"What Coloured Pencils should I Use for Botanical Art?"

The question that people ask me the most is about what pencils to use. 

On the group page of Facebook I created a document to answer this question (you need to be a member of the group to see the posts and documents). It's just a guide, other artists might prefer other brands and colours. This is what I use most of the time.

For making botanical drawings with coloured pencils I mostly use
a combination of Faber-Castell's "Polychromos" and Prismacolor Premier. Coloured pencils don't mix as well as watercolours so the more colours you have the better. In botanical art this goes especially for the greens. Other brands are good too, although I personally don't like the Derwent Coloursoft pencils. They are often used and recommended but I found them too thick for botanical work and not reliable when you want to mix them with other colours. Derwent Studio pencils are harder and better for botanical art.
I've made this list (it's a long one) to help people that are just starting with coloured pencils in botanical art. You need a lot of colours since they just don't mix as well as watercolours. Still, this is less expensive as an entire box with all the colours. Half of those colours you'll hardly ever use in a botanical drawing. So.... here it is:

Prismacolor basic list for botanicals:
PC 1059 Cool Grey 10%
photo: Rabi Abonour
PC 1061 Cool Grey 30%
PC 1067 Cool Grey 90% 
PC 1068 French Grey 10%
PC 1070 French Grey 30%
PC 1076 French Grey 90%
PC 914 Cream
PC 938 White
PC 1004 Yellow Chartreuse
PC 913 Spring Green
PC 911 Olive Green
PC 1097 Moss Green
PC 1005 Lime Peel
PC 1090 Kelp Green
PC 1091 Green Ochre
PC 989 Chartreuse
PC 1098 Artichoke
PC 988 Marine Green
PC 1020 Celadon Green
PC 1028 Bronze
PC 1081 Chestnut
PC 946 Dark Brown
PC 947 Dark Umber
PC 945 Sienna Brown
PC 948 Sepia
PC 933 Violet Blue
PC 936 Slate Grey
PC 901 Indigo Blue
photo: roz_moreton
PC 1026 Greyed Lavender
PC 902 Ultramarine
PC 926 Carmine Red
PC 924 Crimson Red
PC 925 Crimson Lake
PC 1031 Henna
PC 930 Magenta
PC 994 Process Red
PC 923 Scarlet Lake
PC 937 Tuscan Red
PC 1032 Pumpkin Orange
PC 916 Canary Yellow
PC 1034 Goldenrod
PC 915 Lemon Yellow
PC 917 Sunburst Yellow 
PC 1083 Putty Beige
PC 940 Sand
PC 1089 Pale Sage
PC 1084 Ginger Root
PC 1012 Jasmine
PC 1017 Clay Rose
PC 1087 Powder Blue
PC 1086 Sky Blue Light
(this last selection are all faded, soft colours I use in shading whites or other light colours)
Extra colours (mostly dark ones to make rich dark shadow colours):
PC 935 Black
PC 1078 Black Cherry
PC 996 Black Grape
PC 1095 Black Raspberry
PC 1099 Espresso
PC 1094 Sandbar Brown
PC 932 Violet
Anything else, depending on what you'll make.

I also use Prismacolor Verithin pencils. Just a few natural colours. These are hard and when sharpened well they can make such great clean edges and tiny details at the end.

From Faber-Castell I use all greys and most of their brown colours. Also the Caput Mortuum (169) and Caput Mortuum Violet (263) I use a lot. They have two greens I often use in the shades: Chrome Green Opaque (174) and Chrome Oxide Green (278). I use the white a lot too. There is one blue I use more than others and that's Delft Blue (141).
Here's the list of colours of Faber-Castell pencils I use most:

Faber-Castell Polychromos:


photo: Uriolus
174      Chrome Green Opaque
278      Chrome Oxide Green
165      Juniper Green
170      May Green
173      Olive Green Yellowish
167      Permanent Green Olive
168      Earth Green Yellowish
268      Green Gold
172      Earth Green


104      Light Yellow Glaze
107      Cadmium Yellow
102      Cream


179      Bistre
187      Burnt Ochre
175      Dark Sepia
178      Nougat
186      Terracotta
280      Burnt Umber
180      Raw Umber
283      Burnt Sienna


193      Burnt Carmine
169      Caput Mortuum
263      Caput Mortuum Violet
226      Alizarin Crimson
225      Dark Red
123      Fuschia
118      Scarlet Red


146      Smalt Blue
140      Light Ultramarine
141      Delft Blue
157      Dark Indigo
120      Ultramarine


138      Violet
136      Purple Violet
194      Red-Violet
249      Mauve
160      Manganese Violet
137      Blue Violet

All Greys (including 181 Payne's Grey), White and Black (especially "Soft Black" if available)

Now I also use sometimes Caran d'Ache Luminance pencils but I think they are a bit too soft and I don't like so much the thick leads they have. I do love the range of pastel colours, the white and almost whites. They cover very well over other layers, even if you think the layers can't take any more layering. So, for finishing touches it work fine, just not very detailed. Also I have a nice range of greens from the Caran d'Ache Pablo pencils. Really pretty greens. But these coloured pencils too are on the soft side and you have to be careful when using them. I also wrote a post on the Luminance pencils.

I know that's quite a lot of info but basically I use the Faber-Castell and Prismacolor pencils the most.

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