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Colored Pencils vs Markers (An In-Depth Comparison)

colored pencils vs markers

The simple use of pen and paper has evolved throughout the centuries. The tools are not just merely for writing words; we use them for art, blueprints, or just to mark a string of text for emphasis. As their functions developed, the number of different marking tools also grew. Pens, pencils, chalk, markers, colored pencils – a wide array of tools are used for writing. In this post, we are comparing two writing and marking tools. Here’s an in-depth comparison of colored pencils vs markers.

I will discuss their blend-ability, usage, color, control, hazards, and when to use them.

Colored Pencils


Colored pencils have very high blend-ability. But it would take a highly skilled artist to create the perfect blend out of two different colors of colored pencils. With colored pencils, you can create a smooth gradient of various colors. You can also blend many colors to create one color which you don’t have. In a lot of ways, the blend-ability of colored pencils is on par with that of oil paints.

However, blending and mixing colored pencils is not easy. There are various techniques such as layering, smudging, or using solvents like water or alcohol to create beautiful blends. But once you master those techniques, the sky is the limit to what you can create with colored pencils blends.

For beginners learning basic blending techniques, especially layering, I suggest colored pencils with a low concentration of pigments and an oil-based binder. This combination results in a very light application of pigment on the paper. It will allow you to practice and develop your skills

As you get more skilled and to get the most blend-ability out of colored pencils, I emphatically suggest getting high-end colored pencils. More expensive colored pencils have higher concentrations of pigments in their core. The higher the concentration of pigments, the more vibrant their color is.


The color of a colored pencil depends on the pigments used in it. Pigments are insoluble substances found in nature. They provide colors – like the colors of different leaves. The combination of different colored pigments produces an entirely new color. And that principle also applies to colored pencils of different colors. Combining two different colored pencils can produce a different color.

As for the vibrancy of colored pencils, it depends on two things: the concentration of pigment and the binder used. The concentration of pigment is how much pigment is in the core of the pencil.

The more pigment there is, the brighter and more vivid the color the pencil produces. The binder carries the pigments and holds them together. The more binder there is, the less pigment there is.

Also, the difference between wax-based binders and oil-based binders affects the color. Wax-based binders are generally softer, so they release more pigment even when the pressure applied is minimal. Oil-based binders, on the other hand, are more firm. They are better for lighter applications of pigment on paper.


Using colored pencils one by one is quite easy. It’s highly similar to using a regular pencil. But once multiple colors come into play, the factors that affect control multiply. The different pressures you apply, the direction of strokes, the amount of pigment on the paper – all these factors and more affect the outcome of the artwork.

I’d say the amount of control required to create complicated pieces of artwork with colored pencils is intermediate. Once you master the proper blending techniques, controlling colored pencils become easier.


There are minimal hazards to using colored pencils. But if you were careless, you can get injured.

The biggest hazard with colored pencils is their sharpness. If your colored pencils are sharp and firm enough, they can puncture the skin. The firmness of the colored pencil core depends on the binders used for it. Colored pencils with oil-based binders are harder than pencils with wax-based binders.

In the case of colored pencils with wax-based binders, the problem is that the core easily breaks. If small children are using colored pencils with a wax-based binder, I strongly suggest watching them closely. They might ingest the broken-off parts of the core.

When to Use

When Staedtler first invented the colored oil pastel pencil, it was solely used for checking or marking. But in the early 20th century, other pencil manufacturing companies improved the colored pencil design and made it suitable for artistic use.

To this day, colored pencils are mainly used for art projects. There’s a wide variety of effects one can achieve using colored pencils. With the right techniques, you can achieve a watercolor look or even an oil painting appearance. In my opinion, colored pencils are a lot more creative in usage than markers.

different parts of colored pencils



Depending on the type of marker you use, you can get different levels of blend-ability with markers. In my opinion, however, alcohol-based (permanent) markers have the highest levels of blend-ability. I can create tints, shades, and various textures using alcohol-based markers.

The problem is, I find blending markers a lot more difficult than with colored pencils. The primary method of blending is layering. But if you are not careful, the felt-tip of the marker can smudge the ink already on the page. With enough control, you can make this disadvantage work for you. But it will take tons of practice.


Although you can create unique colors by blending different colors of markers, I will say that colored pencils still win in terms of color. Colored pencils have a lot more color options than markers.

A box of colored pencils can contain 24 different colors and shades. There are even boxes of Prismacolor that offer 150 colors. Finding the same amount of different colors in markers is challenging.


Controlling markers is a lot more challenging than colored pencils, in my opinion. The vibrancy of markers generally doesn’t get affected by the pressure you apply to them. This means that their colors are always bright and vibrant. You will have to use markers with less vibrancy to get a lighter color.

Additionally, I find that it requires more patience to use markers. These tools wet the paper. When the area of the paper is still wet and I apply a different color of marker on it, the ink either smudges or the tip of the marker absorbs some of the ink on the page.

Overall, I find colored pencils easier to control when making artwork.


The biggest hazard to markers is the fumes of the ink solvent, especially alcohol-based markers. Inhaling the fumes of an alcohol-based marker is dangerous to your health.

When to Use

Most of the time, markers are used in an office or professional setting. But creative people found that it works for art pieces. But in my opinion, markers are more suitable for creating pieces with a more rigid structure. They are very hard to blend and control. Plus the color options are limited. I prefer to use them for simpler pieces with very bright colors.

Conclusion: Colored Pencils vs Markers Final Comparisons

Colored pencils and markers are as different from each other as oranges are to apples. I don’t prefer either one of them over the other, per se. But there are times that I would opt for one instead of the other depending on what I need to do.

Here’s a summary of the details between colored pencils vs markers.

  Colored Pencils Markers
Blend-ability Extremely high Minimal
Colors Hundreds of options, more if blended Minimal, but more is available if blended
Control Required Intermediate Extremely High
Hazards Punctures or ingestion of core Inhaling the fumes of alcohol-based markers is unhealthy
When to Use Highly creative pieces Simpler and more rigid artwork

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