We bought all the items we’re reviewing; we have not been compensated in any way to review. I, Susie, did receive a refund on the Laneco pencils due to dissatisfaction. We may receive money from affiliate links at no extra cost to you.
Coloring has been such a craze that there was supposedly a shortage of colored pencils; you wouldn’t know it, though, from all of the different options available out there. Which cheap colored pencils are good? We reviewed five brands to find out.
Unbranded “Artist Quality” Colored Pencils, 72-pack, $8.99 (Note: I paid like $13.99), reviewed by Susie
Things I liked: The amount of greens and blues, the harder wax for lighter application of color, nice for ombres and shading, good blending
Things I didn’t love: The awkward plastic case, no color labels at all, only ONE YELLOW COLOR (??!!!? – those other yellowy colors were oranges), the number of muddy brownish colors, three almost identical reds
Overall, I do like this set okay, with a caveat: I color with a light hand, and I like being able to put on really light applications of color. Some of the softer wax color pencil sets I’ve used don’t allow for that as well. I don’t know if it’s the BEST set value, though the lower price certainly does change my perspective on it a bit.
Here’s my color swatch. I laid down a lighter layer and then did the “shading” with as heavy as I could color in. It’s messy, but 72 is many bubbles to color:
These pencils definitely didn’t all saturate a whole bunch, but a lot of them did. I actually liked them better the more I colored the swatches, enough that I went to Amazon and added an extra star to my review. And look how many greens! So many! It would also be good for skin tones, with all the browns. For $8.99, if you color similarly to me (lighter pressure, lots of gradients) and you like the colors, I can say they’re not perfect but I’d actually buy them again. They also blended the best of the three I used.
72-color Raffine Marco Fine Art Colored Pencils
$19.68 (I paid $19.75), reviewed by sj
What I liked: Unlike Susie, I press hard when I colour. I like to make sure everything is filled in, and if I’m colouring, I want those colours to be as vibrant as possible. Instead of typical blending from one colour to the next, I colour on top of the other colour until I get the exact shade I want. I’m working on this, cos it’s not really that great a strategy. These were great for my style of colouring. I also like that they have the typical #3 pencil hexagonal shape. I have arthritis in my hands, and can sometimes have a hard time gripping smoother barreled pencils. They stood up to a lot of abuse from me. I also liked that each pencil has a number to indicate the colour, and the numbers progress logically.
What I didn’t love: Oh man. The box they were shipped in was awful. It was the thinnest cardboard imaginable with no real padding. This led to a ton of broken tips when I opened them AND meant that a lot of them had shattered cores that I only found out about once I tried to sharpen them. One of the pencils was worn down to a two-inch nub after trying to colour in the background of just one page. I absolutely love them, but would not purchase again if they came in the same packaging.
I tried to show what each pencil was like with soft, medium and hard pressure in the swatch I coloured. I totally forgot to label those things on the bottom right, but they are blended with just the two colours, blended with a white pencil and then erased.
Here’s a page I coloured using just the Raffines:
Laneco “Soft Core” 48 pack (comes with 2 packs), on sale for $12.99 (regularly $70.99? Supposedly? Not even worth that much tho), reviewed by Susie
~ $0.14/pencil, 2 of each color
What I liked: Eh? They’d be really good for people who color with solid fills. Multiple yellows! Bonus pencil extenders were nice.
What I didn’t love: How they felt like drawing with lipstick. I found them hard to blend and hard to lay down consistent color when coloring with medium-to-light pressure. Also the packaging. They came in a big box with flimsy trays inside that were hard to get pencils in and out of.
I did an unboxing video just because I found the packaging really unusual:
These look a lot like the Raffine Marco set. In regards to softness: I have a range of pencils in different brands because the Blick’s near me sells single pencils; I have a couple of Polychromos pencils from Faber-Castell, which are “soft” too, in that they use minimal wax blended with oil. These Laneco pencils are not “soft” in the same way; to me, like I said above, they felt more like drawing with lipstick.
I also didn’t love how hard it was to blend them. You can see in the swatches below that I actually had to start another bubble and try really hard to get a nice blend, and I also had to use the white pencil (which I don’t normally do for blending).
I was so disappointed that I reached out to the seller. Laneco issued me a full refund, so they do honor their money-back guarantee. I don’t see myself using these regularly and will probably give them away. (I wanted to ship them back but it would cost me almost ten dollars. Nooope.)
Considering that it’s two packages of 48 instead of 96 full colors, I don’t think this is the best value possible for $12.99 by far.
SUDEE STILE 120 Art Drawing Colored Pencils Set with Case with Sharpener
$23.99 for 120 colours, (Amazon says the normal price is $95.96[!] but Honey is showing me that the price has been $23.99 for at least the last 30 days), reviewed by sj
What I liked: These are A LOT like the Marco Raffines I reviewed above. A lot. Like, almost the same in how they colour. So all of the likes I mentioned above apply here, as well.
Something else that needs to be mentioned, though, is how amazing the Sudee Stile customer service is. Before the pencils had even arrived, they messaged me via Amazon to let me know that they were working on perfecting their packaging and asking if I would please let them know if I received any busted pencils, and that they would either replace or issue a partial refund for anything their shipping was lacking. Like, wat? Are you kidding me? How awesome is that?
What I didn’t love: The colours come in some random order and the numbers make zero sense. I had to rearrange them into something approximating ROY G BIV, or it would have driven me insane. You’ll notice on my swatch (uh, if you bother to count, that is) that it’s not really 120 colours, it’s 119. I received duplicates of one colour (luckily, it’s a pink, so it’ll get a lot of use, anyway) and did not receive one colour at all. A few of the tips were broken, and one pencil refuses to sharpen at all without immediately breaking. So that kind of sucks. One of the pencils is not labeled at all, but through process of elimination, I was able to figure out which one it was.
BUT, I messaged the seller once I had discovered this, and they repeated their offer to replace the pencils or issue a partial refund. I got $4 back, which brings the price of these down to $19.99 (or ~17¢ a pencil). And that’s pretty great.
So, the case these come in is great for shipping, but a little unwieldy for actually seeing the colours as you want to use them. This, however, would not keep me from purchasing these again, especially if they stay around the same price they currently are.
Here’s a picture I coloured with them, the top part is almost all pencil (except for the black), and I only used a light to medium pressure to achieve these tones.
Cra-Z-Art Timeless Creations Adult Coloring Set, 36 pk for $6.99 (I think they were even $5.99 at my local Kroger, where I bought them. I might be wrong!), reviewed by Susie
What I liked: I actually really liked this set more than I expected! What colors it had were curated well and the colors saturated pretty well, for the most part.
What I didn’t like: I’m actually pretty pleased with these for $6 or $7 dollars at Kroger, to be honest. They don’t erase well, but they erase enough for my purposes (sometimes I use my eraser for effects and such).
This isn’t my first experience with Cra-Z Art pencils, though I was a little taken aback when I looked at Amazon and found out that these are Cra-Z Art since it’s not apparent from the branding. I’ve said to sj that I actually really liked my first cheapie set, so it’s not a surprise that I enjoy these, as well.
If you’re looking for a cheap and fast in-road to coloring, I would definitely recommend this set. These are available at a lot of stores (even grocery stores, apparently!), so you could pick them up in person. They blend well, they shade well, and they have a nice curation of colors that you might choose as an adult. I’m going to be moving these pencils into heavy rotation ASAP.
We hope these reviews helped at all! If you’ve had experience with these sets, or if you decide to buy one, let us know in the comments!