Testing coloured pencils and methods of blending them.

I have been reading much debate on various facebook colouring groups about the best pencils to use and so on, and some of the things that are said seem to put a lot of pressure on people who are on limited budgets to feel their artwork isn’t any good because they aren’t using the best, most expensive pencils or products or they don’t have loads and loads of products to use.

I may get slated and harangued for this, but I have to say it.

The thing that makes the biggest difference to the end product isn’t so much the exact pencils you use but the way in which you use them.

There’s an old adage that says a poor workman blames his tools, and to a degree this is true.

If you are going to make a work of art that is to last for aeons, then yes, it is important to use the best of the best – acid-free archival quality paper, canvas, board, paints,pencils, pastels, etc etc.

However, is this really what we are doing when we colour in templates on printer paper that is most likely not acid free, or the books we buy?  The chances are not. People colour for lots of different reasons, and you need to examine your reason for enjoying colouring – it is something that should make you feel good in some way, not bad.  It should be an activity that isn’t filled with worries and concerns, it should be an activity that is carefree, relaxing and meditative. It should allow you to take a break from your day to day worries. It is an activity that can fit into anyone’s budget, and no one should be made to feel less because they have a tight budget, and the worry about what others will think will take away from the whole purpose of coloring.

Anyway, getting back to the point …

While the more expensive brands of pencils may make it easier to achieve various effects, that they may be more highly pigmented, that they may be less susceptible to breakage, are the cheaper pencils really that bad?

I admit it.  I use Crayolas as well as Faber-Castell’s Polychromos.  I have Staedtler pencils of different price ranges in my collection.  I have kids pencils, Pentel pencils, all sorts. What makes me choose a particular colour pencil over another is the colour and the vibrancy of the colour more than the make or ‘model’ of the pencil!

Then, it’s down to my technique on how I get the colours to fade out or to blend one into another…

So, what I thought I’d do is to do a little test.  And this image shows the results of my tests!  And I’ll divulge some observations underneath!

Angela Porter Coloured Pencils Test 1

The first rows are just one colour of gradient colouring and various ways of blending out the gradient.  I tried to achieve the same effect, not being too fussy, in each case.

Surprisingly, the Crayola pencil layered onto the paper really easily, much less effort was needed than for the Polychromos pencils, which were the hardest to lay the colour down with.  The Polychromos needed a lot of pressure to get a thick layer of colour down.

The various forms of blending worked well with all the pencils, but the blending solution gave the smoothest blending of all. In all cases, there wasn’t much difference in the final blended version, which surprised me as you’d expect there to be when dealing with pencils from the bottom end and top end of the market.

I then tried the blending solution to see how well it blended heavily laid down colour out over clean paper.

Here, the higher pigment content of the Polychromos pencils showed a bigger area could be blended out.  However, Crayolas and the Art-Colour Pencils weren’t far behind.  The Art-Grip pencils, again by Faber-Castell, were the worst, yet they were the second most expensive pencils tested.

The last rows show how well various shades of pencils can be blended by the different methods.

I was really surprised at how well the Crayolas did – they blended far more easily and smoothly with all the different blending methods!

Of course, the best method of blending for smoothness is by using blending solution.

I will say it again, I did my best to make this a test that compares the different brands fairly and took my time to ensure that the colours were laid down with as equal intensity and with the same method in all cases.

I must admit, I didn’t expect Crayolas to do as well as the other, more expensive pencils.  However, the Crayolas did significantly better, in my opinion, in many instances. What a shocker!

The big advantage that the more expensive pencils have is the huge range of colours available, which makes finding the precise colour you want to use easy and you don’t have to worry about how to mix different coloured pencils to get that colour you want.

The thing going for the Crayolas is their price point, they are easier to lay down than other brands which have harder leads, they blend really well and easily.

I hope this helps.  As I’ve said (typed?), I expect a lot of criticism and haranguing for this, but so be it, I speak as I find, and I found that all the pencils I tried out worked more than good enough for me, and I’m happy with that!

7 thoughts on “Testing coloured pencils and methods of blending them.

  1. Jakki 20 August 2015 / 14:15

    Angela, this is very interesting! I am new to the art of colouring and spent a lot of money on a box of Prismacolor pencils – out of the box of 72, 28 of them are totally unusable because the leads are broken in pieces all the way through. To their credit, Prismacolour is replacing the pencils, but I am so disappointed. I started off with Crayolas but found the lack of colour range very limiting – I am taking YouTube lessons, and I could not get the look the classes are aiming for – in a way a guaranteed recipe for failure. Despite my problems, I will have to say I am much happier with the increased range I have on hand now and I do love the way the Prismacolors blend – I use a stump and blending fluid – wonderful look! Thanks for taking the time to do this experiment and reporting so fearlessly on the results!


    • Angela Porter 20 August 2015 / 14:54

      Hi Jakki,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings. I found a blending stump and blending solution by far the best way to blend the colours and to get a smooth finish, and that works regardless of the pencils used!


  2. Peta 21 August 2015 / 22:31

    Hi Angela. thanks for doing this experiment which really confirmed what I already knew. Many cheaper brands of pencil aimed at children can perform just as well as the big boys when it comes to the crunch. I have $5 set of 26 pencils marketed under the name ‘Funstuff’ that I often use and they are almost as versatile to use as my Polychromos. I used them in an art challenge wherein the participants had to create picture with a set of 12 cheap/kids coloured pencils. It was impossible to tell at a glance that some of the art produced by others in the challenge came from a $3 box of pencils! I also have tried Micador’s ‘Colourush’ pencils ($12 for 36 colours) and i like them so much i buy them to accompany the colouring books i have bought as birthday present and keep one pack for my own use.


  3. Debbi 19 September 2015 / 16:52

    You’re not going to get any criticism from me- you’re absolutely right. I am lucky enough to have pencils and markers in all price ranges and have found the same exact thing. I love to experiment. It doesn’t make me feel bad I’ve spent a lot on some things- they have their advantages. Perhaps this will help people that can’t have all those goods realize they’re not missing out. They can do great things with what they have 😉


    • Angela Porter 19 September 2015 / 21:14

      Thanks for your approval 🙂 You can do great things with the simplest and cheapest of tools …I’m amazed what people can do with the humble biro!


  4. Joanne Hilts-Hill 22 November 2016 / 19:15

    Thank you for your testing and the time in doing it! I have all brands also of the pencils and love and use them all. I wish I could find something on how to use the felt pens as I like using them but they bleed to the other side which doesn’t make me very happy. Thanks again! Very interesting!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Angela Porter 23 November 2016 / 16:58

      Thanks for your kind words Joanne, much appreciated. Felt pens will bleed through on the paper that most colouring books are made from. The only way round it would be to scan the image in and then print it out on paper that is felt pen friendly – which would be quite heavy weight, even watercolour paper. The bleeding is the nature of the medium I’m afraid.


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