The top tier colored pencils grade. The Professional-grade pencils, or artist-grade pencils as some call it, are intended for those who have a lot of experience with various mediums and projects. They should have a deep understanding of color theory, blending techniques, application procedures, etc.
Typically, these will be people who do art professionally (hence the name) or are very passionate hobbyists who can justify the high costs associated with it these pencils.
The best artist colored pencils will have very soft cores that are able to have significant color output. It also results in it’s ability to vary how much color is outputted based on the amount of pressure, opening up many more interesting possibilities for a piece.
As for blending, it is generally very good to excellent, and when stacking layers, it creates added effects is pretty commonly seen in professional art pieces.
The color choices for professional coloring pencils are wide, and can come in a very large set or one of the many specialty sets that will focus on a specific mood or feel.
The professional, artist colored pencils may not be as durable and because you can apply so much color in one pass means that you can go through a pencil pretty quickly. This in addition to the fact that they are quite expensive means that these would not be good for a classroom environment or while learning how to color.
The packaging is typically very elaborate and aesthetically pleasing. For it to have metal tins or wood cases are pretty common, and the pencils themselves are often contain gold accents and nice labeling all around.
As you can expected from this level of care, these pencils can be expensive. Prices can be anywhere from around $1.00 USD up to $3.00 USD or more per pencil.
Since a lot of the subtle benefits of premium lines cannot be noticed and taken advantage of by beginners, these types of artist colored pencils are best for those who have a good artistic foundations as well as a large budget for colored pencils.
Prismacolor Premier Soft Core
If you’re considering a high end artist colored pencils, you’ve definitely considered or passed by the Prismacolor Softcore colored pencils in an art store. It is one of the most common and best soft wax colored pencils you can get. They come in packages ranging from 12 to 150 count and have a 3mm core and 8mm hexagonal barrel. These pencils are silky smooth, have excellent color choices, and are fantastic at blending. There have been some complaints such as breakage and lead shattering, but when you look at the bargain that these are compared to other higher-end brands.
Pros: Rich Color Range, Widely Available, Smooth Blending, and Price
Cons: Requires More Sharpening & Moderate Breaking
Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer Watercolor
One of the premium pencil sets is the Faber-Castell’s primary watercolor line, the Albrecht Dürer. Almost any color you like, you can get from it’s 120 color range. The thick oil-based core is wrapped in an attractive hexagonal wood exterior. These colors come off in a lovely thick, somewhat chunky application and with the addition of water, fantastic blending can be experienced. Similar to the other Faber-Castell lines, these come at a premium but for you’re someone who wants some of the best, you can’t go wrong with these.
Pros: Vibrant Color Intensity, Good Quality Packaging
Caran d’Ache Aquarelle Museum Watercolor
When it comes to the Caran d’Ache Aquarelle Museum watercolor pencils, it combines extra-fine pigments in high concentration with the water-solubility of their standard watercolor lines into this bright and vibrant premium pencil line. That’s why this is called the Museum line. This product is wax-based, wrapped in a hexagonal barrel, and are available in sizes ranging from 12 to 80. The 3.8mm lead is soft and quite versatile, being just at home in detailed areas as in larger areas. Application is smooth and buttery and blending is a breeze.
Pros: Vivid Color Intensity, Great Quality Packaging
Cons: Expensive and limited color choices
Staedtler Professional Watercolor
If you’re looking for watercolor pencils, these are Staedtler’s high-end offering. Everything about this is upgraded from their lower lines: better blending, more vivid colors, smoother strokes, and more color options. These are wax-based and hexagonal-shaped and sure to fill just about everybody’s needs. As a result, this comes at a higher price but for the package you get with these, it is definitely justifiable if you are interested in a long-term, top shelf offering. The metal is durable. Sets range from a 12 piece all the way up to their largest example, a 60 piece.
Pros: Good mixing quality, color selection and durable packaging
If you’re looking for a large color selection for detailed work, the Derwent studio line might be a good option for it. Their smaller core and harder wax core mean that the intricate areas such as feathers, grass blades, etc. are where these shine. The good this is that it’s available from singles all the way up to a 72 count set, there is a decent range of color selection for any project. The 3.4mm core is wrapped on a 6.9mm hexagonal barrel (if you’re comfortable with a hexagonal barrel).
Pros: Good color selection and for details
Cons: Not good for large areas
Koh-i-Noor Progresso Woodless
Let’s face it, these colored pencils stand out. The first time I held it it felt surreal. These colored pencils contain new outside wood body and instead, the entire diameter is usable pigmented lead. The lead is injected with special oils so as to allow dense, lively strokes of color to come off when applied to paper. It makes it easy if you want to cover a wide area. The large 7.6mm diameter lead tip means that you can produce a lot of color with these and cover a lot of area. However, not having the wood outer layer does mean these aren’t quite as strong as conventional pencils, making it a bit fragile. Since the packs come in 12 to 24, there are limited color options. All of these elements is what makes this set included in the list of artist colored pencils.
Pros: Good color intensity, moderate price and the pencils stand out
Cons: Fragile and limited color options
Faber-Castell PITT Pastel
The Faber-Castell pastel line stands out since it isn’t oil-based, but rather a dry pastel that can be used to compliment general pastel works or even on their own where more detail is necessary. Since it’s in a pencil form, they are not as messy as conventional pastels and the sharp-friendly point is great for this intricate details. The color range is relatively large with choices from singles to 60-count sets. Color is generally vivid and blending is quite simple, making it easy to make your work look beautiful.
Pros: Good for details and nice packaging
Cons: Not as great for large coverage