Pastels or Colored Pencils? Which Is Best For You?

Pastels or Colored Pencils? Which Is Best For You?

There is a big price difference between pastels or colored pencils, and there are good reasons why. Which should you use?

What is a Colored Pencil?

Pastel pencil or colored pencil choicesProbably you used colored pencils along with crayons as a child. They are gaining in popularity for adult-use today.

A colored pencil is similar to a regular pencil in shape, but it is pigment combined with wax or oil instead of graphite. You can use them for coloring and for drawing, and there are adult coloring books of all kinds available today.

From coloring birds, to flowers, to mandalas, re-learning how to use them can be a relaxing and satisfying use of your time.

My favorites are Prismacolor Pencils. Blick says, ” Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils are the most popular colored pencils we sell. The colors are easily blended, slow to wear, break-resistant, and waterproof.

Each 3.8 mm core is enclosed in a round cedar casing that is lacquered to match the core.” ( I am an affiliate of Blick Art Materials, and if you use this link to purchase your art materials, I will get a small commission that helps to support this site.)

You can also find many adult coloring books at Blick.  So then what about pastels or colored pencils…what would you choose one over the other?

What are Pastel Pencils Good For?

pastels or colored pencils

Derwent Pastel Pencils

Pastel pencils are really hard pastels in a pencil shape. They are softer and more crumbly than colored pencils, which are waxy and more dense. (There are also oil pastels, which are more crayon-like and not discussed in this post.)

Pastel pencils are useful for making fine edges and details in your pastel paintings, and are a tool to use by themselves to create art.  They can be blended and smudged like pastel paints.

Because, like other pastel paints, they are a very pure pigment, they cost more. Colored pencils, being oily, are not good to combine with a soft pastel painting. I love my Derwent Pastel Pencils for both to add detail to my paintings and for use by themselves. They are easy to transport so great to sketch the beginning of a painting too.

pastels or colored pencils

Sharpening Pastels or Colored Pencils

Sharpening your pencils is an art form of its own. The tips can be fragile, certainly more so than a regular graphite pencil! And they cost more than a pencil, too, so you want to take care.

First, DO NOT use a manual crank sharpener! It will destroy your pencil.

Even an electric one is hard to manage, since you just insert the pencil, carefully, and the machine chews it up.

You can use a sharp knife, the old-fashioned way. Just be sure to turn your pencil as you carve away at the edge gently.

My favorite – and safest – method is to use a small handheld sharpener. You can purchase one made for colored pencils, or use a cosmetic sharpener designed for eyeliner pencils. The best way is to hold the pencil vertically in one hand and gently turn the sharpener, not the other way around. You are less likely to have breakage with this method.pencil sharpener

Whatever sharpener you use, keep in mind that colored pencils are made with wax or oil and can gunk up the blades. You can clean them with a toothpick or q-tip, and occasionally sharpening a graphite pencil can help clean up the waxy buildup. It is similar to using graphite powder in a padlock to clean it.

Some sharpeners have replacement blades. If your shavings are getting short instead of in a nice long strip, your blade is probably getting dull. If you do not have a replacement blade option, your best choice is to toss and replace the sharpener, rather than destroying your pencils.

Pencil Techniques

With pastels or colored pencils, the techniques to use can be similar

With pastels or colored pencils, the techniques to use can be similar

The technique you probably used most often when you were a child is called Back and Forth. This involves keeping the pencil on the surface and moving it back and forth.

Similar is to move it in a circling motion. This is called scumbling.

Isn't it amazing that two techniques that came naturally to you as a child have been named and are part of a system of using colored or pastel pencils?

There are three other techniques for using colored or pastel pencils: hatching and cross-hatching and stippling:

Hatching is taking your pencil, applying a line, then lifting it, moving it to another spot and drawing a parallel line. Then repeating the process. Cross-hatching is taking your pencil and drawing a line across the parallel lines, then lifting it and drawing more lines parallel to the first.

Stippling is dotting. Like hatching and cross-hatching, you lift the pencil for each dot.

With each of these five techniques, you can place the marks as close or as far apart as you want for the effect you are working to create. Each gives different texture, intensity and density as you make your artwork.

Coloring for GrownUpsadult coloring book

I think it is so great to be able to play as we did as children in our adult years. Coloring is one more way to play. WIth adult coloring books, it is easy, too.

Did you know that there are even apps for your mobile devices where you can download coloring books and do them with your fingers instead of with colored or pastel pencils. Have you tried them?

I have, and found I got bored quickly. I did not enjoy them as much as pencil to paper. What has been your experience?

Get a coloring book for adults…you will be amazed at how relaxing and fun it is!  I like the ones with mandalas, and find it meditative to color one.

pastels or colored pencils




Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Please follow and like us:

Published by Annie Collyer

Annie is a mom of four, a business owner and blogger. She and her husband live in New Hampshire, where they are both active volunteers in their community school district. She writes about designing our lives with proven design thinking principles. Join her in creating the life we each want.

  • Andrew Bromley says:

    Coloured pencils,now that really takes me back to my school days. Back then i really liked to draw using different coloured pencils, a lot cleaner than paint, But now they do have a multi purpose as they can be used in the office, in the home almost anything, They will be an ideal Christmas gift for children.

    • I agree they make great gifts for children.  I am giving my grandson pastel pencils, some sanded pastel paper and a hand sharpener.  He really likes to sketch and work fine, with abstract shapes.  He will love them, I know!  AND we get to do some creative work together.  A real win-win.

  • Soby says:

    You know this is great! Perfect explanation, clear and to the point. Thank you for some nice recommendations, especially the one about sharpening! I’m an artist myself, but I’ve never worked with this guys and always wanted to give them a try, but didn’t know exactly what is the difference! Well, now I do! Thank you!

  • minecraft says:

    Great work! This is the kind of info that should be shared
    around the web. Shame on the seek engines
    for now not positioning this put up upper! Come on over and consult with my website .

    Thanks =)

  • What do you want to do with your life?

    What do you really want to do for your living? Life Design is within your reach! Sign up here to get the Free EBook Designing Your Life.

    Email Marketing by

    Work is an important part of how we live and what we do, isn't it. So are

    How can we learn to balance our lives, and get everything we want?

    Learn Design Principles so that you can Design the Life  - and the Work - you want to Live. Ask yourself:

    OK, it IS possible.  Now do you want to do that? What would it look like?

    Do you want to design the ideal way for you to be making a living? Get your FREE EBook Designing Your Life- and your FREE ECourse on implementing Life Design in your work life. You can create a life and a job that gets you what you want in life.  This EBook and ECourse will give you the tools

    Don't waste any more time getting what you want in life.  Put your name and email in the form below, and get started on designing the life you want today.

    Email Marketing by

    Invalid email

    You have successfully subscribed to the newsletter

    How and what you think attracts both good and bad into your life:

    The Law of Attraction

    Email Marketing by

    Your thoughts have Power

    You can control how your life goes. Read our FREE ebook on the Law of Attraction and get your free ECourse on how to

    Make the Law work for you - not against you.

    What happens when you don't understand how the Law of Attraction works?

    What do you want? Learn how to manifest what you want in your life. Get your FREE Ebook on the Law of Attraction.  Put your name and email below, and your book will be on its way to you. You'll get your ECourse on how to put the Law of Attraction into effect. You know, don't you, from many past experiences, that you read something once, and then it fades away as life happens. You forget all about it.   You lose it, and you don't get the benefits of what you learned. Frustrating, isn't it? With this ECourse,

    Get started with Attracting What you Want in Life.

    Sign up here.

    Email Marketing by

    Invalid email

    You have successfully subscribed to the newsletter