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Do Prismacolor Colored Pencils Expire

Do Prismacolor Colored Pencils Expire

Do Prismacolor colored pencils expire? Do any colored pencils expire?

I’ve had more than one artist ask that question over the past year or two, so I thought I’d take the occasion of this most recent question to answer publicly. Here’s the question:

I have quite a few Prismacolor pencils close to 25 years old. My question is do they expire? I’m finding a few of them color unevenly and leave globs of color instead of smooth and creamy. I really don’t want to get rid of them though! I’ve got three new sets and try to smooth them out if I can.

Do Prismacolor Colored Pencils Expire

Colored pencils don’t expire. No matter how old they are, they still color just as well as on the day they left the factory. I have a few that are quite old, too, and I still use them for some things.

If you have problems with old pencils, then it’s likely the pencils left the factory with those problems. I once bought several Indigo Blue pencils at the same time, and they were all gritty and tended to break. They were essentially unusable.

The next Indigo Blue pencils I bought were perfectly fine.

I’ve had no experiences with globs, though. The only thing I can think of is that the wax binder isn’t behaving like it should. Fortunately, there is an easy way to test that theory.

Try placing one of those pencils in a sunny window for an afternoon, then let it cool. After it cools, try drawing with it and see if that makes a difference.

If the globs are wax binder, other possible solutions are blending with rubbing alcohol or odorless mineral spirits. Any solvent breaks down the binder in colored pencils, allowing the pigment to “flow” almost like paint. If the globs are wax, the solvent should dissolve them and allow you to smooth the color.

Before you try solvent, make sure your paper will hold up when dampened, and will dry flat.

For more information on blending with solvents, read Blending Colored Pencils with Painting Solvents on my art blog.

I hope that helps. You may have to set those “globby” pencils aside and use the newer pencils for those colors. Old and new work together fine, so that’s a perfectly acceptable solution.

Do you have a question about colored pencils? Ask Carrie!

2 thoughts on “Do Prismacolor Colored Pencils Expire

  1. I have heard many complaints with regard to Prismacolour pencils suffering from breakage whether from dropping or applying too much pressure. I have an electric heating paint stripper close by and when I find a pencil is breaking or splintering I run the paint stripper lightly over the pencil applying a little heat along the entire length. Not so much as to blister the paint on the outside but just enough to melt the wax in the core’ This seems to cure the problem of breakage. I believe a hair dryer will do the same. There is a large chain of art stores near Toronto that have discontinued Prismacolor pencils because of too many breakage complaints. They were quite surprised when I told them of this solution. This may help the person with the old pencil problem.

    1. John,

      Yes. Breakage in Prismacolors can be a serious problem. A paint stripper would work if you were very careful with it. My husband has one that can not only blister paint, but ignite wood if not used properly, so use caution.

      I have heard other artists talk about hair dryers for this purpose, but I really prefer just leaving any suspect pencils in a sunny window for a day. I haven’t had much problems with breakage, but this has worked for me.

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