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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!

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Erasable Colored Pencils: Good or Bad?

Erasable Colored Pencils: Good or Bad?

Erasable colored pencils are the topic for today, after a reader asked the following question.

I’ve heard of erasable coloured pencils. What is your experience with them?

In short, I have no experience with erasable colored pencils. I’ve never had a need for them.

But Brenda Matsen does use Col-Erase pencils. Col-Erase is an erasable pencil from Prismacolor. Crayola is another company that makes a line of colored pencils that can be easily erased.

Brenda uses them for her line drawing work only, then layers regular colored pencils over them. Here’s what she had to say about them in the September issue of CP Magic:

[Col-Erase pencils] erase well and lift off nicely with a kneaded eraser. I keep them sharp and use light pressure.

I also choose colours that go well with my project, just in case some colour might stay behind.

They aren’t advertised as lightfast but rather as erasable and break resistant. I only use them for line drawing which doesn’t need to last. They keep a good point.

Brenda Matsen

Erasable Colored Pencils: Good or Bad?

As I mentioned above, I’ve never used Col-erase or any other erasable colored pencils. But I can see applications in which they would be useful. Brenda’s method of using them to make line drawings is probably the best one.

You could also use them for the initial layers if you’re not sure of the best colors to use. If you don’t like the first color, erase it, then try another. When you’ve found the best color, then go over it again with regular colored pencils.

Col-Erase and other types of erasable colored pencils are also good for craft applications or adult coloring books. If it’s not important that your artwork last a long time, then there’s nothing wrong with using erasable pencils.

But if you’re doing work for sale or commission work, then use erasable pencils for the line drawing as Brenda does, and use archival, artist quality pencils for shading and rendering.

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

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The Best Colored Pencils for Adult Coloring Books

The Best Colored Pencils for Adult Coloring Books

I received an interesting question for this week’s Q&A post: What are the best colored pencils for adult coloring books?

And the reader did an even more interesting thing. He took price off the table!

The Best Colored Pencils for Adult Coloring Books

I really enjoyed answering this question. It’s almost like putting together a personal wish list!

The good news is that the best pencils for coloring books are artist grade pencils. Few coloring books are printed on artist-quality paper, so the better your pencils, the better your results. Combining a lesser quality paper with poor quality pencils is going to be unsatisfactory, at best.

How you draw and the results you prefer all play a role in choosing pencils, too. What works for me may not work for you.

Artists with hand or wrist problems may also need to consider the shape and size of the pencils.

So what I’ll do is list the pencils I’d use for coloring book work and I’ll list them in order of rank, starting with the pencil I’d be most likely to use.

First Hand Recommendations

Let’s begin with the pencils I have either used in the past or currently use. I’m listing seven brands in order of familiarity. The pencils at the head of the list are the pencils I’m most familiar with. The pencils at the bottom are pencils I’m currently trying, and have very few of.

  1. Prismacolor
  2. Faber-Castell Polychromos
  3. Blick Studio
  4. Derwent Lightfast
  5. Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor
  6. Caran d’Ache Luminance
  7. Caran d’Ache Pablo

Prismacolor and Polychromos pencils are my favorite pencils for almost every application. I do finished art with them, I sketch with them, I do test swatches with them. Yes, I have used them on a coloring page or two.

I don’t think you can go wrong with either of those two brands.

What’s even better is that they work well together.

Blick Studio pencils are a good pencil if price is an issue or if you find Prismacolors too soft and Polychromos too hard. I have a full set and use them most on sanded art papers because that’s the best combination of pencil and paper for the way I draw. But they can also be useful with adult coloring books.

I have about half a dozen Derwent Lightfast pencils and I enjoy using them, though my use has been limited so far. They are probably a bit pricey for adult coloring books, but if money is no object, they would do very well.

The same applies to the pencils from Caran d’Ache. Luminance and Pablo are both absolutely top of the line in pigmentation and lightfast ratings, but they may be more than you need for adult coloring books.

Second Hand Recommendations

Other artists recommend the following three pencils, but I have not used them.

  1. Bruynzeel Design
  2. Derwent Coloursoft
  3. Derwent ProColour

These are recommendations only, but the reviews and recommendations I’ve seen and heard are mostly good.

Those are My Picks for Best Colored Pencils for Adult Coloring Books

The pencils on these lists are all considered artist quality or near artist quality. Prices range from very affordable to pretty pricey.

I hope that helps! Thank you again for your question.

At the beginning of July, I started a new sketching habit, which I’ve been documenting every Monday on my art blog, This Monday’s post is a sort of pencil review. I did all of the sketches on white Clairefontaine Pastelmat, but I used different pencils, including Faber-Castell Polychromos, Prismacolor, and Derwent Lightfast.

You can see the results of those sketches and read my thoughts on how the pencils performed here. That may give you a better idea of how each of the pencils I reviewed actually performed.

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

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Using PanPastels Under Colored Pencil

Using PanPastels Under Colored Pencil

Today’s reader question comes from a reader who wants a little advice (and encouragement!) on using PanPastels under colored pencil. Here’s her question.

On under paintings for colored pencil, could I cheat and use pan pastels?

Using PanPastels Under Colored Pencil

Is Using PanPastels Cheating?

The first thing I need to point out is that using PanPastels under colored pencils is not cheating. Doing an under painting with PanPastels is no different than creating an under painting with watercolor, India Ink, or markers.

It’s simply another method of drawing.

However, any time you mix media, you need to be mindful of the characteristics and limitations of the second media. Here are a couple of things to remember when using PanPastels under colored pencils.

Things to Remember When Mixing PanPastels and Colored Pencils

First, PanPastels work best when you rub them into the tooth of the paper because they’re basically only powdered pigment with very little binder. That’s what makes them so easy to blend.

So you want to use a paper with enough tooth to hold the PanPastel pigment firmly. That usually means a paper made for pastels. Any type of sanded pastel paper is your best option. These papers never run out of tooth and you can use colored pencils on them.

But Canson Mi-Teintes is also made for pastel, so it’s a good choice if you don’t want to use sanded art papers.

Second, use PanPastels sparingly in the areas where you plan to apply colored pencil. PanPastels fill the tooth of the paper enough to fill in all those paper holes, but if you use too much, colored pencil may not stick.

Some artists use a spray fixative on their pastel work, so that might be of help to you. It will definitely secure the PanPastel.

It may also cause some discoloration, so do a test swatch on scrap paper first (preferably the same type of paper you want to draw on.)

Most of the artists I’ve spoken with on this subject say they prefer not to use fixatives, or to use a fixative only on the finished piece. They tell me that rubbing the PanPastel into the paper is sufficient.

Third, do all the PanPastel work you want to do before adding colored pencils. The binding agent in colored pencils helps them stick to PanPastels. But PanPastels are not likely to stick to colored pencils very well.

I hope that helps. I’ve never used PanPastels, though the more I learn about them, the more curious I get.

Much more information is available from the PanPastel company website. A variety of instructional videos are available on using PanPastels alone and in combination other mediums. It’s a great place to learn more about this unique medium.

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

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Prismacolor Verithin Pencils

Prismacolor Verithin Pencils

Today I want to talk a little bit about Prismacolor Verithin Pencils and how best to use them. The topic was suggested by a reader question, so let’s begin by taking a look at the question.

I am very much a beginner and enjoy your weekly blogs immensely.

My preference is starting to go towards [the] Prismacolor series, and I’m learning layering and scraping or slicing… whatever it is called.

When I layer the Verithin pencils I have, I seem to have zero effect for [anything but] skinny stroke lines. Am I doing something wrong or is this normal because of the softness and/or hardness of the lead?

Am I never going to be able to use my Verithin pencils with my Premier?

Thank you


Thank you for your questions. My experience has been that not many people use Prismacolor’s Verithin line of pencils or know the best way to use them. I have Verithin pencils and have used them quite a bit, but even I have moved away from them in favor of other methods.

However, they are still very useful for certain techniques, so let’s talk about what these pencils are, how they differ from the Thick Core line of Prismacolor pencils, and how you can make the best use of them.

Prismacolor Verithin Pencils Box

Comparing Verithin and Thick Core Prismacolor Pencils

Verithin and Thick Core pencils are both manufactured under the Prismacolor name. They use the same pigments, and they share color names. Dark Brown in Prismacolor Verithin is the same color as Dark Brown in Prismacolor Thick Core.

That’s about all they have in common, however.

Most of us are very familiar with the smoothness and softness of Prismacolor Thick Core pencils. That’s what most artists think of when they think “Prismacolor.”

Prismacolor Verithin pencils are thinner, harder, and less waxy. They sharpen to a very fine point and they hold that point much longer. They also leave less wax on the paper.

But they do not layer as easily. Nor do they create the same kind of rich, saturated color as their thicker, softer cousins.

They also come in a limited collection of 36 colors.

It is possible to create complete works of art with Verithin pencils, but they will have a totally different look than the same art created with the same colors in the thick core line.

Because of these differences, they don’t perform the same way as Prismacolor Thick Core pencils.

But they do perform extremely well in certain applications.

How to Make the Best Use of Verithin Pencils

Fine Details

Because they are thinner, harder, and hold a sharp point longer, Prismacolor Verithin pencils are perfect for drawing fine details. For years, they were my go-to pencil for drawing long, flowing manes on my horses, or for adding detail to grassy fields and similar applications.

Etching Details

Sharp tips and hard lead also make them great etching tools. You can “slice” through heavy layers of softer color with a Verithin pencil AND leave a bit of color in the mark at the same time.

You can’t do as much detail work this way as you could do with a Slice tool or knife, but adding subtle details is much easier with a Verithin pencil.

And you’re less likely to cut through the paper!

Under Drawings

Even today, I most often use Verithin pencils at the under drawing phase. They leave less wax on the paper, so I can add almost as many layers of color as a I want without filling up the tooth of the paper.

It’s very easy to layer softer pencils over them to finish a piece.

Sanded Art Papers

I’ve even found them useful on sanded art papers such as Clairefontaine Pastelmat and Lux Archival. I don’t use them as much for under drawings on sanded art papers, but they’re excellent for blending layers of color and for adding details over layers of color.

In fact, in the last horse portrait I did, I used Verithin pencils over many layers of color to add flyaway hairs in the mane and forelock, eyelashes, and other details.

You’re Not Doing Anything Wrong with Your Prismacolor Verithin Pencils!

Prismacolor Verithin pencils can be extremely useful if you understand what they are and how they work. They have a very specific area of usefulness.

Once you find that place in your drawing process, you’ll be able to create wonderful art with them by themselves or in combination with other types and brands of pencils.

So continue practicing with them, and try a few of the techniques I described above.

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

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Getting Started with Colored Pencils

Getting Started with Colored Pencils

There are a lot of new colored pencil enthusiasts in this audience. There are probably many others who are interested in colored pencils, but haven’t yet taken the plunge. So I want to talk about getting started with colored pencils.

Let’s begin with the reader question.


What would be a good starting point for doing color pencils? I am not much [with] drawing skill.


Thank you for your question, Steve! I’ve used colored pencils for so long, I often forget what getting started was like!

Getting Started with Colored Pencils

When you first start thinking about using colored pencils, it looks like there’s a lot to learn. And there is.

There are also dozens of tools and accessories on the market, and more are launched every month.

So where do you begin?

The truth is that you can start using colored pencils with only the basics. What are the basics? Pencils and paper (and a sharpener!)

When it comes to getting started with colored pencils, focus on the basic necessities.


You have to buy pencils, but everybody’s budget is different. The number and type of pencils purchased differs from artist to artist.

However, the best thing you can do isbuy the best pencils you can. That’s why I always recommend you buy the best you can afford.

I also suggest you buy a few colors open stock (single pencils instead of sets.) Each pencil will cost more, but you can make a good start with half a dozen artist-grade pencils.

Why artist-grade?

Because artist-grade pencils contain more pigment and perform better than scholastic- grade (grade school quality) and student-grade. You’ll get a better feel for the medium with better materials.

And if you decide colored pencils aren’t for you, then you haven’t spent a lot of money on a full set of pencils.

Another alternative is to buy smaller sets. Most brands and grades of pencils come in 12-color sets and 24-color sets for a fraction of the cost of full sets.

So find the best combination of quality, price, and selection.


Paper is the same way. Skip the fancy or colored papers. Start with a pad of good, white drawing paper, and go small. A 9-inch by 12-inch pad of paper is the largest size I’d suggest. Smaller is better. They’re usually less expensive, and a better fit for sketching, doodling, or just experimenting with your new pencils.

But don’t skimp on quality. As with pencils, starting with good paper is your best option for getting a true feel for the medium.

If you can, try a pad of Bristol and a pad of regular drawing paper like Strathmore or Stonehenge. Bristol is very smooth. Regular drawing papers have a bit more texture and a softer feel. By trying both, you’ll discover which basic type of paper gives you the best results.

Dick Blick offers a wide selection of good drawing pads and they’re customer service is excellent. They also sell pencils in sets and open stock!

I Don’t Have Much Drawing Skill

Steve also mentioned not having much drawing skill. That’s okay! You don’t need drawing skill to experiment with colored pencils. You need pencils and paper!

But there many options available to you if you want to try colored pencils that allow you to begin without having a lot of drawing skill. Here are three ideas.


If you have an adventurous personality, try just playing with your new pencils and paper. Make marks on the paper. Try drawing lines, and shading shapes. Doodle!

You can learn a lot about colored pencils just by shading one color over another, by pushing the pencil against the paper with different pressures, and so on. If you have a question about how a pencil performs under certain conditions, then try it and see!

Believe it or not, you can learn enough about colored pencils through this kind of experimentation to know whether or not colored pencils are a good fit for you.

Adult Coloring Books

If you’re not adventurous by nature, or if you prefer trying your new colored pencils with pictures, designs, and patterns that someone else has drawn, try adult coloring books.

Adult coloring books are available in all subjects from very simple patterns to complex, draw-by-number versions of Classical Masterpieces. Some specify colors. Some allow you to make your own color choices.

The biggest disadvantage to adult coloring books is that most of them are not printed on a good drawing paper. For the most part, the paper is good enough to give you a fairly accurate feel for colored pencils, but that’s all.

However, some books are available on higher grade papers, and they are a good way to learn colored pencils.

Then there are free coloring pages. Simply search for “free coloring pages.” Chose one you like, and then download and print it. You can print designs as often as you like on any paper your printer will print on.


Tutorials usually offer you a line drawing to start with. They also provide a color list, so if you haven’t yet purchased pencils, a tutorial gives you a place to begin!

Beyond that, if you prefer learning a new medium with a specific project, tutorials are the perfect place to begin. When you buy a tutorial, you get a project, step-by-step instructions, and a supply list (usually quite inexpensive.) You also can choose beginner, intermediate, or advanced level projects.

And the best part is that most tutorials are under $20!

A variety of tutorials are available right here, at Colored Pencil Tutorials, including tutorials for beginners. But many artists and companies publish tutorials. Ann Kullberg is one such artist. Dozens of beginner tutorials are available by a number of artists. The collection includes a selection of projects designed for beginners.

Getting Started with Colored Pencils Doesn’t Have to be Difficult

Or expensive.

Start small and with the basic supplies.

If in doubt about what supplies to purchase first, take a look at tutorials, choose a subject, and then see what supplies you need for that project.

You can always buy more colors and tools as you need them.

However you start, just starting is the most important part. After all, you can’t come to enjoy colored pencils as I do if you don’t start!

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

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Watercolor and Traditional Colored Pencils

Watercolor and Traditional Colored Pencils

Have you ever thought about combining watercolor and traditional colored pencils in the same work? Do these two types of colored pencils work well together?

You’re not the only one who wants to know. Here’s today’s reader question.

I have dabbled in watercolor pencils combined with regular colored pencils and I wonder if you would ever be willing to give some tips or do a tutorial combining the two? I am only just starting to do more of this and I love the rich colors that you can get when these two mediums are combined.

What a great question.

And what a great observation. You can get rich colors when you combine watercolor pencils and traditional colored pencils.

Combining Watercolor and Traditional Colored Pencils

Whenever you consider mixing mediums, there are a couple of important things to keep in mind.

The most important thing to remember whenever you combine traditional colored pencils with any other medium is that all colored pencils contain some wax. The pigment that gives them color is mixed with a binding agent that allows them to be shaped into lead form. The binding agent is a mix of wax, vegetable oil, and other ingredients. In wax-based colored pencils, the binding agent is mostly wax. But even oil-based colored pencils have some wax in the binding agent.

That’s important because wax and water don’t mix. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using watercolors, watercolor pencils, inks, acrylics, or some other water-soluble medium. Traditional colored pencils stick to water-based mediums, but water-based mediums will not stick to wax-based mediums.

Now let’s discuss a few other basic tips.

Choose Appropriate Paper

Whenever you use a water-based medium, it’s smart to use a paper designed for wet media. Watercolor paper is designed to handle repeated applications of water and it usually stands up well under lots of layering.

Regular Stonehenge paper can handle limited amounts of water without warping or buckling. If you tape it down first, it even dries flat. I’ve used it for small, experimental pieces and find it quite satisfactory.

Watercolor and Traditional Colored Pencils

For larger pieces or pieces in which you use watercolor pencils for most of the work, watercolor paper is best. Stonehenge Aqua is designed for watercolors and watercolor pencils, but it also accepts traditional colored pencils very well. It’s a great paper that feels like regular Stonehenge paper, but is much sturdier.

Tape the paper to a rigid support before you begin, unless you choose a paper that’s 140 lb or more. Most of them are thick enough to withstand repeated applications of water without being taped down.

Start with Watercolor Pencils

When you want to use watercolor pencils and regular colored pencils, always start with the watercolor pencils. They’re a great time saver and a great way to create color with no paper holes, but use them first.

No matter how you use them, do all the work with them that you want to do. It doesn’t matter if you paint with them wet, or if you layer them dry, then blend them with water. Take your time and make sure you’ve done everything you want to do before layering traditional colored pencils over them. Once you start with the traditional colored pencils, you can’t go back.

Think of the work you do with watercolor pencils as the under drawing (or under painting, if you prefer.) Do as much detailing or as little as you like. I blocked in color and a few details on this piece (above,) but I’ve seen other artists do watercolor work that looks almost like a finished piece. They use traditional colored pencils for detailing.

Let the Paper Dry

Before you finish with watercolor pencils, it’s important to let the paper dry completely before layering traditional pencils. Using a pencil on wet paper can scuff the surface of wet paper, and it’s possible to puncture wet paper.

The fact is that you should let the paper dry between applications of watercolor pencil, unless you’re applying wet color. Then you can work wet-into-wet. Just remember that wet watercolor applied into wet watercolor will run. The colors will mix. Some great, spontaneous affects are possible with this method, but they may not suit your overall style or the specific piece.

Some artists do light work on damp paper, but I’ve always found it safer to let the paper dry first. I’m not always that careful!

Finish with Traditional Colored Pencils

Once you do everything you want to do with watercolor pencils, finish with traditional colored pencils. For some projects, that may mean you’re doing only the detailing.

Other projects may involve more work.

I did most of the layering and detailing with traditional pencils with this landscape. The watercolor pencils provided the base layer, as shown above.

Apply traditional colored pencils over watercolor pencils normally. Use the same layering and stroking techniques. Watch the amount of pressure you use, and so on.

The only difference is that you begin with a layer of color that fills in all the paper holes without filling in all the tooth of the paper.

And that’s the beauty of mixing watercolor pencils with traditional colored pencils.

Combining Watercolor and Traditional Colored Pencils

Those are a few basic tips for combining watercolor and traditional colored pencils. If you follow those basics, you can create vibrant, richly colored artwork that lasts for years.

As for the reader’s second question about a tutorial, the answer is yes. Not only am I willing to write such a tutorial, I’m preparing to release one as I write this words.

So stay tuned!

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