How to Best Store Your Colored Pencils

One of our readers sent us an email asking for advice on the best way to store and prolong the life of your favorite colored pencil set.  We thought this was a great question!  A good colored pencil set can be considered in investment and something that you want to try to get as much use out of as you can, especially when some of the sets can reach well into the hundreds of dollars!

pencils storageFortunately, colored pencils for the most part are much more durable than a majority of other artist mediums.  The concern with “drying out” that exists with paints and “melting” that can exist with crayons and oil pastels really don’t exist.  Since the pencils are made of a much harder material in the core, it handles heat and lack of moisture much better.  In addition, at any given time a vast majority of the core is protected by the outer shell.  Remember, the shell isn’t just there for structural rigidity.  It is also there for protection!

Avoid Heat and Sunlight

That being said, heat still isn’t great for colored pencils.  Or rather more specifically, direct sunlight.  Sunlight, if exposed to colored pencils for a long period of time, can cause some slight fading on the exposed color and can also somewhat dry out the tip.  This might not be noticed in some products that have a harder core but in softer products that are known for their buttery feel and low lightfastedness (remember, lightfast can affect color both before AND after it is applied to a canvas!) it might be a small concern.

Store in Cool, Dry Places

The happiest place for a colored pencil set to call home is a cool place without extreme humidity changes.  Thankfully, many of the higher-end brands come with great sealed containers that completely block out outside light and also most humidity fluctuations.  There have been reports of colored pencil sets that have been stored in attics that typically go well into the 130Fs and above for years being a bit brittle when taken out of storage but in most cases simply sharpening the point down some and exposing fresh core solved the problem.

Avoid Dropping or Stepping on Pencils

The containers also double as protection for a much more common cause of early pencil death: dropping them or stepping on them.  Because of this, it is important to always try to keep your pencils in their case when you aren’t using them.  Many of the cases are designed to withstand being dropped and will dent the case frame before applying the force through your pencils.

Consider Wrapping Them Up

If you happen to have multiple singles or for some reason have lost the case that the colored pencil came in, we recommend wrapping the pencils in saran wrap and storing them in a closed shoe box and sticking them in your closet somewhere.  Try to avoid putting them in storage that doesn’t have ventilation but if you absolutely have to it still isn’t the end of the world.

Summary

In summary, colored pencils are actually pretty resilient and arguably the longest-lasting of any popular art medium.  The combination of a hard core protected by a wooden shell and the sturdy case they typically come in means that a good set should last you for a long time.  However, we have listed our recommendations below to help ensure that you make your favorite set last as long as possible:

Tips for Making Your Colored Pencil Set Last
  • Always keep pencils not being used in their case.  This helps to avoid them being stepped on and in the event that they fall the case will help absorb a lot of the load.
  • Try to avoid exposing the pencils to direct sunlight for long periods of time.
  • Store in cool spots that don’t have extreme fluctuations in temperature or humidity
  • If you are taking out a set that has been put away for many years, make a habit of sharpening down the point to expose fresh core color.
  • If you have singles or have misplaced the case to a set, wrap the colored pencils into saran wrap and store in a shoe box in your closet.  It also doesn’t hurt to throw some old newspaper or bubble wrap in there in the event the box happened to fall.
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