Skip to main content

The best coloured pencils in 2022

Included in this guide:
Closeup of the best coloured pencils, gathered together and pointing in the same direction
(Image credit: Pixabay)

The best coloured pencils are worth investing in, whether you're drawing professionally or just for fun. Because while they may cost a little more than the cheapest coloured pencils, the high quality results you'll get from there will truly boost the quality of your art.

With the best coloured pencils, you'll be able to layer up and blend colours precisely, allowing you greater freedom in bringing your artistic vision to life. You'll also become more accurate in tasks such as shading, hatching and cross-hatching, as well as advanced techniques like rubbings and burnishing paper. To help you find the right choice of pencil for your style and approach, below we list the best coloured pencils available to buy today.

We'll start with the best coloured pencils for customers in the USA. However, if you're on the other side of the pond, skip to the best coloured pencils in the UK

Once you've bought your new pencils, make the best of them by following our expert tips on how to draw. And if you're building up your art kit further, don't miss our roundups of the best watercolour pencils, the best pencil sharpeners and – if you're drawing in black and white – the best pencils for artists.

The best coloured pencils for artists: USA

Product shot of the best coloured pencils, from Castle Arts

(Image credit: Castle Arts)

01. Castle Arts Coloured Pencils

The best coloured pencils overall

Specifications

Point type: Medium
Pack sizes: 72, 120
Other: Soft-touch finish

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to sharpen
+
Comfortable to use
+
Soft-touch finish

Reasons to avoid

-
Some prefer hexagonal pencils

Let's not mess about. These round-barrelled pencils from Castle Arts are quite simply the best coloured pencils available today. With a soft-touch finish, they're a first-rate choice for blending and layering, comfortable to use over long periods and produce smooth, creamy hues. They stay sharp for longer than most coloured pencils, too. 

They come in a protective, fabric zip-around case, and there's a tutorial that teaches you how to draw the picture on the front of the box. Plus, handily, the colours are clearly labelled so you don't have to spend a lot of time trying to find the right one. So while they may have stiff competition from elsewhere on this list, we reckon that overall, these coloured pencils can't be beat.

Product shot of some of the best coloured pencils, from Arteza Colored Pencils

(Image credit: Arteza )

02. Arteza Colored Pencils

The best coloured pencils for portability

Specifications

Point type: Broad
Pack sizes: 48, 72
Other: Break-resistant tips

Reasons to buy

+
Break-resistant tips
+
Sturdy tin
+
Affordable choice

Reasons to avoid

-
Wax bloom can occur

Do you travel with your coloured pencils, or move them around your home a lot? Then these water-soluble colored pencils are a great option. With break-resistant tips and 4mm leads, they're less likely to shatter if dropped. And they come in a nice sturdy, double-hinged tin, making them easy to transport.

More generally, these lovely pencils produce vivid colours, although you need to avoid pushing down to hard or you might get wax bloom. They are fully blendable, and superb for hatching and cross-hatching. Usefully, these pencils are labelled according to colour name and colour number, and there’s a colour chart in the tin, so it's easy to find the one you want quickly and easily.

Product shot of some of the best coloured pencils, from Faber-Castell

(Image credit: Faber-Castell)

03. Faber-Castell Polychromos Colour Pencils

The best colour pencils for water resistance

Specifications

Point type: Fine
Pack sizes: 12-120
Other: Break-resistant, Water-resistant

Reasons to buy

+
Water-resistant
+
High lightfastness
+
Soft but vibrant colours

Reasons to avoid

-
On the expensive end

Are you specifically seeking water-resistant, smudge-proof pencils? Then this set from Faber-Castell is our top recommendation. These pencils feature high-quality acid-free pigments in bright colours, with excellent lightfastness (resistance to fading when exposed to light).

A thick 3.8 mm core offers high break resistance, and the wooden barrels are protected with a water-based 'eco' varnish. These pencils are available in a wide variety of pack sizes, from 12 to 120. And they make a perfect couple with Faber-Castell's Albrecht Durer Watercolour Pencils, which are among the best watercolour pencils available today.

Product shot of some of the best coloured pencils, from Derwent

(Image credit: Derwent)

04. Derwent Coloursoft Colouring Pencils

The best coloured pencils for still-lifes and landscapes

Specifications

Point type: Broad
Pack sizes: 6-72
Other: 88 percent lightfast

Reasons to buy

+
Lightfast
+
Wide range of pack sizes
+
Attractive wooden box

Reasons to avoid

-
Soft leads require care

If you have a love of either still life drawing or landscapes, here are some fantastic pencils to check out. With a round 4mm, velvety-soft core, Derwent's Coloursoft Colouring Pencils are ideal for building up colour quickly. They're highly blendable, and thanks to their break resistant core, you can also sharpen them to a fine point. All this makes them perfect for a variety of projects, including still-life drawings and contemporary landscapes.

These pencils are available in a large variety of box sizes, from six to 72, so you have the option of trying them out in a small number or going in big and buying the entire set. They're also available in a presentation box, which is ideal for giving as a gift. 

Product shot of some of the best coloured pencils, from Shuttle Art

(Image credit: Shuttle Art)

05. Shuttle Art Soft Core Color Pencil Set

Great coloured pencils for everyday use

Specifications

Point type: Bold
Pack sizes: 136-180
Other: Durable 3mm core

Reasons to buy

+
Durable core
+
Bumper pack
+
Well-labelled

Reasons to avoid

-
Cardboard case, so not for travelling

Maybe you don't want anything fancy, but are just looking for reliable pencils that offer good value? Then the Shuttle Art Soft Core Color Pencil Set will surely interest you. These round pencils are made premium quality wood for ease of sharpening, making them great for regular, everyday use. A thick 3mm break-resistant core provides durability. And even though they're budget-priced, they usefully feature colour names and numbers on the side.

They're pretty great in action too, with soft leads that produce vivid colours that are easy to blend, layer and shade. The cardboard box they come in is a little flimsy if you travel a lot, but on the plus side, they are nicely laid out and it's easy to find what you're looking for quickly.

Product shot of some of the best coloured pencils, from Magicfly

(Image credit: Magicfly)

06. Magicfly Colored Pencils

Well-priced wax-based pencils

Specifications

Point type: Medium
Number in box: 72
Other: Durable core, protective case

Reasons to buy

+
3mm core
+
Protective case
+
Durable build

Reasons to avoid

-
Included paint brushes are poor quality

With a 3mm core, these coloured pencils are designed for durability and ease of sharpening, though Magicfly recommends manual sharpeners rather than an electric sharpener. The tin box is designed to be sturdy and protect the pencils while enabling you to easily select the right colour. They also come with a couple of paint brushes thrown in, though to be honest, these aren't great quality.

Like many of the best coloured pencils, Magicfly Colored Pencils have the colour name and number stamped on the outer surface, which is very handy. Layering and blending are easy, with rich and vibrant pigments. You can also get a Magicfly Watercolour Pencils set, too.

The best coloured pencils for artists: UK

Product shot of some of the best coloured pencils, from Castle Arts

(Image credit: Castle Arts)

01. Castle Arts Coloured Pencils

The best coloured pencils overall

Specifications

Point type: Medium
Pack sizes: 72, 120
Other: Soft-touch finish

Reasons to buy

+
Easy sharpening
+
Soft-touch finish
+
120 piece set available

Reasons to avoid

-
Some prefer hexagonal pencils

If you don't have time to read all of this list, then take it from us: this Castle Arts set contains the best coloured pencils you can buy today, bar none. These high quality, round-barrelled pencils work beautifully in practice, offering excellent blending and layering qualities. 

They're made with a soft-touch finish, making them easier on the fingers over prolonged use. There are plenty of colours: if 72 isn’t enough for you, there's also a set of 120. Best of all, they're quite affordable too. 

The colours are well labelled and clearly marked, making it easy to select the shade you want, and the pencils lay down smooth and creamy colours. The pencils hold their points well, with little to no crumbling. And there's even a tutorial that teaches you to draw the unicorn on the front of the box. 

Product shot of some of the best coloured pencils, from Arteza

(Image credit: Arteza )

02. Arteza Colored Pencils

The best coloured pencils for portability

Specifications

Point type: Broad
Pack sizes: 48, 72
Other: Break-resistant tips

Reasons to buy

+
Break-resistant tips
+
Also in 48, 120 sets
+
Very affordable

Reasons to avoid

-
Wax bloom can occur

On the go a lot? Then you'll live these hardy pencils, with break-resistant tips and 4mm leads that won’t shatter if dropped; perfect for artists on the move. 

Fully blendable, and great for hatching and cross-hatching, these pencils will work well for everything from sketching to precise shading and creating gradients. They're ergonomically designed and well labelled, each having its colour name and colour number for quick reference. 

The wax-based lead works well for creating vivid colours, though you do sometimes get wax bloom if you colour with a heavy hand, so go easy. And there’s a colour chart in the tin, which is durable and double-hinged, making it easier to keep the pencils safe while out and about. 

Product shot of some of the best coloured pencils, from Faber-Castell

(Image credit: Faber-Castell)

03. Faber-Castell Polychromos Colour Pencils

The best colour pencils for water resistance

Specifications

Point type: Fine
Pack sizes: 12-120
Other: Break-resistant, Water-resistant

Reasons to buy

+
Water-resistant
+
Range of pack sizes
+
Soft but vibrant colours

Reasons to avoid

-
On the expensive end

We're big fans of the Faber-Castell Polychromos Colour Pencil. With a 3.8m thick, oil-based lead, bonded to prevent breakage, it gives a water-resistant and smudgeproof finish. The pencils also use an environmentally friendly water-based varnish and have a consistent, soft but vibrant colour laydown. 

These pencils are also available in a wide variety of pack sizes, from a compact 12-pencil set up to a huge 120 unit pro-orientated case, but here we're looking at the 60 packs. They're also great for teaming with Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer Watercolour Pencils, which currently stands at no.2 in our guide to the best watercolour pencils.

Product shot of some of the best coloured pencils, from Derwent

(Image credit: Derwent)

04. Derwent Coloursoft Colouring Pencils

A great choice for a gift

Specifications

Point type: Broad
Pack sizes: 6-72
Other: 88 percent lightfast

Reasons to buy

+
Lightfast
+
Range of pack sizes
+
Attractive wooden box

Reasons to avoid

-
Soft leads require care

Want to give coloured pencils as a gift? Then you could do a lot worse than Derwent's Coloursoft Colouring Pencils. Suitable for a wide range of drawing styles,  they provide a quick and dense application of bold, vibrant colour. As they're also soft, they're highly blendable for all applications, from landscapes to detailed illustrations. 

You can also sharpen them to a fine point. This means you do need to take extra care of them to make sure you don't break the leads, though, so they're not the best choice for travel. They're available in a large variety of sizes, ranging from a tin of just six up to 72. There's also an option of 24 and 48 pencils in a presentation wooden box, which is a great idea if you're looking for a present. 

Product shot of some of the best coloured pencils, from Monarch

(Image credit: Monarch)

05. Monarch Premium Grade Black Widow Coloured Pencils

A point that's designed to stay sharp

Specifications

Point type: Fine
Pack sizes: 48
Other: Rich pigment that layers like velvet

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable to hold
+
Nice black paint finish
+
Named colours

Reasons to avoid

-
48 is biggest set

Hate it when leads keep breaking? Us too. Which means we love these Monarch Premium Grade Black Widow Coloured Pencils, which boasts fine points that don't break when sharpened (the leads are 3.3mm thick). Also the hexagonal design is designed for ultimate comfort in your hand, and they won't roll away when you put them down on the table, either. 

The rich pigment results in a waxy finish with deep colour. They're easily blendable and comfortable to hold with a 'spider black' finish for that premium appearance. Each colour name is stamped onto the pencil alongside a catalogue number. The only real issue is that the maximum set is 48. So if you want more colours than this, another option might suit you better.

Product shot of some of the best coloured pencils, from Shuttle Art

(Image credit: Shuttle Art)

06. Shuttle Art Soft Core Color Pencil Set

The best coloured pencils for value

Specifications

Point type: Bold
Pack sizes: 136-180
Other: Durable 3mm core

Reasons to buy

+
Durable core
+
Bumper pack
+
Well-labelled

Reasons to avoid

-
Cardboard case, so not for travelling

Don't need anything fancy, but just want quality pencils for general use, at a low price? Then the Shuttle Art Soft Core Color Pencil Set is for you. 

These round pencils have a bold but soft-core lead with premium quality wood for ease of sharpening. A thick 3mm break-resistant core provides durability. And even though they're budget-priced, they usefully feature colour names and numbers on the side.

These pencils do come packaged in cardboard, so they're probably not what you're looking for if you're often going to be taking them out and about. However, they are nicely laid out in trays for easy colour selection. 

How long do coloured pencils last?

Coloured pencils typically last for at least two to five years, if used sparingly or not at all. Store them carefully in cool, dark place and they may last much longer. Conversely, the more that coloured pencils are exposed to heat or sunlight, the faster they will absorb moisture and dry out. This will make the lead brittle and difficult to use. 

How do you sharpen a coloured pencil?

Coloured pencils with soft leads should never be sharpened to a long point, because they are more likely to break. Instead, use a mechanical pencil sharpener (never an electric one) and sharpen to a short point. Test out different sharpeners to find the one that works best for you and your pencil – see our best pencil sharpeners guide for your options.

What are the best coloured pencils?

For our money, the best coloured pencils money can buy today come from Castle Arts. With a soft-touch finish, these round-barrelled pencils offer first-rate blending and layering qualities. They're comfortable to use over long periods and produce smooth, creamy hues. They also stay sharp for longer than most pencils, and the colours are clearly labelled.

What are the best cheap coloured pencils?

If you want quality coloured pencils, but don't want to pay high prices, we recommend Shuttle Art's set of 172. These round pencils are made premium quality wood and thick 3mm break-resistant core, making them great for regular, everyday use. They usefully feature colour names and numbers on the side. And they're pretty great in action too, with soft leads that produce vivid colours that are easy to blend, layer and shade. 

Related articles: 

Dan is the Editor of T3.com and covers the latest in computing, home entertainment and mobile tech. He's also the former Deputy Editor of TechRadar and former Editor of Lifehacker UK. Dan has written for numerous computing and lifestyle magazines and has also written a book, too. You'll see him pop up in numerous places, having been quoted in or on The Sun, BBC World Service, BBC News Online, ITN News, BBC Radio 5Live, BBC Radio 4 and Sky News Radio.