Koh-I-Noor Woodless Colored Pencils

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Susan Reidy is a wife, mother of three young girls, trade magazine editor, and in her free time (ha!) — a crafter. She dabbled in a range of crafts from cross stitching and painting to crocheting and ceramics before finding her true passion — collecting all things related to scrapbooking and papercrafting (her husband’s description). Eventually, she puts all those tools and products to use on cards, scrapbook pages, mini albums, home decor and more. Although she grew up in the Chicago suburbs, she and her family now live in Central Illinois. When she’s not crafting, wifing or mothering, Susan enjoys reading, cooking and wine — lots and lots of wine. Find her blog at

Reported by Susan Reidy

Remember what it was like to open a fresh box of crayons when you were a child? Or how it felt to make those first few strokes with the crisp pointy tip? If you want to experience coloring heaven again as an adult, you’ve got to try Koh-I-Noor woodless colored pencils. These pencils give the smoothest, most satisfying coloring experience I have ever known. Seriously.

Koh-I-Noor pencils have five times the amount of lead as a regular pencil. Since they’re woodless, the color is in the entire pencil vs. a traditional colored pencil which has a lead encased in wood. They are high-density with a lacquer coating, so even without the wood they have a smooth exterior surface. The pencils feel great in your hand, and have serious heft.

These wondrous coloring pencils are from Chartpak Inc., which acquired Koh-I-Noor North American in 1999. According to the Chartpak web site, it was Queen Victoria who gave the pencil its official name. She was inspired by the Koh-I-Noor diamond, a gift from India. Koh-I-Noor products were developed in 1790 by entrepreneur Joseph Hardtmuth, who patented his process for producing writing and drawing instruments.

So now that you have the background, want to know how they work in real life crafting? I have a set of 24, which arrived in a cardboard box holding two plastic trays that slide out like drawers. Each pencil has its own little slot within the drawers– compact and secure (no messing with metal boxes and lids).

The color spreads smoothly (like soft butter on a hot roll), and is vibrant on the first few strokes. It’s easy to blend the colors with each other, and achieve great shading/layering effects. You can blend them even more using odorless mineral spirits (OMS).

I didn’t have any OMS on hand, so I used easily-located (and pleasantly-scented) baby oil with a blending stump. As you can see, the Koh-I-Noor blended effortlessly, and let me create a great shaded Flopsey bunny.

Unlike markers, you don’t have to worry about which ink to use for stamped images, because the Koh-I-Noor won’t interact with the ink. Of course, if you plan on blending with baby oil or OMS, be sure to use a permanent ink, so your lines won’t smear.

Although I use them mostly on white cardstock, they do work well on darker colors, particularly kraft paper. It takes a little more pressure, but the result is a subtle, almost vintage look.

One drawback is the limited color range. The biggest set I could find was the 24-piece set I currently own. Blending and shading lets you create a wider range of colors, but I did find the set lacking a true red. The red family options include Carmine, which is a deep red, and Scarlet Lake, which is more orange.

The colors in the 24-piece set include: Light Yellow, Orange, White, Sap Green, Hookers Green, Light Blue, Dark Blue, Dark Violet, Light Vermilion, Carmine, Brown, Black, Dark Yellow, Pink, Scarlet Lake, Light Violet, Sky Blue, Paris Blue, Light Green, Dark Green, Light Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Natural Sepia, Light Gray.

Along with the 24-piece set, online retailers offer a 12-piece set and individual pencils. The company also offers a special pencil that looks like a swirl of colors, as well as individual silver and gold pencils.

Another small drawback, which can be overcome with some Googling, is the availability of the Koh-i-Noor pencils. The sets and some individual pencils can be purchased at Blick Art Materials. Gina K also sells the 24-piece set. I was unavailable to find a source for purchasing the special, silver and gold pencils in the U.S.


  • Super smooth coloring, like butter
  • Vibrant colors
  • Blendable with each other or with odorless mineral spirits
  • Cool storage box with the sets, the 24-piece set includes two plastic trays that slide out like drawers
  • Sharpen easily with any pencil sharpeners


  • Limited colors available, no true red
  • Limited availability

Do you use Koh-I-Noor Woodless Colored Pencils in your art, or do have another favorite brand? Leave us a comment and let us know!

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11 Responses to Koh-I-Noor Woodless Colored Pencils

  1. Avatar
    Stefanie March 24, 2010 at 8:09 am #

    I love my Koh-i-noor pencils and just wanted to add that Michaels sells them in their art supply aisle. You can even use a 40% off coupon on them!

  2. Avatar
    Michelle Adams March 24, 2010 at 9:41 am #

    I have tons of different pencils, and these are by far my favorite ones to blend with OMS – I even prefer them to my Prismacolors. I wish they have more colors available though. Great review!

  3. Avatar
    CindyLous News March 24, 2010 at 10:30 am #

    Whoa! Thank you! I thought they sounded good, but surely I must have something comparable, but when you said they don’t react with ink grabbed me! THAT is what I’ve been looking for!

  4. Avatar
    LuvNlife March 24, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    I just bought these pencils (with a 50% off coupon) and I can’t wait to try them out. Need to learn a bit about blending. Since I just picked them up, I am so glad to read the review.

  5. Avatar
    Janine March 24, 2010 at 12:12 pm #

    I’ve seen these at Michaels a few different times and I’ve always passed on them. Usually I like to see what someone out here says about a product before I’ll give it a try. This now looks like my next purchase from Michaels. Thanks for the great review!

  6. Avatar
    Lois aka katesmum March 24, 2010 at 1:16 pm #

    I’d never heard of them but now that I have, I know I need some!

  7. Avatar
    sandie994 March 24, 2010 at 2:26 pm #

    I love these pencils. I always go to them first then my prismas. Like you said, I wish they would increase the colors available. I first heard about the on Gina K and got them at Michaels with a coupon. If anyone finds a US vendor for the silver and gold would love to know about it.

  8. Avatar
    veronica March 24, 2010 at 9:48 pm #

    i, too, love the koh-i-noors! i can’t afford to buy copics, and they are all anybody uses, it seems like.
    i am so glad to see someone give the pencils a great “shout out”! i have even taught a few classes with the koh-i-noors and blending medium. everyone seemed to love them too.

  9. Avatar
    Scrappy Rat March 25, 2010 at 1:12 pm #

    Thanks for choosing this product for review! I’ve been looking for something comparable to the Stampin’ Up woodless colored pencils I currently use, since they were discontinued a few years ago. I stocked up when they went on the retiring list, but they won’t last forever, and these are the first of this type I’ve seen reviewed. Has anyone used both the SU ones and these who can offer a comparison?
    I love colored pencils! Sure, I love my copics too, but sometimes pencils give best the effects I want. The only question I have that wasn’t answered in the critique was price. I’m curious if the cheapness (for lack of a better word) of the cardboard/plastic packaging is reflected in the price. I’d hope so since I’d need to buy some kind of box for them that would be more protective, and many other brands of pencils include a nice metal box of their own.
    Anyway, thanks for the review! I enjoyed it very much! I’ll check these pencils out!

  10. Avatar
    debbie March 29, 2010 at 11:13 am #

    After reading your review, I am going to give them a try!

  11. Avatar
    cgl1539 March 30, 2010 at 9:50 pm #

    I have the 12 pack I got from Michaels, I have to get the 24 now, lol. I do need more colors, but wouldnt give these up for the world. I love these pencils. I cant afford copics either. Scrappy Rat, I paid I think around 8 dollars for 12 but I used my 40 percent off coupon to get them cheaper.