Must Have Paper & Pencils for Colour Pencil Portraits

Sema Martin pet portrait artist with her faber castel, caran dache pencils

If you have read my last blog post you would know the 5 Essential Tools I cannot live without when it comes to creating my colour pencil portraits. But, I’m sure you’d like to know about the colour pencils and paper I actually use for my professional portraits. Therefore, I have written this blog post on specifically the colour pencil and paper brands that I use, with links,  for my professional pet portraits. I hope this is helpful for those of you wondering and starting out in colour pencil.

When it comes to the medium of colour pencil there are so many different brands to choose from and it is hard to know which ones would be right for you and your style. I have tried a few different ones and have narrowed it down to two of my most favourite brands. I’m sure some of you can agree.

Faber Castell Polychromos

I think these are by far the best pencils I have ever used. They are very pigmented and so good for detail, lightfast which means the colour will not fade over time and they are perfect in combination with other textured mediums such as pastel or wax-based pencils. The black pencil is my favourite black to use in my portrait commissions because its very deep and covers the paper really well. I also really like the variety of browns and greys which are perfect for fur and makes colour matching easy.

I don’t think you necessarily need to buy the 120 pencils set to start with since there are a lot of colours that you won’t use if you are just drawing animals. I bought the 36 pencil tin set and then other pencils individually. You can find them all on Amazon and there are smaller sets if you are starting colour pencil work on a budget.

Follow the links below for and to buy.

Caran d'Ache Luminance 6901

I saw many other artists using these pencils and I was incredibly surprised how bright and beautiful the quality was. They are expensive but I guarantee they are completely worth every penny. There are smaller sets to buy online but I saved up and bought the full set of 76 pencils and I’m very glad that I did. There are so many useful colours that I hadn’t used before or even seen in other sets with other brands. These pencils are wax-based so they are quite good at creating a base layer for portraits and because they are soft they are really good at covering large areas faster. They are so bright and vibrant they really o bring your art to a whole new level and beauty.

Follow the links below for and to buy.

Caran d'Ache Pablo

I recently purchased the full set of these pencils after using the white pencil for my highlights and whiskers in my portraits. I really love how bright and pigmented these pencils show up on top of my luminance colours. They keep their brightness and I love the range of amazing colours fo any subject. They remind me of the polychromos pencils in terms of hardness which means they are perfect for fine lines and details. These are definitely my new must-have pencils for any colour pencil artist looking to add a new brand to their collection.


Pan pastels have been revolutionary for my portraits. I use them as the underbase to my portraits by blocking in the mid-tones and darkets areas. Using the soft knives tools I apply the pastel in a circular motion, smoothing and filling the paper so there is no white showing through. I then apply my luminance colours like before and finally the polychromos and pablos for the details. These pastels are expensive but they are so pigmented that you dont have to use a lot, just a touch. There are only a few sets you need to buy that can be used for any drawing and animal type. These are listed below:

PanPastel 5 Colour Set - Greys Set

PanPastel 5 Colour Set - Extra Dark Earth Colours Set

Soft Knife and Covers, 4 Assorted Knives and 8 Covers

Bristol Board Paper

When I first started my pet portrait business I used Daler & Rowney Smooth Heavyweight paper which was ideal for developing my style and understanding my medium. The thickness of the paper works well with adding many layers of pencil and is great for practicing.

Once I developed my skills and was more confident with my medium of colour pencil, I moved on to Winsor & Newton Bristol Board Extra Smooth Surface Drawing Pad. This paper doesn’t allow as many layers as the Daler & Rowney paper but it does allow for a cleaner and more precise finish for detailed professional work.

I understand that other artists used Strathmore Bristol Board paper but I personally haven’t used it before so I can’t compare. I have fallen in love with the Winsor & Newton brand and very happy with my paper choice.

Follow the links below for and to buy.

Thank you so much for reading this post. I’d love to know in the comments below, how helpful (or not) you thought this was. Also if you have any suggestions for pencils and paper that you think i should try i would love to hear about them!


Welcome to my blog. I’m Sema and from my little cottage in Wales I have created this series of blog posts to help other artists on their journey of becoming great! I specialise in colour pencil as a medium and have created many pet portraits for customers all over the world. You can read more about my journey by clicking the button below.