Professional-grade pencils are intended for those who have significant experience in various mediums and projects. They have a deep understanding of colour theory, blending techniques, application procedures, etc. Generally, these will be people who do this for a living or very passionate hobbyists who can justify the significant costs associated with it.
These will have very soft cores that are capable of significant colour output. This also results in the ability to really vary how much colour is out-putted due to the amount of pressure applied, which opens up many more interesting possibilities for a piece.
Blending is generally very good to excellent, and stacking layers to create added effects is pretty common. Colour choices are vast, and either can come in a very large set or one of the many specialty sets that will focus on a specific mood or feel.
These may not be as durable and the fact that you can apply so much colour in a pass means that you can go through a pencil pretty quickly. This coupled with the fact that they are quite expensive means that these would not be good for a classroom environment.
Packaging can be very elaborate and aesthetically pleasing. Metal tins and wood cases are common, and the pencils themselves are often adorned with gold accents and nice labeling. These are pencils that you will proudly display in any art toolbox.
As expected, these can be expensive. Prices can be anywhere from around £1.30 up to £2.50 or more per pencil, making them more expensive than both the student grade and scholastic grade pencils we review.
Since a lot of the subtle benefits of premium lines cannot be noticed and taken advantage of by many, these types of pencils are best-retained for those who have a good artistic understanding as well as deep pocketbooks. They may also be intended for classroom settings in college-level art courses.
Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer
The Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer watercolor pencil set is a must-have for any serious pencil artist. There are plenty of set sizes to choose from and they go all the way up to 120. This, combined with the extremely good blending characteristics, means that you can achieve any color that you are after. Things really come alive when you apply water and the thick color application can be easily spread across great areas. And they look the part as well, with their attractive oil-based cores being wrapped in a quality hexagonal wood shell. However, expect to pay a premium asking price to enjoy these special pencils. But it is totally worth it.
Pros: Intense color, great control capability, perfect for large areas, good packaging
Caran d’Ache Aquarelle Museum Watercolor
The extra intense pigments that are inside the cores of Caran d’Ache Aquarelle Museum watercolor pencils are the real show-stoppers here. Thanks to the high concentration of these pigments, the colour really comes alive when it hits the paper. The water-soluble core is easily controlled with just a bit of moisture and some really lovely colour manipulation can then occur. The wax-based lead is surprisingly soft and has some characteristics that we are more used to seeing in oil cores. We really appreciate how the soft lead allows for a buttery smooth stroke. These hexagonal barreled pencils are available in sizes from 12 to 80.
Pros: Smooth buttery application, extremely vivid colour, strong lead, beautiful packaging
Cons: Expensive, somewhat limited color choices
The trademark pencil set by the popular company, the Faber-Castell Polychromos coloured pencils have been a popular premium pencil for many years. The oil cores simply excel at producing vivid colour but still allowing for great user control. The blending is quite good and you can really mix in the various colours to fill in colour gaps that may exist. However, with up to 120 count sets available, there shouldn’t be very many colour gaps to worry about! This is a great pencil for beginner and veteran alike and we encourage everybody to experience the storied Polychromos set for themselves. The lovely core is surrounded by a round wooden barrel
Pros: Fantastic colour intensity, good blending, great colour selection, impressive packaging
Cons: Quite expensive