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What Are Colored Pencils Made Of?

Colored pencils are one of the most common objects that are used by not only artists but almost every individual, especially while growing up. When you look at a colored pencil and wonder what work actually goes into making this fun-looking pencil, you’d be surprised to find out how complex the making process is. This article is going to bring a lot of clarity around the question of ‘what are colored pencils made of?” 


To the average person, a colored pencil may look like a colored lead piece and some wood put together, but it is not that simple. A lot of work goes into producing different colors and further variants of each color. Not only that but certain chemicals are required to ensure the pigments and the lead piece are held together perfectly and glide onto the paper like a dream. 

What Are Colored Pencils Made of
What Are Colored Pencils Made of

1. Components Of A Colored Pencil 

There are many colored pencils available on the market, and they all differ in product quality and cost. The cost and quality entirely depend on the quality of the components of that pencil. High-quality components are expensive but do give excellent results.

Without further ado, let’s look at each of the components that go into making a colored pencil and their specific functions.

1.1 Wood

Wood Of A Colored Pencil
Wood Of A Colored Pencil

The wood surrounding the lead core is a significant component of any pencil. This component needs to provide an easy grip for users and look pretty on the outside at the same time. The quality of wood used for this portion affects the price range.

Here is a table comparing some common types of wood used for making colored pencils:

BasswoodConsistent texture sharpens well
PoplarInexpensive, good for lower-end pencils
CedarDurable, smooth texture
PineReadily available, affordable
SpruceLightweight, flexible
PaulowniaLightweight, strong, warp-resistant
BeechHard, durable, sharpens well

Thanks to advanced technology, you may now find woodless colored pencils on the market. Woodlands pencils are not that common but are definitely a new invention.

1.2 Pigments

Pigments Of A Colored Pencil 
Pigments Of A Colored Pencil 

The most crucial component of a colored pencil is the pigment used in it. The price and quality of colored pencils depend a lot on the type and quality of the pigments they use. All brands use different types of pigments and combinations of these pigments. To get the best color and result, it is important for brands to mix pigments just right.

The pigments used in colored pencils should always have a good lightfastness rating, which ensures that the colors won’t fade away quickly with exposure to UV rays. Different brands use different methods of measuring the lightfastness of a pigment.

1.3 Binders 

Binders Of A Colored Pencil 
Binders Of A Colored Pencil 

A vital component that ensures the perfect distribution of pigment throughout the pencil core and helps hold all the pigments together is the binder. Binders are chemical substances that glue together all the pigments in the mixing process.

There are many different types of binders, and you will find that many brands use different types of binders; this affects their cost and how nicely the pigments come off onto the paper.

1.4 Extenders

Extenders Of Colored Pencil 
Extenders Of Colored Pencil 

Lastly, the extender is the part that determines how hard or soft your lead core is. Extenders are another chemical that is added to the lead core. Extenders make the core of the pencil more rigid.

The more extender used in a pencil core, the less pigment and binder are required; this could further reduce the cost of the brand requires it.

If you are worried about whether the lead core of color lead is toxic, you can read this article: Is Pencil Lead Toxic? The Most Comprehensive Answer.

2. Different Types Of Colored Pencils 

Different Types Of Colored Pencils
Different Types Of Colored Pencils

The refill of the color pencil is composed of pigment powder, wax as an adhesive, and other additives. According to the composition of the adhesive, colored pencils can be divided into three categories: water-based, waxy, and oily.

Generally, people often confuse oily and waxy colored pencils, which are generally called oily colored pencils. However, if you want to subdivide it, there are still many differences in the use of colored pencils made from these two different ingredients.

Strictly speaking, there is still a little wax in the oily colored pencil, but the main component is vegetable oil. Colored pencils with wax or oil as the main adhesive can be used together.

2.1 Water-soluble Colored Pencil

Water-soluble color pencil
Water-soluble color pencil

Water-soluble colored lead is characterized by bright color, and soft color and the lines drawn are soluble in water. Applying water in an even way spreads out the color halo, giving it the look of a watercolor halo and a gradual change. Therefore, water-soluble color lead can be used not only to draw dry paintings but also to draw landscapes, human skin, and other fine paintings.

Water-soluble color lead is mostly a carbon matrix with water solubility. The painting effect is the same as that of an insoluble colored pencil before it is dipped in water. However, when dipped in water, it transforms into watercolor, with bright and bright colors and a very soft picture presentation effect.

2.2 Wax-based Colored Pencils 

Wax-based Colored Pencils
Wax-based Colored Pencils

The common colored pencils on the market are mainly colored pencils with a wax base. This kind of colored lead is cheaper than oily colored pencils and has more colors.

It has a soft refill and strong coverage, which can make it feel like a crayon. However, if multiple layers of colors are applied, the wax bloom will easily occur. It will form a thin mist on the paint. This problem can be solved by spraying a layer of protective glue or by avoiding painting too many layers of colors.

Another disadvantage of waxy lead is that the pen core is easily broken and paint chips fall out when painting. Of course, these problems can also be avoided if you use them carefully and do not apply them too hard.

These pencils are usually more often used by artists because they can easily mix the colored lead and slide it onto the paper smoothly. The advantage of the pencil with a wax base is that it can be easily used with special solvents.

2.3 Oil-based Colored Pencils 

Oil-based Colored Pencils
Oil-based Colored Pencils

Oil-based colored pencils are another type of pencil available on the market, but they are less common. Only a few brands produce colored pencils with an oil base. Artists feel that the color deposit of pencils with an oil base is much more vibrant compared to pencils with a wax base. These pencils glide onto the paper like butter and are pretty easy to work with once you get the hang of them.

Oily colored pencils are slightly harder than waxy colored pencils. However, it can maintain the sharpness of the pen tip, which can be very sharp and not easy to break. This means that it can be used to paint both large areas and small details.

The color of oily lead is relatively saturated, and the strokes are smooth. However, its color stacking is not as multi-layer as that of the wax pen. Its transparency is high, so the way of color mixing is somewhat different from that of a waxy pen.

Its disadvantage is that it is easy to be smeared, so when painting, it is best to put a piece of paper under your hand to protect the painted part. Another disadvantage is that the price of oily colored pencils is higher.

3. Production Process Of Colored Pencil

The process of making colored pencils is similar to that of traditional lead pencils, but with some additional steps to add color to the lead.

Here is an overview of the process:

Mixing the pigments: The first step in making colored pencils is to mix pigments with water and a binder, such as gum arabic or polyvinyl alcohol. The mixture is then dried and ground into a fine powder.

Mixing The Pigments

Mixing the colored pigment with the binder: The colored pigment is then mixed with a binder, such as clay or wax, to form the leadership of the colored pencil. The binder helps to hold the pigment together and gives the lead its texture.

With The Binder

Encasing the lead: The colored lead is inserted into a wooden casing, which is usually made from cedar wood, just like traditional lead pencils.

Encasing The Lead

Coating the pencil: The colored pencil is coated with a layer of paint or varnish to protect it and give it a decorative finish.

Coating The Pencil

Quality control: The finished colored pencils are then inspected for quality and any defects are removed.

Quality Control

Some manufacturers also add additional steps to the process, such as adding a second layer of colored lead to create a two-tone effect, or using special coatings to create metallic or glitter effects.

If you want to know how is a lead pencil made, you can read this article: How Are Pencils Made? The Ultimate Guide.

4. Wide Selection Of Colored Pencils

If you’re looking for colored pencils that are of excellent quality and budget-friendly, then you should definitely browse for colored pencils on Honeyoung pencils. Honeyoung produces fine-quality color pencils with the best pigments, which help you achieve the perfect color in your work. They offer a wide range of colored pencils, so you have many options to select from.

Plus, Honeyoung has fantastic customer reviews, so you can be sure you’re getting a great color pencil product. So, if you’re looking for the perfect addition to your art supplies, be sure to check out Honeyoung pencils.

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If you are interested in the price and quality of China pencil products, but are worried about being cheated due to your lack of experience, you can consult China purchasing agents for the latest industry information and assistance.


If we have to put it in simple words, we could just say a colored pencil only consists of four simple components. However, if making a colored pencil was as easy as putting together four components, people would start making them at home. Making colored pencils requires the use of delicate pigments and chemicals, which is why it is best to leave their production up to the experts and not try it at home. 

We hope this article offered you insights into the details of making a colored pencil and made you appreciate all the work that goes into it.

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Pencil Product Specialist-Julia Lee


I'm Julia, the CEO of Honeyoung Bag. I run a company with over 300 people, we produce, sell and export bags. I spent over 30 years in bag manufacturing and business. We can provide you one-stop service of bag purchase, including design, produce, export bag products to your place. If any questions, freely to reach me,I'll try my best to give you advice and solution.

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