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Whether you are an experienced watercolor artist or just a beginner, watercolor pencils are a stunning medium to use. Offering you gorgeous techniques with a watercolor finish while simply using coloring pencils. Buying your watercolor pencils is an important investment, so we have put together some information to help you select the best watercolor pencils.
Table of Contents
- 1 What are Watercolor Pencils?
- 2 Why Use Watercolor Pencils
- 3 Considerations for Purchasing Watercolor Pencils
- 4 Recommendations for the Best Watercolor Pencils
- 5 Additional Suppliers Required
- 6 How to Use Watercolor Pencils: Getting Started
- 7 Tips and Tricks: Ways to Help Master Watercolor Pencils
- 8 Frequently Asked Questions
What are Watercolor Pencils?
The main difference between watercolor pencils and standard coloring pencils is the binding agent of the pigments. The binding agent of coloring pencils normally contains wax or oil, yet the binding agent of watercolor pencils is water-soluble. You may think that watercolor pencils are simply watercolors in a pencil form this isn’t exactly correct, they differ as follows:
- Normally you would be unable to remove all pencil marks from your artwork, it does not matter how much water you add. These pencil marks which are so distinct are not the end of the world and can assist in defining watercolor drawings from watercolor paintings.
- Watercolor pencils dry quickly, even faster than watercolor paints dry. This speedy drying time can be beneficial enabling you to layer quickly. That being said you have to work quickly once the water has been added to the pencil. You will need to take your time and experiment to better get a feel for the medium.
- Try using fewer layers and lighter colors when you are working with watercolor pencils. You may cause a build-up of sludge and the colors murky if you choose to do intense layering. But experimenting is the way to go as each watercolor pencil works differently and gives a different result.
Why Use Watercolor Pencils
The best watercolor pencils are a great option for professional artists who are looking to try a new medium or beginners looking to experiment. You can find an assortment of different color watercolor pencils that will allow you to create dimensions, details, and depth to your work. You can also get way more coverage when using watercolor pencils over normal coloring pencils. While the color is still wet you can lighten the watercolor pencils after you have applied the color, something you are not able to do with coloring pencils.
The versatility of watercolor pencils is amazing! You can achieve a level of texture and details from the pencil strokes, something you just are not able to achieve with coloring pencils or watercolor paints alone. By sharpening your watercolor pencils, you can achieve a fine point, this will allow you to create fine details which you would never be able to achieve using a brush. The watercolor pencils also offer different effects if used dry or wet.
When you combine with watercolor effects such as diffused color and washes the texture of watercolor pencil strokes become unique. You can use watercolor pencils in conjunction with mediums such as ink, graphite pencils, pens, and coloring pencils.
Considerations for Purchasing Watercolor Pencils
Which type of watercolor pencils you select depends on your unique needs and the effect you desire. You will get a better idea of what you require, the more you work and experiment with watercolor pencils, you should consider the following aspects when choosing the best watercolor pencils.
Application on the Paper
What style of application are you looking for? This will impact which watercolor pencils you choose. If you are looking to produce detailed fine lines or wish to apply a vivid, thick wash of color you would require different watercolor pencils.
We suggest you have an assortment of watercolor pencils that allow you to experiment with several different techniques when it comes to application. You would use skinnier pencils to achieve precise line-work, but if you are looking to cover a large area of your paper turn to sticks and blocks. Your application of color will also be impacted by the hardness of your watercolor pencils. To achieve opaque and vivid colors you would have to press hard watercolor pencils harder against the paper’s surface.
You will get the best results when working on watercolor paper as it does not disintegrate when wet. If you are working on glass or canvas, there are certain watercolor pencils which will work. Always take your desired results and what your project is when buying your paper.
The Scale of Your Work
How big your piece is will also dictate which watercolor pencils to choose. If you are working on a large-scale piece that will require several sessions to finish it is not ideal to use watercolor pencils that use paint. During each session, different areas of color could dry differently depending on the amount you dilute the watercolor pencils. We rather suggest you choose an ink-based watercolor pencil as the ink will dry permanently which allows you to ensure consistent color despite working over multiple sessions.
It Is All About Quality
The better quality of your tools the better finish of your piece of artwork this is to try whether you are using oil paints or watercolor pencils. There tends to be less pigmentation in cheaper watercolor pencils than in the more professional options. But if you know how to work with the more affordable watercolor pencils you can achieve fairly decent results. As a beginner we suggest you choose more affordable watercolor pencils, this will place less stress on you when working.
Recommendations for the Best Watercolor Pencils
What follows is a list of the top three watercolor pencil brands for you to choose from. Whether you are looking for a budget-friendly option or high-quality professional watercolor pencils we will help you decide.
Best Value for Money: STAEDTLER Karat Aquarell Watercolor Pencil
Staedtler is a renowned German brand, and these particular pencils are of top quality. The pencils can be purchased in sets of sixty, forty-eight, thirty-six, twenty-four, twelve, or six depending on what your budget may be. These watercolor pencils offer smooth application whether dry or wet, superior blending, and pigmented.
The pencils contain break-resistant lead and are made from sustainably sourced wood, these pencils are considered a must-have for any professional artist. Even once you have applied water the color remains vivid, and the pencils are simple to sharpen. Despite being of the highest quality the watercolor pencils are not the most expensive on the market, offering you amazing value-for-money. They don’t however come with any extras but this isn’t a problem.
Best Beginners Set: PRISMACOLOR Premier Watercolor Pencil Set
If you are a beginner, we highly recommend these high-quality watercolor pencils thanks to them being so easy to blend. This set offers highly pigmented, saturated, and lightfast watercolor pencils. You can achieve a stunning finish thanks to the creamy and smooth texture of the pencils.
When wet the watercolor pencils provide superior solubility and you can achieve the same colors whether wet or dry. While these are ideal for beginners, professional artists will be surprised by their vivid pigmentation and overall quality. You can only purchase these watercolor pencils in a set of 12 but this is the perfect amount for a beginner. You will be able to achieve your unique colors thanks to their superb blending ability.
Best Professional Set: DERWENT Inktense Watercolor Pencils
Derwent Inktense is your go-to for professional high-quality watercolor pencils. While there are more expensive than other options, it is worth the money. You can purchase these pencils in sets of 72, 48, 36, 24, and 12 offer a large assortment of very pigmented colors.
These watercolor pencils are unlike the others mentioned above, as they are ink-like and therefore more permanent. You can use these watercolor pencils on several different surfaces including fabric. You will be able to blend with ease and beauty thanks to the core being wide and soft. The colors you receive are breathtaking including the likes of a striking fuchsia pink and a range of neutral shades.
There are two negative aspects to this set, firstly they are not lightfast and need to be stored out of sunlight, secondly, they are more expensive so if you are just starting, we recommend you go with a different more affordable set.
Additional Suppliers Required
If you want to use your watercolor pencils to achieve watercolor techniques you require additional supplies, otherwise, they are simply normal coloring pencils.
A great starting point for working with watercolor pencils is investing in some great quality watercolor paper. This type of paper is sturdier than standard printer paper which ensures that it will stand up when it gets wet. In comparison to sketching paper, watercolor paper is thicker. The paper is specifically tailored in terms of the rate it absorbs water and in turn pigment.
There is an assortment of different watercolor papers available offering different absorption rates, thickness, and texture. Equip yourself with a little more insight into the different types of watercolor paper so you can select the best option for your artistic vision. We recommend Global Art Fluid Watercolor Paper as it is of a high-quality.
A Normal Brush or a Water Brush
To achieve the watercolor effect and to activate your watercolor pencils you will require a brush. If you choose a water brush it allows you to work without having to constantly dip your brush in water. A more affordable option is a standard, normal brush which will perform just as well. Go for a size eight or ten brush, which is considered medium-sized, and preferably a round brush. This type of brush will help you spread the color and you can use the point of the brush for finer details. If you need to cover large areas or do washes rather then use a flat brush.
You will truly benefit from a great quality pencil sharpener that you can use to sharpen your watercolor pencils to a fine point and not damaging the soft lead inside. You may need different size sharpeners depending on your chosen watercolor pencils.
Water, Tape, and Paper Towels
You will use water for more than just activating the watercolor pencils you can try wetting the paper to attempt different techniques or just wetting the tip of your pencil. You will also need water to clean your brushes in so have some in a separate jar or container.
Paper towels are beneficial to have on hand as you can use them to soak up any excess water from your paper or brush. The tape is very important to have when painting using watercolor pencils, we suggest you tape down your paper to your work surface to stop the water causing the paper to crinkle.
How to Use Watercolor Pencils: Getting Started
As a beginner, it can be difficult to know how to start working with watercolor pencils and to achieve the effects you desire. Here are some helpful tips to help you create better watercolor pencils drawings.
Firstly: Making a Sample Chart
When doing a watercolor pencil drawing, start with a sample chart. You can use a sample chart to get used to your new watercolor pencils. You can always refer to your sample chart to determine the correct color and how each pencil reacts to water. To begin with on a page in your sketch book draw two blocks per watercolor pencil.
In the first block, using your dry watercolor pencil, shade a gradient of each color. These blocks will give you a sample of how each pencil looks when dry. In the second block shade just the top half of each block using a dry pencil. Next, take your wet brush and drag the color down to fill the remainder of the square. You can then refer to the second square to see how each pencil reacts to water and gives you a guide in terms of the different shades you can create.
Next: Stretching Your Paper
Your watercolor paper, despite being created to withstand water, will need a little preparation to ensure it does not warp or crinkle while you are painting. Start by taking your sheet of paper and wetting either side. If there is any excess water blot it away with paper towels so that your paper is damp but not swimming in water. Take four strips of masking tapes and wet them, then use them to stick your paper down to the surface you are working on. Allow both the tape and paper to completely dry and then you can start painting.
Planning Your Work
Before beginning with your watercolor pencils, you should plan out your work, granted this depends on the artistic style you are going for. At this stage, you can also plan which colors you are going to use. Alternatively, you can work freehand and allow your artistic abilities to flow. As a beginner planning out your work may assist in building your confidence.
Bring On the Color
It does not matter if you will be working freehand or if you have planned your work now is the time to start using your watercolor pencils. It may seem that watercolor pencils are similar to normal coloring pencils but there is an assortment of differences. You do not have to color in the whole area. leave areas blank if you wish them to be light, as you will move the color to them with brush strokes when you brush on the water.
Keep in mind the direction of your watercolor colored pencil strokes and the shapes you create. Once you have added the water it is impossible to remove any pencil marks so try to use the direction of your pencil strokes to your advantage. Think of it as a graphite pencil and shade directionally that way if any pencil strokes remain, they simply add to the overall texture.
Activating Your Watercolor Pencils
Now the real fun begins! You can start diffusing the colors using clean water and a brush. To keep your piece cohesive and add dimension attempt to follow your pencil strokes. The few pencil marks will remain the more you apply your wet brush to the color. Be careful that you do not overwork the paper as it may pill (form tiny bobbles) or fray. Just know that you won’t remove all the pencil strokes and rather use them to enhance your piece.
Tips and Tricks: Ways to Help Master Watercolor Pencils
When tackling an artistic project you can feel a little overwhelmed but over time through experimenting and practicing you can build your confidence.
Detail and Depth
If you are looking to add depth to your watercolor pencil artwork layering is a great option and is relatively easy to do when using your watercolor-colored pencils. When the initial layer has dried you can use your pencils to repeat the coloring process and use water to activate them. You can layer contrasting colors and use more of the same hues to deepen existing colors should you wish to achieve shading. Try not to overdo it and use too many layers as your artwork may start to look muddy.
If you wish to include intricate details in your painting you can use a sharpened watercolor colored pencil. To achieve bold and bright details that pop and stand out from the background, dip the tip of your pencil into some water. Rather save it for the finishing touches as it can be difficult to blend these out.
Always Work from Light to Dark
This is a rule which is relevant for the sheerness of your shading and the shades of color. With watercolor pencil art, start by layering your lightest colors first and then building on I with your darkest colors little by little. It is always harder to take away, than to simply add. If you have an area that is too dark you can blot it with a paper towel or while the paint is still wet blot it with a dry brush. This can potentially lift some of the colors off the paper and in doing so lighten it. Do not panic if the color has already dried you can simply reactivate it by adding a little water and then going in and blotting it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Use Watercolor Pencils Like Regular Coloring Pencils?
You can use your watercolor pencils to draw like you do with your regular coloring pencils. Having a watercolor pencil set is an advantage as you can use them like regular coloring pencils or have fun and experiment with watercolor techniques. This is done by adding water to the pencils.
Are Watercolor Pencils a Good Choice?
The versatility of watercolor pencils is amazing. You can shade and draw with them just like you would if you were using standard coloring pencils and then you can use them to create magical watercolor effects.
Are You Able to Dip Your Watercolor Pencils Straight Into Water?
Yes, you can, when you dip the tip of your watercolor pencil into the water you can then create fine details. In doing so the colors become richer and can create some amazing effects.
Do You Require Specialized Paper for Watercolor Pencil Drawings?
It all depends on what you are looking to achieve. If you plan on activating your watercolor pencils using water then we strongly suggest you use watercolor paper.
The joys are watercolor pencils can be experienced by both advanced artists and beginners. Make sure you buy the right set, as the best watercolor pencils will make all the difference. We hope you have a fantastic time experimenting with watercolor pencils!