Traditional colored pencils are colored pencils that are not soluble in water. They are a wonderful media for creating artwork. Art quality pencils are rich in pigment and color, and they are quick to clean up and very portable.
Colored pencils consist of pigment, usually encased in wood. Some brands have the pigment bound with wax, and others with vegetable oil. The colored pencils that are bound with wax can tend to have 'wax bloom' occur on the surface, and they can crumble more onto the page, as well as break easier than oil-based colored pencils. .
Traditional colored pencils, while not being soluble in water, can be partially dissolved in solvents, such as terpentine, in order to blend them easier. Heat can also be used to blend waxed based colored pencils, as can colorless blender pencils and sticks. If you must use solvents, try to use something like Zest-it, which is nonflammable, nontoxic, and biodegradable.
Colored pencils can be layered very successfully, and some artists create very photo realistic paintings with them. They are also used quite successfully by artists who enjoy fantasy art. Colored pencil art can be brilliant and very beautiful, and is a wonderful choice for the flower artist. They are perfect for sketching, taking on vacation, and enhancing a journal.
In general, the colored pencils with the thickest leads tend to be softer leads than the thinner leaded colored pencils, which can be fairly hard. Wax based colored pencils tend to be very soft and creamy when laying them down on the page.
An important issue to consider with colored pencils, or with any art material used for fine art, is the lightfastness rating of the material. If a painting has been framed and is exposed to light, it may fade over time unless lightfast pencils have been used. The pencils with high lightfast ratings tend to be more expensive than regular ones, but just because a colored pencil says it is an artist quality pencil, this does not mean that it is lightfast. Reds and purples typically are more prone to fading than other colors.
Colored pencils may be purchased individually or in sets. The best way to decide which brand of pencils you like best is to buy a few of each brand in 'open stock' before buying a large set. Try the pencils on several types of paper before you decide which ones you like the most. Sets can come in cardboard, tins, and wood. select a brand that you can find replacement pencils in 'open stock' so you do not have to keep buying full sets every time you run out of a favorite color! You can then replace the colors that you use the most by buying individual colors. Most sets come pre-sharpened, but some do not- if you are serious about colored pencil art, you might want to invest in an electric pencil sharpener. Feel free to mix your favorite colors of your favorite brands instead of choosing only one brand of colored pencil.
Colored pencils can last virtually forever- there is no drying up as can happen with paints. Colored pencils that are 30 years old are still perfectly good. Take care not to drop your pencils though, as the lead can break inside the wood casing. When this happens, a large piece of lead can just fall out of the pencil. When picking out individual pencils from a display, try to make sure the lead is centered in the casing, since if it is not, it will sharpen unevenly and the lead will break easily. Also make sure the pencil is straight and not 'warped'.