Everyone shares a love of coloring from a young age. We all start with crayons and markers, then make our way to colored pencils as we get older and have more control over the pressure we use.
Coloring is a relaxing and fun activity that has become more common for adults these days as well as children. With the popularity of adult coloring books, it’s no wonder that many adults are searching for a good set of colored pencils.
Two of the most popular brands for colored pencils are Prismacolor and Faber-Castell. Each of these has a high-quality set of colored pencils that can turn many coloring hobbyists into professional artists.
So, Prismacolor vs. Faber-Castell – which one is the best? Prismacolor Premier pencils are wax-based, giving them a softer core that creates smooth blending. Faber-Castell Polychromos are oil-based, so the core is harder and can create more sharp details. Overall, Faber-Castell Polychromos have a higher build quality and excel in more coloring aspects than Prismacolor Premiers.
Each of these colored pencil sets are incredible tools for any artist. There are major differences, though, that set each apart and make them best for specific types of drawings.
Let’s explore those differences, as well as their similarities, to help you choose the set that’s right for you.
Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils
Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils are wax-based, like many other coloring tools. This means that the binder keeping the pigment together is wax.
Crayons also use wax, so you can imagine that the Prismacolor Premier pencils are smooth, soft, and have a creamy consistency.
Because of their smooth application, Prismacolor Premiers aren’t great at small, fine details such as fur, feathers, or nature landscapes.
They are, however, great for creating drawings that require a lot of smooth, soft blending such as human portraits and waterscapes.
Since Prismacolor Premiers are wax-based, you’ll also notice that they produce a wax bloom on the page. This is when you have several layers of wax colors that have a clear sheen on the page.
An advantage to wax-based colored pencils is that they burnish easier, meaning that they can create smooth blending from applying high pressure to your pencil, covering the entire white space of the page.
For some tips and tricks for using Prismacolor pencils, here’s a video from Blick Art Materials on YouTube.
Faber-Castell Polychromos Artists’ Color Pencils
Faber-Castell Polychromos Artists’ Color Pencils are oil-based. Rather than having the pigment held together by a wax binder, it’s held together by an oil binder.
The oil base of these pencils gives them a harder, more durable point. When using Prismacolor Premiers and Faber-Castell Polychromos, you’ll notice that the Premiers will lose their point and require more sharpening than the Pollychromos.
This hard point means that the Faber-Castell Polychromos are better at fine detail work, because you can keep the sharp point and apply fine lines with precision.
The oil base also means that the Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils are lightfast and can last long-term. With Polychromos, you can rest assured that your art will remain as vibrant as the day you colored it.
For a demonstration, take a look at this video from FaberCastellUSA on YouTube.
Similarities Between Prismacolor And Faber-Castell
While there are many differences between the Prismacolor and Faber-Castell colored pencils, it’s important to highlight their similarities, too.
Both sets are great at layering. You can apply several layers of color and blend them well, either with solvent or not. Blending is a huge part of any coloring or drawing, so the fact that they both blend well is a huge plus no matter which set you pick.
They both also have a large variety of rich, saturated colors.
Prismacolor Premier colored pencils come in sets of 150, 132, 72, 48, 36, 24, and 12 colors. Each of these sets ranges in price, so you can choose the one with the widest variety of colors that’s still within your budget.
Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils come in sets of 120, 60, 36, 24, and 12. The Faber-Castell sets are smaller in number, but still offer a high variety of colors to choose from.
The colors in both Prismacolor and Faber-Castell seem to leap from the page. These vibrant colors give life to your drawings and can add incredible dimension.
Differences Between Prismacolor And Faber-Castell
Now that we’ve covered the similarities, it’s time to review the differences between Prismacolor Premiers and Faber-Castell Polychromos. The first and most important difference is their binder. The Premiers are wax-based and the Polychromos are oil-based.
This means that the Premiers will be softer and create smoother blending, while the Polychromos will be sturdy and will excel at finer detail work.
Premiers are still capable of detail work and Polychromos are still capable of blending, but they won’t do as well at these as their counterpart.
Due to their soft core, Premiers tend to break and rub down the point easier, preventing you from capturing those fine line details.
Polychromos, however, can still blend just as well as the Premiers. So the battle for blending is tied, but in the battle for details, Polychromos is the clear winner.
Another difference in the two sets is their final appearance. Prismacolor Premier pencils tend to have a wax bloom finish, meaning there’s a clear sheen on top of the colors.
The Premiers also aren’t as lightfast as the Polychromos. When exposed to sunlight over time, they’ll lose their vibrancy and won’t hold the original beauty of the artwork as well as Polychromos.
Faber-Castell Polychromos, however, are very lightfast and hold their color vibrancy over time. So in the battle for lightfastness and longevity, Polychromos wins again. However, one battle where Prismacolor Premiers wins out is when it comes to the white colored pencil.
White pencils are used to create light sources on an image and for highlight blending. It’s important, then, that a white colored pencil is opaque in color and can hold its own when applied on top of dark colors.
The white pencil in the Prismacolor Premier set does just that, while the white pencil in the Faber-Castell Polychromos set is a little disappointing. It can have a translucent quality and doesn’t work well when applied on top of darker colors.
One final difference is the price. Prismacolor Premiers are cheaper than the Faber-Castell Polychromos.
The difference in price can be significant to artists looking to get a large variety of colors on a budget. You even get 30 more colors when you buy the most expensive Premier set, as opposed to the Polychromos set that’s nearly twice as expensive with 30 less colors.
This difference in price is also reflected in the quality, though. For those looking to make an investment into a set that’s built to last and worth the money, then Polychromos is definitely the way to go.
Although they’re more costly, the build quality is better. They last longer and don’t break as easily as Premiers, especially considering how soft the cores of the Premiers are.
Overall Winner: Faber-Castell Polychromos
Although Prismacolor and Faber-Castell are nearly neck-and-neck when you do a comparison, Faber-Castells are still the clear winner.
Why? Because in the categories where Prismacolor leads, Faber-Castell isn’t far behind. However, in the categories where Faber-Castell leads, the Prismacolors are pretty far off from matching in quality.
- Blending: Tie
- Details: Faber-Castell Polychromos
- Lightfast/Longevity: Faber-Castell Polychromos
- White Pencil: Prismacolor Premier
- Budget/Cost: Prismacolor Premier
- Build Quality: Faber-Castell Polychromos
Which To Choose: Prismacolor Or Faber-Castell?
Even though Faber-Castell are the overall winners in quality, that doesn’t mean that Prismacolor Premiers aren’t worth a purchase.
Prismacolor Premier colored pencils are fantastic for human portraits. Their smooth blending lends itself well to creating smooth skin and facial features.
Faber-Castell Polychromos are ideal for creating animal portraits or nature landscapes. Their fine detail application works great to get those fine line hairs in animal fur or feathers, as well as in individual blades of grass or sharp details in leaves.
Both of these colored pencil sets are great options. Regardless of what you draw, the most important part is how you use them.
Prismacolor Premiers can do detail work if sharpened well and used lightly. Faber-Castell Polychromos can do bright highlights if the white pencil is used at the appropriate time in the drawing.
The most important thing is to know your own skills. Know what you excel at in your drawings and choose the colored pencil set that will work best to enhance those skills, or supplement any weaknesses.
If you can afford it, try getting the smallest set (12 colors) in each brand and test them out. You won’t get a large variety of colors to compare the saturation, but you can compare how they feel.
You’ll get a sense for their blending, their application, their detail work, and how you can work with them to create your drawings.
Once you’ve used both sets and have a sense for which one works best for you, then splurge on the largest set available, 150 for Prismacolor or 120 for Faber-Castell.
With one of these sets in your artist tool kit, you’ll be able to create any drawing you can imagine with plenty of blending, details, and dynamic colors.
Up Next: Best Skin Tone Colored Pencils