Video: Which Pencils Should I Buy?

Hi again.  One of the most common questions I get asked is advice on what pencil brand to choose for colouring.  I decided, after months of writing out a response to everyone individually, that I would demonstrate the answer in a video for you all to see.  This video is the result of many weeks of planning and the selection of pencils based on what I had and what I have deduced are reasonably well distributed so that most people would have access to at least a few of them.  In the end I went with Prismacolor Premier, Faber Castell Polychromos and Derwent Artist for my artist quality pencils.  Now I know that many of you may be disappointed that I haven’t included your favourite brand or the brand that you have been considering.  Unfortunately I don’t own any Lyra’s or Caran d’Ache or any others of the alternate brands of beautiful pencils out there.  So I can’t comment on them.  If I were to come by them I would certainly review them but, at the moment, my budget doesn’t allow for more professional artist sets.

For my budget brands I started with a set of no-name childrens pencils from a department store (Target).  There is a reason these things have no name on them… no pencil manufacturer with any sense of pride would ever own up to making such rubbish.  Hard, patchy lay down and forget any hope of blending or layering.  These things will spend their days donated to a clinic waiting room I think.  As for the others I did purchase a set of Crayolas (which i got discounted $5 for a pack of 36 colours) out of curiosity seeing as so many people use them and like them.  I have a 48 set of Faber Castell Classics so that was thrown into the mix to compare Faver Castell’s student brand to their Artist brand.  Then the increasingly popular Chinese budget brand Marco Raffine in a show down with the German and U.S. pencils.  And finally my much loved Micador ColouRush made up the eight.

The pencil showdown was held using a mandala picture from Color Me Calm divided into eight slices with each slice coloured identically but with a different pencil brand.  I chose this book as the page quality and tooth are fairly representative of most colouring books and it held up pretty well.


The video over run it’s original time estimates by… quite a bit.  It turned out to be almost an hour long .  But I decided not to edit it any further as I wanted to give you a deep dive on each of these pencils where you see me colour each and every section, although, of course, many sections are sped up after the initial colouring and assessment.

Although opinions may differ, I personally love the Polychromos best although each of the three artist pencils performed well.  Out of the budget brands I’m afraid I’m still lovin’ my Micadors.  The colours are just that bit brighter, the leads are softer and the blending is slightly easier.  Although if I didn’t have them any one of the other three budget brands would have been fine.

I hope you enjoy it.  Leave your thoughts below and what type brand of pencil does it for you.


  1. Kenneth Liljengren

    Thank You so much for Your review. Very informative.
    I’m “afraid” I am stuck on my Polychromos. I use them almost all the time (sometimes I use F-C PITT or Staedtler fine-liners)
    I have the F-C Colour Grip and a budget-brand (my first pencils) but I don’t use them anymore. The Polychromos is that good!

    Thanks again “La Artistino”


  2. Melvina

    I LOVE watching your video. I like them so much that the longer the video the better it is for me. I get so much information out of them. Because of your videos, I have learned so much about coloring with color pencils. Before I used to not be a fan and just chuck them to the wayside, because I didn’t like coloring with them. Now that I have been educated on how to used them and what pencils are the best ones for use. I am finding that coloring with pencils can be a great asset. Now that I know how to use them, I like using them very much. The longer your videos the more educated I feel. 🙂 Thank you so much for everything Petta. I just love all of the information you have passed onto me.

  3. Samantha G.

    Thank you so much for your FANTASTIC blog and videos. I have read and watched them all many times in the last 2 months and have learned so much from you. I have been a graphic designer and typewriter for 35 years but have not “colored” since going completely digital more than 20 years ago. I started in the business because of the colored Pantone markers. I thought “what a great job. Cutting out little pieces of type, pasting them on boards, and coloring with bright marker. Just like kindergarten only you get paid to do it.” Of course that all changed with computers and I really missed the hands on work. Just started adult coloring about 6 months ago and have accumulated a surprising number of pencils and markers in that time, but all were budget brands. Just a few weeks ago I decided I needed to graduate up to artist grade pencils, so your video was perfect timing. Th a ‘m you so much for a ‘ll your great advice and commentary.

  4. Samantha G.

    This thing really edits some words strangely. Thanks again from a designer and TYPESETTER!

    1. Samantha G.

      Just an update. While I would have liked to try the Polychromos, they are so far out of my price range that I left them out of my own test. I bought a set of 12 Derwent, 12 LYRA Rembrants, and a set of 24 Prismacolors. For what it cost me for all these sets, I could have spent just about the same amount for just 12 Polychromos (I live in California). After trying them all out, I opted for a set of 48 Prismacolors and will probably also order a set of 72 Lyra Rembrants in about another month or so. Thank you again for this fantastic video. It really is difficult to describe how different it is to use artist quality pencils. Wonderful!

  5. Catherine

    Hello! Great video and thank you for doing this 🙂 I loveee your coloring! No matter what you use, everything always looks so good!

    I have Prismacolor Premiers and I love them and hate them. I like how they lay down colour easily and are vibrant; however, some of my leads keep breaking and I also can’t get sharp points with them. Also, I feel like for me, when I use them in my Johanna Basford coloring books, it looks grainy if I try to color with a light touch (My Faber Castell’s aren’t grainy though). I have been debating the Derwent Artists. I have read some reviews where people have said they had to press fairly hard to get the colour to show up, but it doesn’t look like that in your video. I find my Faber Castell eco pencils (which are like the Classics) a bit too hard. Therefore, I’m looking for a pencil in between those and the Prismacolors. What do you suggest? Do you know if the Derwent Artists are softer than the Faber Castell Classics?

    I’d appreciate your thoughts if you have any time! Happy Coloring 🙂 Once again, thank you for all your reviews, videos, etc.

    1. Chaypeta (Post author)

      I know EXACTLY what you mean by the grainy effect that you get with Prismacolors in Johanna Basford’s books. Because Prismacolors are so soft they colour more like pastels than pencils. Because the Basford books have such great tooth for coloured pencil (the best of all the colouring books) it leaves that terrible grainy effect that you have to burnish out to smooth. Derwent Artist pencils are the hardest cores of all the artist pencils. I have a set and i love them but YEs, you do have to press a bit harder to seal down that final layer of colour and they probably aren’t the best choice if you only colour with one or too layers as we do in most colouring book pictures. They are a little softer than the Faber Castell Classics (which are a ‘student’ brand, not an ‘artist’ brand.). The pencil I recommend is the Faber castell Polychromos pencils. They are more expensive but I find the ‘hardness’ is just right for me in most of the colours. A cheaper alternative that I also recommend is the Lyra Rembrant Polycolor which are also very satisfying to use. I strongly recommend that you visit an art shop, or order online, three or four individual colour pencils from each brand to test before you commit to a large set. That way you can get the feel of the pencils and choose the ones that are right for you.

  6. Samantha G.

    I just got a pencil sharpener made by Faber-Castell called the Trio Sharpener and I have been able to get a fantastic fine sharp point on my new Prismacolor Premiere pencils. I got it thru Amazon and it works great.

  7. Jo

    I just found the answer about the pencils. Thank you so very much, Jo

  8. Phyllis Stuart

    I ordered a set of the Marco Raffine from & they’re fairly nice considering I was used to using Crayola colored pencils. The Crayola were fine but I couldn’t quite get the depth of color & it took a lot of pressure to get bright colors. With arthritis having to press so hard & use so much tension hurts my hands. The M-R are easier to use. I’ve also found out by accident that the M-R soften with water. (I spilled coffee on my pencils & the leads became soft.) So anyone with these pencils might want to experiment. Have you ever noticed that some pencils are harder & some are softer within the same set? I thought that was odd. Some color softer & smoother & some are harder & don’t lay down color as easily. I’d love to buy some polychromos…maybe one day!

  9. Tina

    Hi Peta. After experimenting with a couple of sets, I think I will never be truly satisfied until I own the polychromos. My favourite is now the Faber Castell water colour pencils but I think I should save them for water colour work? Now I am debating if I should get the 60 or make a one time splurge on the 120. Do you tink its better to have one large set or smaller sets from different brands?

  10. Chaypeta (Post author)

    I think that comes down to preference. I suggest you purchase a few open stock pencils to try before you invest in a big set. Although Polychromos pencils are brilliant you may find another sort suits your style. When you find the ones you like best than go buy a big set of them. that will give you a great colour range and you may never feel the need to buy anymore, just replace used pencils.

  11. Jaecel

    Hello Peta! 😉 I’m a beginner colorist a
    and I use markers because they guarantee vibrant colors with just one stroke. 😀 Your video tutorials inspire me to try coloring using pencils. 😀

    I have watched your “Which pencils should I buy?” video and have read your blog post and comments regarding Marco Raffine and Colleen colored pencils to give me an idea of the best budget pencils to try. I’ve recently purchased The Secret Garden and The Enchanted Forest (UK Edition) from a local online seller. Which budget pencil do you think would work better on these books? Marco Raffine or Colleen? 🙂 Unfortunately Micador Colourush isn’t available in the Philippines. 🙁

    Hope you’ll be able to help me before my colored pencil purchase! 😀 Thank you Peta! 🙂

    1. Chaypeta (Post author)

      Both will do fine. Colleens are very bright and dense but there is a problem with the cores breaking because they are so soft. Some people are also having core breakage problems with Raffines but i have not experienced this (I have with my Colleens.) Colleens are brighter and denser, Raffines are not quite so bright in colours as the Colleens and have harder cores. I have seen great work with either. But if you would like to try colouring with markers and then adding shadows and highlights with pencils then go for the Colleens as the Raffines are too hard to do this with some of their colour range.

      1. Jaecel

        Thank you so much for your helpful suggestions, Peta! 🙂 I purchased the 72 pc. Colleen 775 pencils since I prefer bright colors and they are available in almost all bookstores in Manila. So far, I have no problems with core breakage after sharpening all of them. However, I noticed the wood barrel is flakey with most of the neon colors. I don’t think I will use them a lot so it’s not much of a concern.

        I made a color chart first (one of the things I learned from you Peta, among other useful coloring tips 😉 ) and this took longer than I hoped because the pencils have no names or reference numbers. I made small number labels first on each pencil as reference and based their names on the color chart you showed in your video review of Colleen pencils. 🙂 For some of the colors, I just made up names for them (Ex. Neon Yellow Orange). 😛

        Thank you again for your help and inspiring beginner colorists like me! 🙂
        Have a blessed weekend! 🙂

  12. Careena

    Dear Peta,

    Firstly, a huge THANK YOU for all your amazing videos and helpful tips. Following your tutorials has led to a huge improvement in my own colouring efforts in a very short time.

    I’ve recently discovered the F-C Polychromos range, and of all my (many) pencil sets, the Polychromos and my beloved Colleens come up tops. There’s no question that the Polychromos are expensive though, and they’re pretty difficult to come by here in South Africa, especially open stock. I was lucky enough to receive a 24-piece set as a gift, but was slightly disappointed to find that there are no pinks and purples in the set. So I’ve been supplementing with open-stock pencils in those colours where possible.
    What I wanted to know is, based on your own colouring habits, which of the Polychromos colours do you find yourself reaching for most? I’d like to expand my collection with some colours that I think would be most used, rather than just buying ones that I think are pretty! 🙂

    On the subject of Colleen pencils, I notice that many people have commented on problems they have with lead/core breakage. I wonder if that problem is more common in the double-ended Colleens, which come unsharpened? Here in SA we seem to only be able to get the full-length, hexagonal-shaped ones that come pre-sharpened. I’ve never experienced breakage with those. Could it be that the hexagonal ones are more robust?

    Thanks again, and happy colouring!

    1. Chaypeta (Post author)

      Hi Careena. It’s really subjective which pencils to but. it depends on your personal preferences in colouring. I can’t get by without cream or ivory… I find they are absolutely essential to my style. I also use cadmium orange and dark chrome orange which are both similar to look at but the differences are significant to me. I also use a lot of Earth green yellow and permanent green orange in my greens as they are natural shades but not dull. If you colour lots of botanical matter then you’ll need greens, reds and pinks. if you colour animal then a range of browns, aquatic then greens and blues. That’s a very interesting question about Colleens. I have thought about purchasing the full length hexagonal Colleens but the breakage issue has put me off. If they are actually more robust i would certainly be interested as I quite like these pencils.

  13. Careena

    Thanks for the great advice Peta! And do try the hexagonal Colleens; they work well for me. Also, they don’t break the bank!


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