Koh-I-Noor Polycolor pencils review


Today I'd like to share my opinion on Koh-I-Noor Polycolor pencils. They are one of the cheapest artistic coloured pencils, very popular in Poland. You can buy them on Amazon, in stores like Jerry's Artarama, dickblick.com and so on.

Let's start with some technical information. They come pre-sharpened with hexagonal outer shell (made from cedar wood) which protects the 3,8mm oil based core from breaking. Polycolors are color-coordinated, so you don't have to waste time on looking for a particular pencil (unlike Derwent products which only have colorful pencil endings). And you must admit that it looks awesome when you open a box and you see all the colorful pencils! It's really inspiring, it makes you want to draw something :D There are some gold accents on each Polycolor - the lettering: company's name, the numbers of series and colour; the ending is rounded and also painted with the same colour as letters.

You can buy Polycolors as assorted colours:

- tin of 12, 24, 36, 48, 72;
- a wooden box of 36;

There are some special sets like assorted colors for portraits, landscapes, 12 brown scale and 12 grey scale.

They are available as 3,8mm leads for mechanical pencils - a special Art Set ($80).

They are available as open stock, including colors from the portrait set.

Their prices range from $10 (12 assorted colors, Amazon) to $90 (a set of 72, Amazon).

I think this Koh-I-Noor product is great for those who begin their journey with this fantastic medium :)

Personally, I am the owner of Koh-I-Noor's 24 Portrait set, 12 grey scale, 12 brown scale. I liked those pencils so much that I got the 48 colours set :)

Polycolors are described as 'soft, highly pigmented, light-resistant.' They are soft indeed, but not as soft as Derwent Coloursoft and you won't use them up quickly. I won't comment on the light-resistance now, I will see what happens to my works in few years, hope the colours will remain the same :)

Koh-I-Noor's range contains 72 different shades - this is quite a lot, but please note that Faber Castell has 120 colours (and there are also Prismacolors with a range of 150).

Vivid shades of Koh-I-Noor pencils enable us to create drawings with saturated colours. To prove this, I will show you two portraits - one was created with Derwent Artists and the second with Polycolors:

*for the drawing on the right, I used a photo by A. Gachewicz:

As I said earlier, Polycolors are oil based pencils so we can draw layer on layer, they blend very well. They are soft so there is no need to press them hard to the surface. They look great on tinted paper, have a look at my work (I used Canson Mi Teintes pastel paper, #Sand):

However, Koh-I-Noor's product is not ideal - the leads tend to 'scratch' the paper. You can sharpen them to a fine point, but they don't keep it long like Faber Castell Polychromos.

They are not 'unbreakable' pencils; Polycolors break when sharpening or while drawing if you press them too hard.

So here is a short summary of Koh-I-Noor Polycolor:


- one of the cheapest artistic pencils
- great for beginners
- they are color-coordinated (the colour you need can be found quickly)
- hexagonal barrel
- vivid colors
- they look great on tinted paper
- they can be sharpened to a fine point
- oil based - enables creating layer on layer
- good blending
- soft, but they don't use up quickly


- sometimes they scratch the paper
- they tend to break

Now I'd like describe some Koh-I-Noor Polycolor sets - for portraits and grey / brown lines.

Price: $28 (Amazon) 

I discovered this set by an accident! I've used Derwent Artists for many years and one day I decided to try something new. Because I love drawing faces, I bought a special set designed for portrait artists. I also got two sets, with 12 pencils each (grey and brown scales). I must admit I was positively surprised!

This set includes colors like salmon, pale pink, cream, some reddish shades, browns; there's even violet. And blue and green, which are useful when drawing eyes. Unfortunately, the producer didn't add a black pencil to this Portrait selection. To draw lashes and other details requiring this color, you have to use a pencil from other set.

All the salmon and pink shades are not available individually,*** which is disappointing to me as my set looks like this (I bought it a year ago):

I think I have to buy a new one! :D

*** EDIT 02/26/2019: now these colors are available as open stock! Yay! :)

Here is a colour chart:

And some works I drew using individual pencils, Portrait set and grey and brown scales:

Price: $32 - $43 (Amazon)

The pencils are sold in a tin. They're pre-sharpened. You can take the lid off and put it under the box, thanks to this there's more space on the table. The tin contains two levels (24 pencils each), the first one we can lift up using special red wings.

The colors are vivid, there are yellow, orange, red shades. The blues are very similar. I like the selection of greens - there's lime and olive green, a dark shade, mint and dark turquoise.

There's only one salmon colour in this set. I wish they added more skin tones!

Here is a drawing I did with this set:

Price: $15 (Amazon), $14 - $23 (eBay)

Another set from Koh-I-Noor. This time we have six cold grey shades (one of them is almost black) and six warm greys. They are available individually. Those with 401 and 451 numbers are really pale, as you can see on my chart:

I used this set to draw the fur and the background in this portrait of  a girl:

Price: $13 (Amazon), $15 - $27 (eBay)

The colors selected for this set are varied: there's a yellow ochre, some reddish browns, dark shades resembling olive colour, there are chocolate browns and chestnut shade; some of them are not available individually.

Have a look at my colour chart:

I used this set with portrait colours and individual pencils to create drawings included earlier in this article. Unfortunately, I don't have any drawings created only with the brown line set.

*Some of the photos included in this review come from official Koh-I-Noor site. Some of them were taken by me. It is forbidden to copy this material (and images included in it) without the author's permission.