Friday, May 30, 2014

Pencils: oil or wax?

A few of you have asked me: "If I'm just starting out, which should I choose: oil-based pencils or wax-based pencils?"

Really, both types of pencils work the same, and can be blended in the same ways. If you're planning to purchase from open stock, don't be afraid to buy a few from each brand you're considering, and see which one feels right to you. Also - don't feel like you have to limit yourself to one brand. Most brands work together well.

Consider which properties of the pencil brand are important to you.

  • What's your budget? (Oil pencils do tend to be more expensive.)
  • How many colors do you want?
  • Will you buy a set, or open stock? Will you commit to one brand, or do you feel free to mix and match?
  • What type of blending will you do? (Check the color swatches HERE and HERE for comparisons in your preferred technique.)
  • What's your coloring style - lots of patient layering, shading, etc?  (Oil pencils hold their points longer.) Bright, vibrant, solid blocks of color? (Check the laydown ratings below.)
  • Will you be coloring on black or darker cardstock? (Check the brightness rating below, and see the comparison HERE).

I gave number ratings to each pencil property as I tested them, and did my best to be objective. Here's my comparison of all the types mentioned in a chart form so you can see more clearly how they compare to each other.

Just for fun, here's an image that I colored using pencils from six of the brands listed above.

These are the pencils I used:

 I love slow, layered coloring for the depth and texture it can express, and these pencils all worked so well together. I used Prismacolor, Polychromos, Holbein, Coloursoft, Blick, and Pablo pencils to color, just blending with the pencils themselves. Here's a closer look.

Hopefully this information is helpful to you! I'm happy to pass on my thoughts to help you make a more informed decision if you're wanting to start or expand your pencil collection - I know it can be daunting to find art supplies that are just right for you.

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Hi Dina. I'm really enjoying these comparisons you are doing, thanks for them! Wonderful card you've made here, I especially love the ribbon and your colouring (of course!). I was wondering if you used anything to blend the pencils or if you just used the pencils themselves to blend.


  2. Thank you again Dina for the comparisons...very helpful! Your card is gorgeous...great job of blending too!
    Paper Hugs,

  3. Thanks so much Dina for these comparisons. I'm finding them very helpful as I've only just started my journey over to the world of mixed media/art journaling and this information is helping me immensely. Keep up the great work and thanks for sharing.

  4. Dina, I am very much enjoying your posts with colored pencils, my preferred medium for coloring. While copics are the rage, and they are quite beautiful and intense in color, for me (my humble opinion) the texture is missing that is achieved with pencils or water colors. I'm always mesmerized by your art, whether it's pencil or water color. Your love for what you do is there in all your work and it's difficult not to be drawn in and captivated by its beauty. Thank you so much for sharing your comparisons of these wonderful products with all of us. It's very much appreciated. Hugs!!!

  5. Hi Dina,
    Thank you for all the information you are sharing about pencils. Your work is gorgeous. I hope to take your classes in the near future. Thanks for all the comparisons. And...I love your card.

  6. I am another who prefers colored pencils. I have enjoyed your comparisons, and have saved your charts for reference. Thanks for all the work! Your bear is darling, love your coloring.

  7. Dina -- what if anything do you use to blend with for the pencils after you have laid down color? Th
    Thanks -- Fran (Berkeley, CA, USA)