When Were Colored Pencils Invented

The answer when were colored pencils invented we can find out if look to the history of today’s manufacturers of pencils. They have all answers.

The modern version of colored pencils was invented in the early 20th century by Faber-Castell. Faber-Castell began producing artist-grade colored pencils in 1908, their first set included 60 colors. Followed by Caran d’Ache in 1924 and also by Berol in 1938 today known as Prismacolor.

Today’s colored pencil lead is made the same way as in ancient times, so it definitely deserves a few words to write. 

When colored pencils were invented, the true-time is older than you probably think; it goes back to the Greek Golden Age, they used wax-based crayons. First, known documentation about wax-based medium use is by Pliny the Elder, a Roman scholar. He has written a detailed process of using the wax-based medium.

The medium itself was created with beeswax with added pigment, once applied on the painting surface, was heated to bind color to the surface. Wax-based medium is known for good resistance to decay and extraordinary brilliance and vividness of color.
One of the preserved ancient artworks that used wax-based material is Encaustic painting.

Types of Colored Pencils

  • Artist Grade
  • Student and academic grade colored pencils
  • Watercolor pencils


Artist-Grade Colored Pencils

Artist-grade colored pencils are made to last; they are filled with much more high-quality pigments. Lightfastness ( resistance to UV rays) in artist-grade colored pencil is very good, and those values are measured and documented. With all artist grade pencils also comes documentation of lightfastness.

Another important thing is to mention that today are produced as wax-based and oil-based pencils.

Wax-Based Colored Pencils

Wax-based colored pencils are creamier and better for blending. Because of that, they are mostly the first choice of beginners colored artists. The bad thing about them is the softcore and stability of the lead. 

You can’t sharpen them to a long point lead. It will break very easily. If you have a heavy hand on pencils, you should train yourself for more control if you plan to use wax-based colored pencils.

If pencils roll down from the table, there are big chances that the core will break easily.

Some of the Most Popular Wax-Based Colored Pencil

  • Arteza colored pencils available in 48, 72, 120 sets
  • Blick Studio Artists colored pencils available in 12, 24, 36, 48, 72 sets
  • Castle Art Supplies colored pencils available in 40, 72, 120 sets
  • Prismacolor Premier colored pencils available in 24, 36, 48, 72, 150 sets

Oil-Based Colored Pencils

Oil-based colored pencils are not as prevalent as wax-based, but still, they hold a big piece of cake. Oil-based colored pencils you can get only as an artist-grade of a pencil.
Oil binder makes the core harder, and stability is better. That means less breakage overall. Many professional artists use them as the main medium when it comes to colored pencils.

Some of the Most Popular Oil-Based Colored Pencils

  • Caran d’Ache Pablo colored pencils available in 12, 18, 30 ,40, 80, 120 sets
  • Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils available in 12, 36, 60, 120 sets

Student and Academic Grade Colored Pencils

They come mostly in a limited color range of 24 or 36 colored pencils, which practice the optimal number of colors for students.

If we compare student-grade colored pencils vs. artist-grade colored pencils, the quality level is noticeable lower on student-grade colored pencils. That is due to the smaller ratio of high-quality pigment.

They are also created aiming students, which will be satisfied with the lower quality of pencils. The price of student-grade pencils is very acceptable, and because of that, many elementary and middle school students use them. 

The great thing about it is that manufacturers have their sets tailored to different age and skill groups.

Some of the Most Popular Student and Academic Grade Colored Pencils

  • Faber-Castell Grip colored pencils 
  • Prismacolor Scholar Colored Pencils
  • Crayola Erasable Colored Pencils
  • Funlavie Colored Pencils

Watercolor Pencils

Known as water-soluble pencils is a very versatile art medium. You get two different art mediums; you can use them as dry as normal pencils or wet to get that watercolor effect.

Using them in the wet technique, you should first apply dry pigment and then apply water with a paintbrush to get the desired effects.

You can get them also in artists’ grade, with sets from 60, 72, or even up to 120 different colors.

How Colored Pencils Are Produced

Colored pencils are produced on a machine line operated by workers, some steps are manual, but most are automatic. For the manufacturing of colored pencils, they use the same method as graphite pencils, but with one important difference. Leads can’t go into the furnace because that would change the color of pigmentation.

Ingredients: Colorant ( it can be pigment or dye), binding material (vegetable gums and cellulose ethers), wax (beeswax which is used from ancient time, paraffin, carnauba wax)

  • The first step is to mix pigments to get the pencil’s desired color; for every color, they have a recipe. It is a precise task in which they have to add the correct amount of each pigment. 
  • For further mixing, they need boiled water. Into the water is added binding agents to blend all components once they are mixed. 
  • The ingredients must expand; once it becomes a paste, it’s time for a new step.
  1. Into the paste, now is time to add mixed pigments, and the machine will mix all ingredients to get 100% even colored paste.
  • The next machine in the line is for processing paste; it will take a little chunk transported by conveyor belt into a compressing cylinder.
  • Compressing the cylinder compresses them, it feeds the extrusion machine.
  • The extrusion machine has a lead diameter, normally 3.8 mm, but it can be smaller or bigger depending on the manufacturer.
  • The paste is squeezed in a continuous stream, and the cutter chops them to the length of the future colored pencil.
  • Now is time for a bath with chemical waxes; leads will be impregnated and coated
  • Next is the quality control step. They pick random leads for a test. Two tests will be performed, one for a break and one for durability. On the break test, the lead of colored pencils must withstand a pressure of 2.5 kg before the break. Durability test must yield 100 m with one lead.
  • Pencil bodies are produced from cedar and shaped by a special machine into the round, triangle, or hexagon shape. It coats the surface with thin layers of glue, which will bind lead to cedar.
  • In the automatic process, leads are placed into the grooved cedar, and in the second step, the opposite cedar is placed to close the pencil. 
  • Now is time to color the pencil’s body to match the color of the lead. Some manufactures don’t use color pencils to match color lead.
  • Once the color is dry machine stamps factory name, name of pencils, and type of pencil for easier identification
  • Sharpening is a final step, and it is done with an abrasive wheel that rotates.