Here’s our review of the best colored pencils for coloring books.
Picking colored pencils for adult coloring books can be different from picking colored pencils for art. Things like color range and ability to blend will matter much more than things like lightfastness (whether or not it’ll fade due to sunlight).
As an artist, it’s frustrating to buy colored pencils that don’t suit your needs. So I’ve spent a few days researching and reading reviews to come up with this list.
If you’re looking for a great set of colored pencils for your coloring book, the Prismacolor Premier is the best overall choice.
But there are also great alternatives that might better suit you. So I’ve included some other options and things that you should consider.
Let’s dive right in!
Table of Contents
What to consider when choosing the best colored pencils for coloring books
Here are a few things to consider before buying a set of colored pencils for your adult coloring books.
Colored pencils can generally be divided into artist-grade and student-grade colored pencils. Artist-grade colored pencils are generally higher in quality. They contain more pigment, offer more vibrant colors, and are usually easier to blend. They’re more expensive and are designed for more seasoned artists and professional use.
Student-grade colored pencils are generally more affordable. They’re designed for students and beginners.
If you’re only using colored pencils for your coloring book, student-grade pencils are often more than good enough. At the same time, it doesn’t hurt to get artist-grade pencils if you have a bigger budget.
A good colored pencil set for a coloring book should cover a wide range of colors. You might need different sets of colors depending on what theme your coloring book is. For example, if your coloring book features a lot of nature and trees, you might want to pick a set with enough greens and browns.
Try to find a set that covers a variety of versions of each color while also having grays, browns, skin tones, white, and black. I’ve indicated in this guide where some color ranges might be lacking. For example, Faber-Castell’s Polychromos have limited skin-tone colors unless you buy a very large set.
Ability to blend
Ideally, you’d want colored pencils that are easy to blend. They should be able to create smooth gradients without much trouble. Some colored pencils like the Prismacolor Premier are easier to blend than others. I’ve indicated which ones are easy to blend and which ones have trouble blending.
Soft vs. hard core
Colored pencils with softer cores lay down easily, blend and layer well, and often have more pigments. Most wax-based colored pencils have a soft core. At the same time, they don’t hold a point well so they don’t work as well for fine details.
Hard-cored colored pencils are usually great for finer details. But, they are usually duller in colors, are more difficult to blend, and tire out your hands. They can also ruin your paper if you press down too hard.
All of the colored pencils on this list tend to lean towards a softer core. This is because you generally don’t need super fine details for adult coloring books since they already have the lines drawn in. I recommend the softer core for easier blending and layering.
Wax-based vs. oil-based
There are two main types of colored pencils: wax-based and oil-based. Wax-based colored pencils have a smooth, buttery texture that is easy to lay down. They stick to the surface easily, don’t smudge easily, and are easier to erase.
However, wax-based colored pencils tend to break more easily and wear down quickly because of the softer core. They’re also subject to wax bloom, an effect where the wax evaporates to the surface which causes white cloudy spots. It’s more common when you have heavy layers or use a lot of dark colors. But, it’s easy to deal with, you can simply wipe the wax away with a damp cloth.
The great thing about oil-based colored pencils is that you don’t have to deal with wax blooms. They’re more prone to smearing, but this makes them exceptionally great at blending. The core tends to be harder and more resistant to breaking. This makes them better at holding sharper points which is great for details. They also last longer, but they’re more expensive since they cost more to manufacture.
For coloring books, both wax-based and oil-based colored pencils work well. If you prefer a buttery, velvety texture, go for the wax-based options. They also tend to be more affordable. But, if you like pencils with a harder core then go for an oil-based set.
A colored pencil that is lightfast tends to have colors that resist fading because of sunlight. A lot of artist-grade colored pencils are lightfast, but they’re also more expensive. Lightfastness is not that important when it comes to adult coloring books. Since you’re most likely not hanging them up or selling them, lightfastness is not a big deal.
Some colored pencil sets have an open stock which means that you can buy the pencils individually. This saves you the hassle and the money of having to replace a whole new set when you run out of a few colors. The open stock also allows you to test out multiple brands of colored pencils without having to commit to buying a large set.
Higher-priced sets tend to have an open stock, but the per-unit price tends to be higher when you buy them individually. Also, it makes more sense to just replace the whole set if the set is cheap.
If you’re looking to buy individual colored pencils, simply go on Blick Art Materials and search for the brand of your colored pencils.
6 Best Colored Pencils For Coloring Books
Here are the top 6 colored pencils for adult coloring books.
1. Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils – Best overall
The Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils are one of the most popular wax-based colored pencils. These pencils have a soft and thick core which is perfect for shading and blending. They have very bright and vibrant colors which make them perfect for most coloring books. These have a smooth, buttery texture when you lay down multiple layers.
These pencils are lightfast, but their lightfastness is only average when compared to artist-grade colored pencils. This doesn’t really matter much if you’re just using these for coloring books since you’re not exposing them to sunlight. Since they have a soft core, they’re also prone to breaking so you have to be a bit careful when handling them. They also wear down a bit faster than other pencils since the colors lay down and grip onto the paper very easily.
These are slightly more expensive than other wax-based pencils, but they’re considered to be of a higher quality. Be sure to compare the discounts between the different set sizes as the price may vary.
|Great for blending||Average lightfastness|
|Soft, buttery texture||Breaks easier|
|Easier to erase||Wears down faster|
|Has open stock|
2. Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor Colored Pencils – Best premium
The Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor Colored Pencils are artist-grade colored pencils with a wide range of colors. They’re oil-based and are made in Germany. If you’re looking for a higher-quality set of colored pencils without breaking the bank, then this is for you.
This set of 72 pieces comes with quite a wide range of colors, including skin tones, which is perfect for adult coloring books. It also comes with two blenders so you don’t have to buy them separately. These pencils are lightfast so your artwork won’t fade when exposed to sunlight.
The only downside with these pencils is that the tin is a bit flimsy and they’re a bit more expensive than wax-based pencils. At the same time, these are more affordable than other professional-level colored pencils. You also don’t have to deal with wax blooms since they’re oil-based.
|Lightfast||The tin is a bit flimsy|
|Good range of colors||Slightly more expensive|
|Comes with two blenders|
|High quality in general|
|Oil-based (no wax bloom)|
|Has open stock|
3. Arteza Colored Pencils – Best budget
These Arteza Colored Pencils are great if you’re on a tighter budget. They’re quite affordable on a per-pencil basis, and the quality is great compared to other affordable options. These aren’t quite as smooth as the Prismacolor Premier, but they blend and layer quite well. They also have a good range of colors that are bright and vibrant. Lastly, they’re 100% nontoxic so you don’t have to worry about your kids using them or using them while eating.
The downside with these is that some mentioned that the pencils can break easily. These do have a soft core so you need to be careful when handling them. They also don’t have an open stock so you’ll have to replace the whole set or substitute with similar colors when you run out.
|Bright and vibrant||No open stock|
|Good range of colors||Can break easily|
|Affordable for beginners|
The Faber-Castell Polychromos is a wildly popular choice among artists. These artist-grade colored pencils are oil-based and are made in Germany. They’re water-resistant and don’t smudge easily so you don’t have to worry about ruining your coloring book. They also have break-resistant tips which will help them last longer. These blend and layer well, and are one of the best artist-grade colored pencils.
The reason why I didn’t rank them higher is because of the higher price and the limited range of skin tones. This makes them more limited if your coloring book has a lot of humans. But if you still want to go with this set, I recommend also buying Qian Shan’s oil-based colored pencils that cover skin tones.
|Can sharpen to a fine tip – good for details||More expensive|
|Lightfast||Harder to erase|
|Oil-based (no wax bloom)|
|Has open stock|
These Castle Art Supplies Colored Pencils are similar to Arteza’s 72-piece set. They’re at a similar price and cover a large range of colors. They’re wax-based which can make them prone to wax blooms, but they’re great for blending and layering. This set is a solid choice for beginners that balances quality and affordability.
The main downside with these is that some people did mention that they have a strong chemical smell. If you’re more sensitive to smells, consider getting Arteza’s colored pencils instead. They also have no open stock like most other more affordable options.
|Wide range of colors for the price||Has a strong smell|
|Good blending and layering||No open stock|
|Affordable for beginners|
If you have a very tight budget, these Crayola Colored Pencils For Adults might be a good choice. It comes with 50 colors which are good enough for most purposes. These are good for beginners that just want to try colored pencils without spending too much money on them.
The main downside with these colored pencils is that they’re more difficult to lay down since they have less vibrant colors. A lot of users mentioned that you have to press down hard and use multiple layers to get some vibrant colors. They’re also harder to blend than other pencils on this list.
I would only pick this option if you absolutely have no money to spend and don’t mind lower-quality pencils. If you can see yourself using a lot of colored pencils, I recommend saving up some money to get slightly more expensive but still affordable options from Arteza or Castle Art.
|Very affordable||Less vibrant colors|
|Good range of colors||Harder to blend|
|Good for beginners|
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few frequently asked questions when it comes to shopping for the best colored pencils for coloring books.
What is the best brand for colored pencils?
Prismacolor, Lyra, and Faber-Castell all make high-quality colored pencils that are perfect for both adult coloring books and personal art. Which brand you pick largely depends on your budget and the type (wax vs oil) of colored pencils you like.
Arteza and Castle Art also make good quality colored pencils at a more affordable price. Although the quality is a bit lower, they’re still better than a lot of other affordable alternatives.
What if I can’t afford these colored pencils?
Higher-quality colored pencils can be more expensive, but they’re often worth the price. I always recommend opting for the higher-quality option when possible. If budget is a concern, consider saving up for it instead of buying cheap colored pencils that have poor quality. You can also opt for a smaller set of higher-quality options rather than buying a cheap but big set.
Be sure to compare the discounts between the different set sizes. Sometimes the price varies so make sure to check to get the lowest per-pencil price.
How big of a set should I get?
In my experience, a 40-60 piece set is often enough for most coloring purposing. If budget is not an issue, you can opt for a 72-piece set or an even bigger set. This would give you a wider range of colors and you can often substitute similar colors when one color runs out.
Whatever you do, try to avoid buying a set that is smaller than 24 pieces. They’re often too small and can limit you from creating the colors you want.
Why do my colored pencils keep breaking?
One common reason for this is that your colored pencils were damaged during shipping. If the packaging isn’t good, you might run into a situation where your pencils keep breaking when you sharpen them. You can often request a refund or replacement when this happens.
Another common reason that your pencils are breaking is that you’re using the wrong sharpening techniques. Rotate your sharpener instead of your pencils. Rotating your pencils can cause a lot of stress on your pencils which makes them break easier. Check out our article on the best sharpener for colored pencils for an in-depth guide on sharpeners.
The last reason that your colored pencils keep breaking is because of a manufacturing defect. It’s normal for your colored pencils to break from time to time. But, they might be defective if you find that your pencils keep breaking when you sharpen them. Again, you can often request a refund or a replacement if you detect this issue early on.
If you broke the core of your soft-cored colored pencils, try leaving them out in the sun for a while. This can help fuse the core back together.
The best colored pencils for your coloring book should have a wide range of colors, can blend well, and have vibrant pigments.
For most people, the Prismacolor Premier is the best overall choice when it comes to adult coloring books.
If you’re looking for a wider range of colored pencils for art, check out our article on the best colored pencils for artists.