Introduction to Oil-Based Colored Pencils – Getting That Professional Look

Oil-Based Colored Pencils Feature

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There are a great variety of different types of colored pencils out there. Today, we take a look at oil-based colored pencils. What are they, how they are different, and why you may want to use them.

What are Oil-Based Colored Pencils?

Oil-based colored pencils are a popular variant of the conventional colored pencil. They are pencils which use an oily binder, meaning they have a slightly different feel as they put down material on a page. They also lend themselves to what could be described as an oil painting like look.

Oil-based pencils are often found at the higher end of colored pencil offerings. This leads them to be an option for the professional or advanced amateurs. There is however no harm in giving them a go, and seeing if you like the look. 

One great thing is that there is no real issue in using oil-based pencils together with conventional wax pencils. This means that they can be incorporated into almost anyone’s toolkit.

What’s The Difference Between Oil-Based Colored Pencils and Wax-Based Colored Pencils?

As we said the root of the difference is due to the binders used in these colored pencils. Oil-based pencils use an oily binder while conventional wax-based colored pencils use a waxy binder. This leads to the two types of pencils differing slightly in their characteristics and the look that they produce.

Core hardness – one of the things that you would notice when moving between these two types of pencils is the difference in lead hardness. With wax pencils generally having a much softer lead. This leads them breaking more easily when sharpening and not holding a sharp tip as well as their oil-based counterparts.

Usability – The reason that oil-based colored pencils are generally reserved for more advanced users is due the skill required to use them properly. Though they have a harder lead, they are much more susceptible to color smearing when on the page. Also oil colored pencils require slightly different techniques in their use. With a more deliberate and accurate layer of colors required to give the desired look.

With the ease with which oil colored pencils put down material, they are also more difficult to erase.

Blooming  – One major downside found in the use of wax pencils in their tendency to bloom. This is a process by which wax is slowly drawn to the surface of the drawing over time. This can lead to a cloudy white film developing on the surface of a piece over time. This is combated by using fixative, which is used extensively by charcoal artists. 

This is not an issue at all when using oil-based colored pencils.

The Look – The main reason for the existence of oil-based pencils is ultimately the  look that can be achieved. With the vibrancy, the ease of material laydown and the way these pencils blend. You can achieve that professional look with your colored pencil art. 

There are also some differences in the techniques used between the two different types of colored pencil, but the above covers the bulk of the differences in the experience. 

What are the Best Oil-Based Colored Pencils?

Wax-based pencils are by far the most common with pencils. So if you happen to have colored pencils lying around they are likely to be wax based. This means that oil-based colored pencils can be a little difficult to find. Also there isn’t as large a choice in pencils.

As we have said previously, these pencils tend to appear as premium options from manufacturers. But, don’t let that put you off. We have found a couple of options that perform well without breaking the bank.

Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencil Set

Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencil Set - Limited Edition 111st Anniversary Set of 24

This first set of pencils is from one of the biggest names in the pencil colored pencils space, Faber Castell. The Polychromos Pencils are their offering when it comes to oil colored pencils.

With a great range of colors available. These pencils have a beautifully even laydown of their vibrant colors. This makes them a joy to use, also allowing for color to be blended and layered with ease.
These pencils also enjoy all the other benefits of their oil base. Being able to hold a sharp point due to their harder cores and a smooth laydown of color.  The Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencil Set is definitely worth taking a look at if you are looking to extend your pencil collection.

Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor Premium Oil-Based Colored Pencil Set

Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor Premium Oil-Based Colored Pencil Set - Set of 36

Another option worth taking a look at is the Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor Premium . These are great pencils that have a rich and vibrant color that blend wonderfully. The benefits of their oil binders  also shine through, with blooming not being an issue at all.

There’s not a great deal more we want to say about these pencils, they’re great.

They also come in at a very reasonable price for what is considered to be a professional grade pencil.


That was a quick introduction to oil-based colored pencils. A great option for those who are looking to take their colored pencil art to the next level. Producing a beautiful vibrant oil painting like look.

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