Colored Pencil Review: Pilot Frixion – Standard and Adult

Frixion Colored Pencils

Review by Tina Koyama

I’ve been curious about Pilot Frixion erasable products ever since Ana reviewed the pens and markers and the “color-pencil-like pens” several years ago. But it wasn’t until Pilot came out with actual erasable colored pencils (as opposed to gel pens that are called “color-pencil-like” but are not, in fact, color-pencil-like at all) that I became curious enough to try some.

Pilot now offers two lines of Frixion colored pencils: the standard line of 12 colors (set of 12 for $13.25; $2.05 each), which I’m going to call the kids’ line, and the new adult line (set of 12 for $22 or 24 for $44; $3.05 each) available in 24 colors. I got a set of 12 of each, which I’m going to review simultaneously. Pencils in both lines are available open stock – a useful feature for any colored pencil and unusual for sets marketed to kids – so kudos to Pilot for that.

The kids’ set comes in a plastic box in your choice of pink or blue. The woodcased barrels are color-matched to the cores. The attached erasers are translucent white.

The adult set comes in a dark blue metal box and includes a small coloring book. The pencils’ dark blue barrel has a textured herringbone pattern. Attached erasers that match the core colors are a nice touch, especially since they are the only color identifiers (other than the pencil points).

Frixion Colored Pencils for adults Inerior of Frixion Colored Pencils Box Frixion Cooring Book

I love these translucent colored erasers – they remind me of gummy bears and look like they should be scented (but thankfully, they are not).

Frixion Colored Pencils, eraser close-ups

Frankly, I think the colored erasers are the main reason to get the adult set instead of the kids’ set, because the cores are identical (more on that in a moment). And speaking of those cores, I’m going to give you a closer look. Both the kids’ pencils and the adult pencils show an odd whitish core surrounding the colored core. The wood is high-quality, the cores are well-centered, and they all sharpen well.

Frixion Pencil core close-up

Since the price of the adult pencils is substantially higher than the kids’ pencils, I wondered if the cores contained more pigment or if they were different in any other way. They are not – at all. Shown below is a swatch comparison of the two sets. On each swatch, I tested erasing quality with two erasers – the one attached (the right erasure) and a Tombow Mono Zero (the left erasure). In every case, the attached Frixion eraser erased more quickly, cleanly (no dust) and completely than the Tombow. 

Frixion color swatches and erasing

I was disappointed that the swatches came out looking pale and wimpy with the two layers I typically make for swatches, so I hoped they might be a bit more vibrant in a sketch. Alas, not much. I applied multiple layers of the relatively soft, waxy cores, but the pencils don’t have enough pigment to achieve the degree of vibrancy I’m used to seeing even in low-cost, student-grade pencils. (Sketch and swatches made in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook.) If I were looking for colored pencils to color with, Frixion would not be my first choice (nor my second or third choice). The hues are transparent, however, so they might work well as highlighter pencils.

sketch with pencils sketch sample scanned

Here’s where I’ll insert my confession: I didn’t get Frixion pencils to sketch with! According to JetPens’ product information, “FriXion pencil lead is a thermosensitive lead that can be erased by rubbing. Interestingly, erased color reappears at temperatures below 14° F (-10° C). A freezer is cold enough to make this happen.” After making the apple sketch, my inner Ms. Wizard was eager to stop coloring and get to the science experiments! I’m sure there are tons of YouTubes out there showing how Frixion erasing technology works, but I didn’t search for them – I wanted my own research to be pure and without influence.

First I scribbled a few swatches with the adult pencils on a Col-o-Ring card and erased lines through them with the attached eraser.

Col-o-ring Frixion swatch for science experiment

I tossed the card into the freezer for five minutes; the results show some erased areas coming back.

Same Col-o-ring swatch after 5 minutes in the freezer

After removing the card from the freezer, I rushed to the bathroom and blew high heat from a hair dryer onto it. In a matter of seconds, the swatches had nearly disappeared.

Frixion swatch after blow dryer

I let the card sit at room temperature for about five minutes, and some of the swatches started returning.

Swatch again at room temp.

Finally, I put the card back in the freezer for five minutes. Most swatches had nearly returned, including the lines I had initially erased.

Swatch after going back in the freezer again

At this point, my inner Ms. Wizard was satisfied that the Frixion pencils respond quickly to heat and cold. If you care about your writing maintaining legibility or your coloring remaining intact, heed the temperature of your paper.

Then my inner 8-year-old took over. Why fuss with invisible ink made of lemon juice if you can use Frixion pencils instead? I wrote a secret message . . .

Secret Message

. . . and erased it completely.

Message Being Erased

Assuming the message is delivered without being intercepted by enemy hands, the recipient would place the note in the freezer. In about a minute, the message would reappear enough to be legible. So much easier than lighting a candle!

Message after being put in freezer

Final Impressions

As coloring pencils, forget it – nearly every colored pencil on the market is better than Pilot Frixion. But for the sheer fun of exchanging invisible secret messages? Priceless.

DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were provided free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

tina-koyamaTina Koyama is an urban sketcher in Seattle. Her blog is Fueled by Clouds & Coffee, and you can follow her on Instagram as Miatagrrl.

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