Colored pencil

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Kenneth Paul Block
MFA# 2009.1245


A colored drawing stick encased in a shaft or peel-away paper casing. Colored pencils, often called marking pencils, were first produced in 1835 by J.S. Staetler. These early pencils were composed of a few selected pigments (Prussian blue, Chrome yellow, Chrome green, etc.) dispersed in Clay then baked to form a hard stick. Starting in the 1920s, the number and intensity of the colors were increased and marketing was directed to artists. The colored core of the pencils contain a colorant (pigment or dye) bound with a synthetic resin and some wax. Emulsifiers and dispersion aids were sometimes included. Fillers, such as Kaolin, Talc, or Chalk were also added for opacity and color dilution. The composition of colored pencils is very similar to colored crayons. It can be difficult if not impossible to determine which has been used. Colored pencils are available in both water-soluble and solvent soluble forms. Many of the colors contain organic dyes that are not lightfast.

Colored pencils
Colored pencils detail

Synonyms and Related Terms

crayon; colored crayon pencil; art pencil; marking pencil; creta levis; Prismacolor [Berol]; Stabilo [Schwan]; coloured pencil (Br.)


Bloom may form on surface.

Physical and Chemical Properties

Most are soluble in petroleum hydrocarbons and chlorinated hydrocarbons, but some may be soluble in water.


Websites of pastel, pencil, and marker manufacturers

Resources and Citations

  • M.Holben Ellis, M.Brigitte Yeh, "Categories of Wax-based Drawing Media" WAAC Newsletter, Vol. 19(3), 1997.
  • M.Holben Ellis, "Colored Pencil" in Media and Techniques of Works of Art on Paper, New York University Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York, 1999.
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • Hermann Kuhn, Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art and Antiquities, Butterworths, London, 1986
  • A Glossary of Paper Conservation Terms, Margaret Ellis (ed.), Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York City, 1998

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