The best coloured pencils in 2023

Best coloured pencils; a person colours a spiral design on paper surrounded by pencils
(Image credit: Kalour)

The best coloured pencils come in more styles, sets and choice than ever before. Whether you need hard or soft, muted or vibrant colours, in this guide I've selected the best coloured pencils for adults and hobbyists, as well as the best professional coloured pencils for artists.

The best coloured pencils enable you to layer up and blend colours precisely. You'll also be more accurate in tasks such as shading, hatching and cross-hatching, as well as advanced techniques like rubbings and burnishing paper. So buying these high-quality pencils really is a no-brainer. 

Once you've bought your pencils, get the most out of them with our tips how to draw movement and how collection of how to draw tutorials that cover the basics and more. You can compliment your new coloured pencils with the best watercolours, too.

The best coloured pencils: available now

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The best coloured pencils: frequent questions

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 (opens in new tab). 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 (opens in new tab). 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. 

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Ian Dean is Digital Arts & Design Editor at Creative Bloq, and the former editor of many leading magazines. These titles included ImagineFX, 3D World and leading video game title Official PlayStation Magazine. In his early career he wrote for music and film magazines including Uncut and SFX. Ian launched Xbox magazine X360 and edited PlayStation World. For Creative Bloq, Ian combines his love to bring the latest news on NFTs, video game art and tech, and more to Creative Bloq, and in his spare time he doodles in Corel Painter, ArtRage, and Rebelle while finding time to play Xbox and PS5. He's also a keen Cricut user and laser cutter fan, and is currently crafting on Glowforge and xTools M1.