It's been a month, maybe two, since that doodle group or coloring klatch started. Like many people, you bought a sketch pad , a coloring book or two and a small, inexpensive set of pencils. You figured you'd wait and see if this was something you like. At worst, those pencils get used for other things. A blue pencil ends up in the household toolbox after you mark where you want to hang your shelves. The green one? It's in the bathroom with your crossword puzzle book. The rest of them are scattered throughout the house.
Wait. That's not you. Your pencils are still lovingly cased in their original box. Every time you start to color or doodle, you unsheathe them with the same care a sushi chef uses when he unwraps his knives before a night of creating rolls for hungry suburbanites. Thing is, the box is getting ragged and the pencils are getting worn and more than a little stubby.
Is it time for an upgrade? Should you go for a professional set? The boxes and tins at the art and craft supply stores are pretty but they are also intimidatingly spendy. Discount retailers offer sets at lower price points. There is still the nagging fear of getting stuck with something that doesn't fit your style and you feel obligated to use up before you try something else. Been there, done that, those pencils are sitting in a coffee mug on the kitchen table to use for coloring and drawing out garden plans.
I've used colored pencils since the late eighties. Prior to taking a color fundamentals class in art school, I would have rather soul-kissed Jerry Falwell than use a colored pencil. As a child, I saw them as the one thing on my school supplies list I loathed.
There's a reason for this. 1970s Parents complained about the cost and mess associated with markers, so my beloved Bic Bananas were replaced by soulless, clay-based pencils that afforded only a whisper of color to my maps and drawings of Misty of Chincoteague. At the time, adulthood meant sweet freedom to sit on the couch, watch "The Gong Show," and draw horses without being questioned if the ink was bleeding through to the book I was using as a lap desk.
All decade and change later, when I got my supply list for colors class and it included a set of Prismacolor pencils, minimum 48-count, and the price was just shy of forty dollars, I blanched and considered majoring in something else. People who were further along in the program assured me that as much as I liked to draw, it was worth the investment. They said I would love them and most likely use them throughout art school and beyond. They were right.
This has a point.
A colored pencils are not created equal. Those hateful sticks of wasted wood, paint, and colored clay, wax, and plastic were someone's idea of a cost effective, kid-proofed school supply. What I didn't know then, and you are going to learn now, is a good colored pencil has the right mix of wax, clay, and oil to make drawing and coloring easy for artists.
If that four-dollar house brand set of pencils has given you a lot of satisfaction, but you want to grow, you might want to try some of the bigger, fancier sets. Something between a big professional cast of a hundred colors and a box 'o eight stocking stuffer will give you a clearer idea of what you want to invest in when you're ready for that brave new upgrade.
So here are three sets that go from low-ish price to somewhere in the middle when it comes to pencil sets. Questions? Hit me up in the comments.
Eboo Pencils Artist Colors
price range: 3.00 to 7.00 USD
purchased from: Hollar.com
I really wanted to like these. They offer sets of 24 pencils in tins that feature designs by children's book illustrators and reasonably priced smaller sets of fluorescent and metallic colors.
Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils
price: 14.97 USD
purchased from: Walmart.
In recent years, the price of a tin of Prismacolor pencils has gone down and they are offering a greater variety of sets. One thing that hasn't changed is the wide range of colors and the gorgeous saturation I've come to expect from their products.
Having bought some open stock Prismacolor pencils just a few weeks ago that were as firm as the ones in my older sets, I wonder if they are working on the premise that pencils sold at discount outlets are more likely to be used by people who color and thus don't require the finer, harder points someone might need to do more detailed drawings.
Recommended for coloring enthusiasts and people who want a pastel-like effect.
Staedtler Colored Pencils
price: 11.97 USD
purchased from: Walmart
Until art school goes completely digital, Staedtler drafting pens will continue to be the tools art students love and love to hate for their fussy ten thousand parts that require cleaning after every use. I've been a fan of their pens and gray scale drawing pencils for quite some time.
Steadtler's colored pencils offer a similar depth of color saturation, but they are much easier to sharpen and keep their points better than the Prismacolors. The triangular shape of the barrels might take some adjustment, but they are quite easy to hold and don't leave that weird indentation in my index fingers that happens whenever I draw for protracted periods of time.
When it comes down to it, this set is far and away the best buy. Aside from providing a better pencil, it costs less than the Prismacolor tin of 24 and weighs in at a generous fist full of 48 pencils.
Highly recommended for anyone who wants to explore what they can do with good colored pencils.
copyright 2017 Jas Faulkner and Zen Dixie.