A colored pencil, coloured pencil, pencil crayon, lead 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; 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. Rising popularity of colored pencils as an art medium sparked the beginning of the Colored Pencil Society of America.