Best Oil Colored Pencils
Updated by Brandon F. on January 18, 2020
While a vast majority of colored pencils are going to primarily be comprised of a wax-based compound, there are some products that actually have significant portions of their core made of oil. More than likely if you were to purchase a random product from the store it will be a wax colored pencil.
In fact, many conventional retail stores will likely not even have an oil-based colored pencil in stock! But oil colored pencils do play their part, and we will help you choose the best oil colored pencils for your needs.
So why do most companies go with a wax core? We often wonder this because we really enjoy oil colored pencils. However, we came up with a few reasons that we think might play a part:
First, they are a lot cheaper to make. Binding the wax with color components is relatively simple and low-cost, which means that they can offer their products for a lot more competitive price and also have better margins. Going along with this, they are also easier to manufacture, and the turnaround time is much lower so products can get on the shelves much quicker. Third, most users will prefer the performance and application of a wax core to an oil. Wax cores are much more user-friendly as they do not smear as easily as oil and can typically produce close to the same level of color output.
So why go with an oil-based color pencil then? Sure, they might be more expensive and require a bit more practice to become comfortable with but they offer a unique blending capability that wax can struggle with. In addition, color application, while sparse on the first couple of passes, can easily be stacked which allows for much more technical and controlled color layering.
Furthermore, these pencils can be sharpened to a fine point which makes them great for high-detailed areas that regular colored pencils might struggle with. Also, the harder core means that they are less prone to breaking which means less sharpening. Finally, although there is less color applied per pass that means that the pencils can have a much longer life so you get more bang for your buck.
Also, with proper practice, you can actually combine and mix oil colored pencils and wax colored pencils to yield some really interesting results. We encourage you to test out some different approaches and see what works for you.
That was a lot of information so to simplify things we have listed the pros and cons of oil colored pencils below:
- Great control over color layering
- Can be sharpened to a fine point which helps in intricate areas
- Less prone to breaking
- Unique blending
- Can last for a long time
- Not beginner-friendly
- Less color per pass
- Not as many sizes and sets available
Despite there not being a huge number of oil-based colored pencils on the market, there are still enough to be able to categorize the best from the worst. We feel our picks represent those best qualities that oil colored pencils have to offer while minimizing the shortcoming as best that they can. Check out our quick summaries and links to our full reviews below:
Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer
The go-to oil-based watercolor colored pencils line. With sets ranging from singles all the way up to 120, just about any color desired can be achieved. These colors come off in a lovely thick, somewhat chunky application and with the addition of water, fantastic blending can be experienced. Like other Faber-Castell lines, these come at a premium but for those wanting some of the best you can’t go wrong with these. The thick oil-based core is wrapped in an attractive hexagonal wood exterior.
Pros: Intense color, great control capability, perfect for large areas, good packaging
This is probably the most well-known and best-selling oil colored pencil set on the market and for good reason. The unique core design results in a thick, pigmented application that is right at home with aggressive blending and shading. The color manages to feel soft and thick while still being easy to work with. With a huge color choice of up to a 120 set available, just about any color approach imaginable can be achieved with these. The hearty core is wrapped around in a round wooden exterior.
Pros: Fantastic color intensity, good blending, great color selection, impressive packaging
Cons: Quite expensive
Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor
This is a recent oil pencil we checked out and it performs in rather a unique way. Much more scratchy than other oil cores but it does blend quite well given the price. A fun oil pencil that is good for both beginners and those more experienced. They have an oil core that is contained in a round barrel and come in sets ranging from 12 to 72 pencils.
Pros: Pleasant color output, above average blending, thick core, more affordable than most oil colored pencils
Cons: Fragile tips, somewhat “scratchy color application, still rather expensive
Caran d’Ache Pablo
Despite not being as commonplace as some of the others, the Caran D’ache Pablo pencils are a water-resistant line of premium pencils offered by the Swiss company that we really like. The small 3.8mm diameter oil-based lead is quite strong and can easily be sharpened to a fine point, making it effective for detailed areas. The color application is quite smooth and is void of wax bloom and the color intensity can be very good, although it may take a few passes. With sets from 12 all the way up to 120, color selection is plentiful and varied. All of this is packaged in an attractive hexagonal wood barrel.
Pros: Many different color set options, good user control, no wax bloom, nice packaging
Cons: Might need several passes to get desired depth, expensive
These are interesting in that they are actually a wax and oil hybrd pencil so while they aren’t exclusively oil we felt the need to at least mention them. The color wheel is actually broken down into 5 different sets of 24 pencils, with the “Essentials” set attempting to encompass many of the highly-utilized colors generally needed for a piece. Overall they have a decent combination of blendability and utilization while still being durable enough to be used on a regular basis and sharpened. It is a bit frustrating that in order to get the full color offering you have to purchase 5 different tins as opposed to having the entire group available in a single set.
Pros: Good vividness and blending, many colors, durable
Cons: Have to buy 5 sets to get all colors, color inconsistency
These are one of the more affordable oil-based colored pencils sets on the market. Sizes range up to 72 pieces with a nice variety of choices. The special oils in the lead, along with other binders, allow for dense, thick strokes without having to apply significant amounts of pressure. This is important since these are notorious for being quite fragile. Also, despite nice application, colors can seem to run together. They have a hexagonal outer wood shell.
Pros: Good color consistency, good for highly-detailed areas
Cons: Tips break easily, not a lot of color selection