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  • kirstylpartridge

Prismacolor Premier Vs Faber Castell Polychromos Coloured Pencils – Which is Better?

When you think of coloured pencil brands the main two that come to most people's minds are Prismacolor Premier and Faber Castell Polychromos.

If you are starting out with this medium you may be thinking 'which one should I buy?'

I have been using both of these coloured pencil brands for 5 years now, so I know a lot about the pros and cons of each of these pencil sets. I will go through the properties of each of these brands of coloured pencils, so that you can choose which one best suits your needs.

Wax vs Oil Based Pencils

Firstly, Prismacolors are wax-based and are therefore smooth, soft and creamy. Polychromos are oil-based and are a bit harder. They are both great at layering – you can achieve multiple layers with either pencil set, even if your paper is quite smooth.

In terms of detail, the Prismacolors aren't amazing (due to the softcore of the pencil.) Polychromos can produce very fine, crisp details. This makes Polychromos great for drawing animals, especially when you have to draw fur. However, I love using the Prismacolors for portraits because they are so creamy, making them easy to blend (drawing smooth skin is a breeze with Prismacolors!)


Both pencils blend out well with solvent, which is very important for me. Solvent is a common supply used to blend out layers of coloured pencil. You can also layer really well on top of the solvent with both brands.

As the Prismacolors are wax-based, they burnish together easier than the Polychromos – but both do a good job. Burnishing is where you apply lots of pressure to your pencil to achieve smooth blending, by filling in all of the white grain of the paper.

A con of Prismacolors is that they can produce 'wax bloom.' This happens when you add lots of layers of coloured pencil to your paper, causing a white transparent film to form on top of your drawing. This does not happen with Polychromos.

Colour Range & Lightfastness

A larger range of 150 colors is available with Prismacolors compared to 120 Polychromos colors. Both brands offer a variety of set sizes, ranges from a set of 12 pencils, to sets with over 100 colours.

A very important colour for me is the white pencil. I need it to be opaque and to be able to go over dark colors. The Prismacolor does exactly that, but sadly the Polychromos white is unimpressive – it’s translucent and doesn’t show up over dark colors very well at all. If you're going for the Polychromos set I would recommend getting the white pencil from Prismacolor or the Caran D'ache Luminance set to accompany it.

If you are looking to sell your artwork, then lightfastness is key. This refers to how fast your colors fade over time when exposed to light. Unfortunately, many Prismacolors have quite bad light fastness ratings and will fade much faster than the higher-rated Polychromos. This could be a deal-breaker if you will be selling your originals/ taking on commissions.

Both coloured pencil brands are vibrant, pigmented, and give rich colors.

Build Quality

Due to the Prismacolors being cheaper than Polychomos they are more prone to breakages, especially when being sharpened. As the Polychromos are more expensive they have a much better build quality. If you use a good quality sharpener then you shouldn't have a problem with your Prismacolors breaking. I use the Derwent Superpoint Manual sharpener (affiliate link) and hardly have any breakages!

Overall, both of these brands of coloured pencils are great choices and will allow you to create impressive drawings. Once you have picked the best set of coloured pencils for you it is time to learn the basics of how to use them.

Get started with my FREE coloured pencil class for beginners. In this real-time tutorial you will learn how to:

  • Pick the best colours for your drawing.

  • Blend your coloured pencils so that you don't end up with grainy shading.

  • Add highlights and details that will make your drawings POP!

Get your FREE coloured pencil class here.

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