Colored Pencils: They're Here to Stay

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Colored pencils

Next time you're in the art supply store, make a beeline straight for the colored pencils. It's an affordable medium that's booming in popularity, and there are more supports, accessories, types of pencils, and curated sets available than ever before. Really. We talked to three experts about why colored pencils just might be your next favorite thing.

They're super convenient

"There are no toxic fumes, you can use them on a range of surfaces, and there is no need to mix colors," says Karen Hull . Karen's a full-time artist who specializes in photorealism, plus she's a CPX Signature Member of the Colored Pencil Society of America. That means we totally trust her judgment when she says, "I love how clean, dependable, adaptable, diverse, and colorful they are."

So many colors!

Susan Rubin , artist and instructor at the School of Botanical Art and Illustration at the Denver Botanic Gardens, layers colored pencils for a different effect. "I love to draw and I love color, so colored pencils are my perfect medium," she says. Rubin spent years trying to focus on other media but fell in love all over again when, "[she] picked them up... and started to use them more like paint, mixing [her] own colors and applying them in luminous layers."

They play well with other media

"I primarily work with colored pencils and sometimes supplement them with Pan Pastels, especially for base layers," says Cynthia Knox , award-winning artist and author of multiple books on colored pencil techniques. "This combination yields success with every texture I have rendered." For Karen Hull, a mixed-media approach is the only way to go: "I love seeing how colored pencils interact with other mediums such as ink, graphite, watercolors, scratchboard work, metalpoint, and even acrylics and oils."

You can take them anywhere

Rubin, an adventurous traveler who guides art workshops in France, brings his colored pencils everywhere. "I do a lot of work on the move, and I carry such minimal supplies that I am always ready to sketch on sites," she says. "Depending on how I work with the pencils, I can make them look like watercolor, acrylic, or even pastels."

"My world is technicolor now, and I absolutely love it!" —Cynthia Knox

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Colored Pencils: They're Here to Stay