When colored pencils are created by manufacturers, there’s often different levels of quality.
These are often separated by the density of the lead, the vibrancy of the colors, the durability of the pencil, the grip and of course the price.
As such, there tends to be noticeable difference in how the pencils look like.
When it comes to Colored Pencils grade or categories, there are 3: Student, Scholastic and Professional/Artist Grade.
For the in-depth clarification of the grades, see below
Student Grade Colored Pencils
When it comes to student-grade pencils, it is meant for those that are just beginning and in general novice student settings. The student-grade pencils are generally wax-based and oftentimes will have a much harder core than other, more advanced options. This allows the pencils to be easier to control, be more durable, and be more simple to sharpen.
However, all of this comes at the cost. The cost is having generally a low blending and less intense colors than some of the higher-end brands. Also, student-grade pencils can also vary from the advertised color, and the available color options can sometimes be modified down to mainstream colors and vibrancy.
As for the packaging, it is generally pretty bare with these, and most will come in a standard plastic or cardboard sleeve. It makes sense since the pencils themselves will also generally be pretty standard, which is decent enough for their target audience, the beginners.
On the other hand, there are a few advantages. As expected, these are generally among the cheapest you can buy, and in some cases the slight loss of pencil performance is easily trumped by the fact that they can be 20% or less of the cost of the high-end premium lines. These coloring sets are often widely available, so if you’re in a pinch, you can find it easily.
If you’re someone who is just starting out and have not yet grasped advanced blending techniques and pressure control, these starter pencils are highly recommended. Not to mention that the good price point makes the barrier to entry quite low and, with proper homework, an educated purchases can be made that will result in great results with these colored pencils.
Scholastic Grade Colored Pencils
Scholastic-grade pencils are typically seen as the next step up from student-grade. It is intended for people who have some experience in using colored pencils on various mediums and applications.
For these pencils, the blending and color intensity are generally better, and the cores are typically made of wax or oil. Also, 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.
On the other hand, these colored pencils are still user-friendly enough to not be too difficult. It won’t quite have the feel and blending ability of some of the premium, higher-end professional-grade lines but they do find a happy medium for you.
Additionally, this grade 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, giving you more options when choosing a color.
When it comes to the packaging, it is usually a bit better, both in terms of the housing as well as the pencil itself when compared to the student-grade. The higher-quality materials are used to create the pencil and for someone with a bit of hands-on experience in colored pencils they might be able to appreciate it if that’s you.
Finally, from a cost-wise perspective, these are a step up from beginner lines, but you are paying for a higher-performing product. Often 20-30% higher. This is a great middle-of-the-road option for someone experienced in pencils that is ready to take that next step in their artistic journey without breaking the bank in the super ultra premium options that are available.
Professional and Artist Grade Colored Pencils
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 professional-grade 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 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-grade 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 pencils are best for those who have a good artistic foundations as well as a large budget for colored pencils.