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Colored pencils evaporate in the Kelly household — here one day, gone the next. When my son sat down to work on a drawing last week, three pencils sat in front of him. Can’t do much with three colors. Eve set about finding some replacements.

“Prismacolor colored pencils are my favorites,” explained Kurt Thompson, assistant manager at Artist & Craftsman Supply, located just south of Old Town (619-688-1911). “They’re waxy; they go down really smooth and they blend well. Their color pigment is very soft, so it blends awesomely. I think that is what you want to look for when looking for colored pencils.” Prismacolor pencils cost $1.23 each or $12.02 for a set of 12.

“We also sell Derwent, which are good,” continued Thompson. “They’re a little more expensive, about $1.80 each. They don’t have as broad of a color range; their color is a little bit harder, so it doesn’t go down quite as smooth and it doesn’t blend as well.”

When it comes to working with colored pencils, he explained, “You don’t want to go over what you have just colored with your hands; have a little buffer zone between you and your work, so it doesn’t dirty it up.”

And Thompson suggested using an electric pencil sharpener. “Colored pencils are a temperamental tool. They are so soft, if you have a dull pencil sharpener, it’s just going to eat it away. The sharpener will take off chunks rather than giving you a sharp point. So I recommend using a well-maintained electric pencil sharpener.”

For what effect do you use colored pencils?

“The Prismacolor pencils are so vibrant that you can actually pull off the look of a painting if you know what you are doing. But usually the pencils are more for the look of a hand-done colored pencil painting.”

What type of paper should be used with the pencils?

“Some drawing paper — something heavy enough to take the pigment without making dimples in it. Because in order to spread the color down, you have to press a little bit and you don’t want it to go through to your next piece of paper.”

Marisa, associate at Blick Art Materials in Little Italy (619-687-0050), also recommended the Prismacolor pencils. “They have pencils with thicker lead and really rich colors called the Premier pencils; those are probably the most popular. They also make Verithin pencils, which have a thinner lead and are good for detail.”

For a watercolor effect, Prismacolor makes watercolor pencils, which Marisa says are another popular item in their store. “You lay the drawing down like you are drawing with a regular pencil, and then you can go over it with a wet brush and it will give you the effect of a watercolor drawing.”

Marisa offered a few alternatives to colored pencils. “There are Derwent Inktense pencils for making a picture look more like an ink drawing, similar to watercolors but more intense colors. And chalk pencils for chalk drawings, which are like using a chalk pastel but in the form of a pencil so you have a little more control with it. And we have colored pencils that are tinted graphite, like colored graphite. With some of the tinted graphite pencils, you can go over it with water and it’ll give it a paint effect. The tinted graphites have muted colors in their set.”

Most brands carry standard colors, Marisa explained. “They might have a slight difference, but most brands are pretty standard, unless they have pastel colors. In that case they will have a lot of lighter, muted tones. But usually with a general pack, you would find colors like you find in a crayon box.”

For maintenance of colored pencils, “Keep them sharp because they will break easily. It depends on the pencil, not necessarily on the brand. So you need to give them a little more care than a regular lead pencil. Because sometimes the lead can break on the inside, and every time you sharpen it, a piece will just fall out.”

For drawing, “If you need to do details, then a sharp pencil is what you want to use; if you are doing shading, a more blunt edge. If you need to keep it sharp, you can draw with it on the side and it will keep a sharp point.”

The Prismacolor pencils at Blick come in packs from 12-count up to 132-count (12-pack, $12.49; 24-pack, $25.99; 36-pack, $39.99; 48-pack, $49.99; 74-pack, $74.99; 132-pack, $139.99).

Derwent pencils, 12-pack set, $12.99; 24-pack set, $24.99.

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