coloured pencil supplies for artists

Coloured Pencil Supplies for Artists

There is a multitude of specially made coloured pencil supplies for artists who want to elevate their work with quality materials.

It’s important to get lightfast pencils and the right paper that can take multiple layers of colour pencil application.

Take a look at some of the other supplies, such as mediums that allow you to create a range of effects and make rendering, blending and other such techniques feel easier to execute.

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Coloured pencils: product picks

There are some wonderful coloured pencils available to both beginner and professional artists, with sophisticated colour ranges and smooth tips that make blending and layering feel like a breeze. Many professional colour pencil artists achieve realistic effects with the right kind of pencil and paper combination.

Artist grade coloured pencils are made from lightfast pigments in either wax or oil binders. The lightfastness indicates the permanence of the pigment, which is important if you want to sell your work, or keep it for a length of time. Colours of an excellent lightfast pencil won’t fade over the years, whereas more fugitive pigments may.

Wax and oil binders are soft, so they lend themselves to techniques like burnishing and blending. 

There’s a variety of incredible brands of artist grade pencils available to colour pencil artists. For a detailed look, read our best coloured pencils review. Here, I’ll highlight our top product picks.

Faber-Castell Polychromos

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These popular, professional quality pencils are oil based. The pencil tips are medium soft, so they are brilliant for building multiple layers of colour.

Because the tips are rigid and resistant to breakage, these are excellent to use with the burnishing technique, whereby pressure is applied to the surface to achieve a smooth, thick layer.

The colour range is large, with 120 lightfast pigments to choose from. This is a premium coloured pencil, which is reflected in the price.

Bruynzeel Design Colour Pencils

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These pencils are wax based, soft, highly pigmented and perfect for beginners. They are one of the cheapest brands available that also focus on quality. Their colours have good lightfast ratings. On paper, colours look vibrant.

Wax pencils are softer in nature, so the tips break more easily than oil pencil and less pressure is required to get smooth effects. You will need to sharpen these pencils more often compared to an oil pencil like the Polychromos. The only drawback about this brand is that they don’t have a huge colour range, however you could always buy colours from other brands to fill in the gaps.

Prismacolor Premier Softcore

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These wax based pencils are perhaps the most popular coloured pencils available to artists. The tips are soft, highly pigmented and blendable. They have the largest colour range available, they sell a set of 150. 

Paper for coloured pencil artists

Paper for coloured pencil should be thick, usually with a paper weight above 190gsm. Thick paper is more rigid. Use techniques that require higher amounts of pressure on application, like burnishing without worry about tearing the paper.

The ‘tooth’ of the paper describes its surface texture. Some papers made for pastel and coloured pencil art have a fine, smooth tooth. Others have a more prominent texture. Paper with tooth, as opposed to paper that is completely smooth, encourages adhesion of the pencil layers. Grainier paper retains pigment on the surface and makes colours appear brighter.

Clairefontaine Pastelmat

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Pastel mat, which is made for soft pastel painting and coloured pencil drawing, is one of the most stable surfaces for building multiple layers of colour.

With pastel mat, you’ll be able to achieve the most realistic effects due to its slightly abrasive texture that allows colour to be released smoothly.

This paper is the perfect balance between toothy and smooth. The surface texture holds onto pigment, enabling the artist to build thick layers of colour. The velvety smooth texture allows pencil artists to blend colours with ease and create intricate detail. It can take multiple layers of colour to cover the graininess of the paper, however.

Due to the unique tooth of the paper, artists won’t need a fixative to hold colours in place between colour layers. 

It’s acid-free, archival quality and thick. It also comes in a range of colours, so if you like to work on a toned ground as opposed to white, this would be a great choice. It’s a type of surface that’s certainly worth experimenting with.

Canson Mi-Teintes Touch Pastel Paper

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A fibrous, sanded paper with ‘tooth’ is perfect for creating smooth pencil art, that has the appearance of soft pastel. The texture provides a grating action, where the pencil shaves off colour and is released smoothly onto the paper.

Erasers for coloured pencil art

There are several types of erasers you can get for drawing. A kneaded gum eraser will lift light marks—it’s useful for lifting colour to reveal highlights. Use this kind of eraser by kneading it to a point to erase details, or knead, press and roll to lift larger areas.

The best eraser to completely remove stubborn coloured pencil marks is the Tombow Sand eraser. It’s made from rubber latex and silica grit, it removes marks without tearing the paper. This eraser is hard, and it works with a sanding action, so it’s best for removing layers of colour on thick paper, Pastelmat or wood. 

In the video below, this artist shows how you can use tape to lift colour from Pastelmat, without damaging the tooth of the paper.

It’s important to note also that wax pencil is easier to erase than oil pencil. If you want to completely erase oil pencil, start with light lines. The Tombow Sand eraser will remove more indelible pencil marks.

Sharpeners for coloured pencils

coloured pencil supplies

A knife works to sharpen pencils to a swordfish like point, creating less wastage of the precious pencil tip.

There are sharpeners that emulate this effect, like the Swordfish Sharpener, or if you want to splash out, the Caran d’Ache Sharpening Machine. These sharpeners are both good quality and will prevent soft wax based pencils from breaking.

You can also sharpen pencil tips with sandpaper blocks—if you want a super sharp point run the pencil back and forth over the block a few times. 

The stopper on mechanical sharpeners can’t detect when a pencil is at its optimum sharpness, so remove the pencil and check before over sharpening. 

Pencil extenders

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Inevitably, pencils will wear down with use. Stub pencils are hard to grab onto and use. With a pencil extender, you can mount the pencil and use for longer.

Coloured pencil mediums

Coloured pencil mediums can be worked into a colour pencil artwork to change the appearance in a number of ways. The most common types of mediums you’ll find for colour pencil are blending mediums and fixative mediums. 

Zest-It Pencil Blend

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Currently, this medium only seems to be available in the U.K. It’s a brilliant pencil blend medium that works with both oil and wax pencils.

This acts as a solvent to thin the binder in the colour pencil. Use a small amount on a brush or tortillion and apply over the area you want to blend together. If you apply too much of this medium, colours may thin too much and start to feather. 

Dissolve and spread colour—use this medium to quickly move thin layers of colour across the paper. Because the medium thins colour, it makes the layer more transparent in appearance. Bear in mind that when using this medium, it will dissolve previous layers of colour, unless you use a fixative.

Holbein Meltz

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This is another type of pencil blend solvent, Holbein Meltz is available in the US. It can be used with oil pencils to thin pencil marks, blend colours and create a painted effect. With oil pencil, you can also use odourless mineral spirits such as Gamsol to get the same effect.

Brush and Pencil Powder Blender

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This is a transparent powder that can be applied to paper before coloured pencil to prevent the pencil layer from adhering. With this medium you will be able to achieve stroke-free smooth coverage.

This medium works best on surfaces with a ‘tooth’ like pastel mat. It can also be applied over coloured pencil marks for further blending. It’s necessary to apply fixative when using this blending medium.

Brush and Pencil Texture Fixative

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Archival quality fixative that can be used between colour pencil layers to prevent smudging and blending.

Use this over the Brush and Pencil Powder Blender to fix in place. The fixative spray allows limitless layers of colour and makes layers resistant to solvents and other mediums.

Once sprayed onto the surface, it takes a few minutes to fully dry and harden before you can work on top of it.

Brush and Pencil Final Fixative

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This spray is formulated for colour pencil work on rigid surfaces. When dry, it hardens and bonds to the binder in the pencil, preserving the layers and protecting the artwork.

Wax Colourless blender

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Caran d’Ache colourless blender is a stick of transparent, high quality wax. Either sharpen it, or leave it flat to cover larger areas. This blender will protect colours, blend colours and give a satin effect to the pencil layer.

Drawing table

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Drawing tables provide a large, fully adjustable workspace, designed for maximum comfort whilst working.

We have a full review of drawing tools for artists, so if you’re interested in charcoal, graphite, compositions tools and more, check it out!

Coloured pencil supplies: Pin it!

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