There are so many choices in color pencils. How do you choose which ones are best?
To help you decide, here are 5 main things to look for:
1) Plain Color Pencils vs. Watercolor pencils
The first thing to do is to decide if you are going to want to add water to your color pencil artwork. Adding water will add a watercolor effect. If you want to create a watercolor effect, you will want to choose watercolor pencils. The nice thing about watercolor pencils is that you can use them as plain color pencils as well. You get two for one!
One thing to be aware of is what kind of paper you can use them with. You can use plain color pencils on any paper, but adding water won’t give any paint effect. With watercolor pencils, if you add water on regular paper, the paper will tend to buckle or break down.
Regular paper won’t allow the true watercolor effects, like blending and fading, that are possible with watercolor pencils. Also, if you are putting down colored pencil over a drawing, the ink may bleed, depending on the ink. So you will want to use watercolor pencils with watercolor paper or other papers made to handle water.
Color pencils and Watercolor pencils lay down about the same, depending on the brand. However, some brands lay down smoother, with more pigment, and other brands are stiffer and waxier, laying down less pigment. That contributes to a difference in how dense and rich the colors look, and how well they blend. Usually lower end brands are the stiffer waxier type.
Watercolor pencils are a handy solution for watercolor painting because they are easy to control and you don’t need as much water or a paint mixing palette, so you can create a watercolor effect without the mess of watercolors. Mind you, the effect will not be entirely the same as real watercolors.
They are also a great way to add detail into a painting you do with regular watercolors. Many people find them much easier to use than a fine brush for detail work. All in all, they are a nifty solution to adding a painterly effect.
Have you ever sharpened a pencil to find the wood cracks or the inner pigment part breaks off? Not good! No one wants to end up with a nub of a pencil because it got chewed up in the sharpener. For the best pencil experience you will want pencils that sharpen to a nice point and don’t break when you sharpen them. There are special pencil sharpeners that can sometimes help with sharpening.
4) Color Palette and Color Choices
Color is luscious. It can be earthy, or vibrant, or pastel. That’s why we love it so. Different pencil brands can vary in their color palettes. Some run more bright, and others more earthy. If you want to do landscapes or portraits, you may want to choose an earthy palette. On the other hand, if you want to do florals or abstracts, you may want a brighter palette.
You will find a choice of sets with twelve or twenty four pencils, and up to sets with seventy-two colors or more. With the higher end brands, you can also buy loose pencils. So for instance, you might select a box of twenty four colors and then in addition, splurge on some loose pencils of some special colors you particularly like. Or, if you run out of a color from a set, you can buy a loose pencil.
Although you can blend your color pencils to create more colors, I think the experience is much better if you are working with a set of twenty four to start out with.
What you choose to spend on your color pencils will likely depend on your budget and whether you are just starting out and experimenting, or looking to step up to the next level.
I recommend a set of twenty four pencils to start out. It simply gives a more enjoyable and richer experience. Even for children and anyone just wanting to dabble.
Personally, I don’t like some of the lower end brands that are too hard and waxy to lay down a nice density of color. So, I would advise avoiding those. But there are still some reasonably priced brands that lay down nicely, and have a softer, denser color that is blendable, and works well with water (if you choose watercolor pencils).
Be prepared to spend up to about $20 for a set of twenty four plain or watercolor pencils at the starter end. You can spend more than that, but it won’t necessarily give you a better starter experience. It is like golf. A better set of golf clubs will not help your game until you become a better golfer. And a great golfer can play a wicked round of golf with some decent lower end clubs.
If your budget allows it you might want to make a leap to the next step up. And if budget is no object, there are several higher end brands that have beautiful sets of colors and a huge variety of loose colors. But you still might want to hold off on a large set until you know enough about what characteristics you prefer before you make a big investment. A higher end set can set you back easily over $100.
After you decide which color pencils are best for you, it’s time to start coloring and painting!