When it comes to buying art supplies for your classroom, how much does your budget influence your buying decisions? Do you sometimes choose your cheapest option just because, well, it’s the cheapest? There’s such a range of quality when it comes to student grade colored pencils and the difference in price doesn’t always make up for the difference in quality. The next time you buy colored pencils, you could be better off spending a little more. Here’s why…
Colored pencils are different from the paints and markers we use because we typically have them a lot longer. They don’t dry out like markers do, so buying a fresh set each year isn’t necessary. And they don’t get used up as fast as markers and paint do. Colored pencil is rarely the medium we choose for big projects — students would quickly lose patience filling in large areas with pencil, and the quality of their work would reflect that! So, we tend to use colored pencils for smaller, more detailed drawings… and therefore they last longer. If you were to “amortize” your colored pencils over the actual number of projects you use them for, you would likely find they’re a very good value as art supplies go.
There are many brands of student grade colored pencils to choose from, and they come in a range of prices. Should you let price alone determine your purchase? Does quality really matter when you’re talking about a colored pencil? And how can you tell what the quality is anyway? Considering their value and how long you’ll have them, I believe this is an area where it’s worth spending a little more for a better quality product. Anyone can get frustrated when their work is limited by the quality of their supplies… using a better quality product will usually translate into better quality work and more enjoyment in the process.
I recently tested six common brands of student grade colored pencils: Sargent, Bazic, Prang, Rose Art, Crayola, and Creative Arts. If you haven’t already studied the chart above, can you predict from the names alone which one was my top pick? Most people would probably guess Crayola, thanks to their massive advertising presence. But for quality and color, I actually chose Prang.
Here’s what I look for when testing colored pencils for quality:
Colored pencil colors should be rich and vibrant. The basic 12 color set should contain the range of basic colors that are used most often: black, white, brown, light blue, dark blue, violet, light green, dark green, yellow, orange, red, and pink. (While you can do some color mixing by layering and blending colors, at this level it’s best to have a complete range of basic colors available.) Also, a quality colored pencil will have a creamy texture (not waxy or scratchy) and should be easy to apply in a smooth, even layer. Having color names on the pencils may not be mandatory, but I know that as a kid, this was really important to me!
So that’s it! Not too much to ask, right??
Based on that criteria, here’s my quick review of each of these brands:
#1… Prang - Rich, creamy, smooth, vibrant colors… including the white! And they even have the color names printed on the pencils in English, Spanish and French…. LOVE these!!
#2… Crayola - The colors were creamy, smooth and vibrant…. not quite as good as the Prang, but close. Color names were printed in 3 languages, so that’s a plus. But my problem with the Crayola set is that there’s no pink! Someone should tell them that you really do need pink in a basic set. (But they have a great website, so they get points for that!)
#3… Rose Art - This brand had no white and the texture was a little scratchy, but not terrible. The blue was more of a teal. You may be able to get by without the white, so this could be an acceptable choice if price is an issue. (A while back I invested in a some individual white Prismacolors, to get a really strong white for value drawing projects on dark paper, and they lasted for years. So that’s always an option if you choose this set.)
#4… Sargent — Basically a pretty good range of colors, but the texture was really waxy and uneven… the violet in particular was very scratchy.
#5… Creative Arts - These colors were dull and waxy, with no color names on the pencils…. right down there at the bottom of my list.… with Bazic.
#6… Bazic — No light blue??? What were they thinking??! The black and the blue were both very dull, the blue, light green, and red were all a little “off” in terms of their hue, the texture was scratchy, and there were no color names on the pencils. Rather than buying this set, you may want to consider waiting and saving up for something a little better.
While I didn’t test these sets specifically for durability, I can say from personal experience that the Prang and Crayola are both very durable.
(Note: I was not paid to test these colored pencils or to write this review, I didn’t receive any free product, and I didn’t even get to keep the colored pencils! My husband and his brothers have a business that delivers supplies to school districts in our area, so I occasionally get to test art supply products for their catalog. Just a fun perk to our family business, and I thought my findings might be of interest to you!)
When buying art supplies for your class, is price or quality more important to you?
Have you found a different brand of colored pencils that you recommend?