12 Best Colored Pencils For Coloring & Shading In 2021

best colored pencils for coloring and shading

Bringing life to a canvas requires a ton of vision and style. And what better way to achieve vibrant drawing than a superb set of colored pencils for coloring and shading.

Proper color blending and shading make a considerable difference when producing art, and we want to help you hone your technique and style using this particular medium. So, we've streamlined the best colored pencils for coloring and shading that are readily available online.

Our Top Picks

Caran D’ache Luminance Colored Pencils
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Best Overall - Caran D’ache Luminance Colored Pencils

• Tri-layer casing
• High-quality wax-based 
• Eco-friendly California cedarwood

Prismacolor Scholar Colored Pencils
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Best Budget - Prismacolor Scholar Colored Pencils

• Less than $25
• Strong cores to minimize breakage
• Vivid, saturated pigments 

Best Extra Features - Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor Art Pencils  

• Classic wooden box 
• Includes two white blending stumps, kneaded eraser, two paper wipers, knife, sharpener, and sandpaper block
• Color-coded and labeled

1. Caran D'ache Luminance Colored Pencils - Best Overall
A set of 76 colored pencils by Caran D’ache Luminance

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 Pros Cons
  • High-quality wax-based 
  • Eco-friendly California cedarwood 
  • Superb lightfastness
  • Tri-layer casing
  • Comes with two white blending stumps
  • Pricey

What Customers Have To Say

Apart from its steep price point, the Caran D'ache Luminance Colored Pencils became the preferred art medium for some customers. This set is highly reliable since it’s made from premium soft-core material, so it’s not prone to breakage. Other customers commended its color palette and its creamy finish when blending.Caran D'ache Luminance Colored Pencils review

Why We Think It's Great

The Caran D'ache Luminance Set is an excellent contender for the best colored pencils for coloring and shading. It consists of 76 colored pencils in three layers of various shades and colors. Each pencil is constructed of high-quality wax-based material encased with California cedarwood, making it eco-friendly and sturdy.

Despite its high price, it's a worthy investment for serious artists who wish to expand their media and style with a set of well pigmented colored pencils. These pencils show up with superb lightfastness on any paper, which makes your work beam even from afar. This set comes with two white blending stumps to help guide you through an intricate blending and highlighting process.

Who Should Buy It

Caran D'ache Luminance Colored Pencils make for a great purchase if you're a vegan painter and care about the materials you use when creating art. It's also an idyllic professional set of colored pencils for professionals to use in an art studio or wherever art takes them.

2. Studio Series Colored Pencils
 A set of 30 colored pencils by Studio Series

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 Pros Cons
  • Crisp colors
  • Soft-core leads
  • Saturated color laydown
  • Comes with an eraser and sharpener
  • Travel-friendly packaging 
  • May crumble when sharpened

What Customers Have To Say 

Customers enjoyed Studio Series' colored pencils with five-star reviews on their quality and variety in color choice. Other buyers liked its versatility for beginners and intermediate-level artists exploring the budget-friendly yet functional media for drawing. 

Sharpening these pencils also creates ease when kids are using them. However, one customer did point out how the pencils crumbled when they used the sharpener and made it a bit tricky to angle in some areas. Studio Series Colored Pencils review

Why We Think It's Great

Since 1928, Studio Series has been creating art supplies that support an artist's style and help boost their technique. This set of 30 colored pencils are made of soft-core leads that are great for seamless shading and coloring in adult or children's coloring books. 

These colored pencils also come with an eraser and a sharpener that make it more convenient for artists on a budget to maximize when drawing. It also comes in a travel-friendly packaging with partitions for each pencil with a saturated color laydown to quickly identify which colors to use when producing pop-art or other vibrant masterpieces.

Who Should Buy It

This is a perfect gift to art students and friends growing into art as a hobby or skill. A set of 30 colored pencils make it easy to experiment with darker shades and lighter tones since it comes with white and black for blending and moderating shades.

3. Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils - Best Earthy Tones
A set of 72 earthy-toned colored pencils by Prismacolor Premier

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 Pros Cons
  • Soft, thick cores for creating shadows
  • Light and saturated pigments
  • Easy blending 
  • Great for wash effects
  • Comes in a sturdy tin case
  • Tricky to sharpen

What Customers Have To Say 

Prismacolor received a bunch of positive and critical feedback from its buyers. While others were happy customers and enjoyed its quality and smoothness in every stroke, others did not like how easily it crumbled when sharpening. 

However, it still merited four to five stars for its selection of colors and gradients. As long as you learn how to sharpen them correctly, these pencils are excellent tools to have in your art kit. Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils review

Why We Think It's Great

Perfect for beginners, Prismacolor Premier colored pencils made it to our list of the best colored pencils for coloring and shading. They come in a tin case for proper safekeeping and have partitions for each pencil. A set of 72 vibrant colors will give artists easy blending and wash effects on any canvas. 

Since these pencils have soft cores, they can be the best colored pencils for coloring and shading. The set comes with a light and saturated pigment that makes it easy to manipulate with water and mixed media when giving depth to your work. They're also ideal for textured paper, white, tan, or black for a unique yet flattering finish.

Who Should Buy It

Prismacolor Premier is the brand for beginners. If you're planning to get a gift for creative kids, this set of 72 colored pencils is a great choice to consider.

4. Castle Arts Colored Pencils
A set of 72 colored pencils by Castle Arts

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 Pros Cons
  • Smooth, creamy colors
  • Named, numbered, and color-coded
  • Premium basswood 
  • Tri-layer casing 
  • Comes with a printed tutorial booklet and a sharpener
  • Not portable

What Customers Have To Say 

This set of colored pencils by Castle Arts received many positive reviews. Customers enjoy its buttery and soft pigments, which make their work pop. Other users loved that the pencils came pre-sharpened for a convenient start. Most of all, they appreciated the value for money it offers in every stroke. Castle Arts Colored Pencils review

Why We Think It's Great

Another contender for the best colored pencils for coloring and shading is Castle Arts’ Set of 72 colored pencils. Rich, velvety leads with a soft-touch finish, these pencils come in three layers of multiple shades and textures. They're made with premium basswood casing and soft cores that boast creamy colored pigments. 

For less than $40, you will get a bargain for every buck since it comes with a sharpener and a tin casing for proper safekeeping. A tutorial booklet is also provided for beginners to experiment and try their hand in drawing with colors. It's also convenient to familiarize yourself with if you're new to this medium as it comes with color codes, names, and numbers.

Who Should Buy It

Great for beginners and professionals alike, these colored pencils are ideal for layering and offer a soft-touch finish for a wild pop of color. It is also a fantastic gift idea to art students as well, definitely an excellent addition to their art school supplies.

5. Prismacolor 3596T Premier Colored Pencils
A set of 12 35967 Premier colored pencils by Prismacolor

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 Pros Cons
  • Soft colors 
  • Lightfast, richly saturated pigments
  • Thick, robust leads
  • Crack and chip-resistant
  • Comes in a tin case
  • Basic range of colors

What Customers Have To Say 

Customers liked their purchase of Prismacolor's 3596T Premier Colored Pencils simply because of its functionality. One customer said it "can deposit color on metal" since they're wax-based and have a smooth transfer to metals like copper jewelry.

Another customer said it was a great art kit she and her kids enjoyed since they were smooth on paper and are "so easy to work with." However, one person commented that the colors were quite primary and that Prismacolor could come up with a better selection.  Prismacolor 3596T Premier Colored Pencils review

Why We Think It's Great

Made with soft-core material, this set of 12 colored pencils is another recommended option for beginners. It features thick, robust leads with ultra-smooth soft colors when shading and blending on any canvas. 

Whipping up an excellent piece of the drawing will give you lightfast, richly saturated pigments that make it easy to admire close up and from a distance. 

Who Should Buy It

The wood encasing makes it resistant to cracking and chipping, perfect for clumsy artists who tend to drop their colored pencils a lot. These pencils are also flexible and user-friendly, great for anyone in any skill level.

6. Faber-Castell Polychromos Colored Pencils - Best for Wash Effects
A set of 120 colored pencils by Faber-Castell Polychromos 

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 Pros Cons
  • 3.8 mm bonded lead core protection
  • Acid-free
  • Water-resistant 
  • Smudge-proof
  • Holds point well after sharpening
  • Not travel-friendly

What Customers Have To Say 

Multiple buyers have fallen in love with the Faber-Castell Polychromos Colored Pencils. Many stated that they're priced adequately for excellent premium quality. 

People also liked its oil-based material that gave each pencil a more pigmented touch on paper. Other users enjoyed its wide range of colors and softness on paper, making it a far better option than their previous go-to pencils. Faber-Castell Polychromos Colored Pencils review

Why We Think It's Great

Faber-Castell is no stranger to artists, and the Polychromos Colored Pencils are a fantastic selection to look into. This set of 120 colored pencils is made with a 3.8 mm bonded lead core that makes it not prone to breakage when dropped.

It's acid-free and has a thick oil-based lead that is smudge-proof and water-resistant. Another notable feature includes its ability to hold a point well after one round of sharpening. It seamlessly sticks on any canvas while also providing artists creamy and buttery gradients to work with. 

Who Should Buy It

This is ideal for artists who like to experiment with wash effects. Its premium quality and affordable price make it an excellent investment for anyone who plans to explore and experiment more with the medium.

7. Staedtler Ergosoft Colored Pencils - Most Travel-Friendly
A set of 24 ergosoft colored pencils by Staedtler

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 Pros Cons
  • Hexagonal shaped pencils
  • 3 mm hardcore 
  • Break-resistant 
  • Non-slip grip
  • Highly portable, partitioned case
  • Scratchy core
  • Limited color selection

What Customers Have To Say 

Customers commended Staedtler's Ergosoft Colored Pencils’ stunning range of colors and functional design, as well as the creaminess of the colors. "Exceeded expectation!" said one customer who enjoyed its rubber coating for a glossy finish.

Some were a bit critical about the pencils' fineness, which could be improved since they came off a bit scratchy on their textured paper. Staedtler Ergosoft Colored Pencils review

Why We Think It's Great

Staedtler is a renowned brand for writing and drawing tools, and their Ergosoft Colored Pencils is one of the best colored pencils for coloring and shading in our book.

With 24 impressive selections of colors placed in a partitioned case and organizer, these pencils make an excellent gift for any serious or amateur artist. It's made with 3 mm hardcore material that is break-resistant. These hexagonal-shaped pencils are non-slip and comfortable on the hand.

Who Should Buy It

These pencils are travel-friendly and great for those working on their art on the road. It's also an excellent gift for budding artists who want to experiment in this medium.

8. Prismacolor Scholar Colored Pencils - Best Budget
A set of 48 scholar colored pencils by Prismacolor 

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 Pros Cons
  • Affordable
  • Strong cores to minimize breakage
  • Vivid, saturated pigments 
  • Soft leads 
  • Sturdy easel packaging
  • Tricky to sharpen

What Customers Have To Say 

Prismacolor Scholar Colored Pencils received positive and critical feedback from its customers. One buyer said it was "amazing for the price" and gave superb quality on any canvas. 

Other customers pointed out how excellent the creamy and deep pigmentation is in every pencil, but some also mentioned that the lead easily breaks after sharpening. Prismacolor Scholar Colored Pencils review

Why We Think It's Great

Often compared to the premium set, Prismacolor Scholar Colored Pencils are favored for their affordability. These are explicitly marketed to art students since they fit the student budget and bring strong cores that make the set breakage-resistant. 

It's made with soft leads that bring out the vivid colors and saturated pigments on any paper you prefer. Sturdy easel packaging also makes it travel-friendly and easy to just shove into your bag when you're rushing out.

Who Should Buy It

Ideal for developing artists, Prismacolor's Scholar Colored Pencils are ideal for art students on a budget.

9. Arteza Colored Pencils - Most Kid-Friendly
 A set of 72 colored pencils by Arteza

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 Pros Cons
  • Wide variety of colors
  • Dense and durable wax core
  • Protective tin case
  • Safe & non-toxic material
  • Color-coded with labels
  • The pigment could be darker

What Customers Have To Say

Another option on our list of the best colored pencils for coloring and shading that customers enjoyed is Arteza's Colored Pencils. 

Many shoppers said this set of 72 is a tremendous wax-based pencil that comes in an excellent range of colors. Another user liked its weight, convenience to hold, and every stroke is accessible on the grip. Arteza Colored Pencils review

Why We Think It's Great

This set of 72 colored pencils by Arteza offers a wide variety of colors made from a dense and durable wax core that are safe and non-toxic. They're placed in a protective tin case for safekeeping when traveling with a bunch of art tools. These pencils are easy to sharpen, and every stroke works well on textured paper since they're easy to angle. 

These vibrant colored pencils are sturdy and made to last with their break-resistant yet soft cores. Each pencil is also color-coded with the right shades to help guide artists when working on their masterpieces or creating quick sketches.

Who Should Buy It

An excellent recommendation for amateurs or starters in the medium of colored pencils. These colored pencils by Arteza boast a variety of colors that are ideal for artists who enjoy work on black textured paper. These are also perfect as a gift to your art-student friends.

10. Derwent Artists Colored Pencils
A set of 24 colored pencils by Derwent Artists 

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 Pros Cons
  • Double-dipped end for richer pigments
  • Curved tip
  • Slightly waxed for easy blending
  • Good lightfastness
  • Soft, muted colors
  • Scratchy when coloring

What Customers Have To Say 

People who purchased the Derwent Artists Colored Pencils enjoyed the hard leads and how easy it was to layer colors with other media. Other users said it made an excellent gift for those starting to lean into color as their medium in creating artworks. 

However, a few others were also critical about how scratchy it would get when coloring on textured paper. Derwent Artists Colored Pencils review

Why We Think It's Great

Derwent's Artists Colored Pencils is one of the best colored pencils for coloring and shading for a couple of reasons. It comes in a set of 24 rich, soft, and muted colors for a diverse range of colors artists can use on any type of paper. 

Each pencil has a curved tip and is slightly waxed for easy blending and layering with other dry media. These colored pencils also offer outstanding lightfastness that is ideal for those who wish to experiment more with color.

Who Should Buy It

Derwent's set of 24 colored pencils are excellent for beginners and any artist looking to play with color a bit more in their style.

11. Caran D'Ache Pablo Colored Pencil Set - Best for Mixed Media
A set of 120 colored pencils by Caran D’Ache Pablo

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 Pros Cons
  • Set of 120 
  • 3.7 mm leads
  • Creamy, soft, water-resistant colors
  • Superb lightfastness
  • Easy to sharpen
  • Flimsy case

What Customers Have To Say 

Customers generally liked the Caran D’Ache Pablo Colored Pencil Set because it sharpens smoothly and has excellent pigments for layering. Another buyer said its color range was fantastic on any textured paper or canvas. These pencils can create consistent strokes that make it seamless for artists to adjust their masterpieces accordingly. Caran D'Ache Pablo Colored Pencil Set  review

Why We Think It's Great

This set of 120 colored pencils offers a creamy, soft fineness on any paper. Each pencil is also water-resistant and makes it ideal for shading, layering, and playing around with mixed media. 

The pigment coverage is rich and can easily create superb lightfastness to make your drawings pop on paper. Caran D’ Ache Pablo Colored Pencil Set of 120 pencils are also easy to sharpen, offering you better angles for every stroke.

Who Should Buy It

This is an excellent option for professionals who prefer rich pigments on their canvas or other textured tan or black paper types. Also, it makes a top-notch addition to any studio supplies.

12. Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor Art Pencils  - Best Extra Features
A set of 105 colored pencils by Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor Art Pencils

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 Pros Cons
  • Set of 105
  • Classic wooden box
  • Includes two white blending stumps, kneaded eraser, two paper wipers, knife, sharpener, and sandpaper block
  • Works with various media and materials
  • Color-coded and labeled
  • Pricey

What Customers Have To Say 

"Outstanding set!" says one buyer who enjoyed the set of 105 colored pencils by Lyra Rembrandt. Users liked how beautifully packaged the pencils are as well as their outstanding variety of colors.

Despite its steep price point, customers still enjoyed how easy it was to blend the colors and how effortless the grip is when drawing deep and bold strokes. Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor Art Pencils review

Why We Think It's Great

Another excellent art supplies every artist should have, Lyra Rembrandt's Polycolor Art Pencils are one of the best colored pencils for coloring and shading. What makes this set exceptional is its range of colors and the extra features it comes with.

These colored pencils are displayed inside a two-layered wooden box that comes with two white blending stumps, two paper wipers, a kneaded eraser, a knife, a sharpener, and a sandpaper block. They're also the go-to pencils for various media and other synthetic materials like wood and textiles.

Who Should Buy It

Lyra Rembrandt's Polycolor Art Pencils make for a great gift to your nieces and nephews growing into art and drawing. They're also an excellent investment for beginners who want to build their art kit.

Best Colored Pencils for Coloring and Shading Buying Guide

Keep in mind that instant check-out is never the best way to shop for the best colored pencils for coloring and shading. You may be flexible when it comes to media, but finding a way to make your artwork pop means looking beyond the packaging. 

Let's break down the essential factors you need to consider when selecting the right set of colored pencils for any budding or professional artist.

  • Skill Level

Before spending money on art supplies, ask yourself where you are in your artistry. Those who are just getting started and exploring new media should probably find a set of colored pencils that are travel-friendly. 

Beginners should look into a set of 12 or 24 with all the primary colors while also getting artist-grade pencils that will help enhance some parts of your technique that require more intricacy and detail. 

Meanwhile, intermediate to professional colored pencil artists are more suited to invest in a set with more comprehensive shades that they already know how to use with various canvases.

  • Material 

Look into the colored pencil barrel and check if they're made from premium high-quality cedarwood. This helps you better grasp how the lead is protected and break-resistant after dropping it once.

These may not be the number one factor to look into, but if you want long-lasting art supplies, then best to check which ones are made with durable material. For artists grade pencils, the material is usually lacquered to the same color as the pencil core, bringing more pigment. 

Good quality colored pencils will also highlight what components the lead core has, whether it's core oil or wax-based.

  • Binder Type

Finding out the type of binder of the colored pencils is crucial because it helps you understand how effective the material works when holding the pigment on paper. The binder will impact the way it's laid on any canvas. This also dictates how quickly the tip of the colored pencils dull. 

The most common types of binder are wax-based and oil-based. Wax-based binders are great for layering and burnishing when you wish to work on certain portions of your art later on. Oil-based binders are different in a sense that it's more suitable for marking and outlining since it provides a richer color when layering.

  • Lightfastness 

Another component to double-check is the lightfastness of every colored pencil. It's important to know that not all distributed colored pencils in the market have lightfast ratings on the fine print. 

This factor tells how long the pigment of your colored pencil will last on paper or any canvas without fading. Since multiple pigments fade at different rates, it's recommended to find consistency by looking at the lightfastness level to see which pencils last long on your preferred canvas. 

Colored Pencils for Coloring and Shading FAQ

1. What are the best colored pencils for shading?

The best colored pencils for shading is Caran D'ache Luminance Colored Pencils since it offers rich pigments and has a superb lightfastness on paper. Every stroke is seamless, with an easy-grip on high-quality wooden encasing in each pencil. It comes in a set of 76 vibrant colors artists of any skill level can use.

2. Can you shade with colored pencils?

Yes, shading is possible with colored pencils, but it will require a certain precision and method level. Beginners should note that sharing with colored pencils requires the pencil's proper grip and angling to create better contact with the paper. 

Practice shading using two contrasting colors for a better grasp of which technique works best for you. Learn how to burnish by using light or colorless blenders or a paper stump to smoothen the colors and minimize the pencil strokes.

3. Does soaking colored pencils make them better?

It depends on what type of material the colored pencils are made of, how long you soak them, and what you soak them in. Some people soak the pencils in cold water, while others use alcohol to increase saturation and boost pigment without smearing on paper. 

However, colored pencils won't stay long on paper when soaked in cold water. If you wish to maintain the saturation in every part of your drawing, try soaking them in cold water again before highlighting and outlining.

4. What is the most effective way to apply colored pencils?

There is no one effective way because many artists have unique techniques when applying color on their canvas. The conventional method requires continuous back and forth motion of your hand without lifting your pencil off the paper.

Ensure that each stroke is consistent and does not break. Other artists also use the scumbling method to continuously make circular marks on paper without lifting the pencil to create non-blotted areas of the drawing. 

5. What colors make skin tone with colored pencils?

Red, yellow, brown, and white are usually the go-to colors of artists when creating the right skin tone. However, a variety of skin tones will require mixing several shades. More white and yellow pigments are applied to increase tone, while blue is used to create shadows.

The Bottom Line

Having the skill to make your art come to life using various shades of colored pencils is a gift. And an even better advantage is finding the right tools that work best for your style. 

In our book, the best colored pencils for coloring and shading is Caran D'ache Luminance Colored Pencils. This set features 76 colored pencils that offer quality and practicality. It also has superb lightfastness and a high-quality wax-based binder. 

For those who want to experiment with earthy color tones, the Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils is a better option. They're easy to blend and are great for wash effects. 

Let us know in the comments below which set of colored pencils for coloring and shading do you wish to try in your next drawing session.

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