Sunday 22 October 2017

Product Review Series | Prismacolor Premier Coloured Pencils

Hi everyone, thank you for stopping by. I hope you're having a great day.

I have been promising this one for a very long time, and I'm happy to say I'm finally ready to deliver. Perhaps it is the cooler fall season, but I've been using the Prismacolors a lot more often in my work. I've also been using Kraft cardstock more often and honestly the two just go together like tea and biscuits.

Prismacolor Premier pencils have been around for some time, established by the Eagle Pencil Co. in 1938 in New York City.  The company has changed hands a few times since then and now has a total of 150 vibrant colours in it's palette.*

  • High Quality - Artist Grade Pigment
  • Widely available in stores or online
  • Available in sets or open stock
  • Soft core - allows for smooth application of colour
  • Wax based
  • Blending pencils available

I personally have the 72 set, and for the purposes of this review I will be using them on 65lb Kraft cardstock from Recollections.

If you shop around, you can certainly find a set that fits within your price range. Don't get me wrong, these pencils are not cheap. In Calgary, I can purchase them open stock for about $1.90/each plus tax. This is not a grade-school investment. I ordered my set off Amazon (Canada) in the spring as they were having a sale and I just couldn't pass it up.

The pencils come pre-sharpened, however there seems to be a lot of extra room in the tin so during shipping there was some damage to the tips.

I expected this. I have long been reading reviews from other colourists and pencil artist discussing how the quality of Prismacolor has been declining. Perhaps this is true. I bought my first set nearly a decade ago, and from my experience the quality is the same now as it was then.

I have personally had some trouble with a couple I have purchased open stock, as they get touched by people and knocked about by children and dropped on the floor.

These are a soft core, wax based pencil so they are more delicate. I found that with the few I had breakage issues with, by changing my sharpener I was able to greatly reduce my frustration. For a while I had been sharpening with an electric sharpener as it gives more stability and control - basically you just hold the pencil there; then I switched to the T'Gaal manual sharpener. I've since put away all my other sharpeners. There will be a review of this sharpener. (Spoiler - go buy it!)

I have also had one or two instances where the casing has split down the length of the pencil. Again, I expect something like this when you ship wood through dry areas. If you use a piece of thin washi tape and wrap it tightly - but carefully avoid as much overlap as possible - you can stabilize your pencil and still sharpen right through the tape. It may be annoying but in my opinion it is a small price to pay for the quality of pigment.

If you get a set and there are a significant percentage that are damage, split or broken then by all means send them back, that only makes sense.

I stamped these images from MFT's "Our Story" with Memento Tuxedo Black ink (out of habit) on 65lb Kraft cardstock by Recollections.

Each object has a minimum of two shades (for the books) and a maximum of four shades (chair and side table) for shading.


  • If coloured pencils aren't your typical medium they require practice. I normally colour my scenes with Copic markers and my technique for laying down the colour is completely different. With Copics I start with my medium shade, then darkest then lightest. However with pencils I start with my lightest and work to my darkest shades. You have to find what works for you.
  • You must use an incredibly light hand. Unless you are working on high-end artist paper with lots of tooth, you have a limited number of layers before you just can't put down any more colour. The pigment in the pencil sticks to the little bumps (tooth) of the paper, once those are smoothed out - there is no more layering.
  • Keep your pencils sharp. There is literally nothing worse than trying to colour with a dull pencil. I don't know how I used to do it. I don't know how my kids do it - I can't even look. Find a sharpener that works for you and stick with it. 
  • If you are colouring stamped images such as this one, and you like that bold black outline, your multi-liner or pigment pen will not work over this. The wax and the ink aren't friends. They don't like each other and they don't want to play together. Use the black pencil and carefully go over your lines. I used this technique in the example above and you would never know that it wasn't the original stamped lines.
  • Pencil colouring takes way longer than colouring with alcohol markers. I'd say this little scene took me about an hour to do. Had this been with Copic markers, I could likely have been done in 10 minutes. Maybe less.
  • Do away with the blender pencil (in my opinion). Take the time to learn how to get the blend you are looking for with just the colours that you want to use. I found the blender pencil added an additional waxy bloom to the area with no real benefit. All it did was mash down the tooth of the paper and stop me from adding more layers. I tossed it and forced myself to learn how to blend without it and I'm happier and feel more accomplished for it.
  • Pencil colouring is a labour of love. If you are in a hurry or have a lot of copies to get done this may not be the medium to choose at the moment. I don't mass produce cards that are in pencil. They are reserved for close friends and family members.
Overall, I feel Prismacolor Premier pencils have been getting a bad rep for no real reason. Sure there are a few out there that were missed by the quality inspectors but tell me a product that has never had a problem. I can't think of one. For the dozen or so sets and brands of coloured pencil (both wax and oil based) I have, I still reach for my Prismacolors first. 

They layer well, there are an amazing number of colours and they are easily accessible. I haven't come across a wax based pencil with a higher pigment quality, so really the price is not that ridiculous. Shop around. 

There will likely be one or two in the bunch that are damaged, maybe repairable but maybe not, but think about the number of pencils that are being produced. Should there be a tighter watch on the quality of the pencils as they come off the line? Probably, but that can be said of any company with nearly any product. 

Despite the shortcomings and horror stories that you read floating about the internet, these coloured pencils are a fine addition to an artist's craft room. My only regret is not purchasing a larger set when the sale was going on.

I hope you enjoyed today's review, if you have any questions about this product or a suggestion for a future review please leave me a comment in the section below. If you haven't already, please follow me on the right side bar or over on Facebook, so you don't miss out on any future posts.

Click here to see the card created with this example.

**disclaimer: I am not sent products to review, nor am I paid to review them. I review the products that I use, that I find interesting and that I have paid for with my very own money. I am given no incentive, payment or reward for a review. All reviews are based on my experience with the product and are my opinion only.


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