Colored Pencils and Electric Sharpeners: Are They Bad?
Using an electric sharpener is a fast and easy way to get your pencils to pointy perfection. Art isn’t about fast and easy though. Are we actually hurting our colored pencils by using an electric sharpener with them?
You can sharpen colored pencils in an electric sharpener, but be sure to be very gentle with your pencils and regularly clean your sharpener to remove any wax build up. If done improperly, sharpening your colored pencils in an electric sharpener can damage both your pencils and your sharpener.
We all remember our elementary school days that were filled by the constant soundtrack of students sharpening their trusty yellow pencils in the classroom’s electric sharpener.
But, what works for an elementary school classroom isn’t always what works for an artist. It’s time to think more about your electric sharpener than you ever thought you would. Your colored pencils will thank you for it.
Yes, you can technically sharpen colored pencils with an electric sharpener. Technically, you can also paint your fingernails with a paint roller. But, just because something is technically possible doesn’t mean that it’s the best choice.
Sharpening your colored pencils in an electric sharpener is possible, but it’s not the best choice. Of course, if it’s the only choice you have, it will work. But, if you have a handheld sharpener you can use, that’s going to be a better option.
Colored pencil cores are either wax-based or oil-based. They consist of a combination of pigments, binders, and additives that are a lot softer than what is found in graphite. Electric sharpeners can be too harsh for these fragile colored pencil cores.
The softness of your colored pencils will vary from brand to brand. That said, even the hardest colored pencil will be softer than a typical graphite pencil.
There’s a reason why colored pencils are soft and dreamy. That soft and dreamy quality doesn’t always mesh well with a harsh electric sharpener.
Graphite is made of carbon, which is one of the hardest materials out there. It can cut glass and steel, to give you an idea (source, source)On the other hand, most colored pencils are wax-based. Similar to crayons, though not as soft. Wax isn’t very strong and would be a miserable choice for cutting glass or steel.
Using the same electric sharpener that’s designed to sharpen a pencil made out of strong graphite to also sharpen a pencil that’s made out of soft wax isn’t the best scenario.
There are two things that could happen to your colored pencils when you use them with an electric sharpener:
1. The tips can break. This means you’ll have to fully resharpen your pencil all over again, which is a huge waste of your pencil. If this happens too many times, you’ll use up your pencil much faster than you would have otherwise and have to buy new pencils.
Colored pencils are really delicate, as we’ve talked about. If you break the tip, you’re not only losing out on that section of your colored pencil, you could be doing internal damage to it as well. If you want beautiful, vibrant colored pencils, it’s not great to break them all the time.