Best Colored Pencils For a Classroom
Updated by Brandon F. on January 18, 2020
One of the primary uses of colored pencils is in academic settings, ranging from preschool all the way through college. Applications can include simple arts and crafts activities to science projects and even high-end art projects for people majoring in art at a college or university.
With all the various colored pencil set options and potential uses, it can be very daunting to choose what set to go with. To help with this, we have included our recommended choices for the best colored pencils for a classroom. We tried to select a few sets from different tiers to meet the needs and budgets of a variety of teachers and classrooms.
|Category||Name||Our Rating||Pencil Set Sizes||Cost (Amazon)||Our Full Review|
|Preschool and Kindergarten||Crayola||3 Stars||8-50||$||Link|
|Elementary School||Reeves||4 Stars||12-36||$||Link|
|Middle School and Jr. High||Prismacolor Scholar||3 Stars||12-60||$||Link|
|High School||Fantasia Artist||4.5 Stars||12-36||$$||Link|
|College and Beyond||Prismacolor Softcore||4.5 Stars||12-150||$$||Link|
In considering these, thought was put into durability, ease of use, performance, and of course, cost. It wouldn’t make sense to give 2nd graders who have never used colored pencils a set of expensive Faber-Castells, while it would also be frowned upon to give advanced college students a set of beginner Rose Arts. Some thoughts on each category are as follows:
Durability can be looked at from two different directions. Obviously, it is preferable for ALL colored pencils to be as durable as possible, but for separate reasons. According to Dictionary.com, durability means “ability to resist wear and decay”. What sort of wear and decay does a typical colored pencil experience? Depending on the setting and who is using it they can be widely different.
In a classroom setting with kids, it is common for art supplies to be dropped, stepped on, thrown, chewed on, smashed onto the canvas, and a wide variety of other acts. Because of this, having a colored pencil that can handle this unconventional wear and tear is very important.
However, in a professional setting, most artists aren’t throwing or chewing on their pencils, so they instead prefer their durability to revolve around the ability to keep a sharp point when pressure is applied, being able to handle various pencil sharpeners without chipping, etc.
This is why a premium pencil might have a weaker or thinner barrel but have a softer and more resilient core and why a colored pencil targeted towards children will have a tougher barrel but perhaps have a harder core that is more difficult to sharpen to a good point.
Ease of Use
Some colored pencils have a much higher learning curve than others. They might have a more dynamic color depth that is easily varied with application pressure, require the addition of water for blending, or encourage delicate layering of multiple colors to achieve the desired effect. More simple examples will produce vivid color but without the necessity of blending or layering which makes the application much easier but limits the scope of color theory you can experience.
One’s experience with a given medium will dictate how user-friendly of a set to look for. Typically we recommend an easy to use product for young children and beginners and as they become more experienced with the colored pencils we then encourage them to expand to more demanding but also more rewarding brands and products.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t some higher-level colored pencils that are easy to use. Because there are! However, for simplicity sake, we typically assume that they will have a slightly higher learning curve on average.
“Performance” is a pretty broad expression, but we interpret it as the ultimate capabilities that are realistically possible with a given set of art supplies. In other words, what sort of color depths, blending, layering, shading, etc. can you achieve with a particular set of colored pencils? While obviously, it is preferable to go with the best-performing set as possible, for someone who isn’t familiar or capable of tapping into the unique features of a premium offering it might be a bit of a waste of money since they typically cost significantly more.
It is the equivalent of someone who is just started to learn golf and going out and purchasing the most expensive set of golf clubs he or she can find. Sure, they are technically the best performing but it is likely that particular person does not yet have the skills to fully tap into their potential, and they might be better off starting with something simpler and more affordable.
Cost. The oftentimes most important metric that people look at! And for good reason, as there is a huge range of prices associated with colored pencils. Typically cost will be directed related to performance, ease of use, etc. but there are still some exceptions that are particularly good and bad deals.
It goes without saying that spending hundreds of dollars on a single set of colored pencils for a kindergarten class probably isn’t a wise investment, while if you are a professional artist you probably find it completely justifiable to pay whatever is necessary to have the best tools at your disposal.
The important thing is to find a set of pencils that is at the correct level of difficulty for a given age group or experience group. There is obviously some fluctuation with this so the better you understand your students the better idea of what type of skill gap to look for. Perhaps mentally make notes of each of these categories and see which type of pencil truly is the best fit for you and/or your students.
If you are unsure we recommend starting off slow and getting a feel for the level of experience before breaking down and making a huge investment right from the start.
Our Top Choices for Colored Pencils for the Classroom
Considering what we discussed above, we have listed our top choices below. Each of these colored pencil sets encompasses what we look for in regards to classroom settings for that particular age group.
Preschool and Kindergarten
Crayola Colored Pencils
Crayola Colored Pencils – Durable, good color selection, bright colors, and most importantly a great price. For the very young you can’t go wrong with the tried and true brand. While these won’t blow anybody away with their blending capabilities and feel, they do a good job of introducing colors and color coordination to young artists-to-be and will be able to hold up to whatever abuse is thrown at them. Plus there are plenty of specialty packs to meet the wants of every student.
Reeves Colored Pencils
While not quite as intense as some other choices, these introduce blending capabilities much better than other beginner pencils. In addition, they are still quite durable and come at a very reasonable price. Overall they will be able to handle the trials of an elementary setting while allowing for slightly more advanced color manipulation.
Middle School and Jr. High School
Prismacolor Scholar Colored Pencils
A good intermediate set that mixes soft blending ability with more durable, harder wax. This allows for additional freedom in learning proper blending techniques and color manipulation while still being able to be classroom-friendly. Color intensity is also acceptable so these are quite versatile and the price is on point. We have also seen this used in higher-end pieces with success but we recommend stepping up to a higher-end set when the time is right.
Fantasia Colored Pencils
These have a great combination of color intensity, blending possibilities, and color selection. In addition, they are pretty durable and not overly expensive. A great set for a student who has some familiarity with colored pencils and how to control them. They are also tough enough to handle a school year of usage.
College and Beyond
Prismacolor Softcore Colored Pencils
These provide fantastic blending and great colors. They feel great and are still relatively durable. There are plenty of color selections and even for all of this, the price is quite reasonable, especially when compared to other premium brands that promise similar performance. A great set for upper levels of academia and beyond into the professional or passionate hobby world.