When starting to try out coloured pencil art, people will often ask – What pencils do I need?

Invariably this question will quite often lead to the person saying: “I already have these ..(insert these answers here)

a. cheap pencils I bought at art shop /online cause they were on sale,

b. watercolour or conte pencils or pastel pencils

c. these other pencils that I have no idea where they came from

“Will these do?”

I don’t like to discourage people from trying new things but the answer, my answer is:  No. 

Let me elaborate by saying  watercolour, conte or pastel pencils are great, if you are doing pastel or watercolour artworks.  However, if you wish to use coloured pencil techniques as per coloured pencil artists you will need good quality Artist coloured pencils. They are made of different materials to the watercolour etc pencils so therefore if if you are learning COLOURED PENCILS you will need the correct materials or you won’t get the same effects.

The quality of pencils you use will dramatically effect your results. So if you use the cheaper pencils you will achieve inferior results and here is why…

If you use cheap pencils you will have trouble:

  1. Getting multiple layers of pencil on your artwork.

  2. Your colours won’t blend effectively (Think about it this way, as you are putting each layer of pencil on your artwork you are combining / mixing colours –  like you might do if you were mixing your paint palette) This will not happen for you if your pencils are resisting each layer and therefore not blending – it will be really really hard for you to achieve what you are setting out to do.

  3. Your colours will not be vibrant as the pigments are not of great quality.

  4. You will not have a great range of colours to choose from and your pencils will fade in colour over time.

    I could go on, but you get the idea.

In my workshops, I see people frustrated as they are unable to achieve the look or techniques I am trying to teach them and its often either because of the paper they are using or the quality of the pencils. This is why I generally won’t allow people using the other pencils. It’s often something you have to try for yourself to see and feel the difference.  If you have two pencils try colouring them one over the other 5,6,8, times. Try it with a artist quality brand as well as a cheaper brand. You will FEEL the difference.

It’s understandable that you may not want to go out and buy a whole range of pencils if you not sure you want to pursue coloured pencil art…

Yep! I hear you  I always recommend people buy pencils singularly in a brand (in open stock) to start with rather than the whole box. Try buying 4-5 pencils in colours that you like or colours of the subject you are trying to create.  ie. if you want to do landscapes, buy some greens, if you want to faces buy some pinks. Buy at least a light and a dark of the same colour and have a play on good paper. 

Why? Well as i said above, you wont get a true indication of whether pencils are for you if you don’t give them a good chance. Your paper makes a difference, so practicing on cheap paper is the same as practicing with cheap pencils. Consider a small investment in the good stuff and you can expand from there.

The next question you might have is about which brands to buy.   >See this article about which pencil brands to use.

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