Exploring Colored Pencils: 6 Supplies to Get Started

Exploring Colored Pencils: 6 Supplies to Get Started

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Colored pencils are another easy-to-use art medium for artists on the go.  Few supplies are needed to get started with coloring and some sophisticated effects are possible with basic techniques.

colored pencil drawing


What You Need:

Colored Pencils

Colored pencils are made using pigment and a binder.  The binder binds the pigment, so the color can be applied to the paper.  True colored pencils use either a wax or oil-based binder.  Both these types of pencils layer well and offer a smooth application with intense color.  Wax-based pencils tend to be softer, more prone to breakage, and easier to erase.  Oil-based pencils are harder, less prone to breakage, and maintain a point better than their wax counterparts. Both types of colored pencils can be used together in the same artwork without restrictions.

Colored pencils are available in student and artist grades.  Artist grade pencils feature more or better-quality pigments and binders.  They are more resistant to fading than student grade pencils. Artist colored pencil brands include Prismacolor, Caran d’Ache, and Staedtler.


SANFORD-Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencil Set. These colored pencils are artists’ quality for every level of expertise. Pencils contain high quality pigments for a rich color saturation and feature soft, thick cores that resist breakage and create a smooth color lay-down for superior blending and shading.


Tip: Because the inside core of wax-based pencils is soft, these cores can break if the pencil is accidentally dropped on a hard surface.  Prismacolor suggests repairing these pencils by placing them in a sunny location to soften and then fuse the broken core.  Microwaving a colored pencil with a broken core is not recommended.


Pencil Sharpener

Basic, hand-held pencil sharpeners are recommended for use with wax or oil-based pencils because these substances can accumulate inside and damage electric sharpeners.  Working with a sharpener that is sharp can help you avoid the excessive breakage that can occur with a dull sharpener.  A sharp sharpener produces a long, continuous pencil shaving when used.  A dull sharpener produces shavings in small pieces.

SANFORD-Prismacolor Premier Pencil Sharpener. Specifically designed to sharpen Prismacolor pencils to a perfect point – choose either a wide or narrow angle! The translucent cover keeps shavings inside until ready to empty and the blades are made of high-quality steel.



The type of paper you select for a project largely depends on the way you like to color.  A good quality smooth paper like Bristol paper will enable you to create fine details.  However, smooth paper does not accept a large numbet of overlapping applications of colored pencil. If you like to color in a painterly way, with layer upon layer of colored pencil, select a paper with a bit rougher texture like watercolor paper or Canson Mi-Teintes.

Speedball Art Products-Bienfang Bristol Board Smooth Paper Pad. Excellent with pen and ink, pencil and very good with markers and light washes! Bristol 146lb smooth paper. Acid free.


Canson Mi-Teintes Pastels Paper Pad. Incredible lightfast colors and heavy rough texture make this the perfect archival foundation for pastel and pencil. Acid free.



Select a  vinyl eraser to erase colored pencil marks.  A click eraser or pencil eraser is a handy tool for getting into small spaces.

FABER-CASTELL-Eraser Pencils. These pencils are perfect for erasing unwanted marks, fine point erasing and also creating unique eraser effects. Erases black-lead, color pencils, and charcoal.


Colorless blender

The colorless blender is simply a wax colored pencil without any pigment.  The blender is used on top of pigmented wax pencils to help mix the color and burnish the color into the paper.  Sometimes a white or other very light colored pencil is used for this same purpose.  However, unlike the colorless blender, the white pencil will act to lighten the underling colors when blending.

SANFORD-PrismaColor Colorless Blender. Use a colorless blender to achieve color transitioning with ease, softening of edges, saturation of color, and color layering.



A light application of fixative spray applied to finished colored pencil art will protect the the work from smudging and dust.  Fixative spray also can protect the coloring from wax bloom if wax colored pencils were used to create the drawing.  Wax bloom refers to a white hazy look that can appear as the wax in the medium rises to the surface of a completed work.  Wax bloom can be easily removed using a clean tissue, but fixative can prevent it from forming or returning to mar the appearance.

KRYLON-Workable Fixatif Spray protects computer prints, pencil, pastel and chalk drawings. Prevents smudging and wrinkling and allows for easy reworking of the artwork. Acid Free and archival safe. Clear, durable finish.
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