The best coloured pencils in 2024

Three selections of the best coloured pencils on a pink and purple background
(Image credit: Future / Castle Arts / Arteza / Kalour)

The best coloured pencils come in a wide range of styles, sets and colour choices. Whether you need hard or soft, muted or vibrant colours, we've picked out our favourite options for both hobbyists and professionals based on our own reviews and experience in creative tools.

To create this list, we've tested many of these pencils ourselves, trying them out in all manner of projects, including in our reviews of the best colouring books. We've also compared user reviews by artists and the applied our knowledge of the required specifications for different types of work to choose the best professional coloured pencils and best coloured pencils for artists, value options, and good choices for shading, lightfastness and more.

See the questions section at the bottom for advice on what to look for when buying and more on how we chose the products in our list. To get more out of your pencils, see our collection of how to draw tutorials covering the basics and more. You might also want one of the best sharpeners to keep your pencils in tip-top condition.

The best coloured pencils available now

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The best coloured pencils: frequent questions

How should I choose the best coloured pencils for me?

The best coloured pencils for you will depend on what you want to use them for and whether you're a professional or hobbyists. We've aimed to make it clear in the guide above who we recommend each selection for. In general, when choosing, you should consider the type of pencil you want, including the type of point, and how many pencils to choose (a set of at least 18 offers a fairly decent range of colors for beginners. You'll want a sets that includes a mix of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.

Based on our own tests, the best coloured pencils we can recommend 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. However, if you're only starting out and you're doing practice sketches, you may prefer a value option.

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. 

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.

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 did we choose the best coloured pencils for this guide?

We've been reviewing creative tech and craft tools at Creative Bloq for more than a decade, and we've tested everything from pencils and sketch books to paints, easels and craft machines. In many cases, we have tested the colour pencils ourselves for a range of different types of work and on different kinds of surfaces, focusing on how well they lay down colours, how they blend and on their durability and lightfastness.

We haven't include water-soluble pencils or pastel pencils since they are hard to compare with standard coloured pencils, and we have separate expert guides on these (see our picks of the best pastel pencils and the best watercolour pencils).

In cases where we've not been able to review the pencils ourselves, we've used our knowledge of the specifications needed for certain types of work and consulted reviews by other artists. We've also consulted opinions from the professional artists who contribute features and tutorials to the site.

For more options, see our guide to the best pencils for artists. Also see our full Palomino Blackwing Pencils review.

Ian Dean
Editor, Digital Arts & 3D

Ian Dean is Editor, Digital Arts & 3D at Creativebloq, 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 experiences to bring the latest news on AI, digital art and video game art and tech, and more to Creative Bloq, and in his spare time he doodles in Procreate, 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.

With contributions from