Colouring pencils for adult colouring books • Starting with the basics
Determining the best coloured pencils can be a challenge. There are many different types of colouring pencils on the market today, which can make it overwhelming for beginners, before they even start! What brand of pencil, how many in a pack, pencil quality vs use, oil or wax based, price comparisons, the list goes on. Ultimately it comes down to your personal preference.
This article covers the basic needs of what type of pencils you want to colour with, including artist vs student based and oil-based vs wax-based.
Start with the basics • Artist grade vs Student grade
One of the most crucial aspects is, of course, the colour. The two main categories of coloured pencil quality are artists grade and scholastics or student grade. Many brands manufacture both types which creates different product lines for consumers – and makes it even more confusing.
In short, Professional or Artist grade supplies are generally higher quality than materials labeled as Student. In terms of coloured pencils, this means they’ll deliver richer hues that are more vibrant once you put them to paper. In contrast, student grade pencils typically have more binders and less pigment in their core which results in less intense colours. Their hard core means they are very difficult or impossible to blend and layer on the paper surface.
In addition, the core of artist grade pencils is much more durable and the consistency of the manufacture of the pencils is higher in comparison to student-grade pencils.
If you’re looking for the top-of-the-line pencils, go for something that’s oil-based as opposed to wax-based. Hard wax, especially, can be brittle, which makes it harder to blend colours. Oil-based colouring pencils will also glide over the paper more effortlessly, providing better coverage with minimal effort.
Though there is a catch, cost.
Think of the cost as an investment
Whilst artist grade pencils are priced much higher than the student grade pencils, just remember that you are paying for quality and consistency.
If you have hesitation about spending money on this type of artistic tool, remember that they’re meant to last. “Coloured pencils are different from the paints and markers we use because we typically have them a lot longer,” Cheryl Trowbridge of Teach Kids Art advises. “They don’t dry out like markers do, and they don’t get used up as fast as markers and paint do.”
With the many therapeutic and mental health benefits, you could also think of the cost as an investment to your personal health and wellbeing. (Read our article on the benefits of adult colouring here)
Examples of popular artist-quality pencils are Derwent Coloursoft, Faber-Castell Polychromos and Prismacolor Premier. They also have a broader range of colours in their pencil sets and can be sold individually. There are also middle tier products within these brands for less.
Examples of well-known student grade coloured pencils are Crayola, Prang and Sargent.
Types of coloured pencils • Wax, Oil and Water-soluble
We now go a step further to understand the three main types of coloured pencil: wax-based, oil-based, and water-soluble.
Even though some consider wax and oil based pencils the same, they are slightly different. Wax-based pencils are the most prevalent and readily accessible i.e. most coloured pencils are wax-based. The right amount of wax gives the pencil a smooth texture which helps the pigment flow across the surface. The wax also helps the mark adhere to the surface or to other layers of pencil, which means that you can put down multiple layers without having to worry about smearing or adhesion (a common issue with pastels). And because wax-based pencils are so common, there’s likely to be a particular set that fits your required combination of price, quality, and consistency. However, due to their softer cores, wax-based pencils often break more easily than oil-based or watercolour pencils, thus do not maintain a sharp point for as long, and wear down faster. They are also prone to something known as ‘wax-bloom’, which is a thin waxy film that forms over the surface of the drawing which may make the drawing look hazy. But it can usually be wiped away or disappear on its own.
Oil-based coloured pencils are not as common as wax-based pencils. They are only available as premium pencils and are more expensive. Most oil-based pencils are medium soft: a bit firmer than many wax-based pencils, but still softer than student-grade pencils. The firmer lead also means that they’re less likely to break, and won’t need to be sharpened as often. Some artists prefer a more restrained application of colour, because it gives them more control.
Aside from the higher cost of oil-based pencils, they do have a few drawbacks. They’re more prone to smearing, and are harder to erase. They have a limited colour range (depending on the brand). They don’t have that ‘buttery’ consistency that is the hallmark of wax-based pencils. Despite the bump in price, oil-based pencils are not inherently better or worse than their wax-based counterparts.
Wax-based pencils take the prize for most popular, not necessarily because they are better than oil-based pencils, but because they are slightly less specialised and more affordable.
Note: you can mix these different types of coloured pencils in the same artwork. They aren’t like oil paint and acrylics (which don’t mix), so you don’t need to worry about committing to a specific brand or pencil type.
The Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils are hugely popular thanks to their competitive price and huge colour range. Caran d’Ache’s Pablo Colored Pencils are also outstanding oil-based pencils, but are a bit more expensive.
Although there isn’t a whole lot of difference between wax and oil-based pencils, that is not the case with watercolor pencils! They can be used dry, just like regular coloured pencils, but the binder they contain is a water-soluble gum that allows the pigments to be thinned out with water. In practice, this means they are fully capable of producing watercolor paintings by combining them with water and a brush or sponge to blend colours or create washes.
So now you’ve got the basics sorted, next step is to find your colouring book!
Why not start with 60+Club’s latest colouring book release with 50 intricate and therapeutic designs that feature detailed patterns of animal portraits, bird life and sea life (below).
Or visit our blog Five health benefits linked to adult colouring books to learn about the health benefits and to see some examples of adult colouring book Bestsellers.
Birds, Sea Life & Animal Portraits
An Adult Colouring Book for Stress Relief
Our book includes 50 intricate and therapeutic designs that feature detailed patterns of animal portraits, bird life and sea life.
Printed on high quality extra-thick paper, uncoated, high white with a smooth finish, and is 100% recycled.
Our books is suited to any aged adult, and the perfect gift idea!
Printed and bound in Australia. We are proud to support local Australian businesses.
– Psychedeliczen Art, a guide to the different types of colored pencils. Read more
– Pencils Place, Oil vs Wax Coloring Pencils – What’s the Difference?. Read more
– Best coloured pencils, Coloured Pencil Comparison Chart. Read more
– Art is fun! Colored Pencils. Read more
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