A colored pencil, coloured pencil, pencil crayon, or coloured/colouring lead is an art medium constructed of a narrow, pigmented core encased in a wooden cylindrical case. Unlike graphite and charcoal pencils, colored pencils' cores are wax- or oil-based and contain varying proportions of pigments, additives, and binding agents. Water-soluble pencils and pastel pencils are also manufactured as well as colored leads for mechanical pencils.
Colored pencils vary greatly in terms of quality and usability; they can be used by children and intermediate artist alike. Concentration of pigments in the core, lightfastness of the pigments, durability of the colored pencil, and softness of the lead are some indicators of a brand’s quality and, consequently, its market price. There is no general quality difference between wax/oil-based and water-soluble colored pencils, although some manufacturers rate their water-soluble pencils as less lightfast than their similar wax/oil-based pencils.
The rising popularity of colored pencils as an art medium sparked the beginning of the Colored Pencil Society of America.