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
Why you can trust Creative Bloq Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
Point type: Medium
Pack sizes: 72, 120
+ Easy to sharpen
+ Soft-touch finish
- Not a hexagonal finish
We think these round-barrelled pencils from Castle Arts are the best coloured pencils available for most purposes. With a soft-touch finish, we find them a first-rate choice for blending and layering and love their smooth, creamy hues. They're comfortable to use over long periods, stay sharp for longer than most pencils we've tested and they come in a protective zip-around case. The colours are also clearly labelled. Superb.
Point type: Broad
Pack sizes: 48, 72
+ Break-resistant tips
+ Sturdy tin
- Wax bloom can occur
These water-soluble coloured pencils are our pick as the best coloured pencils for travel. They're less likely to shatter if dropped thanks to break-resistant tips and 4mm leads, and they come in a sturdy, double-hinged tin that's easy to pack. The colours are vivid and fully blendable, although we needed to avoid pushing too hard to prevent wax blooms. We liked these for hatching and cross-hatching. The colour chart is handy.
Point type: Fine
Pack sizes: 240
+ Huge variety
+ Unique colours
- Not so rich
This Kalour set of 240 coloured pencils offers great value for money, providing lots of pencils and a unique range of colours, including metallics and neons. Pros may find they lack the rich pigment of the previous options on our list, and you'll need to manually organise the collection, which takes time. However, these have soft break-resistant cores and we found they worked well for colouring, sketching and blending.
Point type: Fine
Pack sizes: 12-120
+ High lightfastness
- Could be too soft
We were impressed by the lightfastness of these pencils (that is their resistance to fading when exposed to light) thanks to their bright high-quality, acid-free pigments. A thick 3.8mm core offers high break resistance, and the wooden barrels are protected with a water-based 'eco' varnish. They're available in a variety of pack sizes, from 12 to 120. They also make a perfect couple with Faber-Castell's Albrecht Durer Watercolour Pencils, which are among the best watercolour pencils.
Point type: Broad
Pack sizes: 6-72
+ Range of set sizes
+ Attractive box
- Soft leads require care
These are the best coloured pencils we've used for still life or landscapes. With a round 4mm velvety-soft core, they're great for building up colour quickly. They're highly blendable, and thanks to the break resistant core, you can also sharpen them to a fine point. They're available in a large variety of box sizes too, from six to 72 and in a presentation box, which makes a nice choice as a gift for an artist.
Point type: Bold
Pack sizes: 136-180
+ Durable core
- Weak cardboard case
Looking for reliable but economical pencils that you can use every day? We think these are the best cheap coloured pencils that don't feel cheap. They're still made from premium quality wood that's easy to sharpen, and a thick 3mm break-resistant core provides durability. Despite the budget-price, the soft leads produce vivid colours that are easy to blend, layer and shade. The cardboard box is rather flimsy, but the pencils are nicely laid out and named and numbered.
Point type: Fine
Pack sizes: 24
+ Nice firm grip
+ Smooth colouring
- Harder to sharpen
These colored pencils have a rather unusual triangular design, which we actually loved. It ensures they don't slip when sketching and they'll never roll away on a desk. The non-slip surface also feels nice to use, and the ergonomic design features continue in the case, which folds out as a stand. The colour lays down in smooth, creamy shades too. The downside? The triangular shape requires manual sharpening to get a perfect point.
Point type: Fine
Pack sizes: 30
+ Quality pencils
+ Easily carried
- Not actually leather
This coloured pencil set is a good option for artists who want to take their skills on the go; if you're a plein air penciller for example. The waxy, water resistant pencils have the standard Faber-Castell quality and come in HB and 2B hardness, ideal for sketching. But the true star here is the leather-like pouch that rolls the pencils up (it's not real leather). It comes with an eraser, and there's room to add 12 more pencils.
Point type: Chisel
Pack sizes: 12
+ Vivid colours
+ Easily erase mistakes
- Limited to 12 pencils
If you make a lot of mistakes, we find Prismacolors' erasable coloured pencils a nice set to have. They're good for artists who create detailed designs and patterns, or as colouring pencils for adults, because the sharp chisel tip allows for fine work and accuracy. When you do stray, marks can be removed with a dry or damp cloth. This does have a downside, as the pigments aren't the richest we've used. You also need to consider how you use them: they're fine as a base for watercolour but we wouldn't use them on top.
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.