Reviews

Best Colored Pencils for Art – Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils

Have you started doing some artwork using colored pencils? Maybe you like to color or maybe you’ve decided you like the medium and want to get serious about creating art with them. In either scenario, you have discovered how nice it is to work with them, with beautiful colors, so much more gratifying to use than when were kids, am I right?

But you’re wondering with all the choices in colored pencils out there – low-end to high-end, hard or soft – what are the best colored pencils for art? Which ones will help you create your best work? My answer, hands down is Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils.

They are simply the best wax-based colored pencils period.  And I will tell you why I think so.

In this article, I will be giving you all the information regarding Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils for you to make an informed decision if they are right for you.

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Pencils are Delightful to Use

I have been using Prismacolor Pencils since 2001. As wax-based pencils go, these are the best in my
opinion. And one of the main reasons is they are simply a joy to work with!

The pencil has a thick core with a soft and buttery consistency that lays down so smoothly and with great coverage. Its soft core provides an ease in working with these pencils that is unsurpassed as compared to other wax-based pencils. In your very first movements of this pencil on the art surface, you will know what I mean.

Building up color layers is a snap. In the early layering stages, the colors layer effortlessly onto one another which is great for color mixing. In the later layering stages, it is very easy to burnish the pigment to a vibrant finish that resembles paint. You’ll easily impress your friends as they ask, “Wow, that’s colored pencil?!”

Blending? No problem! The pigment can so easily be moved around and layered, therefore, blending is a breeze. You will enjoy creating soft, seamless color transitions and gradients with these gems since you can blend so effortlessly!

You can always count on the way these pencils work for you which is wonderful reassurance so you can get down to the business of creating art!

Specs on the Premier Pencils

Their core measures 3.8mm and is surrounded by a cedar wood casing. This wood makes sharpening much easier and smoother without “catching” like other inferior pencils do. And contrary to popular opinion, I do think it’s OK to sharpen these pencils in an electric sharpener. (Click here for how to sharpen colored pencils.)

The barrel is round and has a lacquer finish to match the core color, making for very easy identification. Each pencil is also labeled with a color name and number. No more guessing what color you have! And you never have to worry the colors won’t match if you purchase another individual pencil of the same color. It is always the exact color match!

All sets come in a decorative tin with trays to protect the soft cores and keep them organized.

Unsurpassed Quality in Wax-based pencil

The color intensity is superb. These pencils are very highly pigmented. You will not be disappointed in the coloration they provide as their richness and vibrancy will give you all the “pop” and depth of color you will ever need.

In general, they are well-rated for light fastness, too. But more on that in the next section .

As mentioned earlier, the excellent lay down properties of these pencils make them my go-to pencil for creating professional art. The soft core makes for easy layering, blendability, shading and burnishing.

Here is a piece I created called “Primroses” using exclusively Prismacolor pencils.  Layers were built up gradually and completed with a final burnishing layer.  Vibrant enough for you?

A Couple of “Issues”

Lightfastness

There are admittedly some colors that do not rate well in light fastness. On the rating chart, I counted 40 out of 150 colors that have a IV or V rating (fair or poor, respectively). But honestly, I really don’t worry too much about the lightfast ratings. Instead, I have looked at how my pictures fair over time. I have created numerous pictures using Prismacolor and they have stood the test of time very well!  The “Primroses” piece mentioned and shown above was actually created over 10 years ago!  The photo of it for this article was just taken this morning.  It looks like I completed is yesterday!

There are a few common sense things I do to help with lightfastness. First, I always use Krylon Workable Fixative to help protect from color fading and to prevent wax bloom.

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I always frame the piece behind glass. Third, I do not hang the artwork where it is exposed to a lot of direct sunlight. Also, there is special UV glass you can choose if you have your work professionally framed that can protect the artwork.

When creating colored pencil work, it is also easy enough to avoid using the colors with a fair or poor rating and still be able to use 110 colors! And you really have to ask yourself, is there really a color you can’t mix out of 110 colors?!

I also had heard that there is a lightfast color set prismacolor makes, but I have not been able to find it for sale. The prismacolor website does not show this product either. Perhaps it may have been available at one time. Feel free to leave a comment below if you know where they are available.

Frequent Breakage

There have been a lot of complaints about breakage of the core with Prismacolor in recent years. Personally, I never have had issues of breakage the pencils. Therefore, I cannot speak from direct experience on this issue. However, I can offer some additional insight to consider.

I do believe people really have had problems with breakage at least in the past. For the past year or two, though, I have had people in my classes who do use Prismacolor. None of them have asked me about breakage nor complained to me about the pencils breaking. I do wonder if perhaps the company has resolved this quality issue?

To some extent, how you sharpen may contribute to the point breaking again and again. I do have people complain to me that manual sharpeners always keep breaking the pencil.

Trust me when I say, many brands of pencils will break when trying to sharpen in a manual sharpener. This can happen as a result of how you use the handheld sharpener. For more info on how to sharpen colored pencils click here.

While you’re sharpening, if you twist the pencil and not the sharpener, there is a high chance you will run into frequent breaking in my experience. Instead, hold the pencil tight and still in the sharpener and turn the sharpener, not the pencil.

This works most of the time. If it breaks once, I do just use the electric sharpener to save time and frustration.

I have not run into any trouble using the electric sharpener. However, you should run ordinary graphite pencils through the sharpener every so often. The graphite helps to clean the blades.

A heavier hand during the layering process could make the pencil more prone to breaking. Following the traditional technique of slowly building up layers will more than likely keep your point intact. For more on basic colored pencil techniques, click here.

If pencils are dropped, it is very possible that the core can break unbeknownst to you inside the casing. Thus, when you go to sharpen or use the pencil, it will continue to break.

If this happens, I have heard there is a way to “heal “ your pencils. You can set your bin of pencils in your car’s back window on a sunny day for awhile. Also, you can use a microwaveable heating pad, heat it up in the microwave and set the pencils in need of “healing” on a paper towel on the pad.

You will need to experiment with the length of time on both of these ways. But in essence, the wax melts and seals up the breakage in the core.

I have also heard you can microwave your pencils for 5-15 seconds depending on how hot your microwave is. But as I have not done this myself, I cannot recommend this. You would need to do this carefully and at your own risk.

Understand that breakage in pencils can happen in any wax-based pencils and overall, this does not appear to be a problem that has severely compromised this brand. Many artists use them and at least one art supply company does indicate they are very popular.

Quantity, Variety and Value – Oh My!

Prismacolor Premier colored pencils come in both sets and individual colors. With a price to fit every budget and being widely available, Prismacolor is offered in sets with quantities of 12, 24, 36, 48, 72, 132 or 150. And replacing colors is easy as every color is available individually too!

A variety of specialized sets are available with colors specifically geared toward garden scenes, oceanic life, landscapes and manga art. The quantity available in these sets is 12. The Manga Art set comes with more colors.

Plus, you can get Prismacolor pencils in a harder lead called Verithin

They are good for finer details. If you want to be able to erase, Prismacolor offers Col-erase pencils. In addition, the company offers woodless colors in stick form as well. These are great for covering large areas.

 

Prismacolor other advantage – value. Years ago they were way more expensive. But sets of today are much more reasonably priced . With quality and affordability in a professional pencil, no wonder they are so popular!

Final Thoughts

All of my colored pencil commissioned work has been rendered in Prismacolor colored pencils. With each project, I complete, I have peace of mind knowing I can count on these colored pencils to work with me and to deliver – vibrant color, smooth lay down, blendability and superior layering and burnishing – so I can do my best work . Plus I know with reasonable care in finishing with fixative and proper framing, my art is sure to stay true to the moment of completion.

I hope this was helpful for you in deciding for or against Prismacolor. Please feel free to share comments or experiences if you have used these pencils before or if you have further questions.

Have a colorful day!

Elaine

 

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