Colored Pencils/Pencil Crayons

Reported by Mary Chong

Colored Pencils/Pencil Crayons…we all have them in our pencil cases. I think I got my first set when I was a child right after I graduated from kindergarten and wax crayons. But the question is – what do you look for and which brand is the best for you? In this review I compare 7 different brands from my stash.

Here’s the scoop on what I discovered in preparing this review.

  • I have a lot in my stash! I’m not sure how I’ve collected so many but I gotta stop!
  • Americans call them Colored Pencils – we Canadians call them Pencil Crayons. Both are the same.
  • For an easy to understand explanation (with video) of how colored pencils/pencil crayons are made visit this link at Laurentien
  • Each brand has a different softness/hardness to the lead. A good quality pencil will be soft enough not to scratch the paper/surface but hard enough not to break (I personally hate it when you sharpen a pencil and the lead is all shattered within the wood)
  • Each brand has a different shape to the wood and thus fits in your hand differently – think ergonomics
  • They really should be blendable and for this I mean truly blendable so that you can mix two colours together and get a “true” third colour. (Remember colour theory? Mixing two primary colours together gets you a secondary colour etc)
  • Price does not equal quality

Explanation of my tests:

  • All pencils were tested on Canson 120 lb Watercolor Paper
  • I tried to find all the same shades of blue and yellow for the tests but you can see variances in the shades
  • Gamsol (odorless mineral spirits) was applied with a fresh cotton swab between each test
  • Dove blender was cleaned between each test
  • Water colour test is plain water and a brush – fresh water and clean brush for each test

Explanation of the results/brands tested
Brands are charted/reviewed in alphabetical order and are all from my stash.
Number of dollar signs = price
Score = number of tests passed out of 6

  • Create Like Crazy (Target Brands Inc.) a USA based company – I wasn’t able to locate where these pencils are manufactured. I consider these to be generic, inexpensive brand – suitable for the kids. The lead was more on the hard side and did not shatter when sharpening. They really only did well at plain colouring and with Gamsol producing a true green when blended with a second colour. ($ – 2 out of 6)
  • Cont√© a Paris – Made in France. They are considered to be of fine artist grade, soft and smooth on paper, and did not shatter when sharpened. These are actually water colour pencils and they tested well with water (as expected), well with the dove blender but failed with the Gamsol. ($$$ – 4 out of 6)
  • Laurentien – Made in Canada. These are the old standard school brand here in Canada and therefore are fairly inexpensive. I would say that these are better in quality then the Create Like Crazy and Maped brands but I still would leave these for the kids. They passed the Gamsol tests but neither the dove blender or water. ($ – 2 out of 6)
  • Lyra – Made in Germany. They are considered to be of fine artist grade – soft, sharpen without breakage and have a nice ergonomic triangular shape. These are the brand that I normally go to when colouring AND they surprisingly failed the blending test. I’m not sure why I never noticed this before but they produced a mucky shade of “I don’t know” when blended. They did well when used with Gamsol, Blender and water alone though ($$$ – 3 out of 6)
  • Maped Color’Peps – Made in France. These failed all the tests – so give these to the kids – good, inexpensive generic brand. ($ – 0 out of 6)
  • Prismacolour – Made in Canada. They are considered to be of fine artist grade. These are soft and I find shatter when sharpening. They passed the Gamsol test but neither the Dove blender nor the water tests. ($$ – 2 out of 6)
  • Stampin’ Up! – Made in Germany for Stampin’ Up!. Purchased only through a Stampin’ Up independent demonstrator these are labeled as water colour pencils. They sharpen easily without breakage and are soft on paper. They passed all the tests with flying colours (get it – flying colours LOL) ($$$ – 6 out of 6)

I have to say I was quite surprised by the results because my pencil of choice has been the Lyra brand. Now that I’ve done these tests I am switching to the Stampin’ Up! brand just for the versatility and blending (I’ve had these for years and I’ve probably only used them twice.) I realize that you may not be using your pencil crayons to do all these things… but to me why not get your moneys worth and get multiple uses out of one product?

Here’s a pic of a project using my new “go to” brand.


  • To help prevent breakage If your pencils are stored in a tin – cushion the inside. I line my tin with paper towel and make rolled up little “bumpers” for the sides
  • Make a colour reference chart on a scrap piece of card stock and store it with the pencils. With this you can see what the actual colour is without guessing. It’s difficult to tell just by looking at the lead and the paint on the wood is not accurate – don’t forget to label the shades/numbers on your reference chart. (trust me on this – DOH!)
  • Get a good quality pencil sharpener.
  • I take my pencils on vacation with me. I get bored reading and so I pre-stamp a stack of designs using permanent ink, bring my tin of pencils (and sharpener), bottle of water and a brush and paint away. Works perfectly for a long plane ride – great and portable!

In general Colored Pencils/Pencil Crayons are a great, inexpensive, portable, colouring medium with multiple uses. As you can see by my stash, they are easy to find, easy to use and not too expensive to collect all the colours in the rainbow. They can be purchased anywhere but check out Dick Blick, Curry’s, Michaels.

Do you use pencil crayons in your scrapbooking and card making? What brands do you love/hate? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

, , ,

9 Responses to Colored Pencils/Pencil Crayons

  1. Tracy August 11, 2008 at 3:07 pm #

    Hi Mary, great review! Just to let you know that there are also Prismacolor watercolor pencils in addition to the regular premier artist-grade ones you tested.

  2. Busy Beader August 11, 2008 at 4:23 pm #

    Thank you for this comparison!

  3. Carol August 11, 2008 at 6:53 pm #

    Thanks for your reviews on all the products. I use Derwent water color pencils and they work beautifully!

  4. Elizabeth August 12, 2008 at 9:28 am #

    Hi Mary, one brand you left out is Crayola. I have used these with the gamisol technique and got similar results as with Prisma.

  5. Michelle Adams August 12, 2008 at 10:47 am #

    I am a colored pencil hoarder! LOL! I own and LOVE both the Prismacolor watercolor pencils and the Derwent watercolor pencils. I also own many other brands but find myself using these two almost exlusively. Thanks for your awesome comparison!

  6. milkcan August 12, 2008 at 11:07 am #

    Wow! Love your comparison chart! Awesome job!

  7. Connie Paxman August 13, 2008 at 7:32 am #

    Great review Mary on the Water Color pencils..I water color images a lot with pencils and my fav is Stampin Up. Love the sample.
    connie paxman

  8. gloria b September 5, 2009 at 12:03 am #

    Very informative. I haven’t used the pencils from StampinUp but I will now.

  9. Harriet September 5, 2009 at 6:34 am #

    thanks for these comparisons….I have and use the SU and Prima ones…my SU ones break on me (that might be my fault from having not handled them properly) …. thanks again