The Best White Pencils for Highlights

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If you’re into mixed media, you’re probably wondering about the best white pencils for highlights. Read more about how I tested some popular brands to find the most opaque white colored pencil.

You might also be interested in the best white pens and ink.

hand holding white pencils

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I love doing these kinds of tests. It’s super fun to experiment with different art supplies.

There are a ton of art media that white pencils can go on top of, so I tested a whole bunch of them.

How I Tested The Pencils

I chose 7 different media surfaces in black (and watercolor in indigo) to show how each pencil layers on top of them. To get the best results, I tried to make each surface as dark as possible.

The watercolor and the ink were a bit light, so I painted a 2nd layer on the bottom half of the paper.

Also, the liquid watercolor is very concentrated, but I think my bottle had dried up a bit, so it was even more concentrated than normal.

The colored pencil swatch probably could have been darker, but I’m not as familiar with colored pencils, so it’s as good as I could get it.

  • Watercolor (Schminke Ivory Black)
  • Acryla Gouache in
  • Higgins Black Ink
  • Dr. PH Martin Hydrus (Carbon Black)
  • Posca Marker
  • Alcohol Ink (Black)
  • Prismacolor Premier (Black)
  • Watercolor (Schminke Indigo)

Most of the swatches are on watercolor paper, except for the alcohol marker, the posca marker, and the colored pencil swatches, which are on smooth mixed media paper.

Alcohol ink and posca pens don’t do well on textured watercolor paper and I figured that I could get a smoother result with the colored pencil on smooth paper (I didn’t.)

8 pieces of paper with dark backgrounds
white pencils on dark swatches

Best White Pencils for Highlights

I tested 5 colored pencils (4 brands) and 1 Neocolor II pastel. I included the pastel because I figured it would work well over certain surfaces and be an interesting thing to compare to the pencils.

Two Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils were included because the soft pink color is so pretty and creates a slightly different effect.

I’m not including actual prices because they will change, but I have compared the prices a bit.

Caran d’Ache Luminance in White

caran d'ache luminance pencil

Caran d’Ache Luminance in White

Luminance pencils are wax-based and very creamy to use.

It’s one of my favorite colored pencil brands, but it’s also the most expensive brand that I tested.

Caran d’Ache Luminance in Pink White

caran d'ache pink white pencil

Caran d’Ache Luminance in Pink White

This is the pink white color that looks really pretty when layered over colored watercolors.

Derwent Drawing Pencil in Chinese White

Derwent drawing white pencil

Derwent Drawing in Chinese White

The Derwent drawing pencils are wax-based and one of the least expensive pencils that I tested.

This is surprising because this is my favorite pencil. I love the creamy consistency.

Derwent drawing pencils are one of the few art supplies where I would recommend buying the whole set. The color palette for these pencils is really pretty, very muted, and nature-inspired.

This pencil created the most opaque white line over almost all of the surfaces.

Holbein Artists’ Pencil in White

Holbein white pencil

Holbein White

These colored pencils are oil-based and the second most expensive pencils.

Holbein carries a lot of pretty colors and pastels.

Prismacolor Premier in White

Holbein white pencil

Prismacolor Premier in White

These pencils are one of the most well-known colored pencils. Prismacolor pencils are wax-based.

This was the cheapest pencil that I tested and it wears down the fastest. (I didn’t resharpen any of the pencils, but look how dull it got from this test!)

Caran d’Ache Neocolor II in White

neocolor II crayon in white

Caran D’ache Neocolor II in White

So this isn’t a pencil, but I wanted to test it anyway because I use it in the same manner for highlights.

Neocolor II are water-soluble wax oil-based pastels. This highly pigmented crayon can be diluted with water.

When using neocolor pastels, it’s very hard to get a fine line. They are very creamy, but they have a crayon texture.

They worked well over most of the surfaces that I tested.

Results of the Test

I tested the pencils and the neocolor II in order:

  1. Caran d’Ache in White
  2. Caran d’Ache in Pink White
  3. Derwent Drawing in Chinese White
  4. Holbein Artists’ Pencil in White
  5. Prismacolor Premium in White
  6. Caran d’Ache Neocolor II in White


All of the pencils worked pretty well on top of the watercolor.

In real life, the Derwent Drawing pencil is slightly more opaque.

black watercolor swatch with white pencil lines

Acryla Gouache

The pencils all struggled a bit over the acryla gouache. I wonder if they would have done better over regular gouache.

The Derwent drawing pencil did the best of the pencils and the neocolor II did the best overall.

white pencil on top of black gouache


They all worked pretty well on the ink as well.

In real life, there’s no real winner or loser. They all performed equally.

white pencil marks on black ink swatch

Liquid Watercolor

None of the pencils did that great over the Dr. PH Martins liquid watercolor. But to be fair, it’s almost never used this opaque. It created a slightly shiny surface.

The neocolor II did the best overall.

black liquid watercolor with white pencil marks


If I had to choose a winner, I would say that the Holbein pencil did slightly better than the other pencils.

They did create a neat texture over the posca though.

As usual, the Neocolor II did better than the pencils.

black posca marker swatch with white pencil marks

Alcohol Marker

On the computer, the Derwent drawing pencil did slightly better than the others, but in real life, they all look about the same.

The neocolor II produced the least opaque white in this instance.

black alcohol marker with white pencil marks

Colored Pencil

All of the pencils created navy blue lines over the black colored pencils.

The neocolor II wins this surface.

black colored pencil swatch with white pencils marks

Indigo Watercolor

I wanted to include a colored watercolor example because the pencils show up a lot differently on a colored surface.

Indigo granulates which makes this swatch really pretty to look at.

The Derwent drawing pencil looks the most opaque in person, but the Caran d’Ache Luminance in white creates an interesting light blue color.

indigo watercolor swatch with white pencil marks

My Overall Thoughts

The Derwent drawing pencil was the best pencil in most of the cases. It’s also really nice to use and doesn’t need to be resharpened all the time. It just happens to be one of the most affordable pencils as well.

The Neocolor II worked great on some of the other surfaces, so I liked it as well. However, it’s better suited for larger art pieces because it’s hard to get fine lines.

What’s your favorite brand of white pencil?

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hand holding white colored pencils

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  1. Can I just say, this is exactly the information I am looking for when searching for ‘the best’ of any product.

    You’ve taken the time to show exactly how they come out on a variety of different backgrounds.

    It’s a shame other comparison or ‘the best…” sites can’t all spend just a little bit more time and all copy this format!

    This is how the web used to be before hyper advertising and Amazon!
    Thankyou Emy, was able to pick the right white pencil for me without trawling for hours looking for the info.

    I’ll be sure to pop back for anymore tips, and I’ll get highlighting now I know which to buy.

    Great stuff, keep helping us amatures out! xD

    1. You made my day! I’m so glad you found this helpful. It’s always my intent to be as helpful as possible.

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