I see a lot of quesitons regarding colored pencils that are looking for a definitive answer. Which is the best pencil? What is the best way to hold your pencil? While I wish at times that colored pencils could be that specific, it is a very preference-based medium. There really aren't any wrong or rights, except for three things:
- Colored pencil is a translucent medium.
- Colored pencil can be a slow medium to use.
- Colored pencil is blended on the support being used, rather than a palette.
Colored pencils come in a solid, dry form; cannot be brushed off and must dry completely. ~ Definition of the Colored Pencil Medium from the Colored Pencil Society of America
A colored pencil is a narrow, pigmented core encased in a wooden cylindrical case. They are either wax- or oil-based. They contain varying proportions of pigments, binding agents and other additives. Water-soluble are also considered colored pencils.
Colored pencils vary greatly in quality: concentration of pigment, lightfastness, durability and softness of the pigment core.
Artist-grade pencils contain high concentrations of pigment and lightfastness is measured. Popular colored pencil manufacturers include Faber Castell (Polychromos), Caran d'Ache (Luminance and Pablo), Derwent (Coloursoft and Studio), and Sanford Prismacolor (Premier and Verithin)
Student-grade pencils generally contain more binder than pigment and lightfastness is not measured. I do not discuss student-grade pencils on the site, but the Colored Pencil Society of America does recognize them for use in competitions.
Watercolor pencils are water-soluble. They can be used wet or dry. They are also available in artist and student grade.
Based on the definition of what a colored pencil is by the CPSA, pastel pencils are not included as a colored pencil. While a pastel pencil comes in a dry, solid form and does dry completely, it can be brushed off. They also work differently than a colored pencil. For this reason, I have included pastels and pastel pencils in a different section.