, handy PDF lesson plans and resources to make teaching art to kids a whole lot easier.
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