Moores Art Gallery & Design

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Colored Pencil Tips & Techniques:

Different Types of Colored Pencils

It's All About Colored Pencils!

Different Types of Colored Pencils

Colored pencils are a relatively new medium. Colored pencils were first introduced in the early 19th century, however, it wasn't until the early 20th century that colored pencils were of a high-quality standard. For the longest time, colored pencils were not considered as a serious art medium and were scoffed upon by prestigious art galleries and fine artists. Today, however, colored pencil art is becoming more and more widely accepted in galleries and winding up in the hands of many artists. Renowned colored pencil artists, such as Vera Curnow, Ann Kullberg, Alyona Nickelsen, Gary Greene, Jeff George and Jeffrey Smart Baisden, just to name a few, have helped this medium find it's way into well-known art galleries and is now regarded as a serious art medium.

Historical Timeline of Colored Pencil Companies

•  During the early twentieth century, the colored pencil core was developed. It was made up of a combination of pigments or dyes and a binder.

•  In 1761, a small factory in Germany began making the pencils Kaspar Faber, later to become the world famous Faber-Castell company. Over time, the company has improved the quality of its colored pencil and has created modern techniques of industrialization of the colored pencil. In the early 1920s, the A.W. Faber Company began selling over 60 different shades of colored pencils for artists. Faber-Castell is considered one of the most popular brands of colored pencils today.

•  In 1806, the German company Lyra was established.

•  In 1832, the British company, Derwent, began manufacturing pencils and in 1939 they developed 72 Derwent colored pencils.

•  In 1834, Staedtler produced their first oil pastel colored pencil and in 2005, they developed a protective Anti-Break-System (A•B•S) coating for colored pencils to keep them from breaking.

•  In 1855, the Schwan-STABILO Company was established in Germany. In 1925, they developed and launched the first thin-lead colored pencil.

•  In 1890, L. & C. Hardtmuth Company of Austria and Hungary introduced their Koh-I-Noor brand pencils, named after the famous diamond. Their woodless colored pencils were later developed and sold under the “Progresso” trademark.

• In 1913, the Tombow Pencil Co., Ltd. was established in Japan and they began manufacturing colored pencils. They are known in the colored pencil world for the Tombo Irojiten Colored Pencils. "Irojiten" is the Japanese expression for "color encyclopedia."

•  In 1924, in Switzerland, a company named Geneva Fabrique pencils changes its name to Caran d'Ache after a famous French cartoonist. In 1931, they developed Prismalo, the first water-soluble colored pencil. In 2010, they developed a high lightfast set of colored pencils called Luminance 6901. Caran d'Ache is one of the most popular colored pencil brands of today.

•  In 1938, the Eagle Pencil Company introduced the Prismacolor Pencil. In 1969, the Eagle Pencil Company changed its name to Berol Limited. In 1995, Berol was purchased by Sanford. Sanford Prismacolors is one of the most popular brands of colored pencils today.

Types of Colored Pencils

There are many brands of colored pencils available in the art market. The question is which brand of colored pencil do you pick? Before selecting a brand of colored pencil, there are several options to consider when selecting colored pencils. First, there are 4 different base types of colored pencils available: wax-based, clay-based, oil-based and water-soluble based. There are many pros and cons for each type. Each type can be applied in different ways, using various techniques. The wax-based type of colored pencils can tend to leave a build-up of wax or white film on the artwork and can require a few coats of fixative. However compared to oil-based colored pencils, the wax-based colored pencils are more affordable, creamy, smooth and blend well. The oil-based colored pencils can be very expensive. In addition, oil-based colored pencils tend to smear or smudge easily, they have a harder lead and they are not as soft nor creamy as the wax-based colored pencils. However, oil-based colored pencils do not require any coatings of fixative. In addition, oil-based colored pencils are water-resistant and most brands are break-resistant. The clay-based type of colored pencils can be very dry but are great for details. Last of all, water-soluble base pencils can be applied either dry or wet. They have a very rich assortment of colors. However, if the water-soluble pencils are going to be applied as a wet medium, they must be applied to a durable paper.
My advice is to experiment and explore. Try them all! You may find you might like several.
Below is a list of Professional grade colored pencils available. I will be adding more as time allows.

Professional Grade Wax/Clay Based Color Pencils

•  Caran d'Ache Luminance Colored Pencils (76 colors available, smooth, soft and lightfast, water resistant).
View Color Chart

•  Derwent Coloursofts (72 colors available, soft, smooth, blends well, velvety, lightfast, little wax bloom, acid free, water-resistant).
View Color Chart

•  Derwent Artists Pencils (120 colors available, medium to hard lead, dry and slightly waxy texture).
View Color Chart

•  Derwent Studio Colored Pencils (72 colors available, medium to hard lead, water-resistant, great for details).
View Color Chart

• Koh-I-Noor Polycolor Colored Pencils (72 colors available, water-resistant, are wax-based but contain special oils in the pencil lead, smooth, lightfast, dense strokes, not break-resistant, great for detailed work).
View Color Chart

• Prismacolor Colored Pencils (150 colors available, blends well, soft, smooth, creamy, lightfast, water-resistant, not break-resistant).
View Color Chart

• Prismacolor Verithins (40 colors available, hard thin lead, great for details).
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• Tombo Irojiten Colored Pencils (90 colors available, many soft pastel colors, smooth blending, medium hard waxy leads, some colors are extremely light, great for detailed work).
View Color Chart

Professional Grade Oil Based Colored Pencils

•  Caran d'Ache Pablo Colored Pencils (120 colors available, dry lead, water-resistant, lightfast).
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•  Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils (120 colors available, lightfast, smooth, break-resistant, water-resistant, smudgeproof).
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•  Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor Premium Oil-Based Colored Pencils (78 colors available, lightfast, blendable, water-resistant, no wax build-up, mixes well with Prismas, great for detailed work, hard lead).
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• Marco Raffine Professional Colored Pencils (72 colors available, vivid colors, smooth, soft lead).
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•  Mitsubishi Uni Artist Colored Pencils (240 colors available, soft, smooth, blend well, no lightfast testing).

Professional Grade Water-Soluble Based Pencil Brands

•  Caran d'Ache SupracolorSoft Aquarelle (120 colors available, water-soluble, lightfast, soft).
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•  Caran d'Ache Museum Aquarelle (76 colors available, water-soluble, lightfast, soft).
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•  Cretacolor Marino Aquarelle Pencils (36 colors available, water-soluble, lightfast, soft, blendable).
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•  Derwent Watercolor Pencils (72 colors available, smooth, creamy, soft, blends well).
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•  Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolor Pencils (120 colors available, smooth, lightfast).
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•  Lyra Rembrandt Watercolour Pencils (106 available colors on their site other sites 72 colors available, lightfast, smooth, bright colors, blendable).

•  Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils (36 colors available, smooth, creamy, water-soluble, blends well, lightfast).
View Color Chart

•  Staedtler Karat Aquarell (60 available colors, smooth, soft, water-soluble, blends well, break-resistant, vibrant, lightfast).

Discontinued Colored Pencils

•  Design Spectracolors were discontinued in the year of 1997. Design Spectracolors were first made by the Venus Pencil Company (established in 1956). In 1973, the company was bought out by Faber-Castell. Then, in 1994, Design Spectracolors were discontinued when the company Berol Prismacolors bought them out. The Prismacolor product line was expanded soon after the company acquired Design Spectracolors. I still have a partial set of these pencils that I continue to use. They are very rich, smooth, soft and creamy. The only con of this brand was that the core pencil lead tended to fall out on some of them. From time to time, you can find them listed on eBay.

•  Berol Verithin Colored Pencils (manufactured by Berol) or Eagle Verithins Colored Pencils (manufactured by Eagle Pencil Co.) are a rare vintage find. In 1995, they were switched to Prismacolor Verithins when Sanford purchased Berol. I still have some of these, from when I attended art college, back in the early 1980s. They certainly have improved color pencils since then. These tend to lean more towards the student/scholastic grade and very similar to present day Prismacolor Verithins with a wax-based firm hard lead.

Keep on Creating!

Colored Pencil Artist Carol Moore