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Pastel Pencils vs Colored Pencils

pastel pencils vs colored pencils

When comparing pastel pencils vs colored pencils, both art media offer artists a multitude of possibilities to express their vision.

Pastel pencils are composed of pure pigment and binder. With their effortless blending and smudging capabilities, they offer a clean experience and remarkable versatility, enabling artists to craft an exquisite range of gradients and effects.

Meanwhile, colored pencils stand fortified with wax-based or oil-based binders, showcasing their prowess in capturing meticulous details. Sharpened to a fine point, they can produce intricate lines and evoke nuances in their creations.

Let us explore the differences between pastel and colored pencils in this article.

Differences Between Pastel Pencils and Colored Pencils – A Brief Rundown

Features Pastel Pencils Colored Pencils
Pigment Composition Crafted from pure pigment and binder Formulated with a wax or oil binder
Ability to Produce Intricate Lines Could be challenging; mainly used for broader strokes and blending techniques Very reliable; ideal for producing intricate lines and fine details
Ability to Blend and Smudge Very dependable; exceptional blending and smudging capabilities Difficult to achieve; limited blending and smudging capabilities
Versatility Suitable for various drawing surfaces, especially those with bigger tooth Can be used on a wide range of surfaces
Color Vibrancy Exceptionally vibrant and eye-catching colors Less vibrant than pastels, but still contain rich colors
Color Options Slightly fewer color options compared to colored pencils Available in a vast array of color options

Head-to-Head: An In-Depth Comparison of Pastel Pencils and Colored Pencils

Both mediums possess distinct attributes that contribute to their artistic potential, which will pave the way for a comprehensive analysis of their similarities and differences when carefully studied.

In this section, we will be comparing their respective artistic aspects and capabilities that may highlight their strengths and weaknesses.

Pigment Composition

pastel pencils pigment composition

Leading Contender: Draw

Pastel Pencils

Pastel pencils are crafted from pure pigment combined with a binder. This unique composition contributes to the production of exceptionally vibrant colors that exude a captivating intensity.

Pastel pencils offer a diverse color range that can ignite artwork with vivid hues. They give off minimal dust, resulting in cleaner applications.

Colored Pencils

Colored pencils boast a formulation that incorporates a wax or oil binder, effectively holding the pigment particles together. This composition enables colored pencils to deliver rich colors on the paper.

Moreover, the ability to achieve a precise point with colored pencils lends itself to the creation of intricate artwork with controlled precision.

Ability to Produce Intricate Lines

colored pencils color vibrancy

Leading Contender: Colored Pencils

Pastel Pencils

While pastel pencils are capable of producing lines, their softer texture lends itself more to broader strokes and blending techniques rather than intricate lines.

The inherent smudge-ability and blendability of pastel pencils enable artists to create smooth transitions and gradients.

While they may not be the primary tool for creating intricate lines, pastel pencils, especially the harder ones, may still be sharpened to a fine point, as aforementioned.

This versatility may still allow artists to capture atmospheric effects and achieve a more organic, painterly feel in their artwork.

Colored Pencils

Colored pencils excel in their capacity to produce intricate lines, minute features, textures, and fine details. With their sharpenable cores, artists can achieve a sharp point that enables precise control over line thickness and accuracy.

This inherent characteristic makes colored pencils an ideal choice for intricate artwork that demands meticulous detailing and controlled linework.

Ability to Blend and Smudge

pastel pencils color vibrancy

Leading Contender: Pastel Pencils

Pastel Pencils

Pastel pencils are renowned for their exceptional blending and smudging capabilities because of their pastel pigment’s soft nature.

The ability to blend and smudge pastel pencils empowers artists to create smooth transitions, eye-catching effects, color gradients, and expressive artwork with a sense of depth and texture.

Colored Pencils

Unfortunately, colored pencils do not possess the same inherent blending and smudging properties as pastel pencils.

Due to their wax or oil-based binders, colored pencils tend to maintain their distinct lines and colors.

While colored pencils can be layered to some extent, achieving the same level of seamless blending and smudging as pastel pencils is challenging.

However, artists can employ various techniques such as burnishing and layering to achieve a smooth, polished appearance with colored pencils.


pastel pencils color options

Leading Contender: Draw

Pastel Pencils

Pastel pencils combine the softness of traditional soft pastels with the control of a pencil, allowing artists to achieve a softer finish with more controlled marks.

They can be applied to various drawing surfaces such as drawing paper, illustration board, or Bristol paper. Surfaces with a heavier tooth or texture tend to yield the best results, providing enough grip for the pastel pigment.

Colored Pencils

Colored pencils offer incredible surface versatility. They can be written on practically any surface, giving artists the freedom to explore different mediums and experiment with their artwork.

However, when using colored pencils, many artists prefer the smooth surface of Bristol paper for achieving fine details without the interference of paper texture.

Color Vibrancy

colored pencils color options

Leading Contender: Pastel Pencils

Pastel Pencils

When it comes to color vibrancy, pastel pencils have a distinct advantage. Made of pure pigment with a binder, pastel pencils create vibrant colors that captivate the viewer.

The combination of intense pigments and the smudgeable, blendable nature of pastel pencils allows artists to achieve a wide range of colors and values, resulting in artwork that is rich and visually striking.

Colored Pencils

Colored pencils may not exhibit the same level of vibrancy as pastel pencils. The wax or oil binder in colored pencils holds the pigments together, resulting in colors that are less intense compared to pastel pencils.

However, with skillful layering techniques, artists can build up depth and richness in their artwork using colored pencils, although the vibrancy may still be more subdued compared to pastel pencils.

Color Options

differences between pastel and colored pencils

Leading Contender: Colored Pencils

Pastel Pencils

Pastel pencils may have a more limited range of colors compared to colored pencils. However, they still offer a diverse selection of hues and shades that match various artistic styles and preferences.

Nonetheless, artists can achieve a broad spectrum of colors by layering and blending different pastel pencil pigments.

Aside from that, pastel pencils can be used in conjunction with other pastel mediums, expanding the range of colors and unique effects that can be achieved.

Colored Pencils

Colored pencils boast a wide color range, providing artists with an extensive palette to choose from, providing greater flexibility and accuracy in capturing specific hues and tones.

Additionally, colored pencils are available in different grades, making them accessible to hobbyists with student-grade options and offering high-quality professional-grade pencils for seasoned artists.


In our review of pastel pencils vs colored pencils, we’ve learned their respective characteristics that cater to different artistic preferences. Both of these mediums have excellent pigment composition and surface versatility.

Pastel pencils excel in vibrant color intensity and blending capabilities, whereas colored pencils shine in producing fine details and offer a wide color selection.
Ultimately, the choice between each pencils depends on your desired artistic style and requirements.

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