Monday, May 26, 2014

Pencil comparisons - price and purchase options

I've spent most of the last week with close to 800 pencils on my desk! I wanted to do some comparisons between the brands in my collection, as a reference for those who may be thinking of investing in a large set. I'll break the information up into several posts - there's just a lot to cover, and I like to be thorough. As always, if you have questions, leave them in the comments and I'll group and answer them in a separate post. Thanks!

In further posts I'll give you a look at the brands I have, and show you how they perform based on blendability, pigment strength, brightness on black, laydown, lead strength, etc.

For today, let's look at value. For those considering investing in a larger wax- or oil-based pencil set, here's a chart that compares 10 sets, based on their purchasing options and prices (the link will take you to a pdf version you can print if you want). They're in no particular order on the chart, just separated by type. I don't have all these sets, but these are the larger artist grade sets that are available at this time. There are other options that are student or scholastic grade - I haven't included those.

NOTE: I did include my latest purchase on the chart - the Holbein Artists' Colored Pencils. I've since found out from the manufacturer that these pencils are not marketed to the US as they haven't been tested against US standards for toxicity.  I have them and love them and I promise to be careful with them, but because of the direct caution from HK Holbein Inc., I don't suggest that you buy them from someone who is selling illegally. 

Here are a few things to consider when you're making a pencil purchase:
  • Check the difference in price between purchasing pencils in sets and purchasing them individually.  It may turn out to be less expensive to purchase pencils in open stock.  

  • Consider how you'll be storing the pencils. Would you need a tin or wood box for storage purposes? or will you be transferring the pencils to bins or cases?

  • Note the price per pencil in each set size. Generally with smaller sets, the price per pencil is higher than it is in larger sets. (By the way, the 'largest set' price above is in a cardboard box or tin, not the higher-priced wood boxes.)

  • If you're going to buy a set, the rule of thumb is to buy the largest set you can afford.  In the cases where there is no color overlap between sets, consider the division of colors, and how many sets you'd need to feel like your collection is complete.

  • Know your favorite color palette. Do you work mainly in pastel colors? bright colors? muted or vintage colors? Love a huge variety of greens, or flesh tones, or browns, and rarely ever use blues or purples? Don't really need all those greys? Smaller sets tend toward brighter colors. If those aren't in your taste, consider creating your own set by buying open stock. Even if the cost is a little more, you will end up with pencils that you'll use. 

  • IF you decide to purchase open stock pencils, don't be afraid to mix brands. Even the 150-color range of Prismacolors has some color sets that could be supplemented. Most wax and oil pencils blend well with other brands.

  • Ebay can be a great source for used pencils. I've gotten some incredible deals on barely-used pencils from college students who needed specific supplies for classes and then never used them again. My set of 120 Polychromos was $50, in a leather case. They were used, but very little, and in very good condition.

Here's a pencil-colored card I made for the last CHA show using products from Impression Obsession - this one was colored with Polychromos. (Star Quilt, Sew Loved, Border Duo 2 die set)

Hope that information is useful to you! I've been playing with some other comparisons and putting my pencils through the paces - more info to come!
Thanks for stopping by!

P.S. Here's a list of product links at Blick Art Materials from the list above. These are affiliate links that do kick a little commission my way if you make a purchase after a click-through. That helps me keep my art supply stash fresh and fun. Thanks in advance, if you buy!




  1. Absolutely beautiful! You know, Dina, I love Copics, but... I come back again and again to pencils. Even when I use Copics I usually follow up with pencil for additional depth.

    This is such a lovely card for Memorial Day. I love the debossed die on this too. You've captured the softness of a treasured quilt.

  2. TFS your info and the beautiful card Dina! Much appreciated!!!!

  3. Your card is gorgeous. You are very talented. My question is how does a novice decide on oil or wax pencils. That decision would help narrow the field. Thanks.