How to Use Watercolor Pencils (Easy Guide + Best Watercolor Pencils for Beginners!)

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Last Updated on June 23, 2024 by Dee

Watercolor pencils are a fantastic way to combine drawing and painting. They’re versatile, forgiving, and perfect for beginners! Let’s dive into some easy tips and find the best tools for you.

Watch this great tutorial on watercolor pencils for beginners:

How to use Watercolor Pencils?

Watercolor pencils are fun and easy to use and can be used on many surfaces. They are made with softcore in a wide range of beautiful hues.

The only drawback is that they are not always lightfast and don’t last as long as traditional watercolor paints. For that reason, if you are looking to buy watercolor pencils, you need to choose a good quality pencil.

You can use a set of watercolor pencils to create a painting with lots of details and expressive lines. Unlike watercolor paints, watercolor pencils are easy to control and you can keep your lines sharp by keeping your pencils sharp!

Watercolor pencils have a wide range of uses. The colors of these pencils can be subtle or dramatic. They are great for swatching and can be used to draw fine details and create beautiful, vibrant pictures. You can also use them to create bold colors and highlight specific areas of your painting. You can even try blending different colors to create different tones and contrasts.

10 Top Tips for Using Watercolor Pencils

  1. Draw First, Add Water Later: Begin with a dry watercolor pencil drawing. Once you’re satisfied with the composition, you can apply water using a brush to blend the colors.
  2. Layer Colors: Build up colors gradually. Start with lighter colors and add darker layers on top to create depth and detail .
  3. Keep Pencils Sharp: Sharp pencils will help you add fine details to your artwork. It’s especially important for small or intricate areas.
  4. Test Colors on Scrap Paper: Before applying color to your final piece, test it on a scrap piece of paper with water to see the true color when activated.
  5. Use Water Sparingly: To avoid over-saturating the paper, use a minimal amount of water. You can always add more if needed.
  6. Experiment with Textures: You can create different textures by varying the pressure of your pencil strokes, using a dry brush, or dabbing with a paper towel.
  7. Dampen Pencil Tips for Intense Colors: For more vibrant colors, dip the tip of your pencil into water before drawing.
  8. Work from Light to Dark: Establish your lightest tones first and gradually work towards the darkest tones to maintain control over the values and saturation.
  9. Use the Right Paper: Watercolor pencils work best on watercolor paper, which can handle the water without warping or pilling.
  10. Blend with Brushes or Paper Stumps: You can blend watercolor pencil with a brush or use a paper stump for dry blending before adding water to achieve different effects.
how to use watercolor pencils

Remember, practice and experimentation are key to mastering watercolor pencils, so don’t be afraid to try out different techniques and approaches.

Try Out These Watercolor Pencil Techniques…

Watercolor pencils are versatile tools that combine the control of colored pencils with the blending capabilities of watercolors. Here are seven techniques you can use to enhance your watercolor pencil artwork:

  1. Dry on Dry: Start by using the watercolor pencils dry on dry paper, just like regular colored pencils. This technique allows for precise detailing and control over your drawing. After laying down the colors, you can then use a wet brush to activate the pigments and blend the colors.
  2. Wet on Dry: Apply a wet brush directly to the pencil tip to pick up the pigment, then paint onto dry paper. This method gives a watercolor effect with the convenience of a pencil, providing more control over the amount of pigment and water used.
  3. Dry on Wet: Draw on wet paper with a dry watercolor pencil to achieve soft, diffused lines that bleed into the paper, creating a unique texture and a more painterly effect.
  4. Wet on Wet: Wet the paper first and then apply the watercolor pencil. This will create intense, fluid strokes with colors that blend into one another seamlessly, ideal for backgrounds and washes.
  5. Layering: Layering is a technique where you apply one color over another. You can do this either with the pencil dry or by layering wet over dry for varied effects. This technique allows for depth and complexity in your color mixing.
  6. Scumbling: Use a light, circular motion to apply the pencil to the paper, creating a textured, uneven application of color. When water is added, this can create a granulated effect that adds interest to your piece.
  7. Grating Pigments: You can grate the tips of your watercolor pencils to create a powder, which you can then sprinkle onto your paper and blend with water. This technique is great for creating an uneven, speckled effect or for adding a burst of color.

Each of these techniques can be used alone or in combination to create a wide range of effects in your watercolor pencil artwork. The best way to get comfortable with these methods is to practice and experiment with each one.

watercolor pencils on a drawing

To use your watercolor pencils you can build up layers of color first and then paint water onto the pigment, or you can dip your watercolor pencil into the water and work directly onto the paper. 

I find that building up layers of color first, and then using water on top of the pigment produces the best results when working with watercolor pencils. Bear in mind, it’s important to not apply too much water. If you do, your colors will appear to be washed out, and you’ll need to wait for it to dry before blending another color into the picture.You can also use a tissue or even a paper towel to blend colors together.

When you are finished painting with your watercolor pencils simply wipe them off with a wet tissue and allow them to dry.

watercolor pencils on a white background

The Best Watercolor Pencils for Beginners & Professional Colorists

**This page may contain affiliate links to products I have used or recommend. If you purchase something from this page, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.**

1) Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolor Pencils

faber castell albrecht durer watercolor pencils

Professional watercolor artists will appreciate the quality of the Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils, a set of highly pigmented colored pencils that provide unmatched blending, stroke control, and color.

The unique oil-based core of these artist pencils also makes them easy to clean and maintain. Each pencil is shaped like a hexagon, helping the artist maintain greater control of the color while still allowing for a fine, smooth coverage.

The Albrecht Durer also has a robust water-soluble core that will provide years of use. Moreover, the pencils are easy to sharpen without fracturing the core. These pencils are highly pigmented and offer a high degree of versatility. They’re also very lightfast, allowing artists to create more complex and beautiful watercolors that will last for years.

2) Derwent Watercolor Pencils

derwent watercolor pencils

If you want to add a little magic to your artwork, you should try using Derwent Watercolor pencils. The soft formulation allows you to blend and layer the colors while adding extra flexibility to your artwork – certainly one of the best watercolor pencils you can get.

These Derwent Pencils are the best choice if you’re looking for a fine art watercolor pencil. They’re also available in a large variety of colors. The quality of the pigments is excellent and not easily smudged.

3) Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Magnus Watercolor Pencils

Best Watercolor Pencils for Artists

The Faber Castell Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils provide you with an unparalleled range of color expression and the ability to reproduce the unique effects of watercolor. These are my top choice if you are looking for the absolute best watercolor pencils.

The lead of these pencils is exceptionally thick at 5.3mm and possesses maximum lightfastness (3***) across all of the 24 individual colors. They are made of high-quality, 100% inorganic pigments that remain highly pigmented even when dry.

The lead is also made from plant-based materials and is completely water-soluble, making them perfect for blending with a wet brush. These watercolor pencils are available in a variety of assorted sets. The Faber Castell Albrecht Durer Magnus Watercolor Pencils are ideal for all levels of watercolor artists.

The soft, rich laydown of color makes them ideal for large areas and blending. The pigments dissolve smoothly with water, making them behave like classic watercolor paints.

4) Faber-Castell Creative Studio Getting Started Watercolor Pencil

Best Watercolor Pencils for Students

The Creative Studio Getting Started Watercolor Pencil Art Set by Faber-Castell comes with everything a beginner needs to get started creating beautiful watercolor art.

Whether you want to learn how to draw a landscape or create a comic book, the Creative Studio Getting Started Watercolor Art Set is essential to any beginner’s art kit.

It includes high-quality Faber Castell colored pencils, a pencil sharpener, and four sheets of vellum and colored paper. The water-soluble watercolor pencils come in a variety of sizes, and each set comes with an acid-free art pad. The Getting Started Watercolor Pencils from Faber-Castell are the best watercolor pencils for beginners and are available in a variety of colors that make them suitable for novice as well as more advanced artists.

5) Bruynzeel Dutch Masters Pencil

The quality of Brunzyel pencils is unmatched. They contain quality pigments and a buttery softcore. They are tin-cased to prevent dripping and to ensure the longevity of your art supplies. And they have excellent lightfast ratings.

The best thing about them is that they have an attractive, environmentally-friendly casing. They’re also made to be long-lasting. Besides a beautiful appearance, these art supplies are also made with high-quality pigments. Moreover, they have good to excellent lightfast ratings and have an exceptional color transfer.

In addition, these pencils have excellent burnishing and layering properties very similar to watercolor painting.

6) Castle Art Supplies 72 Watercolor Pencils

If you are looking for a quality watercolor pencil set, the 72-pack set from Castle Arts is a great option. These fine art pencils have a solid black barrel with 3.4mm pure pigment cores.

The pencils are great for blending and layering with vibrant colors and soft, but break-resistant cores. You can create beautiful watercolor effects with these versatile pencils. The color range is large enough to keep your creations colorful and vibrant. The colors in this set are lightfast and blend seamlessly. So, whether you’re looking for high-quality watercolor pencils for your needs, or just for fun, this watercolor pencil set makes an excellent solution for watercolorists at a reasonable price.

7) Arteza Watercolor Pencils

Arteza Watercolor Pencils are a great way to create beautiful, vibrant paintings. They are water-soluble and blendable, and they’re richly pigmented so they won’t fade away over time. Whether you’re looking for a basic set of watercolor pencils, or you’re ready to try something new, these are a perfect choice.

This company creates artist pencils for all levels of artists. Their artist pencils are ideal for beginners and professionals alike, and they come in a metal tin with engraved numbers and names. These artist pencils also glide smoothly on the paper and won’t bleed.

If you want to experiment with watercolors, you’ll love this Arteza Watercolor Pencil Set. They come in a tin and feature a rounded barrel. The tin is ergonomic and prevents the pencils from rolling off the table. The pencils are also soft and comfortable to hold. With their excellent wet and dry consistency, they make great additions to any artist’s supplies!

8) Faber-Castell Creative Studio Goldfaber Watercolor Pencils

If you’re looking for an affordable way to create vibrant paintings, the Goldfaber pencils from Faber-Castell may be your best bet. These premium quality watercolor pencils come in a tin container that offers great coverage and a soft waxy pigment. You’ll end up with bold, bright colors that last a long time.

9) Winsor & Newton Studio Collection Watercolor Pencils

The Winsor & Newton Studio Collection Watercolor Pencils are made of sustainable cedarwood. They are very pigmented and lightfast. They have soft cores and can be layered for a thick, creamy look. Each set comes with a blending eraser and a small brush.

The Winsor & Newton Studio Collection Watercolour Pencils have excellent pigmentation and can be used to create stunning watercolor effects. The brand’s watercolor pencils are rated from student to professional quality. They are suitable for both beginners and professionals. 

10) Caran D’ache Museum Aquarelle Watercolor Pencils

The new Museum Aquarelle watercolor pencils from Caran D’Ache are a special set of 20 warm and cold colors specially designed for different seascapes. These pencils are formulated in close collaboration with master watercolor artists and developed in the company’s Geneva workshop.

These watercolors are a great tool for watercolor enthusiasts. However, it’s not only watercolor artists who can use them. Anyone who is interested in creating a seascape should try them. The unique characteristics of this watercolor pencil range set it apart from others on the market. The pigments are 100% water-soluble and float on Cold Pressed Watercolor paper.

Each barrel has a buttery-soft texture and a rich, vibrant pigment. The best part about the Museum Aquarelle pencils is that they’re water-soluble, making them ideal for both watercolor painting and artistic drawing. You can use them both wet and dry, as they are incredibly lightfast and perfect for all types of artwork.

11) U.S. Art Supply 48 Piece Watercolor Artist Grade Water Soluble Colored Pencil

If you love to create works of art in a variety of styles, this set of 48 watercolor pencils is the perfect choice for you. These watercolors are made with carefully selected pigments that blend seamlessly with water to achieve a broad spectrum of color values.

These colored pencils are made from the finest pigments and are designed to perform well in both wet and dry applications. The graphite core is a dense and sturdy material that is easy to hold and holds the pigment. You can also color-code each pencil by color and number. The entire set is conveniently packaged in a tin case for safekeeping.

how to use watercolor pencils

How to choose the best watercolor pencils (Selection criteria)

When choosing the best watercolor pencils for you it’s important to consider a few factors. For example, a higher price will usually mean a better quality product and a more extensive range of colors. You must however bear in mind that quality depends on your individual needs and what works for other artists may not work for you.

Thickness of Lead

Watercolor pencils that have thicker lead will be more difficult to break. Thick leads also lend themselves to coloring large areas of paper and putting down a lot of pigment quickly. You can also blend bold colors using thick watercolor pencil lead. Watercolor pencils with thinner leads offer you more control and allow you to draw fine detail in your artwork. These pencils will allow you to work with very thin lines and produce a variety of different effects. They do take a little bit longer when coloring, but the end result is worth it.

Color Range

The color range is another important factor you should consider when buying watercolor pencils. The range of colors available will often determine whether or not a product is worth buying and if you can get enough use out of it. For example, sets with 120 different colors will offer you the most freedom when designing artwork. However, sets with less than 20 different colors may be limiting and not suitable for more complex designs. You’ll also want to look for a set of colors that includes a range of colors from light to dark.

Ease of Blending

You’ll also want pencils that are easy to blend together so you can build up layers and create vibrant colors. Typically, watercolor pencils with smooth textures will be easier to blend than those with grainy textures. In addition, pencils with harder leads are easier to blend than those with soft leads.

Shape of watercolor pencils

Some watercolor pencils are hexagonal and some are triangular. Some are shaped like normal rounded colored pencils. It’s really just a matter of personal preference which type you go for, it will have no impact on the quality of your finished artwork, however, it can make the drawing process easier.

I personally like using a hexagonal pencil shape because the pencils don’t easily roll off the table.

Create-sublime-art-with-these-watercolor-pencils... 4

Important Questions about Watercolor Pencils:

Can you use watercolor pencils instead of watercolor paints?

Yes, you can, and this is a very common technique among watercolor artists.

Are watercolor pencils worth it?

Watercolor pencils make for a perfect combination. It gives artists the freedom to draw with any colored pencil if desired. However, it also allows for more versatility in creating beautiful watercolored paintings.

What is the difference between watercolor pencils and water-soluble pencils?

The soft the watercolor pencils, the easier it is to put them on paper. . Watersoluble crayons allow you to absorb much more pigment quickly than water-based pencils since they are lighter and wider.

Are Faber-Castell watercolor pencils good?

Faber-Castell makes some of the best watercolor pencils on the market.

Are watercolor pencils good for beginners?

Watercolor pencils are very beginner-friendly. The more comfortable you become with them, the faster you’ll be able to produce wonderful pieces of art.

Are watercolor pencils better than colored pencils?

Watercolor pencils create an effect that is completely different from colored pencils. While both media can produce realistic drawings, the results will be quite different from one other.

One is not better than the other.

What is special about watercolor pencils?

Watercolor pencils allow artists to create a unique picture using different artistic techniques. Artists can choose to blend watercolor pencils with brush and water or brush alone for an even more unique effect. In addition, the overall color choice is much wider when it comes to watercolor pencils as opposed to other mediums such as pastels.

Are Arteza watercolor pencils good?

Arteza watercolor pencils are a little different from the more popular brands on the market. However, they contain a very high level of pigment and go on smooth with excellent layering. I would recommend them for those looking to buy affordable yet quality pencils.

How many watercolor pencils do you need?

I would recommend starting out with a set of 36 to 72 pencils so you have sufficient color choices and don’t run out of any specific colors.

Can you use colored pencils as watercolor pencils?

Yes, you can, but not all colored pencils will work. For example, Prismacolor pencils will not produce the same effect when submerged in water because they contain wax which repels water.

To get a similar result when drawing with them, use a fixative before dipping in paint and then brush it to blend colors. You can also try placing a sheet of tissue or blotting paper between layers to create a slightly different effect. Just make sure that the absorbency level will not cause the colors to bleed into each other.

What are artist-grade pencils?

Professional and Artist Colour pencils Professional grade pencils are meant for those with substantial experience in a variety of media and projects.

What kind of paper do you need for watercolor pencils?

Paper choice is extremely important when it comes to watercolor pencils. Make sure the paper you choose will soak in the colors without making them bleed too much.

Watercolor papers are recommended because they are specifically designed for watercolors. However, thin regular drawing paper will also work fine if you do not want to purchase a whole pad.

Have a look at my article on choosing the best Watercolor Sketchbook to use with your watercolor pencils!

How do you sharpen watercolor pencils?

The best and most secure way to sharpen a watercolor pencil is with a craft knife. If you haven’t done this before you can watch this helpful video…

You can also sharpen your watercolor pencils with a good-quality manual sharpener. Do not use an electric sharpener. Always turn the sharpener rather than the pencil.

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