Best Colored Pencils for Bible Journaling

WordPress gives me a summary of searches that lead viewers to my blog.  A frequent search is “Best Colored Pencils for Bible Journaling.”  Below is a quick list of my favorites…

PrismaColor Premier Colored Pencils–Smooth and bright on Bible paper.

Faber Castell Polychromos–Rich, vibrant color that goes on smooth.  The pencils hold a tip well for detail work.

Crayola Color Escapes–New pencils from Crayola for grown-ups:  bright, vibrant color that blends well on Bible paper.

Koh-i-Noor Polycolor–Creamy, but not too soft, colored pencils with rich, vibrant color.

Here’s the longer answer:

There’s plenty of room for personal preference in the world of colored pencils, so I’ll do my best to just describe the different pencils.  Colored pencils, in general, lay down color nicely and they don’t bleed, so they are a great choice for Bible Journaling regardless of brand.  I hope you can easily find ones that suit your needs.  For this post, I decided to focus simply on permanent colored pencils.  (Dare I say, I’ll save watercolor pencils for another day?!?)  I also focused on how the colored pencils perform on thin Bible paper, which is kind of a niche use.

Colored pencils are basically wooden barrels filled with leads made of pigments mixed with water, an extender like clay, and a binder, either wax or oil (and some special ingredients).  It’s kind of mind-boggling to think of the effort that goes into putting together each box of 72 different colors:  growing the trees, cutting the wood for the barrels, mixing the materials for the colored leads and preparing them for the barrels, assembling the pencils, painting and stamping each finished pencil, and making sure they each get into the right box.

Colored pencils range in price from a few dollars to over $100.  What differentiates the more expensive options?  The premium pencils are more richly pigmented, have nicely crafted cedar barrels, advertise their environmentally friendly practices, sharpen nicely, don’t break as easily, blend better, have thicker leads and a nicer finish, last longer, have colors that don’t fade in sunlight, and include a storage case.  In many cases, they are also made where labor costs are higher like England, Germany, or Switzerland.  (As a side note, I couldn’t find any colored pencils made in the United States.)  Also, the oil-based pencils are generally more expensive than the wax-based pencils.

Most pencil manufacturers have several lines of colored pencils, which can get a little confusing.  In general, I selected the line (or lines) with the best overall reviews.

Just based on my observations, there are three main types of colored pencils.

Hard and waxy:  These tend to have softer colors, hold a point well, and are especially good for more detailed pictures.

  1. Derwent Artist Pencils
  2. Staedtler Noris Club Colored Pencils
  3. Crayola
  4. Crayola Color Escapes (A personal favorite!)
  5. Tombow
  6. Sargeant
  7. Artist Loft
  8. Cra-Z-Art

Soft and waxy:  These have brighter colors, provide smooth coverage, and need frequent sharpening.

  1. PrismaColor Premier Colored Pencils (A personal favorite!)
  2. Staedler Ergosoft
  3. Ohuhu

Oil-based:  These have rich, bold colors and show a little more texture.  Some oil-based pencils hold a point better than others.

  1. Faber Castell Polychromos  (A personal favorite)
  2. Caran D’ache Pablo
  3. Koh-i-Noor Polycolor  (A personal favorite)
  4. Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor
  5. Imaginesty

Here’s a photo with all of the pencils listed above and how they blend on Bible paper.  I was a little surprised to discover that all the colored pencils blended to create green from blue and yellow relatively easy:


From here, I’ll just plunge into what I’ve discovered about the different types of colored pencils.  I commented on the following qualities:

  • Blending
  • Range from light to dark
  • Ease of coverage
  • Details
  • Vibrancy
  • Bliss factor (my totally subjective response.)
  • Ease of sharpening

I’ll start with the hard and waxy pencils.

Derwent Artist Pencils

Derwent Artist Pencils are made by the Cumberland Pencil company, which has the distinction of being located near Barrowdale, England where graphite was first discovered by shepherds, who hand carved the graphite and wrapped them in sheepskin to make the first pencils.  The first pencil factory was established in Keswick in 1832.  In 2008, the Cumberland Valley Pencil Company built a new facility in nearby Lillyhall.  The company was given the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for developing a unique, solvent free paint application system, improving air quality.  Derwent Artist pencils were used to illustrate the classic animated film: “The Snowman”.

  • Blending: Excellent
  • Range from light to dark: Great
  • Ease of coverage: Excellent, when sharpened to a long point
  • Details: Excellent
  • Vibrancy: Softer, pretty colors
  • Bliss factor: Deeply satisfying to use.
  • Ease of sharpening: Awesome!  They are thick and may not fit in all pencil sharpeners.

When I first started using the artist pencils, I was somewhat disappointed.  I had grown accustomed to the creamy Faber Castels and the soft PrismaColors.  Derwent Artist pencils are hard!  But I really fell in love with the pencils after I started sharpening them with an electric pencil to a long, sharp point.  The pencil lead on the Artist Pencils is noticeably thicker than any other pencil.  The sharp tip is wonderful for detail work and the long side shades quickly.  These pencils had a learning curve for me, but they’ve become a favorite!!!  I love how easy it is to achieve subtle blended effects.  The color lays on the Bible pages like the finish on fine China.


I did not hesitate to choose these pencils for the first page of my Inspire Bible


Staedtler Noris Club Colored Pencils

Staedtler also lays claim to a very long history of pencil making.  Friedrich Staedtler, an ancestor to the company’s founder, was making pencils in 1662 in Nuremburg, Germany.  Staedtler is credited with combining the two trades of lead cutting and carpentry into pencil making.  In 1834, one year before the official founding of the company, Johann Sebastian Staedtler mixed coloured pigments with binding agents and placed a protective wooden casing around the lead to make some of the first colored pencils.

Staedtler has a collection called Noris Club that is recommend by Johanna Basford for coloring in the Secret Garden books.

  • Blending: Excellent
  • Range from light to dark: Good
  • Ease of coverage: Excellent
  • Details: Excellent
  • Vibrancy: Pretty soft colors
  • Bliss factor: Surprisingly pleasant experience
  • Ease of sharpening: No problems

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed coloring with these pencils in the Inspire Bible. The colors are not exceptionally vivid, but they are pretty.  The pencils easily laid down color on the smooth Bible pages.  The pencils held their tip well, which made it easy to color the small detailed picture.  The pencil lead is specially treated to give it more strength.




Crayola was acquired by Hallmark in 1984.  I grew up in Kansas City, corporate headquarters for Hallmark.  My favorite childhood destination was Kaleidoscope, a wonderful place where kids could make art projects with leftover materials from Hallmark’s card-making materials and Crayola products.  What made it even better:  my grandmother was a regular volunteer.  As I got older, she would take me along as a volunteer.  So many good memories!

Crayola has a long stand-alone history in Pennsylvania, where I live now.  I have yet to visit the Crayola Experience in Easton, PA, but would love to do so!

In 1885, Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith formed a partnership called Binney & Smith.  One of their first products included red oxide pigment used for barn paint.  They also developed carbon back from natural gas deposits found in PA.  In 1900, the company began making slate pencils in Easton, PA.  They introduced the first dustless school chalk in 1902.  And in 1903, the company produced the first box of eight Crayola crayons.  The Crayola name was coined by Edwin Binney’s wife Alice:  “Craie” is the French world for chalk and “ola” comes from “oleaginous.”  In 1958, my personal favorite box of 64 crayons was introduced.  Crayola markers came along in 1978.

(As an aside, Dayspring was acquired by Hallmark in 1999.  It seems clear to my why Illustrated Faith found a good fit at Dayspring by bringing creativity and faith together!)

For the kind of coloring that’s done in the Inspire Bible (small, simple illustrations), Crayola colored pencils are a perfectly fine choice.  They have bright colors, hold a point well for detail work, and provide smooth coverage.  They sharpen nicely without breaking the lead or splitting the barrel.  The pencils are made in Brazil with wood from wood grown specifically for gathering wood.

  • Blending: ok
  • Range from light to dark: good
  • Ease of coverage: Great
  • Details: Excellent
  • Vibrancy: great
  • Bliss factor: pleased
  • Ease of Sharpening: No problems


I think Crayola red is such a distinctive red.  It’s fun to know that Binney & Smith’s first product was for red barn paint.  I wonder if it was a similar color?


When I was doing my review of Crayola products for Bible Journaling, I thought to myself:  I would love pencils that are blendable like Prismacolors, vivid like the FaberCastell Polychromos, but in the cheery palate of a box of 64 Crayola crayons.

As I was working on this post, I received an e-mail from Crayola about new colored pencils for moms!  This post would have to wait until they arrived!  I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but when these pencils arrived my eyes teared up as I opened the box of pencils.  I feel like I wished them into existence!  The color is bright, vivid, cheery, and familiar!  If you’ve ever had a box of Crayola crayons, you will know instinctively how these colors play together.  And they are high-performance enough for the kind of coloring that I do.  Like the Derwent pencils, I find that these pencils have better coverage with a very sharp point, but that I prefer to hand sharpen them since they are not as thick.   I love all the pinks, purples, and greens!  And the silver and gold!  They are just what I wanted!  (The pencils are made in Vietnam.)  Especially for the price (I paid about $25), these pencils can’t be beat.  These were the last colored pencils I tried.

  • Blending: Excellent
  • Range from light to dark: Excellent
  • Ease of coverage: Excellent (especially with a sharp point)
  • Details: Excellent
  • Vibrancy: Excellent
  • Bliss factor:  Pure Bliss!  A good balance of everything I want in a colored pencil.
  • Ease of Sharpening:  I had trouble with my “bright green”, but the rest of the pencils have given me no trouble.


The pages on the left is the first page that I colored with these pencils.  I used a white Uniball pen to add dots to the flower.  As I look at the page now it reminds me of a a page colored with crayons, and I think its because I was immediately drawn to colors I recognized from my box of crayons.  I’ve tried to color with crayons in my Bible and they just don’t work as well as in the pictures below.  These colors also blend beautifully in a way that crayons don’t.  For me, these pencils totally bring back the joy of coloring.


I couldn’t stop playing with these colored pencils.  This page from my Johanna’s Christmas coloring book shows the range of colors a bit better….


Tombow Irojiten Colored Pencils

These colored pencils turn everything on their head for me.  I’ve been searching for rich, vivid color, and along comes a set of pencils where fully a third of the colors in the palate are light tints or shades.  In the hands of the right artist, these pencils could create some beautiful, ethereal effects.  They would be perfect for coloring books featuring Easter eggs or maybe a whimsical book about fairies.  The pencils themselves are so pretty. The colors blend beautifully and the pencils have the most elegant finish that’s almost glossy.  The set includes vivid colors I love, including some awesome fluorescent colors.  I don’t yet know how to colors like eggshell or sallow.

Irojiten means “color encylopeida” and the pencils come in these adorable little boxes, each box contains three book-shaped boxes that are little stories of color.  I can see how the colors within each box harmonize beautifully together.  Ultimately, I made myself a color sheet so I would know which colors play nicely together, and I put the pencils in a box for easier access.

Tombow is a Japenese company that has been making pencils in Japan since 1913 with production facilities in Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam.  Tombow also makes my favorite brush markers.

  • Blending: Excellent
  • Range from light to dark: Excellent for the darker colors
  • Ease of coverage: Excellent
  • Details: Excellent
  • Vibrancy: Excellent for the more vibrant colors
  • Bliss factor: Inspiring
  • Ease of Sharpening: No problems

The pencils are encouraging me to think of some different color possibilities.


In the left hand picture, I used colors from one story book.  On the right hand picture, I just picked the colors I wanted.


Sargent Art Colored Pencils

Sargent is a big distributor of art materials to the educational market with a 75+ year history.  They sell just about everything for art classes, including colored pencils.  Since they sell art supplies for end users likely to use them in unpredictable ways, safety is a priority and a reputational necessity!  The company was named after the famous painter John Singer Sargent and founded in Hazelton, PA.  In 2006, Sargent Art was acquired by Pidilite, a company based in Mumbai, India.  Sargent Colored pencils are widely available.  (I found a box of them at WalMart.)  The package says they are made in Thailand.  The pencils live up to the description on the box:  they blend nicely, lay down color smoothly, and they have thick strong leads.  The pencils are hard and waxy; The colors are pretty but softer.  The 50-piece set includes a gold and silver.

  • Blending: Good
  • Range from light to dark: good
  • Ease of coverage: smooth
  • Details: good
  • Vibrancy: pretty, soft colors
  • Bliss factor: Pleasantly surprised
  • Ease of Sharpening: No problems



Artist Loft Colored Pencils

I bought a 48-piece set of colored pencils at Michael’s by their Artist Loft brand.  The pencils are made in Thailand and that’s about all I know about their backstory.  The set has many pretty colors and includes a gold and silver.  They are remarkably similar to the Sargent pencils, but they are a bit thinner and not quite as smooth.

  • Blending: good
  • Range from light to dark: good
  • Ease of coverage: sometimes I had to go over and over the same area
  • Details: good
  • Vibrancy: pretty, soft colors
  • Bliss factor: just happy because they are colored pencils
  • Ease of Sharpening: Just one pencil so far has succumbed to wobbly lead issues.

These are an ok choice, but the pencils were not a perfect match for Bible paper.  The lead was hard and a little reluctant to lay down color.  I think the finished product looks like it was not as bright as some of the other colored pencils I’ve tried.  (I had better luck with these pencils in The Secret Garden coloring book, which has slightly more textured pages.)




Color pencil preference is definitely a personal matter, even among student grade pencils.  My son prefers Crayola, but the little boy next door always chooses Cra-Z-Art.  I know that he loves to color, so I gave them a try.  I found that these pencils suffered more from wobbly lead problems than other pencils.  When I tried to sharpen them to a fine point and color detailed areas, the tip kept breaking on me.  I also had a strange problem with these:  As I colored, they lifted up some of the dark grey ink from the Bible pages.  The colors were still bright and cheery and I was still reasonably happy with the final picture.

  • Blending: good
  • Range from light to dark: good
  • Ease of coverage: good
  • Details: Weak, my tip kept breaking on the fine lines
  • Vibrancy: bright and cheery colors
  • Bliss factor:
  • Ease of sharpening: breaks easier than most

Cra-Z-Art is based in Randolf, NJ, and was founded by Larry Rosen in 2008.  I was surprised to read that the company is less than 10 years old since their products are ubiquitous.  My daughter was coloring with Cra-Z-Art markers at Karate last night, and I can’t even tell you how we ended up with a set of Cra-Z-Art pencils.  Larry Rosen is the grandson of Isidor Rosen, founder of Rosebud Art Company, which was eventually renamed Rose Art.  (Rose Art was acquired by Mega Blocks in 2005; the company was renamed Mega Brands America.  Mega Brands was acquired by Mattel in 2014.  I haven’t tried their colored pencils.)



Moving onto soft and waxy pencils…

Prismacolor Premier

Prismacolor pencils have been made since 1938.  They were first made by the Eagle Pencil company, which was founded by Bavarian immigrant Daniel Berolzheimer in 1856 in New York City.  In 1969, the company changed its name to Berol.  In 1995, Newell Company acquired Berol and folded it into the Stanford division.  (Newell owns many other brands including Sharpie, PaperMate, and Uni-Ball).  Prismacolor Premier pencils are made of pigment, clay, stearites, hot wax, and some secret ingredients.  The lead is encased in California cedar, harvested on tree farms grown for their pencils.  They are made in Mexico.

  • Blending: Excellent
  • Range from light to dark: Excellent
  • Ease of coverage: Excellent
  • Details: Excellent
  • Vibrancy: Excellent
  • Bliss factor: A beautiful marriage of pencil to paper!
  • Ease of sharpening: No problems, but must sharpen frequently

Prismacolor Premier pencils are the ones that I’ve seen most often recommend for Bible journaling.  I’ve read some complaints about breakage, but personally, I have not had this problem.

I feel like these pencils are in a category of their own.  The color glides on so smoothly and is richly pigmented, making them a good substitute for markers.  The colors blend beautifully.  Their soft lead works really well on thin, smooth Bible pages.  They come in a huge range of colors.  You definitely can’t go wrong with a set of these.



Ohuhu 72-colored Pencils

These pencils caught my eye because they are relatively inexpensive and received excellent reviews on  They are made in Shanghai by Marco, a brand owned by Axus Stationery Shanghai Co Ltd, a company that specializes in pencils and art supplies that was founded in 2003.  My pencil box was labeled Ohuhu, but the pencils are labeled Raffine Color Marco, which is a little confusing.  The pencils came in a cardboard tube and have slightly thinner pencil cores than other brands and are made in China (all of which helps explain the lower costs).  I’ve been storing them in a mason jar for easy access.  The overall experience of using them is similar to PrismaColor Premeirs.  They have bright colors that blend well and glide onto the paper.

  • Blending: Good
  • Range from light to dark: Excellent
  • Ease of coverage: Excellent
  • Details: Excellent
  • Vibrancy: Excellent
  • Bliss factor: I can see why these got such good reviews
  • Ease of Sharpening: No problems

I think these are a great choice for Bible Journaling and a good value.



Steadtler Ergosoft

The Steadtler Ergosoft are made in Germany and have a triangular casing.  It seems strange to me that Staedtler pencils don’t come in larger sets.  The lead is very soft and bright.  These are my 9-year-old son’s favorite colored pencils.

  • Blending: Good
  • Range from light to dark: Good, becomes fully saturated quickly
  • Ease of coverage: Excellent
  • Details: Good
  • Vibrancy: excellent
  • Bliss factor: Pleased with the pencils, but would like more colors!
  • Ease of sharpening: No problems

I really enjoyed the bright and vivid colors.  The pencils felt nice in my hand.



And finally oil-based pencils…

Faber-Castell Polychromos

Faber-Castell lays claim to being the oldest manufacturer of pencils in the world and also the world’s largest manufacturer of wood-cased pencils.  Headquartered in Stein, Germany, the company was founded in 1761 by Kaspar Faber and has been in the Faber family for eight generations.  The Polychromos Pencils, which were introduced in 1908, are still made in Germany.  The oil pastel pencil lead is made from color pigments, kaolin, and a binding agent.  The lead is smudge-proof and water resistant.  It is encased in cedar wood sourced from sustainable forests.   The pencil is painted with environmentally friendly water-based paints.  Each pencil is a work of art!

  • Blending: Excellent
  • Range from light to dark: Excellent
  • Ease of coverage: Excellent
  • Details: Excellent
  • Vibrancy: Excellent
  • Bliss factor: Can a colored pencil get any better?
  • Ease of sharpening: No problems

I love the vibrant colors, the ease of blending, and how easy it is to get a range of values from light to dark with each pencil.  The pencils hold a sharp point, which makes them nice for detail work and yet the lead is soft enough to provide easy coverage.  The 72-set of pencils comes in a nice metal case with sturdy plastic trays.  After reading many reviews, this was the first colored pencil set I bought and still my favorite.

These pencils hold up well over time, too.  Over the past two years, these pencils have been my most used set and they still look relatively new.  Not one pencil has been consumed by sharpening troubles.



Koh-i-Noor Polycolor

Koh-i-Noor has been making pencils since 1790.  It was founded in Vienna by Josef Hardtmuth, who claims to be the inventor of the modern graphite pencils.  Koh-i-noor pencils are made with rich, top quality pigment.  The pencils are made with special oils and other binders so that the pencils are smooth and creamy and require very little pressure to create dense, even strokes.  The pencils are encased in California Cedar.  They are made in the Czech Republic.

  • Blending: Excellent
  • Range from light to dark: Excellent
  • Ease of coverage: Excellent
  • Details: Excellent
  • Vibrancy: Excellent
  • Bliss factor: Dreamy
  • Ease of sharpening: No problems

The first moment I put the pencil to the paper, I loved these creamy, bright pencils.  Honestly, these pencils are everything I like in a colored pencil.  They blend beautifully, they require very little pressure for coloring, and the colors are vibrant.  Personally, I also love the color range that comes with the 72 set:  lots of greens, blues, purples, yellows and pinks, not so many browns and greys.  The set also includes a nice metallic silver and gold!  These pencils show color lines, but personally I like the textured effect and they can be burnished out if desired.  The Koh-i-Noor tricolor pencils are awesome, too.  My kids love them!



Caran D’ache Pablos

Caran d’Ache was founded in 1915 in Geneva, Switzerland to make graphite and colored pencils.  It diversified to include wax oil pastels, mechanical pencils, and ballpoint pens.  The company has several color pencil lines, many of which are water-soluble.  When I was young, my mother bought me a set of Caran d’Ache pencils and coloring book for a long train ride.  I don’t recall, which line of pencils it was, but I remember the gold letters that read “Swiss made”.  The pencil set brought me hours of enjoyment and an appreciation for how great colored pencils can be!  The Pablo pencils are water resistant and oil-based.

  • Blending: Excellent
  • Range from light to dark: Excellent
  • Ease of coverage: Great, but a little uneven on Bible paper
  • Details: Excellent
  • Vibrancy: Excellent
  • Bliss factor: A joy to use
  • Ease of sharpening: No problems

These pencils have exceptional lightfastness and vivid colors.  It is easy to shade, mix, and layer the velvety colors.  The pencils come in a nice metal case and even the inside tray is metal.  The pencils are made in Switzerland with eco-friendly standards using premium California cedar wood.  They are dreamy and a little addictive.  I found that it was a bit of a challenge to achieve even color on the Bible paper, but the colors are vivid and the pencils are a joy to use.



LYRA Rembrandt Polycolor

LYRA was founded by Johann Froescheis in 1806 in Nuremberg.  It is a leading brand in the school market in Germany with a strong presence in Austria, the Scandinavian countries, and Eastern Europe.  It does not have a big brand presence in the US.  In 2008, it was acquired by FILA, a manufacturer of school and art supplies based in Milan, Italy.  (As an aside, in 2005 FILA acquired the Dixon Ticonderoga Company founded in 1795, the American maker of pencils and art supplies including the Prang brand.)

  • Blending: Excellent
  • Range from light to dark: Excellent
  • Ease of coverage: Excellent
  • Details: Poor, the tip does not hold well
  • Vibrancy: Excellent
  • Bliss factor: Generally pleased
  • Ease of Sharpening: I found the wooden barrel a bit brittle and I had some breakage.

I want to love these pencils because the oil-based colors are lovely and bright, but I found the pencil lead to be a little too soft for my personal taste.  I found that color went where I didn’t expect it to go as I lost my point.  I had some trouble sharpening these pencils:  The lead was softer and the wood barrel was harder than with other pencils.  Out of 72 pencils, I had two pencils break as I sharpened and one where the wood barrel split, which isn’t terrible, but it’s still frustrating when that happens.  The set comes with a wonderful selection of greens and two blender pencils.  The smooth pencil lead is a good match for thin Bible paper.



Imaginesty Colored Pencils

These pencils caught my eye because they are oil-based, but at a much lower cost than most other oil-based pencils.  The box promised that they had a smooth and creamy texture, high quality pigments, and strong leads.  The pencils did not live up to their promises:  The pencil lead was hard, the colors faded, and my pencils kept breaking.  If you are willing to accept that they are lower quality pencils, they are still fun to use, mostly because the set includes a great mix of pinks and purples.  There’s no accounting for taste:  My four-year-old daughter loves these pencils, so they won’t go to waste.  I could not find too much about the company.



Here’s a few tips for colored pencils:

  • Handle colored pencils gently.  Treat them as if they are made of glass!  The lead inside the pencil can break inside the casing, which would lead to bad pencil sharpening experiences and wobbly lead!
  • You can use either a hand-held or electric pencil sharpener.  I generally prefer the handheld pencil sharpeners.  If you use a handheld pencil sharpener, hold the pencil steady and twist the pencil sharpener around the pencil.
  • Keep a sharp point.  You won’t hurt the Bible paper and it will give you better color coverage.  This is especially true for the hard and waxy pencils.  It’s a little counter-intuitive, but a sharp point is easier on Bible paper because you will instinctively use less pressure.
  • I generally like to build up color in layers, coloring lightly and then adding more color on top of the first.  This lets me have more control.  If it turns out I am not happy with the color, the I just add another color on top for a blended look.
  • I like to keep a sheet of plain paper nearby so that I can test out color combinations before working in my Bible.
  • There’s lots of ways to store colored pencils.  The pencils that get used most often tend to be the ones I store in mason jars on top of the china cabinet.  My best pencils I keep in their original casing.  Sometimes I use a pencil box, and a special pencil carrier works well for a large set.

I came across this quote while studying colored pencils:

“If a person wants to accomplish something, he has to have the wherewithal to unleash his innate creative potential.”-Baron Lothar von Faber 1869

I hope finding the right colored pencils for you will you unleash your creative potential!!!