Best Watercolor Pencils – How to use Watercolor Pencils

green and white leafed plantsWatercolor pencil art is a great medium for those who love to draw and paint. The watercolor pencil is also the perfect tool to start with if you are a student. You have the convenience of using a pencil and the ability to produce watercolor techniques. You can easily create amazing watercolor pencil drawings, but first, you need to understand how to use watercolor pencils and which are the best watercolor pencils.

What are Watercolor Pencils

The usual color pencils consist out of a color pigment and have an oil-based or wax binder. The watercolor colored pencil also contains a pigment, however, the binder is water-soluble. So, does a watercolor pencil contain traditional watercolor paints? The two watercolor mediums do differ in the following aspects:

When layering colors and using a watercolor colored pencil, you need to apply fewer colors and fewer layers. Too much layering will create an unpleasant muddied look. Since each watercolor pencil is different, it is best to practice layering to find the best outcome

Watercolor paints dry quickly, watercolor pencils dry even faster. This allows for faster layering, but it needs to be done quickly when the water is added

dry quickly, watercolor pencils dry even faster. This allows for faster layering, but it needs to be done quickly when the water is added Watercolor pencil markings are difficult to remove, even with lots of water. These marks can add character to a painting and sets it apart from watercolors

Note: All forms of art require understanding, practice, and experimentation, so if things do not work out the first couple of times do not give up. Keep working at it and you will be creating beautiful watercolor pencil drawings in no time.

Why Watercolor Pencil Art?

There are many reasons why you should attempt watercolor pencil art. First, it is an excellent medium for both students as well as the more experienced artist. The watercolor pencils sets contain a variety of colors you can use to create more detail and depth. When compared to traditional pencils, watercolor pencils provide a lot more coverage and different effects. For example, you can lighten a watercolor pencil color while it is wet.

The best watercolor pencils are not limited to a single application, you can add a higher level of detail and texture that other mediums cannot do alone. You can combine watercolor pencils with watercolor paints, pens, inks, and graphite pencils. Use watercolor pencils to create effects that other tools like brushes cannot and you can apply the watercolor pencils dry and wet. Watercolor pencil drawings provide unique texture, especially when applying diffused color and wash effects.

Purchasing Watercolor Pencils Sets

Each watercolor pencils drawing is unique, so you will need to purchase a product that is best for you. The more you practice, the more you will come to recognize what you need. However, there are few basic issues you can take into account when purchasing your watercolor pencils set.

Look for Quality

Whatever art or craft you are doing, it is always best to go for higher quality products. Professional-quality watercolor pencils do tend to have more pigments and vibrant colors than your cheaper varieties. However, you can get good results with less expensive watercolor pencils, if you know how to use them properly. Beginners can still get good quality watercolor pencils that are affordable, these are great to experiment with without having to worry too much about the cost.

Choice of Paper or Surface

The best choice for watercolor pencils would be to use watercolor paper, as it will not break up when it gets wet. You also get watercolor pencils that you can use on other surfaces like glass, canvas, and other surfaces. Ultimately, this is determined by what you wish to achieve.

Watercolor Colored Pencil Application

The application of watercolor pencils can also affect your choice of purchase. The best option would be to have a selection of watercolor pencils. To create finer details, or washes, you will need different pencils. The thinner watercolor pencils work best on finer details, while watercolor blocks and sticks are better to cover larger sections of the paper. The hardness of watercolor pencils also plays a role. For example, you need to apply more pressure for harder watercolor pencils to get more intense color.

The Magnitude of an Art Piece

The size of your watercolor pencils drawing will also influence your medium choice. Watercolor pencils may not be the best choice for larger art pieces, as it could take multiple sessions to finish. Colors will then dry differently each time and you will not have consistent work. We recommend you rather use ink-based watercolor pencils, as these dry permanently for more consistent work.

Best Watercolor Pencils

Below are a few recommended watercolor pencils sets from the best watercolor pencils for beginners, professionals as well as the best value for money. We will be looking at what each product has to offer and the pros and cons, so that you can make an informed decision.

Best Watercolor Pencils for Beginners: PRISMACOLOR Color Pencil Set

The Prismacolor Premier Water-Soluble Color Pencil Set offers good quality watercolor pencils that are easy to blend. You will find that the pencils are well-pigmented and offer excellent lightfastness and saturation. The pencil texture is smooth and will provide a great finish to any art piece. When wet, they offer excellent solubility, and the color will remain the same when dry and when wet. Even though we have recommended these for beginners, professionals should also find them quite effective. The product comes in a set of 12 watercolor pencils that should be enough for any artist starting their first artwork. However, since these watercolor pencils blend so well, you can easily create your own colors.

PRISMACOLOR Premier Water-Soluble Colored Pencils, 12 Pack Water-soluble cores help you sketch flowing liquids and create shimmering effects

Pigments have excellent solubility for smooth laydown, richly saturated, lightfast colors

Can be used both wet for effects or dry to match the Prism color palette View on Amazon

PROS Excellent quality

Easy to use and blend

Good lightfastness

Application is smooth with vivid colors CONS Only 12 colors in the set

Best Watercolor Pencils for Professionals: DERWENT Color Pencils

The Derwent Color Pencils are quite a popular choice for many, as they offer a variety of neutral shades and vivid colors that blend easily. They are quite expensive, however, you will find that the money is well spent. You can get these color pencils in different size sets from six up to 72. The highly pigmented colors dry quickly and become permanent once applied. The pencils are water-soluble, so you can create a variety of effects from watercolor pencil drawings to creating more washed-out effects. The pencils can also be used on different surfaces such as fabric.

DERWENT Inktense Ink Pencils, 24 Count The highly pigmented color is easy to apply and produces a vibrant finish.

Once dry, colors can be placed next to each other or layered, without fear of color bleeding

As the color dries permanently, it’s great on fabrics such as silk or cotton. View on Amazon

PROS Excellent quality

Comes in different size watercolor pencil sets

Can be used on fabrics

Wide selections of colors

Exceptional blending capabilities

Ink-like quality providing permanent color

Has a soft and wide core CONS Expensive

Not lightfast, so store any drawings away from sunlight

Best Watercolor Pencils Value for Money: STAEDTLER Watercolor Pencil Set

The STAEDTLER Karat Aquarell Watercolor Pencil Set is a popular German brand that produces excellent quality products. The 24-color watercolor pencil set offers excellent blending qualities and is highly pigmented. The application is smooth when using the pencils both dry and wet. Even though these watercolor pencils are of high-quality, they are still not the most expensive out there and are a good choice for professional artists who are looking for an affordable product that provides superior results. The wood used in making the pencils is sustainably sourced and the lead is break-resistant. The pencils are easy to use and retain their vivid color even when wet.

STAEDTLER Karat Aquarell Premium Watercolor Pencils, 24 Colors Premium quality karat aquarelle watercolor pencils for a wide range of creative effects

24 brilliant light-fast colors, Excellent blending quality

Smooth color-intensive performance, comes in an attractive storage tin View on Amazon

PROS Comes in different size sets

Ethically produced

Vivid colors that remain after water is applied

Easy to use, blend and sharpen

Excellent quality

Break-resistant lead CONS Does not include added extras

Watercolor Pencils Drawing Supplies

Watercolor pencils can be used dry and as normal color pencils. However, if you wish to use the watercolor pencils fully, you will need to get yourself extra supplies. Let us see what extra supplies you will need.

Watercolor Pencil Paper

If you are serious about watercolor pencil art, we recommend you use watercolor paper for the best results. Watercolor paper is sturdier than regular printing paper and tolerates water being added. You also notice that watercolor paper is thicker and is specially made to absorb water. There are also different varieties of watercolor paper, taking into consideration the absorption rate, thickness, and textures. Do a little research to find the best watercolor paper you will need.

Watercolor Brushes

To create watercolor effects, you will need a brush and a watercolor brush is a good option because you do not have to continually dip it into water. A normal brush can work too and tend to be cheaper. To spread color and apply details, select a medium-size round brush, which will be an eight or ten. A flat brush is best to cover larger areas on the paper.

Pencil Sharpener

Purchase a good quality pencil sharpener, as you want to be able to sharpen your pencils to a fine point if necessary. You might also need to get different size sharpeners, depending on the type of watercolor pencils you have.

Added Watercolor Pencil Art Supplies

Other supplies or things you will need when using your watercolor pencils:

Paper towels



Water is needed to help create different effects and to apply various techniques, it is not only for triggering the watercolor pencils. A separate cup of clean water is also needed for cleaning the brushes. The paper towels can soak up any excess water and the tape can be used to secure your paper onto the surface to prevent any paper folds from occurring.

How to use Watercolor Pencils: Starting Out

Watercolor pencil drawings can be a fun and great way to explore your creative abilities. However, if you are new to the art scene, it can be a bit challenging to know where to begin. We recommend you begin with the basics and then proceed from there. Next, let us look at a few ideas that will help you in getting started.

Watercolor Pencil Sample Chart

Create a sample chart of your watercolor pencils to see how the colors react to the water. This is also a great way to learn and familiarize yourself with watercolor pencils. In the future, you can also refer back to the color chart to find the right color you are looking for. To make your chart, begin by drawing two separate blocks for each of the pencils on your watercolor paper sketchbook. Take each pencil and color the first block in, this will show you how the pencil color appears when dry. Take each color pencil again and color in half of the second block, then wet a brush and pull down the color to fill the rest of the block. This block will then show how the color appears when wet.

Paper Preparation

Watercolor paper is specially made to withstand water; however, you will need to do a little preparation to avoid things like warping or crinkling. Wet both sides of the paper and absorb any surplus with some paper towels. The paper should only be damp, not completely soaked. Take some masking tape and wet four pieces, which you will then apply to the paper sticking it down onto the surface. Once everything has dried, you can start painting.

Developing a Plan

Knowing what you want to achieve, is sometimes better than staring at a blank piece of paper. You can decide what to draw and then determine what colors are needed. Planning helps you work with a bit more confidence, especially if you are new to the art of watercolor pencils. You can either draw freehand or go with whatever you feel doing.

Begin Your Watercolor Pencil Drawings

When creating your watercolor pencil art, you can use the pencils like normal color pencils, to begin with. You do not have to color the whole area in, as the color will extend out when water is brushed on. When adding pencil strokes, make sure to pay attention to the direction and application, as the marks cannot be removed after the water has been applied. Shade and color, so that if lines do show through, it will only provide more effect or texture.

Creating the Watercolor Effect

Take a brush and some clean water and apply the brush to your colored surface. Go along with your pencil strokes to keep it looking consistent. The more you apply the wet brush, the more the pencil lines or marks will fade. You do not want to add too much water, as this could cause the paper to pill or even fray. AS mentioned, you will not be able to get rid of all the pencil marks, which is why you should use them to your advantage instead.

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Ideas to Help you Learn Watercolor Pencils Drawing

When starting with any art project, it can be a bit daunting. However, with a bit of practice and determination, you can become confident in your skills as they develop. To get you on the right path, we have provided you with a few guidelines on how to use watercolor pencils.

Details and Depth

The best way to add depth to a watercolor pencil drawing is to add layers and this is relatively easy to do. Apply your first layer by shading in using your watercolor pencil, activate with water, and allow this to dry, then repeat the process. Remember, do not add too many layers, as this will create a muddied effect. Add contrasting color layers to create a shaded effect and deepen the color by applying more of the same color.

Sharpen the watercolor pencils and use them for finer details. Take the pencil and dip the tip into some water, this creates a color that will stand out will be bolder than the surrounding colors. This is good for adding finishing touches, as this technique is difficult to undo.

Apply Light to Dark Colors

When working with watercolor pencils, it is best to apply light colors first and then add darker colors slowly. This works best with shades of color and translucency. It is always simpler to add color than to try and remove it. If you have added a little too much of a darker color, try and use a paper towel to absorb the paint while still wet. This can help to lighten the color by absorbing some of the paint. This can also work if the paint has dried, simply reactivate the watercolor area and dab with a paper towel.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are Watercolor Pencils?

A watercolor pencil is similar to your regular pencil, the difference is in the binder. Watercolor pencils are water-soluble, while normal pencils are waxy and oil-based.

Is it Possible to use Watercolor Pencils like you use Normal Pencils?

Yes, you can use watercolor pencils to produce drawings that will appear as normal pencil artwork. Watercolor pencils may be a better choice, as you have many creative possibilities. You can use it as you normally would, or you can create beautiful watercolor effects.

Are Watercolor Pencils Sets the Best Option?

Many enjoy the use of watercolor pencils, as some can be used on different surfaces and you can use a variety of techniques.

What Paper is Best for Watercolor Pencils?

This varies and is dependent on your needs. The best type of paper if you wish to activate the watercolor pencils, is watercolor paper. This paper is specially designed for such a purpose.

Is it Okay to Wet the Tip of the Watercolor Pencil?

Yes, when the watercolor pencil is dipped into water, it helps to create bolder color details and effects.

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