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Polychromos vs Prismacolor

polychromos vs prismacolor

It can be quite confusing to choose between Polychromos vs Prismacolor colored pencils because both are excellent brands. Typically, I would just tell you to get both brands but if you are strapped for cash, this is not always possible as they can be quite expensive.

If you are on the fence about which brand of colored pencils to choose, this article might help you make the right decision or at least the right brand for you.

Polychromos vs Prismacolor – Which is Better?

To make it easier for you to choose between Prismacolor vs Faber Castell Polychromos colored pencils, we will be comparing them using several criteria.


Polychromos colored pencils come in different sizes of sets, with up to 120 pencils in one collection. You can see the names of the colors clearly printed on the barrels of the pencil. The letters are etched into the wood and printed using gold ink and the barrel is lacquered with the same color as the lead.

The lead cores of every pencil are quite vibrant and have exquisite color depth. Another thing I liked about these pencils is that the lead has a nice soft consistency. You do not need a lot of pressure to put color on the paper. The key to using Polychromos is to use light layers. You have to build up the layers gradually.

On the other hand, the largest set of Prismacolor colored pencils that you can buy is 150 pieces, which is significantly more than Polychromos. This means that this larger set has more “in-between” colors, which makes creating gradients a lot easier.

Even though the leads of the Polychromos are already quite soft, they are not as buttery-smooth as the Prismacolors. A light stroke is all you need to apply a rich layer of color to the paper. You rarely need to layer colors to make them vivid.

The leads also glide smoothly over the paper. They are so soft that it feels like you are using an eyeliner pencil. Just like most colored pencil brands, on the Prismacolors, the name is stamped on the barrels of the pencils using gold ink, and they are all colored the same as the leads.

In this category, the Prismacolor pencil is the winner. The pigments that Faber Castell used for these pencils seem significantly brighter. On the other hand, even though the Polychromos are still great, it will take a bit more getting used to and needs significantly more time to gain the same richness as the Prismacolors could with just one layer.

Ease of Blending

prismacolor pencils
Prismacolor Pencils

Both brands are highly proficient at blending colors but there are some differences. If you will be burnishing or using a lot of layers of colors, Prismacolors tend to develop “wax blooms”. This is a thin, milky wax film that forms on the surface of the colors after some time. This happens when the wax binder and pigments separate.

You can easily remove the wax bloom by wiping over the surface using a paper towel. However, a bit of the pigment would usually come up with the wax as well. You can prevent this from happening by spraying a thin layer of fixative over your drawing.

Ease of Smudging and Erasing

When it comes to smudging colors, Prismacolors are much easier to smudge because they have softer leads. On the other hand, Polychromos pencils are also quite easy to smudge.

Now, erasing the colors is another story. Because Prismacolors have very soft leads, it made them quite difficult to erase. You will need to use quite a lot of effort just to erase the marks made by Prismacolors. Sometimes, they would be impossible to erase without ripping the paper.

Polychromos pencils are much easier to erase. You can easily erase the marks made by Polys, leaving almost just 10% of the colors on the paper.

This is where the softer leads of the Prismacolor colored pencils work against them. Unless you use a special sharpener, you will find that their leads are easy to break. You can easily prevent this just by using a box cutter to sharpen the pencils.

In addition, Prismacolors require sharpening more often compared to Polychromas with harder leads. They also retain their points much longer.


polychromos pencils
Polychromos Pencils

When you hold a Polychromos pencil in one hand and a Prismacolor in the other, you can easily feel that the Polychromos feels a bit heavier. This is most likely due to the bonding technique used by the company to sandwich the lead between the wood slats.

In addition, when you break the tip of a Polychromos pencil, the damage will be isolated to just that portion. On the other hand, Prismacolors are notorious for having leads that are easy to splinter.

Differentiating Factors Polychromos Prismacolor
Colors   X
Ease of Blending   X
Ease of Smudging and Erasing   X
Sharpening X  
Durability X  


Which one in Prismacolor vs Faber Castell Polychromos is better? Although you will need to be much more careful when handling Prismacolors, they do have more vibrant colors compared to the Polychromos pencils. If you’re a beginner at using colored pencils, then you might want to use something durable like the Polychromos.