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Faber-Castell Polychromos vs Prismacolor Premier

Faber-Castell vs Prismacolor. Layering.

Faber-Castell Polychromos vs Prismacolor Premier

Welcome to the battle of the battles! When it comes to colored pencils the question is one: Faber-Castell or prismacolor? 

Over the years I have worked extensively with both brands and even though there is a ton of arguments on the internet, I wanted to add my own little voice. 

So, faber-castell or prismacolor? Hmmm, it is not so straightforward people, I’m sorry! But I will explain in depth and help you decide which brand is best for you. 

First of all, a few facts about the pencils and then I will jump to how they perform in artworks. 

Prismacolor are super soft and creamy wax-based pencils. That means that wax is used to bind the pigment.

Faber-castell on the other hand are oil based, hard pencils they are more chalky compared to the creamy prismacolors. 

So, let’s check out how they compare to each other.

1. Texture.

Prismacolor vs Faber-Castell. Texture.
Prismacolor vs Faber-Castell. Texture.

If you have worked with graphite pencils you must have know that the softer the pencil, the bigger the texture it creates. Same is true for colored pencils. Soft prismacolors tend to create a lot of texture whereas harder faber-castell leave less of a texture.

2. Color brightness.

prismacolor vs Faber-Castell. Brightness.
Prismacolor vs Faber-Castell. Brightness.

No one beats prismacolor here. Have never seen more bright, vibrant colors. Faber-castell seem less saturated, which isn’t necessarily a disadvantage. It all depends on how realistic you would like your artwork to be.

3. Layering.

With faber-castell I feel I can layer as many colors as I want. With prismacolor I can only layer 4-5 colors and then the pigment cannot be transferred on the paper any more. Possibly it has something to do with the wax. As a result it might look a bit monochromatic. Bright, yes, but monochromatic.

Faber-Castell vs Prismacolor. Layering.
Faber-Castell vs Prismacolor. Layering.

4. Blending.

Let me tell you a secret. I hate blending colored pencils. I think it makes the drawing to lose character. All fine texture I worked so hard to achieve lost… I do not see a reason why should I do this. Not to mention blending with solvents. It’s called drawing for a reason. Otherwise why not call it painting? The only times I “blend” I use pencil strokes to create the illusion of gradually changing color. I find that this is done equally easy (or shall I say difficult??!) with both pencils. 

5. Lightfastness.

I have yet to research this quality for myself. Currently making my own experiment to see how the pencils react over time. Although lightfastness is not directly related to a pencil’s ease of use, it is obviously an important quality. Commissioned works after all, are meant to stay on a wall for decades. No one wants a beloved drawing fade over time. For now I can only trust pre-made charts, according to which faber-castell rank higher regarding lightfastness. 

6. Pencils per page.

What the €&@ is this??  Well I needed a way to describe how fast a pencil is consumed. Prismacolor pencils are out a lot faster than faber castell, because they are softer. I need approximately 1 faber castell pencil and 2 prismacolor pencils to fully cover an A4 sized sheet of paper. 

7. Price.

Prismacolor are generally a lot cheaper. On the internet, a 120-piece faber-castell set starts from 165$ and a 150-piece prismacolor set starts from 100$. However, in my small town that I live faber-castell are readily available at the local bookstore, whereas I need to order prismacolor from aboard. Which means that their final cost is about the same for me.

Don’t believe anything!

Don’t believe anything!
Don’t believe anything!

So, after all this rant, with me leaning obviously towards faber-castell, I’m showing a couple more examples that prove… that in the end it doesn’t come down to the pencils, but how you use them. Yes, you can have extra bright colors with Faber-Castell too, and yes, you can achieve extra extra smooth realistic texture with prismacolor!

What is the final outcome?

In the end it comes down to personal taste. I love both pencils. To be completely honest, at some point about one and a half year ago, I fully switched to faber-castell. For a couple reasons. I can reach them at the local bookstore XD. And I can buy them open stock, whereas I have to order a whole box of prismacolor, with some colors never to use.  Also FaberCastell rank better regarding their lightfastness. I am very serious about this. Imagine your clients looking at their drawing fading over time…

However, the fact remains that…

Prismacolor are unbeatable when creating bright poster-like illustrations, and Faber-Castell are unbeatable when it comes down to create the smoothest, most realistic portraits possible.

Bright poster-quality art done with prismacolor.
Bright poster-quality art done with prismacolor.
Smooth hyper-Realistic art done with Faber-Castell
Smooth hyper-Realistic art done with Faber-Castell

That’s all folks! Keep drawing!

Videos links to the drawings of this post:


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20 Responses

  1. I like the F-C Polychromous colored pencils. RE: Since the binder is oil, not wax, there is no waxy bloom to fight with a few days after finishing the painting.
    See the book “Colored Pencil Solution Book by Gildow & Newton, pages 14-15 for a table of the characteristics for different pencil brands.

  2. I used to use prismacolor pencils but i was not that satisfied with the softer core. They smudged easily for me as well. I like the faber castell polychromos much more in terms of lightfastness and the core. I bought the set of 120 and they work amazing for me. Im a young artist so im still learning. Im somewhat average but i love how these pencils lay down.
    I buy my supplies at blicks art supply in the north of the US. They have open stock individual pencils of both brands as well.

    1. I know, right? Not a big fan of the soft core either. But at the end of the day I guess it’s a matter of personal taste.

      You’re very lucky! A variety of art supplies is always a good thing. Even though I am not the biggest fan of prismacolor, I could do with a few pencils open stock!

  3. In the US, Prismacolor colored pencils were available as open stock, but then were closed out pre-pandemic. It is only in the last year (2023) or so that displays have become available again and single colors are available wholesale, not just sets. Sometimes companies want to refresh–redo the product designs, display designs or UPCs. Prismacolor also stopped producing their art stix (colored pencils without wooden casings) during this time, so it seems they were revamping their offerings. Now the same process seems to be happening with Prismacolor markers. Black is the only single color now available. There are no displays available for stores to buy.

    1. Oh, I see. It makes sense though. However I really wish companies would standardize their supplies, when they stop making something I really love (or when they change the formula) it causes me anxiety!

  4. Hi Ioanna! I was wondering, what do you think is the best color pencils out there thats affordable? Faber Castells are VERY expensive 😛 Also, what’s the white marker/pen that you used for Katniss? Any tips on how to draw better like you? Thanks!

  5. Hate to tell you but you can always buy open-stock individual pencils with Prismacolors as well. They are available in most craft stores and have been for numerous years now. Perhaps where you live they simply don’t bother supplying them as open-stock but they are certainly available as such. Is it laziness on the part of the stores near you or perhaps they simply don’t want to take up space in their stores and give their valuable customers the choice?

    1. Thank you for pointing out Lori! I live in a small town in Greece, so art supplies here are already limited. I really wish we had more choices.

  6. Thank you! I also hate blending, it is supposed to be a drawing not a photo! For photos we already have cameras to do it more easily.
    I will buy Faber Castel, that one could buy them in open stock is a big advantage!

  7. Ιωάννα γειά σου! Έχω φτιάξει ένα σετ από καμιά 70αριά μολύβια Polychromos, και θέλω να μάθω να τα δουλεύω. Έχεις κάποιο κανάλι στο Youtube; Έχω αρκετή εμπειρία με μολύβι (γραφίτη) και τα πάω καλά και με κάρβουνο.Δε περίμενα να είναι τόσο πιο πολύπλοκες οι ξυλομπογιές!

    1. Καλωςήρθες στο club Αγησήλαε! Καλό κουράγιο! Κι εγώ έτσι ακριβώς ξεκίνησα, είχα αρκετή εμπειρία με μολύβι και δυσκολεύτηκα στην αρχή με τις ξυλομπογιές. Έχω ένα κανάλι @JoannaVuArt. Eδώ: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_LhoQCF87xBCQo4Gxwvy63XmHOxkX_na θα βρεις tutorials κι εδώ: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_LhoQCF87xAb3XIhWX1cC2r5-hQjOrHy real time videos, ίσως βοηθήσουν. Και γενικά οτιδήποτε χρειαστείς, μη διστάσεις να ρωτήσεις!

  8. wow ! faber castel and prismacolour are both so good . . . ( ^ _ ^ ) i might try to buy both ! ( ◕‿↼ )

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