Scholastic Colored Pencils
Scholastic colored pencils are defined as being the next step up from student-grade, and intended for people who have some experience in using colored pencils on various mediums and applications. Blending and color intensity is generally better with these, and the cores are typically made of wax or oil. In addition, the core material is usually softer which allows for better color control and feel but can come at the cost of durability and ease-of-use. However, they are still user-friendly enough to not be overwhelming. They won’t quite have the feel and blending ability of some of the premium, professional-grade lines but they do find a happy medium.
This class introduces more specialty offerings such as certain sets that hone in on earthy tones or pencils that might have smaller cores which are intended for detailed areas. There are also plenty of broad sets that dip into all areas of the color wheel. However, you still have a nice selection of conventional sets as well.
Packaging is usually a bit better, both in terms of the housing as well as the pencil itself. Higher-quality materials are used to construct the pencil and for someone with a bit of hands-on experience in colored pencils they might be able to appreciate it.
Cost-wise these are a step up from beginner lines, but you are paying for a higher-performing product. This is a great middle-of-the-road option for someone experienced in pencils that are ready to take that next step in their artistic endeavors without breaking the bank in the ultra premium offerings. These are also good for classroom settings that may occur in high school and mid-level college courses.
If you would like to see how all of the scholastic-grade colored pencils compare to the other tiers head on over to our Colored Pencil Comparison Chart for a full listing of all reviews.
Available in 12 to 36 pack sets, these are advertised as being a perfect combination of colors that also combines great blending and high color concentrations. Overall, this description is accurate and it is all presented in an attractive presentation and for a great price. They have a “medium-hard” level wax hardness which gives them a nice combination of blending ability and feel as well as the necessary durability people come to expect. They have a hexagonal outer wood shell.
Pros: Good color intensity and variation, durable, well-packaged, good price
Cons: Could use a bit more color selection
Marco Renoir Watercolor
The older, more expensive, watercolor brother to the Marco Raffine/Ohuhu line, the Marco Renoir Watercolors try to compete with much more expensive brands while being reasonably priced. The color is plenty vivid and you can enjoy good performance with these whether you use them dry or wet (that being said, we highly encourage you to use them wet to get the full effect). They come with an oil-based core, round barrel, and 3.7mm lead.
Pros: Excellent blending both wet and dry, relatively deep color, attractive barrel styling, competitive price
Cons: May struggle in high detail areas, somewhat flimsy storage tray
Blick Studio Artist Colored Pencils
Blick’s Studio Artist Colored Pencils are a great “bang for your buck”. They provide vivid color and are easy to blend thanks to their semi-soft core. We also like the nice packaging. Our only complaints are that the soft core may be a bit too prone to breaking, the confusing lightfast scale, and the tendency for mild wax bloom after heavy layering. However, the pros easily outweigh the cons here. These pencils are available in singles all the way up to a 72 pack set.
Pros: Good color, Competitive price, Smooth application
Cons: Some wax bloom, Confusing lightfast scale, Semi-fragile tips
Black Widow Colored Pencils
We really like the clever design that went into Black Widow Colored Pencils. And it doesn’t hurt that the performance is quite good for the price point. You will have to buy at least two of the three 24-count sets to get an adequate range of colors, however. But if you are willing to spend a bit extra, you will have a durable set of mid-range pencils to enjoy.
Pros: Fair price, Clever packaging, Unique colors, Good performance (for the price)
Cons: Kind of forced to purchase multiple sets, May have difficulty identifying colors
Stabilo Carbothello Pastels
The Stabilo CarbOthello pastel pencils combine the benefits of chalk with components of a traditional pencil. Specifically, you will get to enjoy the great blending ability of most pastels while having the added user control of a pencil with thinner cores. These can be used in both wet and try applications and also do quite well with the addition of solvents. Overall, the color they put out is very bright and continues to be so even after diluting them some by blending. Color options are a little sparse in the smaller sets so we encourage you to go with a bigger set if your budget allows. They are available in sets ranging from 12 to 60 and the 4.4mm charcoal core is wrapped in a round barrel.
Pros: Good blending, great color, decent price
Cons: Messy, limited color selections in smaller sets
Faber-Castell Art Grip Aquarelle Watercolor
The Faber-Castell Art Grip Aquarelle Watercolor pencils are the cousin to the popular Albrecht Dürers colored pencil set. However, these seem to be more targeted towards hobbyists and aspiring students rather than full-out professionals. The hard and thin core, smaller color choices, and lower price point are good evidence of this. That being said, we still really like the color output (particularly in the lighter colors). But you will have to work a bit harder to get the color on the canvas than with other sets. Once you apply water, they seem to come alive and we will remind of other high-end watercolor sets. They come in up to 60 count packs and the oil core is wrapped in a unique triangular-shaped barrel.
Pros: Good color selection, nice intensity control, excels at intricate areas, good grip
Cons: Can be a bit laborious to get color onto paper
Derwent Inktense Watercolor
These watercolor pencils are designed for someone who enjoys the typical attributes of a watercolor but are after something a bit more intensity. Derwent has accomplished this by creating a sort of “hybrid” pencil that is able to harness the intense color of a traditional ink pen and add agents to it that allow for easy blending. The result is a pencil that can produce very bright colors and these colors ca be easily spread over a large area. Set sizes range from singles up to 71 count packs, with heavy emphasis on brighter colors. They have a 4mm wax core and it is surrounding by an 8mm round barrel.
Pros: Extremely intense visuals, good color selection, great price
Cons: Not many light colors
Prismacolor Art Stix
If you enjoy the great core that is in typical Prismacolor Softcore Colored Pencils, then you will also like their Art Stix. The Prismacolor Art Stix takes the core and increases it in size. In fact, there is no external barrel at all! The result is a very large stick that is capable of covering huge areas with color in short order. This can be good for certain applications but makes detailed work challenging. You are limited in color options and the price will be higher per “stick” than per “pencil”, but you do get a lot more color capability with your purchase. The 3 ¼”x1/4”x1/4” blocks are available in 12 to 48 packs.
Pros: Fantastic color intensity, great for large areas, a lot of color for the price
Cons: Not very good for fine details
Staedtler thought outside of the box with their Ergosoft pencils. They are triangular-shaped and are wrapped in an A.B.S. protective coating which helps to reinforce the way core. This makes them extremely durable and tough to break. They lay down solid color and the color is brighter than your average pencil. That being said, color choices are limited and the asking price is much higher than a traditional set of Staedtler colored pencils. They are available in 12 to 36 pack sets.
Pros: Saturated colors, extremely comfortable to use, very durable
Cons: Poor blending, lack of color options
The older, more expensive and oil-based brother of the Marco Raffine line, the Marco Renoir tries to incorporate oil-based cores in a way that makes them user-friendly while still enjoying the blending and vivid color benefits that are common with oil. A good mid-ranged pencil that is neither too hard nor too soft. It comes in a somewhat petite round barrel.
Pros: Happy medium between hard and soft, great reds and yellows, versatile, beautiful packaging
Cons: Somewhat limited in other colors, a little difficult to lay down light layers
The Stabilo Original manages to combine the unique ability of a thin-core pencil with a more user-friendly package that beginners to experts should enjoy. You will enjoy good color vividness and the ability to apply it both wet and dry is nice. However, you are a bit limited in color choices (particularly when it comes to darker colors). And for areas where you need broad color, you are probably better off using a pencil with a larger core.
Pros: Great user control, Can be used wet or dry, Tough core
Cons: Not a lot of darker colors, Will struggle with large areas
This Austrian-based company brings to the table an Urban-inspired set of colored pencils that focus on intense color output. The wax cores are quite hard which makes it a bit more difficult to blend but does make them quite good for detailed areas. The construction of the pencils are good and we really like the matte black outer finish. For the performance, the intermediate price point seems quite fair.
Pros: Intense color, Nice quality core, Neat outer barrel color, Good for intricate areas
Cons: Lacking color choices in smaller sets, Blending isn’t great
One of the most popular watercolor sets in existence, the Prismacolor Watercolors are a proven pencil with a storied track record. The colors are creamy and rich and blending is a breeze (both dry and particularly when water is applied). We do wish that there were a larger color selection, however. You can choose between 12 to 36 pack sets so there will be some noticeable color gaps, particularly in the smaller sets. The asking prices are very reasonable considering the quality. They lovely core is wrapped in a colorless round barrel.
Pros: Good blending, relatively easy to control
Cons: So-so color selection, packaging could be better
Derwent’s Pastel pencils capture the essence of pastels (vibrant colors, unique blending, etc.) while attempting to be more user-friendly with the hybrid core and small lead. The result is, for the most part, acceptable outside of some noticeable breaking issues. This set comes in singles up to 72 count and has a round barrel.
Pros: Vibrant colors, Optimized core size
Cons: Can be difficult to sharpen, Smaller sets are somewhat limited in color choices
Koh-i-noor Mondeluz Watercolor
The Koh-i-noor Mondeluz Watercolor pencils contain highly concentrated pigments within their care. This, mixed with high-quality kaolin white clay, results in a very effective and unique core. This produces very rich color that can be easily applied to any medium. The 3.8mm diameter core finds a happy medium between size and precision and can handle both intricate details as well as larger areas. A solid choice with no major flows (outside of the sets being somewhat limited in color choices), the Mondeluz comes in 12 to 36 pack sets and the great core is wrapped in a hexagonal wooden shell.
Pros: Intense color, great ability to control
Cons: Hard to find, could use better color options
A new watercolor pencil brand that has recently hit the market, it does have a nice color variety and color application can be vivid if you put some force into it. However, for supposedly being a watercolor pencil it really doesn’t blend as well with water as we would like. Blending is still possible but be prepared for multiple passes.
Pros: Nice color variety, core is plenty tough, deep color tones possible
Cons: Can be tough to blend, somewhat flimsy packaging
Derwent presents their colored pencil set that is targeted specifically towards applications that need a metallic feel. These pencils come with a specialty core that shimmers at a much higher rate than a traditional pencil, making them perfect for metallic components of a drawing. Colors such as silver, antique gold, pewter, and some more uncommon colors (pink and purple) consist of the small 12-pack set. We recommend sticking to dark backgrounds as light backgrounds might have a difficult time properly capturing the metallic features. Another nice feature is that they are water soluble which really helps to maximize the blending performance. These wax cores come in a 3.4mm diameter and are contained within a 6.9mm wooden barrel.
Pros: Unique shimmery look, decent price
Cons: Lack of colors, not really “metallic”
The Prismacolor Scholar colored pencils attempt to capture some of the great qualities of their professional lines but package it in a more budget-friendly set. Specifically, the great wax cores that excel at blending and producing vivid colors attempted to be emulated here. Overall, they are not as good of a performer but can still hold their own. The harder wax core just doesn’t blend quite as well as the more expensive sets. You can purchase sets that range from 12 to 60 pencils and there are also school packs that are intended for classroom settings. The hard core is wrapped in a standard round color-matching barrel.
Pros: Durable, decent color vividness
Cons: Not very good packaging, could use better blending
The Koh-i-noor Polycolor utilize a proven oil core and produce color that is unrivaled among the other Koh-i-noor sets that we have tested. Color choices are a bit lacking since the largest set is only 36, but they do a decent job of having a variety considering the limited options. The unique oil that is used in the lead works well with the included binders to allow for very thick and creamy strokes without having to push down hard on the pencil. This is a good thing, seeing how the cores are quite fragile and easily chip with heavy application pressure. Another minor issue is that the colors can run together some, creating a shmear effect that is undesired. The core is wrapped in a hexagonal outer shell made of wood.
Pros: Good color consistency, good for highly-detailed areas
Cons: Tips break easily, not a lot of color selection
One of the few wax/oil hybrid pencils we have seen, the Spectrum Noir try to bottle the best of both materials in their blend-friendly set. There are currently 5 different sets available. And each set comes with 24 pencils that have their own specialized theme. If you are after the most versatile, then going with the “Essentials” set is your best bet. However, even with it, you will be severely limited in color choices and will likely have to utilize additional sets for color support. The blending here is not bad and the tips seem to keep a good point. We just wish that Spectrum Noir would consider combining all of their pencils into a larger set.
Pros: Good vividness and blending, many colors, durable
Cons: Have to buy 5 sets to get all colors, color inconsistency
Caran d’Ache Fancolor
The Caran d’Ache Fancolor pencil set is a more beginner-friendly set that is designed for people still honing their skills. This is achieved by designing the pencil to be operated easier, be more stable, and be more forgiving with color application. You will notice a significant decrease in color quality and feel compared to the much more expensive Caran d’Ache lines. These pencils blend well enough and are also water-soluble but just don’t have quite the feel that we are used to experiencing from this premium company. Also, you will find that the color options are a bit lacking. These wax-based pencils are available in sets ranging from 12 to 20 and the cores are surrounded by a hexagonal wood barrel.
Pros: Decent blending, very user-friendly, relatively tough
Cons: Limited color options, still somewhat pricey for a beginner pencil
The Prismacolor Col-Erase are one of only a handful of erasable colored pencils available. The erasers are specialized erasers that are able to remove colored pencil color (something most normal erasers can’t do). This meant modifying the core material some, but Prismacolor still believes that it adheres to the reputable cores of their other pencils. That being said, the color intensity and application thickness isn’t as good here. Also, the erasers simply don’t do a great job of completely erasing color, particularly if you lay it on thick. Combine that with the high asking price and you have some major issues to overcome. These small sets are available in 12 or 24 packs and are wrapped in a hexagonal barrel.
Pros: Eraser works well
Cons: Lacking color intensity, poor blending, pretty expensive