Why (I think) We Stopped Using Colored Pencils

Does your child have a favorite drawing tool?

My kids adore markers, and it seems to always be their first choice when given a buffet of drawing materials.

I’ve been musing on this question of favorite drawing tools for a while, which is why I sometimes ask questions on Facebook like this or on Google + like this. I have my favorite pens and my kids have theirs, but why were our beloved colored pencils never used?

And then it hit me…

Our pencil sharpener broke down…um, months ago…and we’ve been left with a sad bucket of somewhat useless drawing tools.

dull pencils

It turns out that you actually have to maintain your drawing tools in order to use them. That’s rule #1!

In all fairness, I had my trusty sharpener since, i don’t know, college? And it seemed ridiculous that it would no longer work. I kept trying to fix it and then finally came to my senses and ordered a new sharpener. But I decided that if I was going for something new, it should also be a powerhouse that could sharpen pencils of all sizes (yes, I was actually sharpening our big pencils over the trash can with knife the other day. Do you ever do that?).

Let me introduce you to our new friend, the X-Acto School Pro Heavy-Duty Electric Sharpener.

I did a fair amount of research on this and landed on this sharpener that seems to be a widespread favorite amongst teachers, homeschoolers, and artists. It’s fast, handles pencils of most sizes, has a huge area to catch all the shreds, and it was 48% off on Amazon. I spotted it on other sites for close to 60% more, so this looked like a deal I couldn’t pass up. While every review wasn’t glowing, there were enough 5 star comments to get me to click “Buy Now.”

I also have Amazon Prime (I love it and use it for just about everything), and it arrived just one day later!

So here’s my test: Just how fast can it sharpen 30 pencils?

PENCIL sharpener

My trusty two-year old side-kick, R, handed me pencils and we plowed through that bucket in just under two minutes! That’s fast, right?!

Not only was it lightening fast, but it was fairly quite and very smooth.


I’ve only had it for a day, but this sharpener comes with a 10-year warranty so I feel confident that it will treat me well. Ten years is a long time, people! You can bet that I’ll be mailing in my registration card.

Review of the amazing X-Acto School Pro Heavy-Duty Electric Sharpener

Now that they’re all sharpened we’ll see if they get used more frequently. Or if we really area a marker family after all.

A question for you…

markers or crayons

Or…colored pencils, paintbrushes and paint, pencils, oil pastels, sticks in dirt, and so many other options!

Note: This post contains Amazon affiliate links, but we only share links to products that we adore or that we think you’ll find useful. 


  1. I agree that a good pencil sharpener is key. I have stopped buying basic supplies for the boys. I make sure they have quality products that they enjoy using. We are quality over quantity.

    • Smart mama — quality over quantity all the way. I’m a big fan of “less is more” and if my family has materials that we like, we don’t need to own a lot of different choices.

  2. I am in the market for a nice sharpener, but it needs to sharpen extra fat crayons and pencils. Like for a one year old. So far, I haven’t found anything and am stuck with the knife over the garbage can method.

    • Hi Christine, This does sharpen fat pencils, but I’m not sure about how crayons would do in it. It’s pretty sharp and fast, and may chew them to shreds. I’ll give it a try for you and circle back if I have any success.

  3. we just sharpen old school, its not that bad with a good basic sharpener. Our children adore Lyra pencils, thy are soft and very bright and really make drawing so much more fun. My youngest is forever playing with water paints too.

    • I’m so glad that you chimed in with your experience, Kirsty. Lyra pencils would get chewed up and destroyed in this sharpener, as you know, I’m sure! Go old school — I’m all for it and love having these around as well.

  4. My daughters love markers, but are terrible at keeping lids around/on. We bought a bunch of crayons, but they break and are hard to sharpen. I’m aiming to be a colored pencil family if possible because they’ll just LAST longer. I got this sharpener!

    • Hi Lauren, This cracks me up. I haven’t thought about it this way, but of course colored pencils could very well have the longest shelf life. They’re now the favorite medium in our home…we’ll see how long it lasts but I’m happy about it for now. By the way, I ADORE Prismacolor colored pencils, in case you’re looking and haven’t already discovered these. They’re not cheap, but the quality is phenomenal.

      • Thanks for the rec! I do find that quality supplies make a difference in how much my kids enjoy artwork. Does Discount School Supplies sell Prismacolor? I try to do a big order from them once a year. In the meantime, I’m going to play around with the colored pencils, too! 🙂

  5. I think this is a great sharpener but beware! I’m an elementary school art teacher and have this in my classroom but I only allow regular pencils in it because it eats up colored pencils really fast if you aren’t paying attention. We use hand held sharpeners for colored pencils and use them over a tiny “trash can”/the green bucket large orders of crayons come in. There’s nothing better then a freshly sharpened drawing tool! It makes me happy.

    • Beware! I love it. We’ve mostly used it for our colored pencils (obvious, I guess), and it worked well, but I can see how that might not be the case in a classroom setting. It runs so smoothly that you could almost forget it’s even running!

  6. My son (5) prefers colored pencils. I do a lot of pencil drawing myself, so we have a bunch of sharpeners (all manual, because I’m old school). Though I always notice they need sharpening before he does!

    • Rachel, I adore old school sharpeners. They almost always work and you can put them everywhere. Very funny that you notice they need sharpening first.

  7. my kids definitely prefer markers. i think its easier for them to press (they are still preschoolers). First time visiting your blog, look forward to reading more!

  8. My son loves markers and oil pastels. It’s just a theory, but I think he prefers them because they always provide such a vivid color. Crayons and pencils don’t consistently show up so brightly.

  9. There really is nothing like a bucket of freshly sharpened pencils! So much more appealing!

  10. I don’t know what it is about markers, but my son, and many other children I’ve met seem to prefer a marker. My guess is the way it feels as it glides over paper, or whatever surface is being drawn on!

  11. i recently slowed down on markers because my daughter’s fine motor skills were not being used. She would use markers in expressive fast motions and would create marvelous works of art, but she is approaching seven in a month and still has a very difficult time crontroling a pencil. To give her a little creative room i have watercolor pencils as well as the basic color pencil. And another key to caring for color pencils is not allowing them to drop and break inside the wood, so we keep them in a box and when they are not being used we put them aside so they don’t get used in a creative game of pick up sticks:)

  12. I have wondered the same thing. Why don’t we use colored pencils? We have them. They are hard to sharpen, and often sharpen unevenly and break quickly. But I have a little handheld manual sharpener by Faber that turned out not to be very good. I will have to invest in one of these. I’ll look forward to hearing if you use colored pencils more! 🙂

  13. I have wondered the same thing. Why don’t we use colored pencils? We have them. They are hard to sharpen, and often sharpen unevenly and break quickly. But I have a little handheld manual sharpener by Faber that turned out not to be very good. I will have to invest in one of these. I’ll look forward to hearing if you use colored pencils more! 🙂

    We use markers a lot, and recently have started using crayons more. Our go-to is definitely markers because they are bright, vivid and rich in color.

  14. My kiddos use quite a variety of art mediums but they love their colored pencils and there Mr. Sketch markers.

    I’ve been on the search for a pencil sharpener. Look out amazon here I come!

  15. Sharpening pencils is a much beloved activity in our house. We use the good old little manual sharpeners, the kids have them in every shape and colour. The pencil shavings do go everywhere!!! For actual drawing my kids prefer markers. I like the accuracy of a well sharpened pencil so I would like to use them more. I noticed someone mentioned Lyra pencils… I have been eyeing off a set of them in a local toy store….. tempting. 🙂

  16. Oh my gosh, we totally need this sharpener… or any sharpener. We never have sharp pencils, it always annoys me… and yet it totally didn’t dawn on me to actually buy an electric sharpener. Duh! My kids will want to sharpen pencils all day. Must get on this asap.

    My kids like markers more and I prefer colored pencils and crayons. They like to cover more space quicker… I like how colored pencils/crayons leave less distinct lines when they cover a whole space bc you can blend them better. I also like how crayons don’t leave marks on faces… since my daughter loves to write on herself. 🙂

  17. my son is hands-down a markers kid. I definitely think it’s about the ease of use.
    (we made good use of them on one of our recent art projects with washi tape -http://www.wonderhoodkids.com/post/56572644662/washi-art)

    And I love them, too. Though, I personally have an affinity for colored pencils myself – and always use the little mechanical sharpeners when i do my illustrations. but, all your talk about this super pencil sharpener makes me miss the quiet hum of the electric ones. there’s just something about it!

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