colored pencils

How are colored pencils made? How are colored pencils made? Here’s a million-dollar question. And not because there are secret ingredients or the like in our and your colored pencils. Of course, only experts can understand in detail the pigments that make up the lead a colored pencil. But that’s not the point: “how are colored pencils made” is a million-dollar question because not many people know how they are made and what these pencils are made of. Almost everyone, however, knows roughly how they are made – and therefore what they contain – graphite pencils, the classic, non-colored ones.

As we will see better shortly – colored pencils could be understood as a particular evolution of simple graphite pencils for drawing. There are different colored pencils, which vary in formats, materials, uses, and, for brands: Caran d’Ache pencils, Winsor & Newton colored pencils, Derwent pencils, Faber Castell pencils, Lyra pencils, Cretacolor, and so on. With this post, we want to give you all the information you need to choose the most suitable colored pencils for your lotus flower drawing, starting from their composition!

The history of pencils

Let’s take a step back to understand how colored pencils are made and how we came to make and use these particular drawing accessories. It is not that much. That man uses colored pencils. No pencils have been used to draw and write for centuries and centuries, much fewer pens or markers. The Egyptians drew ideograms, letters, lines, and shapes with lead accessories, and so did intellectuals and artists for many centuries, using charcoal at most to vary. Even in the fourteenth century, European artists made sketches with sticks of lead, zinc, or silver.

The birth of the graphite pencil

colored pencils

Only from the sixteenth century did the graphite pencil make its entry: this material had been found at the foot of the hills of Borrowdale, in the north of England, and someone had the lucky idea of ​​enclosing it inside small wooden casings, so as not to get your hands dirty during use. Therefore, the graphite drawing pencil was born between 1560 and 1570, with a relatively rapid diffusion, so much so that the pencil was practically a common heritage in the following century.

During the eighteenth century, Nicolas-Jacques Conté mixed graphite powder with clay, and since then, they began to produce pencils with a more complex (less clay) or softer (more clay) lead. And the colored pencils? Well, from wooden pencils, colored pencils take only the wooden structure and, if we want to say so, the idea: as we will soon discover, they are entirely different mines.

The parts that make up a colored pencil

Here is the first point to remember: colored pencils, inside, have no trace of graphite. 4 elements make up a colored pencil: the wooden casing, the colored pigment, the binders, and the extenders. But how are these materials composed to form the pencil? And what factors can intervene to make this drawing accessory more or less effective? Let’s see how colored pencils are made, analyzing every single element!

The wooden casing

Let’s start with the most specific part: the wooden casing, as we have seen, is the only part that a colored pencil has in common with a graphite drawing pencil. On the market, like the rest of our e-commerce, there are colored pencils with the round or squared shaft, colored in the same color of the lead or the color of the wood, natural. It should be emphasized. However, that colored pencils will not necessarily continue to be enclosed in wood in the future. Indeed, some brands already offer pencils with a synthetic shaft without wood, while others, more cautious, have opted for recycled wood or, more often, for wood from sustainable plantations.

The pigments of colored pencils

We come to the element that characterizes colored pencils: we are talking about colored pigments. They are the ones who make colored pencils unique, they are the ones who differentiate them from each other, and it is they who define the quality of the different pencils of the different brands. One thing must emphasize: there is an infinity of colored pigments. 

Once, when artists, to prepare their colors, used only the pigments detectable in nature – or a little more – the range was much narrower. Carbon for black, ivory for white, rubric or sinopia for red, orpiment for yellow, malachite for green, and so on. Today the manufacturers of colored pencils can count on a much more comprehensive range, so much so that the individual pigments are identified no longer by names but by acronyms.

What pigments are used to make colored pencils?

It is the colored pigments used, however, that define the quality of colored pencils. In two ways: to change the final result is the number of pigments used and their quality. A colored pencil with a high dose of pigments will, for example, have a more intense and vibrant color; a colored pencil with inferior quality pigments will have a mediocre level of light fastness, and therefore will not be suitable for works destined to last over time. The brand makes available the composition of each pencil.

By examining the documents of the famous Caran d’Ache Luminance, we discover, for example, that the natural blood pencil 066 LFII contains only the pigment Pr101; the 220 LFI Lawn green pencil, on the other hand, contains 3 pigments, namely Py1, Py3 and Pg7; and again, the 130 LFI Ultramarine Blue pencil contains only the pigment Pb29. Knowing which pigments are present inside the colored pencil we use can help find other pencils with the exact composition or perhaps have the same pigment. Exploring the Caran d’Ache documentation, it turns out, for example, that Ocher Green, Ocher Yellow, and Sienna share the same pigment Py42 to be able to mix colors harmoniously.

For pastel pencils, such as Pastel Pencils Caran d’Ache, special binders are used to preserve the lead’s dry and dry nature. These are very similar, if not identical, binders to those used for dry pastels.