Colored Pencils are pencils that have a core of colored pigment and protective casing made of wood. While standard pencils have a core of graphite and clay, a core of most of the colored pencils is made of wax, pigments, additives, and binding agents. Other colored pencils oil-based, water-soluble and some are even mechanical.
An Early History of colored pencils is not too well documented. It is known that Ancient Greeks used wax-based crayons and Pliny the Elder recorded that Romans also used colored crayons based on wax. First colored pencils appeared in the 19th century and were used for “checking and marking”. Staedtler, German company owned by Johann Sebastian Staedtler invented colored oil pastel pencil in 1834. Production of colored pencils for art purposes started in early 20th century. First art color pencils were invented and produced in 1924 by Faber-Castell and Caran d’Ache. Berol started making its color pencils in 1938. Other manufacturers that also made color pencils during the late 30s and early 40s were Derwent, Progresso, Lyra Rembrandt, and Blick Studio. Few manufacturers claim that they invented the first (art) watercolor pencil.
There are different types of color pencils depending on their intended use. Artist-grade pencils have higher concentrations of high-quality pigments than student-grade colored pencils. They also have measured and defined characteristics like “lightfastness” ( the ability of a pigment to retain its original color appearance under exposure to light i.e. resistance to UV rays in sunlight), core durability, break, and resistance to water.
Student and scholastic grade color pencils are of lower quality than artistic ones. They are made of inferior quality pigments and their lightfastness is lower although they don’t have defined characteristics like artistic grade but are, for instance, erasable and better suited for beginners.
Mechanical colored pencils are basically colored lead refill for standard mechanical pencils. They are produced in much narrower range than standard colored pencils but still they exist.
Watercolor pencils (or water-soluble pencils) are pencils that can behave as watercolors if treated with damp brushes. They can also be used dry and then work as standard colored pencils. The first method is used to blend colors together.
If used by themselves, colored pencils are used in two techniques - layering and burnishing. Layering is technique usually used at the beginning of drawing. Its idea is to use primary colors in layers and with that to get different tones. Burnishing is done on layers and for that is used a colorless blender or a light-colored pencil. The result is a shiny surface of blended colors.
History of colored pencils in not long and it is a bit fuzzy at places but that does not make all the different colored pencils any less fascinating as historical objects and as an art medium.