So you would like to start drawing using colour (color if you are in the USA) pencils? Whether you are returning to your creative side or just starting out, there will always be the questions of what supplies do I choose? Today I will be looking at the question – Does it matter what colour pencil I use as a beginner?
I was that person not so long ago. I returned to arting (is that a word? it is now lol) about 2 years ago and have turned into a bit of an art supply fan. Well, I don’t drink and don’t smoke so why not? I do not condone spending outwith your means but there is nothing wrong with indulging what you want now and then.
So the very short answer to this question is NO, it does not matter what colour pencil you use as a beginner. What really matters is that you start. However, I know from experience, this is not the most helpful answer. It would make for a very short and boring blog post too lol. I suspect that even if you know it does not really matter, you still want to see and hear other peoples experience with using the product you may want to buy. I know I did a load of research myself when I set out to buy my first colour pencil set. So here is my experience and opinion.
I own three sets of pencils now. The first set I bought was Spectrum Noir, they were on special offer in my local arts and crafts shop, I figured I had to start somewhere right? This is good pencil but I soon discovered it was not MY preferred pencil. We all work in different ways. We all have different techniques we apply when using pencils etc. So it makes sense we have different needs from a pencil. Yes, even a beginner has techniques, they may be very basic but however you get the pigment from the pencil to the paper is a technique, regardless of how effective it is.
This is part of the reason why it does not really matter when you first start out. Just because someone else loves a product it does not mean you will. And here is the kicker, you won’t know what you need or like until you start to use art supply. So here we are back to the beginning wondering what pencil to start with.
If you are someone who likes to see how something works here is my YouTube video I made showing me using all three sets of pencils and my opinion of them. If you would prefer to read about it, scroll on down.
Most reviews I have seen have used swatches to show the difference, I thought it would be fun to do three girls each with a different pencil set to see how they compare and play together in one project. I have used a Daler Rowney Ebony Sketch book, the paper is 109lbs and 11.7 x 16.5 inches (A3) Lets get started.
Prismacolor Pencils (I own the set of 72)
I drew this girl with the French grey prismacolor pencil and used a variety of other colours to complete her (sorry I cannot remember exactly which ones). I enjoyed using these pencils. The colour went onto the paper well. I found it easy to sketch with them. It is possible to erase sometimes, though does not completely erase. They blend well on paper. So making these easy and simple to create your own colour shade, if you do not have a large selection of colours. Prismacolor are a wax based pencil, from my research I have found most of the prismacolor pencils do not have a good lightfast rating. Lightfastness refers to how resistant a colour pigment is to fading. This information will only affect you if you want to sell your work. How durable your work does affect how much it is worth. However, if that is not a concern then these pencils will be a good buy. Prismacolor pencils are favoured by the well known artist Jane Davenport.
Polychromos Pencils by Faber Castell (I own 12 individual pencils)
I drew this girl with raw umber and completed her using the flesh tones light, medium and burnt ochre. I do not own a black polychromos pencil so I used layering with raw umber and Helioblue-reddish and Mauve for her pupils. Much like the prismacolor, these lay down colour well onto paper and blend well. They can also be erased sometimes. However, these pencils are Oil based and according to Faber-Castell they have superior lightfastness qualities. I know Lisa Lachri from Lachri Fine Arts switched from prismacolor to polychromos pencils and talks about the great lightfast qualities of Polychromos pencils. These pencils therefore, are a fantastic professional quality pencil for those who want to sell their work. I do not own a manufacturers set as, I could not afford a set at the time I was looking, so I have bought individual pencils as they were available in my local art and craft hobby store. I plan to continue to build up my collection one or two pencils at a time so my collection can be individual to my needs 🙂
Spectrum Noir Colored pencils (I have the primaries, nature and essentials sets)
All sets have 24 pencils and the good thing is no set duplicates any colours. It is worth noting that there has been some controversy as to whether or not they are oil based. I have found in my research that the company is said to have admitted they are an oil & wax blend. They are marketed as professional pencils, however I would not describe them as such, please note this is just my personal opinion. It could be they just do not suit my personal style of drawing and colouring. Having said that they are a decent pencil. When I bought these, they were cheaper of the bunch making it a good starter set of pencils. However, this has now changed.
When comparing this girl, I drew with a brown colour and coloured with a variety of colours out of my three sets, with the other two girls, it can be seen clearly this girl is the fainter of the three. This did not stop them being enjoyable to use. They can also sometimes be erased depending on the colour used and how hard you have lent on the paper.
For me the number one pencil is Polychromos second the prismacolor then the Spectrum Noir.
If you have a limited budget then shop around for the cheapest set. At the time of typing this post, I researched on the uk based amazon and found that the 24 set of prismacolor and the 24 set of spectrum noir can vary and in some cases the prismacolor are cheaper. I also noted that there was a new set of spectrum noir called colourblend by spectrum noir available (wax based). So it depends where you shop which pencil is cheaper.
If you do not have a limited budget. It is clear that the polychromos is the more expensive of the three. They are definitely worth it though if you can afford it, particularly if you want to sell your work.
Thank you for reading. I hope this has helped shed some light onto what can be a difficult decision.