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Best Colored Pencils for Portrait Drawing – Review of the Prismacolor Premiere Soft Core ✏️

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

Today, I want to share a brief review of the Prismacolor Premier Soft Core colored pencils, which I started using in March 2021. I enjoy using various types of colored pencils, but today, I want to focus solely on this specific product.

 A poster of the Eagle Colored Pencils - Prismacolor History
A poster of the Eagle Colored Pencils

The history of Prismacolor Premier pencils

Prismacolor is a brand of professional art supplies with a history dating back to 1856. It all started in New York when Daniel Berolzheimer founded the Eagle Pencil Company. Initially, they focused on graphite pencils, but in 1938, the company introduced the Eagle Prismacolor colored pencils to the market. Later, the brand was acquired by Berol, which continued to expand the product range.

Today, the Eagle Prismacolor Colored Pencils are known from the collections of Prismacolor Premier Soft Core and Premier Verithin. I will be focusing on the first ones.

Prismacolor Premier – First Impressions

I tried Prismacolor Soft Core pencils for the first time in March 2021, starting with a set of 48 colors. The pencils are arranged in a tin case, with two levels. The first thing that caught my eye was the beautiful color palette, featuring both primary and lighter pastel shades. There are even gold and silver pencils. I remember that in my childhood such colors were the ultimate luxury. 💅 ✨

a box of Prismacolor colored pencils and a sketchbook with portrait drawings
My first box of Prismacolor Premier Soft Core – 48 Colors (Sorry for the cat hair, lol)

For better identification, each Prismacolor Premier pencil has a name and code assigned to it. Thanks to this, I already know that I enjoy colors like "Limepeel" or "Pale vermillion." The range of colors is extensive and diverse. I didn't feel like anything was missing, but of course, in the future, I might need to buy individual colors that I use most frequently. I've heard that some people stock up on a few white pencils because they are often used for blending. Personally, I rarely use pure white or black.

Prismacolor premier soft core colored pencils

Single colors or a set of pencils?

I initially started working with a set of pencils, but if you're unsure whether you'll like them, I suggest trying single colors first. I believe it's a matter of personal preference, as the soft, creamy feeling can be enjoyable for some but potentially bothersome for others. If possible, I recommend testing out different pencils in a store before committing to a full set. Alternatively, you can order individual colors from various brands (particularly those you intend to use) and try them out to determine which brand best meets your requirements.

Prismacolor Premier on different types of paper

As I draw a lot in my sketchbook, I decided to test the Prismacolor Premier pencils there. I usually use the Talens Art Creation sketchbook, which has very smooth, non-transparent, off-white paper with a high weight of 140g, making it suitable for various artistic techniques. I read that Prismacolor pencils are excellent for blending due to their very soft wax-based core. However, the experience of drawing with them exceeded my expectations.

Portrait drawing made with colored pencils - Gabriela Niko, Doodle Traffic
One of my first sketches made with Prismacolor Premier Soft Core Pencils

Prismacolor Premier pencils are incredibly soft, providing a creamy feeling when applied to paper. For me, it's like a combination of a 4B pencil and a touch of wax-based pencil. The colors blend beautifully. However, be careful not to layer them too many times, as a thick covering on the paper may start to peel off.

In my opinion, it's best to use these pencils on smooth papers if you want to achieve seamless blending. However, if you prefer a strong and bold linear style or textured planes, using more textured papers would be a good choice as well.

Soft Core, sharpening and breakability

One common criticism I've heard about Prismacolor pencils is that they are difficult to sharpen without breaking the lead. Personally, I haven't experienced such issues. I use a very sharp, metal sharpener to avoid "chewing" the pencils, and I make sure to always keep them protected from falling. Cracked lead inside the pencil can lead to unpleasant surprises when sharpening. It's essential to be mindful of this and keep the pencils in a case or another convenient packaging.

Colored pencil with a sharpener - Prismacolor
Remember to use a sharpener with sharp blades – I like the metal ones, for example from Faber-Castell

I agree though that these pencils require frequent sharpening, especially when aiming for precise drawing, as their softness causes them to dull quickly. Therefore, it's important to assess their suitability for your projects and desired style.

How to correct mistakes in colored pencil drawings?

When using Prismacolor pencils, it can be challenging to erase dark colors or thick lines. To minimize mistakes, I prefer using light colors for my initial sketch. This allows me to easily erase most errors. For erasing, I utilize two types of erasers: the Black Dust Free Eraser from Faber-Castell and Tombow Elastomer Eraser for finer details. Remember to apply gentle pressure when drawing, and you should be able to correct any errors, especially at the beginning stages of your drawing.

Step-by-step drawing process

Since I started using Prismacolor Premier pencils, I've developed a technique that works best for me. It's my subjective approach, but I believe it might be helpful to others as well.

Portraits are the main theme of my artwork. Previously, I used graphite pencils, allowing me to erase mistakes easily. With colored pencils, I can't afford the same level of freedom, but I found my way around it.

Portrait drawing in a sketchbook and Prismacolor colored pencils
Pick a base of your favorite colors first

1. First, I select a range of colors. I don't use all the pencils every time; I pick around 12-15 colors that I want to use. I do it quite intuitively so I just pick the colors that I like but I remember to choose both cool and warm tones, as well as lighter and darker shades. This way I can create a proper contrast of the values in my sketches.

My personal favorite Prismacolor Premier Soft Core colors:

  • PC956 Lilac

  • PC904 Light Cerulean Blue

  • PC992 Light Aqua

  • PC989 Chartreuse

  • PC916 Canary Yellow

  • PC1003 Spanish Orange

  • PC921 Pale Vermillion

  • PC922 Poppy Red

  • PC929 Pink

  • PC994 Process Red

  • PC932 Tuscan Red

  • PC946 Dark Brown

  • PC1083 Putty Beige + Neon colors:

  • PC1036 Neon Orange

  • PC1035 Neon Yellow

  • PC1038 Neon Pink + Black and White if you need them

2. I create a light sketch using a very pale color. I treat the pencil (e.g., yellow or light pink) as if it were a very lightly applied HB pencil. This way I am able to control any mistakes and create a clean, initial sketch. Any remaining visible mistakes will disappear under subsequent layers.

A beginning of a portrait drawing - very light sketch
Start with a very light sketch. It doesn't has to be very precise.
portrait sketch
Correct your mistakes and find basic proportions by observation of your reference

3. I apply multiple delicate layers of color and blend them together, which enables me to achieve a very natural effect. In this technique, it is important to hold the pencil quite flat on the paper and avoid applying too much pressure. I always use colors from very light to increasingly darker shades.

portrait drawing made with colored pencils
Gently apply the layers of colors

4. I add details and very dark colors at the end with precisely sharpened pencil for better precision. I usually don't need black pencil so I use very dark brown or navy for details.

Portrait drawing made with colored pencils - Gabriela Niko Doodle Traffic
Add the details with darker colors

My portrait drawings made with Prismacolor colored pencils

In this gallery you will find a few examples of my artworks created using Prismacolor pencils in a Talens Art Creation sketchbook:

I encourage everyone to keep a sketchbook and experiment with different media! From my experience, it's a delightful and effective way to develop artistic skills. I hope this review was helpful to you and I would love to know what are your experiences with colored pencils! 💬



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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