Coloring Pencils/Pens/Markers Product Reviews

W H Smith Colouring Pencils (36 pc) Review

W H Smith  Colouring Pencils - 36 piece set box shot

Review of W H Smith Coloured Pencils - 36 piece set

W H Smith Colouring Pencils (36 pc) Review

W H Smith Colouring Pencils (36 pc) Review

Last year, I heard some UK colorists discussing budget coloring pencils in some Facebook groups.    The highest recommendation was for the WH Smith Coloring Pencils.     As they had received such rave reviews, I knew that I had to have a set.     W H Smith is a UK based stationery company.       My first hurdle to overcome in obtaining these colouring pencils was purchasing them.  Although you can order online, they do not ship outside of the UK and certainly not to the colonies, like Australia 🙂

Not to be deterred,   I took advantage of their free shipping offer within the UK, and had them shipped to a friend.   They then posted the precious pencils to me.   Yes,  I do go to these lengths to get what I want 🙂

What surprises me, is that I had no idea there were W H Smith branches in Australia.    They hide them well at Universities and Airports and do not seem to equip them with a website, but according to this store location list there are branches right here in my own town and maybe in your country too!


WH Smith have a long standing history in the newsagent/stationery business.    A member of the Smith family opened a newsagency  in 1792 that over the years developed into the WH Smith store that is well known in the UK today.   The official W H Smith Co was launched in 1999.   There are “over 600 stores within the main streets of  the UK and 600 smaller stores at airports, railway stations and hospitals both within the UK and overseas including Australia, South East Asia, India and the Middle East“.

WH Smith sell stationery items, magazines and books as well as their own brand of  products including text books,  coloring pencils, watercolor pencils and other stationery items like erasers.


WH Smith sell three types of colouring pencils under their own brand name.     There is a budget  pencil set, which by the packaging, appears to be marketed towards young children.


There is the intermediate pencil set, that is the subject of this review.    This is available in 24, 36 and 48 piece sets.   At the time I purchased my pencils there was only a 36 pc set available.    As WH Smith had a number of requests to increase the color selection, it appears that they have now added the 48 pc set.     My review is on the 36 pc set.

W H Smith Colouring Pencils – 24 pc

W H Smith Colouring Pencils – 36 pc

WH Smith Colouring Pencils – 48 pc


WH Smith has a range of Artists’ colouring pencils as well.    These artist quality pencils are available in the following sets.   I do not have any of these pencils.   I am very pleased with my intermediate pencils.

WH Smith Artist Colouring Pencils – 12 pc WH Smith Artist Colouring Pencils – 24 pc WH Smith Artist Colouring Pencils – 36 pc  

Pencil Specs

W H Smith provide very little information about the pencils.    On the back of the pack they state the following:


WH Smith do not state whether their pencils are wax or oil based.   From my use of them,  I believe that they are oil based but, as always, I’m happy to be wrong 🙂

The pencils measure approximately 6.9 in from end to the tip of the pencil.     They have a thin barrel similar to Marco Raffine pencils and are light in the hand.   The color of the pencil is shown at the end of the barrel which is similar, but not totally accurate, to the pigment color.  The balance of the pencil barrel is a matte iron grey color.

The barrel has been printed with the brand name on the color end and “The spectrum sings” on the barrel.     Presumably this refers to the color spectrum and the fun that you can have blending the pencils together.   Personally, I would have preferred the pencil name or number.

The pencils are packed in a cardboard box, which is not overly sturdy and becomes dented and dinged with shipping.   A layer of protective plastic film covers the pencils to ensure they do not roll out of their slots too much during shipping.


The pencils are pre sharpened with an impressive point.  Even with shipping from the store to my friend’s house in the UK, and then to Australia none of the tips crumbled or broke.

These pencils are not available as open stock to my knowledge.  In order  to replenish pencils you would need to buy another set.     This is made difficult as the pencils do not have names, so you would need to either buy  the same set again or be careful when choosing your set, to ensure that the pencil you want is included in that set.

You can see the WH Smith colouring pencils in comparison to other popular brands like Marco Raffine,   Faber Castell Polychromos and Prismacolors below.

apologies for the bright light …what can I say it’s a beautiful day in Sydney

From the image below, you can see that the WH Smith colouring pencils have a similar appearance to Marco Raffines but are slightly larger.

from left to right, WH Smith, Marco Raffine, Prismacolor, Polychromo

User Experience

For the price of these pencils they are very impressive.   After the initial new pencil scratchiness was colored away the pencils were very easy to use.  You can easily color lightly and add more pressure for more color if you wish, without damaging the pencil or paper.

The colors are quite vivid with a nice variation in tones between the colors.

W H Smith Colouring Pencils Color Swatch

The 36 piece set of  WH Smith colouring pencils does not indicate names or numbers of the pencils.    As many readers have suggested, you could create your own numbering system and name your pencils with a number, or let your imagination run wild and create color names for each pencil.     You would then need to label the pencils with either stickers, sharpie or etching to correspond with your color swatch.

There are a nice range of earth tones and skin colors within the 36 piece set including a nice flesh tone colored pencil.     The largest selection of colors is in in the earth colors, blues and greens.    A black and white pencil has also been included.


I used my little Staedtler sharpener that cost $2 at a high end art shop in Sydney.   I have found that it performs the best out of all of my sharpeners without breaking a pencil.

Just turning the pencil in the Staedtler sharpener once, produces a fine, long point as shown below.   You do, however, lose quite a bit of  pigment in the shavings.


In order to save as much pigment as possible,  I tested my Tgaal sharpener – Level 5 which did not remove as much pigment as my metal sharpener.


Just using my Faber Castell vinyl eraser (red pencil end) and rubbing the colored area, you can see it has barely removed any color.   Colored pencil is often difficult to remove,  and for small areas where I have gone out of the lines (a regular occurrence) I  often find it is easier to remove some parts Derwent Battery Operated Eraser

As this area is larger than what I want to use my electric eraser on, I used my Tombow sand eraser.   This eraser usually removes color in one rub.   On this occasion it did not.

Rolling up my shirt sleeves,  I settled in to give both sets of pencil markings a good rub with each marker.      With repeated rubbing with both erasers there was no damage to the copy paper (80 gsm) used for testing.    In the end, the tombow sand eraser removed the most  pigment.


Layering and Blending

Applying just a couple of  layers seems to work best with these pencils.   The pencils blend well with other colors as you can see from the picture below.  I used cheap copy paper to print the image on (80 gsm) which easily took two layers of pencils well.   The white pencil, which I often use to blend, was not a very effective pencil for blending at all.

When I added more layers, an oily type film formed that made it difficult to add more layers.    Paper that has more “tooth” in it could probably take multiple layers of these pencils.

As I was not happy with the inability to smooth out the multiple layers  I had applied in some areas, I grabbed some baby oil and a q-tip (cotton bud) and rubbed some over the green outer leaves, inner leaves and the purple areas.   This smoothed out the layers.     The picture became a little muddy as the ink smudged.   Unfortunately, my home printer is not a laser printer and the ink tends to smudge when you wet it.

Colored over the areas in green and purple where indicated with baby oil.

Coloring with W H Smith Colouring Pencils

The mandala from Hattifant was colored with the W H Smith colored pencils with numerous layers being used.     If more than two layers were added the pencils developed a film on the cheap copy paper making it difficult to smooth out with a white pencil. In the end I smoothed these lines with baby oil.

The image below shows the blending and layers without baby oil being used to smooth the lines. The image above is with baby oil.

This is the colored image before I used baby oil to smooth out any lines from layering and blending pencils

For the price that they are sold for, the W H Smith pencils are really good value.    They are easy to use, light in the hand and any layering can be smoothed over with baby oil, if you have added multiple layers.

Where to buy WH Smith Colouring Pencils

You can purchase the pencils online from WH Smith stores and in store,  sometimes with free delivery if  you are in the UK.    There are also smaller stores at railway stations and airports around the UK.    You can also use the store finder to find a WH Smith near you.

I hope you enjoyed the review of the W H Smith Coloured Pencils – 36 pc set.

Happy coloring x


About the author


I'm Lea and I love everything to do with coloring! If it is a coloring book, a poster or even a bookmark that you can color in, I'm all over it. Of course, a girl has to have some pencils, markers, gelly rolls, pastels and what not to make those pictures pretty and I love those as well.

Whilst my coloring style lacks skill, I am enthusiastic and focused on enjoying the moment and having fun.

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  • Lea: there were WH Smith shops well before 1999. My father worked in the accounts section in Stockport for a long long time. It took him 3 buses to get to work. Employees had 2 discount cards giving a quarter off I think it was to use in any WH Smith shop. If I recall I think they also owned the John Menzies chain eventually. One discount card was for the employee and one for a family member. This was back in the 1960s. They also had their own convalescent home in Bognor Regis. Back then they had an excellent service of looking after their employees and their families. When my father died a special bereavement representative came to the house to offer advise and support.

    • What a lovely company to work for, very caring and family orientated and really considering the long term value of their employees. I’v noticed this with a few UK companies from some documentaries that I like to watch of factories (weird I know but I collect antique advertising signs) and I think for memory that Rowntree had a similar set up and even a play area for staff where they could relax and unwind.

      According to their website which I linked to in the review above – WH Smith was formed in 1828 but the WH Smith Co that we know today came later. So all up they have been around for over 200 years keeping people in pretty pencils and paper but have only been using this variation of their name for a relatively short time in their history.

      I’ll have to take a trip out to the airport one day and see what their Sydney is store like. I vaguely remember the store from living in the UK in the 90’s but it’s not as imprinted on me as others.

      Happy coloring x

  • Great review- many thanks. WH Smith has been a reputable reliable and quality based shop all my life ( I’m 56 now) The shops sell superb qualities of all their stationary products and by these pencils I can see they have not succumbed to the cheaper rubbishy items ive used all this time.
    I saw the aqua pencils first and bought those in a set of 36 – they are good all round pencils I use for dry and wet art. I then bought the pencils I think are oil based and I adore them. Sadly only in a 36 set. You are right- the pencil points are amazingly long and sharpen back to this with ease. I too use the same metal sharpener but bought a left handed one in their name also. There are times for a long point and for a shorter point. I’m loving your blog and reading your thoughts. Mandyx

    • Thanks Mandy! I haven’t tried the aqua pencils – I wish their products were more readily available in Australia. I’d like to try all the pencils lol! I have never heard of a left handed sharpener and had no idea they existed! I’m going to have to do some research on that! Happy coloring x

  • Another point Lea. There is actually another type of pencils they do called Art Studio. See where at the moment they are on offer for only £.99 for 24 which sadly is the largest they do.

    This was my first type of WH Smith pencils and I first bought the 12 set and was very impressed by them. Like you I saw the reviews of the ones you opted for and bought those too. Sadly I found them world’s apart from the Art Studio ones. Poor in pigment, many of them scratchy and poor for blending and layering. I gave them. away. But I still have my Art Studio ones which I love which I use as my ‘go to’ set for in the car. The ‘Art’ pencils that you describe as one of the to her alternatives above I haven’t tried. I wondered what the difference was between those and the Art Studio as both give the impression they are similar. At the prices they are maybe I should buy a pack to try and compare and give some feedback?

    • I wish they were easier to get here in Australia! I might have to take a trip to the airport to see what their range is! Would love to hear about your comparison between the two sets. I’m quite pleased with mine, as a budget pencil but I suspect they are student grade not artists grade – hence the difference in pigment. happy coloring x