This is the material that is mixed with color pigment to make the “lead” or “core” in a colored pencil. It is generally made of either wax or oil.

Color vs Colour

Throughout our site you will see two spellings of the word “color” used. The first is “C-o-l-o-r” which is the typical American spelling. The second is “C-o-l-o-u-r” which is the spelling more commonly used in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and South Africa. Our practice is to use the American spelling when we are talking about color in a general sense. We use the British spelling when it is part of a brand name or where a Company’s products use this spelling in the description of their products.

Oil Based Pencils

Pencil leads (or cores) are made from a blend of oils, usually some type of vegetable oil, and mixed with varying amounts of color pigments. The lead cores are often harder and this makes them more resistant to breaking. They are less common than wax-based pencils and can be more expensive.

Smooth feel when laying down color
Wide choice of colors available
No wax bloom
Easy to layer color
Easy to blend color
Lead cores are less prone to breaking

More expensive than similar quality wax-based pencils
Not as many brands to choose from and can be more difficult to find

Example Brands
Faber-Castell Polychromos; Caran d’Ache® Pablo; Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor Premium; Bruynzeel Design Artist’s Colouring Pencils; Marco Raffiné® fine art colored pencils

Open Stock

This is where pencils from certain brands can be bought as single pencils rather than as part of a set. In many cases, it is the higher quality, more expensive “Artist Grade” pencils and/or pens that are sold as open stock. It can be helpful to buy one or two of these higher quality pencils and/or pens in a color you use often. This can be a much cheaper and better way to try out the pricier brands before deciding to spend a lot more money on an expensive set.

Paper Stump

A Paper Stump is similar to a Tortillon. They are made of tightly rolled paper but are usually wider and have a less pronounced point than a Tortillon at each end. Paper Stumps are useful for blending, shading and moving coloring pigments such as graphite and pastel chalks around in large areas.

Paper Stump

Paper Stump


A tortillon is an artist’s tool used in blending, shading and moving coloring pigments such as graphite and pastel chalks on paper. They are made of very tightly rolled paper and have a sharp tapered point. The narrow point makes it useful when working in detailed areas.



Wax Based Pencils

Pencil leads (or cores) are made from wax mixed with varying amounts of color pigments. This type of pencil is very popular. It can also be relatively cheap to make and so it is more common. Lead cores can range in hardness but can be made quite soft for easier blending of colors.

Available in a wide range of colors, textures, shapes and sizes
Easy to find. Most stores will have sets available
Can be easier to erase than oil-based pencils
Can be cheap to purchase (depends on brand and quality)

Wax bloom – this is a cloudy layer that can form on top of the picture over time. It is the result of the wax binder seeping through the pigment to the top of the picture.
Soft cores can be fragile and may break easily
May need a fixative to limit wax bloom

Example Brands
Prismacolor®, Staedtler® ergo soft®, Derwent®, Crayola®, Aldi Scholar®

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