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Polychromos or Prismacolors? A Subjective Comparative Review ✏️ 🤔

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

I must admit, I had some reservations about trying colored pencils from a brand other than my favorite Prismacolors. I heard that Faber-Castell's Polychromos are harder, so I thought I would need to apply much more pressure to leave a mark on the paper that is at least similar to the heavenly creamy Prismacolors.

If you feel like reading more about Prismacolor pencils, you can find a post with their review here:

However, when I asked my Instagram followers about their preferences, many people defended Faber-Castell as a more professional product.

Since I often say that testing new mediums and experimenting on a live sketchbook is something not to be afraid of, I decided to give the famous Polychromos a try.

Polychromos vs. Prismacolors

For a long time, I have been using a set of 48 Prismacolor Premier Soft Core colored pencils. In this review I compare them with the set of 36 Polychromos colors from Faber-Castell. In both cases, I drew in the Talens Art Creation sketchbook.

Boxes with crayons - Sets of Polychromos and Prismacolor Premier Soft Core colored pencils
Sets of Polychromos and Prismacolor Premier Soft Core colored pencils

First impressions

Both products come in metal cases, and upon opening them, a unique scent of pencils fills the air. A scent that brings back memories of childhood and the first works created on the floor at home or on a tiny table in preschool.

Faber Castell polychromos pencils ina box

Pencils from both manufacturers are lightweight, slim, and comfortable to hold. Both have a 3.8 mm thick lead. The colors on the pencil barrels of both brands quite accurately reflect the actual shades of the lead, although I noticed a few exceptions with Prismacolors (for example, PC994 is actually brighter).

two red pencils from two brands - polychromes and prismacolor

I think Polychromos are more elegant due to their gold rings and clearer markings. Prismacolors have descriptions almost along the entire length of the pencil, which can rub off at the grip area.

Lead Hardness

Prismacolors are much softer. The feeling of drawing with them is incredibly creamy, almost "buttery." They are easier to achieve a solid, opaque effect with. Polychromos are harder but still soft enough to be enjoyable to use. The advantage of a harder lead is the ability to sharpen it to a more durable point and draw more precise lines or details.

colors on paper drawn with two brands of colored pencils - prismacolor and polychromes

Lead Durability

The common opinion is that Prismacolors break easily, while Faber-Castell pencils are durable. So far, I have not experienced frequent breakage with either of them. I think the difference lies in the wearability of the pencils. Since Prismacolors are much softer, their lead loses sharpness more quickly and needs to be sharpened more often. Statistically, they will break more frequently. Therefore, it's worth having a sharpener that can handle frequent sharpening without "chewing" up the pencils.

Color Palette

I believe Prismacolors have exceptionally vibrant and vivid colors, while Polychromos have a slightly more pastel and subtle palette. This may also be influenced by the color coverage. It is easier to build up a thicker layer of color with Prismacolors. Polychromos leave more transparent surfaces. Perhaps the level of wax content contributes to this.

box with prismacolor colored pencils and portraits in a sketchbook

Mixing colors that naturally go well together was slightly easier for me with Polychromos, but I do feel the lack of certain vivid shades. The difference may be because I'm comparing sets with different numbers of colors. I will likely purchase a few individual pencils to complement my Polychromos set. Both Prismacolors and Polychromos are available in sets or as individual pencils, so personalizing your palette is not a problem.


Polychromos undoubtedly win in this category. I was able to precisely erase fine details (for example, using the Tombow Mono Zero eraser) even from multiple layers of colors. When using Prismacolors, I could only erase certain parts of the initial sketch made with a light shade.

Blending and Layering

I think Prismacolors are better for quick, linear sketches with a small number of layers because adding too many colors in one place can create a slightly unpleasant waxy surface. Polychromos excel in drawings with multiple layers. They retain their freshness and lightness even after extensive blending. These are the main conclusions at the moment, but I am still in the testing phase. I still believe that Prismacolors are great, but I have also grown fond of Polychromos. I think I will use both sets for slightly different types of drawings. Prismacolors for quick, expressive sketches, and Polychromos for more complex projects. I will likely combine them and experiment with different effects.

Portrait of a woman painted with Polychromos colored pencils
Portrait painted with Polychromos colored pencils

Follow what feels good to you

I have the impression that artists' preferences regarding these products are a bit like the preferences between Android and iOS supporters – everyone prefers something different and may not necessarily be convinced to switch. There's nothing wrong with that. I believe that in art, personal preferences should guide us, regardless of what professionals and experts say. Ultimately, creating with a medium that brings you joy is what matters. By doing so, you will stick with it for a longer time and learn much more.

Portraits made with Polychromos colored pencils in a Talens Art Creation sketchbook
Portraits made with Polychromos in a Talens Art Creation sketchbook

Therefore, before purchasing full sets, I recommend testing them in a store or buying individual colors to see which product suits you better. I still think both are great, but it all depends on subjective experiences, your ideas, and needs. Have fun!



If you would like to learn more, I invite you to subscribe to my Patreon, where you can gain access to exclusive content. Additionally, you can check out my Domestika courses on Portrait Sketchbooking and Drawing Portraits with Colored Pencils. Don't forget to follow me on Instagram and TikTok for regular updates!


Happy doodling!



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