Student Colored Pencils
Updated by Brandon F. on January 18, 2020
Student colored pencils are intended for those that are just beginning and in general for novice student settings. These pencils are usually wax-based and often times will have a much harder core than other, more advanced options. This allows them to be easier to control, be more durable, and be more simple to sharpen.
However, this comes at the cost of having typically sub-par blending and less intense colors than some of the higher-end brands. In addition, student-grade pencils can also deviate from the advertised color somewhat, and the available color options can sometimes be polarized down to mainstream colors.
The packaging is generally pretty bare with these, and most will come in a standard plastic or cardboard sleeve. The pencils themselves will also usually be pretty standard, which is fine for their target audience. But you will notice differences in how they look from a higher end pencil set.
However, they do come with their merits as well. As expected, these are typically among the cheapest sets you can buy, and in some cases, the slight loss of pencil performance is easily trumped by the fact that they can be 200% or less of the cost of the high-end premium lines.
For someone starting out who has not yet grasped advanced blending techniques and proper pressure control, these starter pencils are recommended. The good price point makes the barrier to entry quite low and, with proper homework (and of course reading the reviews on this site) educated purchases can be made that will result in great results.
If you would like to view all of the student-grade colored pencils compared to every other pencil we reviewed head on over to our Colored Pencil Comparison Chart to see a full list.
Derwent Academy Watercolor
Derwent really knocks it out of the park with their Academy Watercolor set. While it may be lacking in overall pencils, it makes up for it with fantastic blending and very vivid colors. These pencils are also surprisingly complex when used dry or wet. They will compete with colored pencils 4 or 4x their price and make an excellent set to introduce to beginners and seasoned artists alike.
Pros: Great color, Performs dry or wet, Attractive and protective packaging
Cons: Only 36 pencils in the largest set, More intended for “adult” beginners
Derwent Academy’s lineup of colored pencils is one of our top choices for somebody who is learning with colored pencils. The impressive blending and color output of more expensive Derwent sets is mostly captured but at a fraction of the price. The pencil cores as also quite robust which makes them great for demanding classroom applications. They are a bit pricey for a beginner set but the difference in quality is noticeable.
Pros: Good blending, Very strong, Awesome packaging
Cons: Limited color choices, Expensive for being a “budget” set
Sudee Stile makes a huge set of quality colored pencils that are very reasonably priced. Just about any color you could possibly want is already in it. The color output is quite good as well. While you won’t enjoy amazing blending, it really isn’t necessary since there are so many colors to choose from. This is a great set for a beginner all the way up to a seasoned professional.
Pros: Giant color selection, Vibrant color, Great value
Cons: Average blending at best, May become overwhelmed with choosing the right color
We really enjoy Reeves Colored Pencils for their ability to make a solid and well-performing pencil at a reasonable price. This is a great option for classrooms or anybody who is on a tight art budget. The color and ability to layer can rival many more expensive pencils. The wax-based lead is strong and resists chipping even when a good bit of pressure is applied. The 3.8mm core is wrapped in a hexagonal barrel and is available in 12 to 36 packs.
Pros: Durable, Decent color, Great price
Cons: Subpar blending, Limited color selection
Top Quality Art Supplies
The only major glaring issues with this set are they case and overall presentation of the pencils. The performance is more than acceptable and the color range you get to work with is quite impressive. Despite being a harder lead the blending is on-par, and all of this comes at what we consider a fantastic price. They come in 72-pack wax core sets.
Pros: Great variety of colors, good price, decent vividness and color intensity
Cons: Pencils are a bit weak, case is burdensome, no color labeling on pencils
These are the little brother of the more expensive Marco Renoir line and differ in that the lead is noticeably harder and less creamy. This means that they don’t blend quite as well but are great for detailed areas. The color intensity is also surprisingly good given the great price. The typical attractive packaging we are used to seeing from Marco combine to make these a great buy for someone on a budget.
Pros: Very affordable, nice packaging, great for detailed areas
Cons: Polarized color choices in smaller sets, so-so blending
The Ohuhu Colored Pencils are, more or less, rebranded Marco Raffine colored pencils. And you know how highly we think of those. The color is quite good and the level of blending and mixing that you can do is great for the price. There are some minor issues around the packaging and they can be a little stubborn when sharpening but for the price, these issues are easily overlooked. The core is made of a graphite and clay hybrid material. They are available in 48 and 72 packs and come with a hexagonal barrel.
Pros: Great price, good color intensity, nice variety
Cons: Questionable packaging, reported issues with sharpening
Castle Art Supplies
The Castle Art Supplies Colored Pencils aim to compete with some of the best while being affordable for just about everybody. Their semi-soft wax core promises good durability and hardness while being blend-friendly. The 72-pack set also offers up some nice color variety, particularly in the dark and tan colors.
Pros: Excellent value, Nice color range, Lays down mostly good color
Cons: Bright colors can struggle some, Colored external shell does not always match internal core, Questionable packaging
Amazrock Watercolor Pencils come in a smaller set but there should be enough color variety to meet most people’s needs. Despite the good price, the performance when water is applied is above average and the pencil durability is quite good. The attractive carrying wrap that comes with the set is icing on top.
Pros: Affordable, Comes with stylish carrying wrap, Durable
Cons: Lighter colors require above average application pressure, Few aesthetic features on the pencil barrel
Another great beginner set, Sargent Art colored pencils check all of the boxes. Color application, while not groundbreaking, is more than adequate and the strong cores allow for you to really push down to create color. We do encourage that you try to go with one of the larger sets as the smaller ones will be limited in colors to work with. These pencils have a 3.3mm wax core and a round barrel and are available in 12 to 56 count sets.
Pros: Pretty good color accuracy, nice variety on color wheel, well-priced
Cons: Mediocre intensity, poor blending
General’s has been around for a long time, so it is obvious that they have a formula that is working. Their affordable Kimberly watercolor pencils are a great example of this. You will enjoy very bright colors to go along with great control in water. We just wish that the set sizes were a bit larger and that the pencils had a bit of a facelift.
Pros: Very affordable, Good pigmentation, Works well with water, Made in USA
Cons: Limited color choices, subpar packaging
These are very reasonably priced and targeted at competing with the other ultra-budget pencils on the market. While the blending is good, the set size is severely lacking and the color brightness could use a boost. Still, they make a good set to build upon another, larger set. They come in 12 and 24 packs.
Pros: Very reasonably priced, Good blending for the price
Cons: Limited color choices, Color is not very vivid
Prang colored pencils are a good budget line for beginners. The colors are plenty vibrant and it can really be amped up with some harder application pressure. The 3.3mm wax core is consistent although there are some cases of difficulty when sharpening. The blending is somewhat lackluster so you will want to focus on pieces that don’t require a lot of blending. They have round barrels and are available in sets ranging from 12 to 50.
Pros: Decent color variation, good vibrancy, great price
Cons: lead is overly hard, blending difficulties
Thornton’s Art Supply
A relatively new brand (at least to us!), Thornton’s tries to compete with some heavy hitters in the budget colored pencil market. They are able to bring a unique offering that presents relatively soft cores and acceptable blending while maintaining a competitive price point. It does have some minor issues such as colors matching and somewhat weak cores but overall they can be overlooked.
Pros: Nice color range, acceptable color and deep blending is possible, great price
Cons: Colors of barrel don’t always match actual color, tips can break a bit too easily
Milan colored pencils are targeted at students and beginners but add an extra layer of blending, toughness, and also asking price. The sets are small but the color is relatively potent so it helps to mask this somewhat. They are available in sets of 12 to 24 and offer up a unique triangular shell that we really enjoy.
Pros: Extremely tough lead, easy to grip barrel, decent blending ability
Cons: Small set sizes, smaller than average core diameter
Faber-Castell Classic Colored Pencils aim to target the student-grade pencil class. This category tries to find a happy medium between performance and a low asking price. The main benefit here is that this student-oriented pencil set carries the reputable Faber-Castell name. Blending and color output isn’t anything amazing but it is more than capable given the price point. This set has a hexagonal barrel, 3.3mm core, and comes in sets of 12 to 60.
Pros: Low cost, Durable Core, Faber-Castell reputation
Cons: Average blending, Requires above average application pressure, Underwhelming styling
Wanshui Colored Pencils are extremely popular online thanks to their huge color selection and very aggressive pricing. Also, they are rather unique in that they have an oil core: something which isn’t very common for low-cost pencils. However, this does come with the sacrifice of brittle lead, questionable packaging, and some noticeable color gaps. They are available in a 168 pack set, have a round barrel, and are in the budget price range.
Pros: Huge color selection, Very affordable, Quite vivid
Cons: Brittle core, Cheap packaging, Noticeable color gaps
We really like how affordable Artlicious Colored Pencils are. And considering the price, the blending and color output aren’t terrible. However, there are some gaps in color selections. And some of the colors can be hard to decipher from one another.
Pros: Great price, Includes pencil sharpener, Good performance for the price
Cons: Big color gaps, Colors can look similar, Somewhat brittle core
Easily the most recognizable brand, Crayola’s colored pencil set is proven and popular. The color application is, for the most part, good. However, the colors that the pencils put out don’t always match what the barrel color suggests. Blending and more advanced drawing tactics will be difficult with these as the cores are simply too hard. But they do come in at a fantastic asking price so that makes it easier to deal with the negatives. They are available in many different shapes, sizes, and special color packages and the sets range from 8 up to 50.
Pros: Many different color set options, decent intensity, great price
Cons: Poor blending
Reeves’ main focus is trying to adhere to the good qualities of a premium watercolor pencil set while still being reasonably price. They, for the most part, meet this challenge. The blending of these pencils is more than adequate while still being controllable. The colors are also mostly good except for the fact that they don’t always match the color of the barrel. Applying water can be hit or miss and it seems that certain colors are just a little too stubborn when it comes to fully blending. Also, set sizes are limited so you may find gaps in the colors to choose from. They have a wax core, are wrapped in a round wood barrel, and are available in sets ranging from 12 to 36.
Pros: Deep hues, good intensity, beginner-friendly
Cons: lack of blending, color selection
US Art Supply
These are another brand that are attempting to compete in the budget colored pencil market. Overall they have quite good blending although they can be fairly waxy. The color options are decent (available in 36 and 50 count sets) but they could use a bit of a boost in pigment. They have been known to wear down rather quickly. Wax core with round wooden outside.
Pros: Good blending, relatively durable
Cons: Poor packaging, not very bright colors, not well-varied on color wheel
Lyra Waldorf Selection
The Lyra Waldorf Selection colored pencils are a beginner line but seem to just to ramp things up a bit higher than most other low-end sets. A unique feature of them is their triangular barrel shape along with their extremely thick 6.25mm core. This can make them great for putting down color (and the fact that the lead is relatively soft helps further), but they may struggle in detailed areas of an art piece. You will also pay a bit higher for these than many other beginner offerings but they are durable and seem to last a bit longer. Finally, color selection is severely lacking, with only 6 and 12 pack sets available.
Pros: Durable core, triangular barrel for easy handling, decent color intensity
Cons: Very small color selection, expensive, subpar packaging
Crayola Watercolor pencils are very recognizable and have been a go-to watercolor for students for decades. The asking price is very reasonable but it does have some issues. This includes very limited set sizes as well as less than stellar color intensity. Also, they seem to wear down quicker than most. They are available in 12 and 24 packs.
Pros: Many different color set options, decent intensity, great price
Cons: Poor blending
US Art Supply Watercolor
The US Art Supply Watercolor Pencil set is another budget-friendly set offered by the company. They are very similar to the colored pencil line in price, package, and quantity. The relatively small set size means that there will be some obvious color gaps. Also, the color output is a bit on the dull side. The good thing about them is that the wax is very strong and robust but it does come with quite a bit of wax bloom. The core is wrapped in a hexagonal barrel.
Pros: Structurally strong
Cons: Lacking color, cheap packaging, not much intensity
Staedtler colored pencils are very reasonably priced and have a handful of the qualities of the most expensive sets out there. The wax-based core is particularly hard when makes it quite durable and also easy to sharpen. However, many people will feel that the core is too waxy. Overall, the color and blending is below average, even for a budget set. They are available in sets of 12 to 36.
Pros: Very durable, well-priced
Cons: Poor blending, not very good intensity, poor color selection
Overall, these fair rather poorly in just about every category other than cost. The color intensity is lacking, blending with them is a real challenge, the thin wax core is prone to breaking. Other than the decent packaging that they come in there isn’t a whole lot to get excited about.
Pros: Relatively affordable, decent packaging
Cons: Poor blending, lackluster color, small color selection, tips easily break
These are simply “alright” for a beginner, and definitely not recommended for anybody above that. They have a rather good color selection (although it does have gaps) and price is on-point, but with that you are getting pencils that don’t put out a lot of color and that will literally break if you apply much pressure or even try to sharpen them. If you are willing to spend a bit more, however, you should seriously consider upgrading to a more durable pencil as in the long run it might actually end up being cheaper. The round, wax-based pencils come in various shapes and “special color” offerings.
Pros: Good color selection, affordable
Cons: Not very diverse range, very light, break easily, poor packaging