The best coloured pencils are worth spending money on, whether you're a professional artist or just drawing for fun. Because while they may cost a little more than cheap pencils, you really will get much better results, raising the quality of your drawing instantly.
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.
Below, we list the best coloured pencils for customers in the USA, or you can skip ahead to the best coloured pencils in the UK.
Once you've bought your pencils, get the most out of them with our tips on how to draw. And if you need other items for your artist toolkit, don't miss our guides to the best watercolour pencils, the best pencil sharpeners and the best pencils for artists.
The best coloured pencils for artists: USA
We'll start with the best of the best. These round-barrelled pencils from Castle Arts are the best coloured pencils available today, for most purposes.
With a soft-touch finish, they're a first-rate choice for blending and layering, comfortable to use over long periods and produce smooth, creamy hues. They stay sharp for longer than most coloured pencils, too.
They come in a protective, fabric zip-around case, and there's a tutorial that teaches you how to draw the picture on the front of the box. Plus, handily, the colours are clearly labelled so you don't have to spend a lot of time trying to find the right one. Overall then, these coloured pencils are difficult to beat.
If you travel a lot, these water-soluble coloured pencils are a great option. With break-resistant tips and 4mm leads, they're less likely to shatter if dropped. And they come in a nice sturdy, double-hinged tin, making them easy to transport.
More generally, these lovely pencils produce vivid colours, although you need to avoid pushing down to hard or you might get wax bloom. They are fully blendable, and superb for hatching and cross-hatching. Usefully, these pencils are labelled according to colour name and colour number, and there’s a colour chart in the tin, so it's easy to find the one you want quickly and easily.
These pencils from Faber-Castell feature high-quality, acid-free pigments in bright colours, with excellent lightfastness (that is, they're resistant to fading when exposed to light). A thick 3.8 mm core offers high break resistance, and the wooden barrels are protected with a water-based 'eco' varnish.
They're available in a wide variety of pack sizes, from 12 to 120. And they make a perfect couple with Faber-Castell's Albrecht Durer Watercolour Pencils, which are among the best watercolour pencils available today.
Drawing still life or landscapes? Then Derwent's Coloursoft Colouring Pencils are a great choice. With a round 4mm, velvety-soft core, they're great for building up colour quickly. They're highly blendable, and thanks to their break resistant core, you can also sharpen them to a fine point. All this makes them perfect for a variety of projects, including still-life drawings and contemporary landscapes.
These pencils are available in a large variety of box sizes, from six to 72. They're also available in a presentation box, making them ideal for giving as a gift.
Looking for reliable pencils that you can use day-in, day, out? Then the Shuttle Art Soft Core Color Pencil Set offers excellent value.
These round pencils are made premium quality wood for ease of sharpening, making them great for regular, everyday use. A thick 3mm break-resistant core provides durability. And even though they're budget-priced, they usefully feature colour names and numbers on the side.
They're pretty great in action too, with soft leads that produce vivid colours that are easy to blend, layer and shade. The cardboard box they come in is a little flimsy if you travel a lot, but on the plus side, they are nicely laid out and it's easy to find what you're looking for quickly.
With a 3mm core, these coloured pencils are designed for durability and ease of sharpening, though Magicfly recommends manual sharpeners rather than an electric sharpener. The tin box is designed to be sturdy and protect the pencils while enabling you to easily select the right colour. They also come with a couple of paint brushes thrown in, though to be honest, these aren't great quality.
Like many of the best coloured pencils, Magicfly Colored Pencils have the colour name and number stamped on the outer surface, which is very handy. Layering and blending are easy, with rich and vibrant pigments. You can also get a Magicfly Watercolour Pencils set, too.
The best coloured pencils for artists: UK
We'll get straight to the point (no pun intended). These are the best coloured pencils you can buy today, for most drawing and sketching purposes.
These high quality, round-barrelled pencils work beautifully in practice, offering excellent blending and layering qualities. They're made with a soft-touch finish, making them easier on the fingers over prolonged use. There are plenty of colours: if 72 isn’t enough for you, there's also a set of 120. And best of all, they're quite affordable too.
The colours are well labelled and clearly marked, making it easy to select the shade you want, and the pencils lay down smooth and creamy colours. The pencils hold their points well, with little to no crumbling. And there's even a tutorial that teaches you to draw the unicorn on the front of the box.
If you're often on the move with your art kit, you'll love these hardy pencils, with break-resistant tips and 4mm leads that won’t shatter if dropped. Fully blendable, and great for hatching and cross-hatching, these pencils will work well for everything from sketching to precise shading and creating gradients. They're ergonomically designed and well labelled, each having its colour name and colour number for quick reference.
The wax-based lead works well for creating vivid colours, though you do sometimes get wax bloom if you colour with a heavy hand, so go easy. And there’s a colour chart in the tin, which is durable and double-hinged, making it easier to keep the pencils safe while out and about.
Want a pencil that's tough and durable? We're big fans of Faber-Castell's Polychromos Colour Pencil. With a 3.8m thick, oil-based lead, which is bonded to prevent breakage, they give a water-resistant and smudgeproof finish. These pencils also use an environmentally friendly, water-based varnish, and have a consistent, soft but vibrant colour laydown.
They've available in a wide variety of pack sizes, from a compact 12-pencil set up to a huge 120 unit pro-orientated case, but here we're looking at the 60 packs. They're also great for teaming with Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer Watercolour Pencils, which currently stands at no.2 in our guide to the best watercolour pencils.
Want to give a gift to a friend who's an artist? Then you could do a lot worse than Derwent's Coloursoft Colouring Pencils. Especially as you can get sets of either 24 or 48 pencils in a presentation wooden box.
Suitable for a wide range of drawing styles, they provide a quick and dense application of bold, vibrant colour. And as they're very soft, they're highly blendable for all applications, from landscapes to detailed illustrations.
You can also sharpen these pencils to a fine point. This means you need to take extra care not to break the leads, so they're not the best choice for travel. Derwent's Coloursoft Colouring Pencils are available in a large variety of sizes, ranging from a tin of just six up to 72.
Do your pencils leads keep breaking when sharpened? Then check out these Monarch Premium Grade Black Widow Coloured Pencils, which boast 3.3mm thick leads that won't let you down. Also the hexagonal design is designed for ultimate comfort in your hand, and they won't roll away when you put them down on the table, either.
The rich pigment results in a waxy finish with deep colour. They're easily blendable and comfortable to hold with a 'spider black' finish for that premium appearance. Each colour name is stamped onto the pencil alongside a catalogue number. The only real issue is that the maximum set is 48. So if you want more colours than this, another option might suit you better.
Looking for solid and affordable pencils you can use on a daily basis? Then the Shuttle Art Soft Core Color Pencil Set is for you.
These round pencils have a bold but soft-core lead with premium quality wood for ease of sharpening. A thick 3mm break-resistant core provides durability. And even though they're budget-priced, they usefully feature colour names and numbers on the side.
These pencils do come packaged in cardboard, so which isn't the best for travel. On the plus side, though, they are nicely laid out in trays for easy colour selection.
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. 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. 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.