Colored pencils

Getting started with coloring can be easy. All you need are some line work and pens or pencils. Or it can be difficult if you're like me and obsess over every little detail. There's not a book or medium I'll buy without watching YouTube videos and reading reviews.

In spite of being careful, I have ended up with things I don't use. Some I didn't like, others weren't worth what I paid. If you're wondering where to start, here's a brief guide on how to buy coloring supplies.

Price vs. Quality

When it comes to art supplies, it's price vs quality. My tip for any artist/colorist is always the same:
Buy the highest quality you can afford. 
It's the same rule for books, pencils, pens, paper, paint, or anything else. It's better to have 12 artist quality pencils than 150 cheap ones. Whatever your spending limit is, stick to it. There will always be something shinier out there!

The paper quality in adult coloring books can vary quite a bit. I have single sided books with the cheapest printer paper you can imagine. I also have hardbacks with paper so thick it's almost card stock. Since you can't control the type of paper, colored pencils are the best choice to start off with. Markers need marker paper, paint needs watercolor paper. Pencils work on anything and everything out there!

Colored Pencils

Scholastic Grade

The cheapest pencils you can get would be something at your local supermarket for kids. Although talented artists can create beautiful art even from those, I wouldn't recommend it. These pencils don't contain much in the way of pigment. You'll need to press very hard to get any color on to the page. Sooner or later, you're bound to get frustrated (I know I did). 

However if they're all you can afford, they're certainly good enough to do the job. I'd suggest Crayola pencils. Even though they're marketed for children, they're good enough for adult colorists. I was quite surprised by how bright and vivid the colors are!

Student Grade Pencils

A step up would be student grade pencils. They are easier to work with than supermarket pencils but not as expensive as artist grade ones. There are many, many brands available in this price range (typically $20 or less for 72 pencils) that it can be difficult to pick one. 

The Marco Raffines on Amazon were all the rage in 2015/16. These were the second set I picked up and was pretty happy with them for a while. Right now, however, there's a new company called Arteza that offers almost-artist quality for student prices. Arteza Expert colored pencils come in at $30 for the 72 set and $17 for 48. They're incredible pencils if you're on a budget but want good quality supplies.

Artist Grade Pencils

Sooner or later, you'll hit the limits on what budget pencils can do for you. If you can afford it, I heartily recommend stepping up to artist grade pencils. They come in 2 types - wax and oil based. Each has its pros and cons and you'd find artists who swear by one or the other. But in the end, it always comes down to personal preference. Artist pencils can be bought individually (open stock), so you can always test a few yourself. 

Wax pencils are:
  • Creamy and softer than oil pencils
  • More vibrant
  • Prone to wax bloom and breakage
  • Cannot hold a sharp point; get used up quickly
Oil pencils are:
  • Harder than wax pencils but still soft
  • Need more layers to get vibrant shades
  • Not prone to breakage or wax bloom
  • Point stays sharp; last longer
Each brand will have their own pros and cons. Derwent, Prismacolor and Tombow Irojiten are all wax based pencils. Out of these, I'd recommend Prismacolor Premier (about $40 for 72 pencils). In fact, they are the most popular pencils used by colorists. You can even find detailed tutorials on youtube for your favorite coloring books with them. There are many options for oil based pencils too - Faber Castell, Lyra, Koh-i-Noor, Caran d'Ache etc.

Personally, I ordered the smallest sets in Prismacolor and Polychromos to see which I liked best. The Polychromos pencils won hands down - I loved the way they felt on the paper, held a sharp point and how they layered. So I went ahead and ordered the biggest set of 120 pencils that you saw at the top of the post.

Always test a few pencils before spending more than $50 on a set!

My recommendations:
  • Inexpensive: Arteza
  • Best Value: Prismacolor
  • Money no object: Polychromos/Pablo
Stay tuned for my next post on pens and markers.