Making Colored Pencils

by Contributing Writer; Updated September 26, 2017

Unlike typical writing, sketching, and drawing pencils, colored pencils typically do not contain graphite cores. Instead, the center cylinder is composed of dye and pigments. To combine the materials in the core of the pencil into one cylinder of color, gum and clay are added to the coloring agents (dyes and pigments). This combination of materials is laid in wax and allowed to cure. The shell of the colored pencil is coated with a paint to match the center cylinder’s color. The outer shell of the colored pencil is given a protective laminated coating over the paint. The final product is allowed to dry.

Molding

The mixture of coloring agents, clay, and wax is driven through a cylinder casing which molds the agents into a long string. The string is cut at equal intervals so that the finalized pencils will all be the same size. The individual pieces are cured in industrial grade ovens. Some manufacturers prefer to pour a mix of clay, wax and coloring pigments/dyes into a billet press. The billet press forces the mix into a hollow cylinder rod (billet), which produces a dense cylindrical stick of a particular color. As with the molding process, the billet press process requires the stick of color (pencil core) to be cut and cured before moving to the casing process.

Casing the core

Color pencil casings are made of square slats of cedar wood, which go through a process of waxing and drying before implementing them into the colored pencil manufacturing procedure for casing. The colored stick of waxed clay and dye pigments (the pencil core) is pressed into a groove cut into one slat of wood. Additional slats are glued to the cylinder. The actual casing is cut from this arrangement of slats and cylinder. A cutter or dicing machine is used, depending on the manufacturer’s particular method for producing its pencils. The casing is pressed in a hydraulic press. After drying, the sticks are run through a cutter to produce the final shape of the pencil. The outer shells of the pencils are sanded and varnished. Usually, the colored pencils are given a last trim and polished by a felt disk on an assembly belt. The finished product is sent to packaging.