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How Are Colored Pencils Made

how are colored pencils made

With the vast spectrum of colored pencils varying from different types, sizes, hues, purposes, and brands, you may have wondered about the manufacturing process that goes beyond every piece of this fascinating medium. How are colored pencils made, then?

Colored pencils undergo a process that is somehow similar to graphite pencils, with the key difference being the composition of the leads. Rather than graphite, colored pencil leads normally consist of an amalgamation of pigments, binders, and extenders.

These leads are subjected to lower temperatures during production to prevent melting due to the softness of the colored cores.

Let us now have an in-depth discussion of the intricate craftsmanship that goes into the making of colored pencils.

Different Types of Colored Pencils – What Are They Made Of?

Before we discuss the various processes of how colored pencils are made, let us answer first another key question – what are colored pencils made out of?

Refer to a quick overview of comparison below:

Type of Colored Pencil Composition Manufacturing Process
Traditional Pigments, paraffin wax, chalk Mixing pigments, extenders, and paraffin wax to create a smooth colored core with added chalk.
Oil-Based Pigments, wax, vegetable oil Blending pigments, extenders, wax, and vegetable oil to achieve a harder core texture.
Wax-Based Pigments, various waxes such as carnauba or beeswax Combining pigments, extenders, and a mix of beeswax, paraffin, carnauba wax, and cellulose ethers for a soft and blendable core.
Erasable Pigments, chalk, eraser Formulating pigments and extenders with a higher proportion of chalk for easy erasability.
Watercolor Pigments, gum Arabic Mixing pigments with gum Arabic, a natural binder, for a water-soluble colored core that disperses with water.
Metallic Pigments, mica powder Incorporating pigments and mica powder into the colored core for a metallic sheen.
Woodless Pigments, various waxes Blending pigments, extenders, and a combination of waxes, protected by a lacquer coating without a wooden casing.

From Pigments to Masterpieces: The Making of Colored Pencils

In this major section of this article, we will merely focus on the secrets of how a traditional colored pencil is usually made.

The Development of Pencil Wood

development of pencil wood

Embarking on the path of colored pencil production initiates with the careful cultivation of trees specifically selected for their ideal characteristics in pencil manufacturing.

Distinguished entities in the industry have established their dedicated tree farms, ensuring a sustainable supply of wood tailored exclusively for crafting pencils.

Among the preferred tree species are:

  • Cedar
  • Basswood
  • Pine

These are renowned for their remarkable blend of solidity and sharpening ease. They are also prevalent in the composition of wooden casings, exemplifying the diversity of materials employed.

By maintaining such self-sustaining farms, these industry players actively promote eco-conscious practices and minimize their ecological footprint.

Manufacturing Hubs – Inside the World of Pencil Factories

colored pencils manufacturing process

Once the majestic trees are carefully harvested, a captivating undertaking begins as they venture through a symphony of intricate processes within the hallowed walls of pencil factories.

A harmonious blend of mesmerizing steampunk-esque machinery and the deft touch of skilled artisans oversees this transformation.

Pencil factories, with notable establishments in various countries, have a historical origin dating back to the late 1900s. Some prominent locations include:

  • Eberhard Faber factory in Greenpoint, Brooklyn
  • Other notable pencil factories in the United States
  • Pencil factories in Germany
  • Pencil factories in England

These factories have played a pivotal role in shaping the evolution of colored pencil production and have contributed significantly to the global industry.

Each location carries its own legacy, blending tradition with modern techniques to create the iconic writing instruments enjoyed by people around the world.

The Preparation and Making of Major Colored Pencil Elements

colored pencil elements

The lead in colored pencils transcends traditional graphite and is formed through a captivating blend of:

  • Colorful Cores – The colorful paste undergoes pressure in an extruder, forming a continuous stream of white cores. They are cut to appropriate lengths and dried in ovens to prepare for the next phase.
  • High-Quality Pigments – The quality and concentration of pigments differentiate professional-grade colored pencils. Premium brands use high-quality pigments for vibrant colors. Lightfastness, indicating resistance to fading, is determined by pigment quality.
  • Pure Binders – They evenly distribute pigments in the lead core. They are specialized glues tailored to desired performance; provide texture and consistency. Binder type varies based on lead-paper interaction.
  • Extenders – Working with binders, extenders contribute to lead firmness. Quantity determines softness or rigidity. They also enable affordable colored pencils without compromising quality.

Moreover, either wax or oil is carefully infused, and tailored to the specific pencil variant in production. Each hue possesses its own exclusive recipe, meticulously combining pigments, clay, dyes, and a harmonious assortment of ingredients.

These elements are skillfully blended into a paste, interwoven with binders, resins, and carefully selected additives.

The Production of Pigment Core Encasement

inside the world of pencil factories

After the wooden blocks are converted into planks, precision techniques are employed to carve grooves into them, resulting in the formation of a distinctive pencil slat.

This slat undergoes a meticulous gluing process, where colored leads are meticulously inserted into the grooves.

To complete the colored pencil’s structure, here is what happens:

  • The two slats – one positioned above and the other below—are adroitly fused together.
  • The casing then undergoes an application of paint that harmonizes with the inner core, employing environmentally conscious water-based paint.

This artistic approach not only ensures visual harmony but also contributes to the creation of a captivating final product.

The Formation and Packaging Procedure

formation and packaging procedure

The newly made colored pencils take on their recognizable circular or hexagonal forms through precise cutting. As we are near the end of the manufacturing process, here are the final stages:

  • A. Specialized machines imprint the casing with color numbers and the company’s identity; the blunt ends get a sealing touch of varnish. Every colored pencil undergoes a strict inspection to ensure unwavering quality.
  • B. Their cores endure rigorous tests of durability, facing stress, breakage, and lightfastness examinations, leaving no doubt about their drawing endurance.
  • C. Once approved, the pencils are carefully packaged, and arranged with precision mirroring their future display on store shelves.

Millions of these vibrant artistic tools make their way across the globe, shipped to various corners of the world, ensuring availability through local retailers and online platforms.

Amid a growing environmental consciousness, eco-friendly practices shine as companies embrace sustainable packaging alternatives, reducing reliance on plastic, and joining the movement toward a greener future.

How Much Time Is Involved in Producing a Pencil?

time producing a pencil

The aforementioned process of making colored pencils seems a time-consuming task. Hence, you might ask, how long does it take to make a pencil?

The time it takes to make a pencil can vary depending on various factors. This normally includes the:

  • Overall manufacturing process
  • Equipment used
  • Production volume

Generally, the pencil manufacturing process involves multiple stages and can only take several hours.

However, most machines in factories are already newfangled nowadays, and they are primarily designed to produce colored pencils within minutes.


In a nutshell, how are colored pencils made? Indeed, the way colored pencils are made is a distinctive blend of craftsmanship, precision, and creativity.

From the careful selection of tree species to the intricate processes involved in creating the pigmented cores, enclosing them in wooden casings, and shaping the final product, every crucial step contributes to the creation of these versatile artistic tools.

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