Working with Prismacolor Premier Pencils

11 01 2015

Pencils vary dramatically in quality and consequentially price.  In loose terms, pencil quality is determined by three key components:  the quality and intensity of the pigment; the nature of the binder the pigment is mixed into; and the quality of the wood that encases it all.  How often have you had a packet of pencils where the wood splits and breaks everytime you try and sharpen them, or the inside is so brittle that once knocked or dropped the colour is broken into tiny pieces and you can’t use them.  These and other problems are a product of the materials used to make the pencil.

Often when we talk about Prismacolor pencils, it is the Premier pencils that we mean.  Prismacolor make many different colour products, but the best, artist quality, wax based pencils are the Premiers.  These pencils now come in 150 colours, including 36 grey shades.  There is no colour you can’t create with these pencils.  Here is a colour chart.


You can get these all as individual pencils, in packs of 12 through to all 150.  I personally always want them all, but I might just be greedy.  The ones in the boxes plus the three Neons are the newest colours.

Prismacolor pencils are fantastic artist quality pencils.  They are rich, vibrant colours as they are strongly pigmented.  They are a waxed based pencil, not watercolour, so they will not shift easily with water and can be blended with a brush, sponge or your finger.  When using them, I tend to start with a light layer of colour and build the layers up.   Although designed for artists drawing on paper, many textile artists are using these with stitcheries, quilts and garments.

This video is a joint activity between Dick Blick and the Prismacolour educators.  This video only considers their use on paper.  It is a good explanation of the pencils.

Although not designed for fabric the pencils have been used by doll makers and embroiderers for decades. Fabric always has ‘tooth’ and working the same area over again does not take that away.  As the carrier of the pigment is wax based, the colour can be ‘melted’ into the fabric for permanency.  To heat set these, place the fabric between some absorbent paper and iron.  Please test this on your fabric as different fabrics will behave differently.   If you are concerned about washability, pretreat your fabric with a diluted textile medium.  To do this, mix one part textile medium in three to five parts water and paint this solution onto your fabric.  Allow to dry and then colour over the surface.  This will act as a binding agent for your pencil.

An alternative approach can be found here:  I found Sandra’s use of flowable extender interesting and I really like how she adds life to her applique with the pencils.

An Australian textile artist who has used the Prismacolor pencils in many of her award winning quilts is Jocelyne Leath.  You can see her website here:

These pencils will go on pretty much any surface.  I have an artist who draws on wood using Prismacolor.  They are great on Kraft tex, tyvek and Lutradur too.  With the addition of some fixatives, the pencils can be used on non absorbent, smooth surfaces too.  Here is a post about someone using them on metal.  Just amazing.

You can find the pencil sets on my website here:







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