Student Colored Pencils
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.
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.
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) an 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.
Reeves Colored Pencils are one of the better budget and student-oriented options out there on the market. Anybody looking to get a good set of starter pencils should definitely consider these. For the price these provide good color and layering properties. The strong 3.8mm wax lead has been proven to be durable and easy to sharpen. These hexagonal pencils are available in 12 to 36 pack sets.
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 interesting in that they are essentially rebranded Marco Raffine colored pencils. Despite being a lesser-known company, they have surprisingly good color and application for the price. There are some small issues with packaging and also reported sharpening issues but nothing too major. These graphite and clay-based colored pencils are available in 48 and 72 color sets and have 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
These colored pencils are targeted for beginners and have a good price point to support that. There are 12 to 56 count sets available, so on the upper end there is a good color selection. Color application can be a bit weak so you might have to be pretty aggressive with these to get the tones you are looking for. However, they are relatively strong so they should be able to handle a decent amount of abuse. The 3.3mm wax core is wrapped in a round wood outer shell.
Pros: Pretty good color accuracy, nice variety on color wheel, well-priced
Cons: Mediocre intensity, poor blending
This budget line of pencils fairs quite well, especially for the price. They produce decently vibrant colors and can be intensified with extra pressure and, with the thick 3.3mm hard wax core, can hold up to that extra pressure. However, the extra hard core can be prone to breakage during sharpening. The blending is lacking, but they are still a great pencil for someone starting out or even honing on their color and shading skills. Round shape and are available in quantities 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
A good introduction medium for those getting started in colored pencils. They have a decent color application, but some of the colors don’t really put down their advertised color. Also some more advanced methods like blending and mixing are going to be somewhat difficult with these. They came in a variety of shapes, sizes, and special colors and can be purchased from sets of 8 up to 50.
Pros: Many different color set options, decent intensity, great price
Cons: Poor blending
Reeves’ budget watercolor pencil line attempts to capture the positive attributes a good watercolor has while still maintaining a good price and low barrier to entry. These pencils show good blending while also still having the necessary details that you look for. Color for the most part is good although there can be a bit of dispersion from the posted color to the actual color and, even after adding water, there can still be some remnant markings that just don’t want to blend fully. Color options are limited to 12 to 36 packs of this round, wax-based line.
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
The Waldorf selection pencils are unique in that they primarily are intended for children and beginners but are of higher quality than many of the other children lines. They come with a unique triangular shape and an extremely thick 6.25 mm core. The lead is relatively soft and pigmented so it is easy to lay down a lot of color. The higher quality comes at a higher price but for that you get a pencil that is long-lasting, durable, and produces pretty good quality. Color selection is lacking with only 6 and 12 pack sets.
Pros: Durable core, triangular barrel for easy handling, decent color intensity
Cons: Very small color selection, expensive, subpar packaging
These watercolor pencils are a low-end way to jump into the hobby without breaking the bank. The color choices are a bit lacking and the color intensity isn’t quite there but for the price, not much else compares. They also have tendency to wear down relatively quickly. You can purchase them in a 12 pack or 24 pack.
Pros: Many different color set options, decent intensity, great price
Cons: Poor blending
US Art Supply Watercolor
With what could be considered the water-friendly sibling to US Art’s colored pencil line, these watercolors come in a very similar package and quantity. Available in a 36 count pack, these share some of the pros and many of the cons with each other. They are lacking in certain hues and overall the color could be considered relatively weak. The strong wax core means that there is a rather waxy finish and the application does not go on very soft. These also have a hexagonal outer shell.
Pros: Structurally strong
Cons: Lacking color, cheap packaging, not much intensity
Coming in hexagonal offerings, Staedtler colored pencils are another budget pencil line that tries to adhere to the standards of some of the higher-end companies while still having an attractive price point. By having a relatively hard wax core, these pencils are easy to sharpen and are quite durable, but many consider them to be “too” waxy and in a related complaint the color they put off can be considered quite dull. Not a terrible choice for the price but you can still do better. Come in sets of 12-36.
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