Watercolor pencils are becoming more and more popular as more and more people realize their versatility.
Are you just starting to draw with watercolor pencils, or thinking about giving it a try? Maybe you’re already working with watercolor pencils, but questions have come up.
On this page, you will find everything you need to know about watercolor pencils.
In this article, we have collected the most important buying criteria and also devote ourselves to current watercolor pencil tests.
The most important things in a nutshell
There are many useful things to know about watercolor pencils. Roughly summarized are the most important information:
- Watercolor pencils are special colored pencils whose ingredients make them smudgeable with water.
- They are versatile and last on a variety of materials.
- These pencils are suitable for any age group.
- Both experienced artists and beginners can easily use watercolor pencils.
- A watercolor pencil is a mixture of watercolor paint and crayon.
Buying guide for watercolor pencils
Before you buy your own watercolor pencils, you should know which factors to consider when buying watercolor pencils. We would like to explain to you here exactly what these are so that you will definitely find the right pencils for you.
What are watercolor pencils?
Watercolor pencils are colored pencils with special water-based leads. This means they are not waterproof but can be mixed with water. They are like watercolors only in a solid lead, but with which you can create similar effects.
Also, watercolor pencils are a great way to get started with watercolor painting as they are suitable for beginners, children, as well as professional artists.
What are the ingredients of watercolor pencils?
To make the question a little more specific: Do watercolor pencils contain harmful substances? Are watercolor pencils harmful to health? Watercolor pencils contain the following ingredients:
- Color pigments
Color pigments are the basis of a crayon. There are different pigments, some are toxic, others are harmless. However, most manufacturers pay close attention to the pigments they use. If you pay attention to the quality of the crayons when you buy them, there is no danger.
- Cellulose derivatives
Cellulose derivatives (parent compounds of cellulose) are responsible for water solubility. Cellulose is the main component of plant cell walls, so it is a harmless substance.
- Fats, waxes
Fats and waxes are used as impregnating agents. Normal wax without fragrance is non-toxic.
- Kaolin (china clay)
Kaolin is responsible for the soft lead of the pencil. It is used in cosmetics and also in food and is known as healing clay. Therefore, kaolin is harmless from a health point of view.
Talc is a mineral made of magnesium silicate that binds water.
Emulsifiers are recipients that bind the different ingredients together evenly and well. They are also contained in many foods and are not harmful.
Which painting surface for watercolor pencils?
The ideal painting surface for watercolor pencils is the watercolor paper specially made for watercolors. When buying, we recommend that you pay particular attention to the thickness of the paper! A thickness of 200-300g guarantees that the paper will not curl when water is used.
Do you like to see the structure of the paper, or do you prefer the paper smooth? Rough or smooth, you have to find out for yourself. It’s best to just try it out.
What are the most important buying criteria for watercolor pencils?
You are curious and want to buy a set of watercolor pencils directly? The following overview should help you find the right pencils for you!
The selection of colors is crucial. The basic colors blue, red and yellow are important, but the general composition of colors is of course entirely up to you.
The pigmentation of the pencils is also important because it gives you strong results. The opacity depends on the pigmentation of the pencils. So if it is better, so is the opacity of the images and strong results can be produced.
Watercolor pencils you can buy individually, in small to large sets, or directly in the case.
As a beginner, too many colors are more confusing than beneficial, then you should start with a small set. As a professional, you will know how to use the different shades, and it is worth investing in a large set or a case.
Protecting your pencils from breakage is important, so metal boxes, like the ones you know from Faber Castell, among others, are very suitable. In cardboard, your pens are less protected from breakage. However, if you plan to pack your pens in their own pencil case anyway, the packaging is less important for you.
Important accessories for watercolor pencils
Now, you know all sorts of things about watercolor pencils, but you can’t jump right in yet. There are accessories you need to fully enjoy your new pencils. Because what good is the pencils without paper, brushes or quite banal: Water!
To protect your pens, you should think about storage. For optimal protection, we recommend a box made of wood or metal. But if that’s too stiff for you, you can also store your pens in a pencil case.
If you want to use your watercolor pencils with water, you need a brush. You can also use older brushes that you may still have from school somewhere.
Tip: You can also invest in a water tank brush and save yourself from having to wet your brush.
- Watercolor – Drawing Paper
Other paper will curl if you use too much water, so purchasing watercolor drawing paper is highly advisable.
- Inkpad – Stamps
With an ink pad and nice stamps, you can create beautiful backgrounds. You should make sure when you buy if the ink is suitable for watercolor, otherwise, it could run in contact with water.
When using pencils, you always need a good sharpener, because the leads inevitably rub off.
Tip: Pencil extension: A pencil extension is very useful for later use. This is a rod in which you put already very worn pencils (small pencils), so that you can continue to draw comfortably with them.
Best Watercolor Pencil Sets
Castle Art Supplies Watercolor Pencils Set for Adults Artists & Professionals
- vibrant colors & beautiful blending;
- superior watercolor effects.
Faber-Castel Albrecht Durer Artist Watercolor Pencils in A Tin
- thick 3.8 mm leads;
- consistent color when wet or dry.
Zenacolor Professional Watercolor Pencils Set with a Brush
- long-lasting & non-toxic;
- fine, precise and soluble lead.
Arteza Watercolor Pencils Set
- bright & pigmented colors.
Cool Bank Watercolor Pencil Set
- quality & long-term color;
- incased in high-quality basswood to eliminate breakages.
Magicfly Watercolor Pencils Set
- vivid colors;
- easy blending and shading.
What are the alternatives to watercolor pencils?
In order to have the best possible comparison, we would like to present you with some alternatives to watercolor pencils. None of them is better or worse, it is purely a matter of personal feeling and trying out different materials.
- Colored pencils
The most obvious alternative is normal colored pencils, but these are not or only very little watercolor table.
- Brush pencils
These are not mixed with paint and water first, but paint directly with the appropriate color in watercolor style.
- Watercolor paints
They have a very similar composition to the leads in the pencil, but watercolors are sold in paint boxes and used with brushes. They also have a higher pigmentation than watercolor pencils.
In the following table, you will find watercolor paints and watercolor pencils in comparison:
|Watercolor pencils||Watercolor paints|
|fewer pigments||more pigments, thus more color-intensive images|
|applicable both with water and without||applicable with water only|
|flexible application||needs a solid base for a good application|
|better suited for details||better suited for larger areas|
|suitable for sketching||suitable for filling drawings|
What can watercolor pencils be used for?
You can use watercolor pencils for many things. To draw directly or to draw sketches, because colored sketches have a completely different effect than those with a pencil. You can also use them to draw in small details in your watercolor paintings. Or you can use watercolor pencils to draw great pictures directly.
On what materials can watercolor pencils be used?
Almost naturally, you can paint with watercolor pencils best on paper. It’s best to use watercolor paper designed for this purpose. On paper, the colors run optimally with water and produce the best results.
There are special canvases that are made specifically for watercolors and absorb the color pigments well. You should get great results on them. From a normal canvas, watercolor colors roll off and leave only a pale image. You can also use a special primer, an aqua primer, to make normal canvases usable for watercolors.
You can also use watercolor pencils on wood. However, it depends on the wood you use. So-called “aqua boards” are special wooden frames, with a surface for watercolor, gouache, and acrylic paints. However, any other wood can be processed so that you can paint on it. To do this, you sand it with fine sandpaper and apply a primer.
If you dip the watercolor pencils with the tip in water, you can also paint very well on the skin. Of course, you have to keep in mind that the color will dissolve the first time it comes into contact with water. For some time it can be fixed with hairspray.
Although there are now also watercolor paints for textiles, with watercolor pencils on the fabric you will, unfortunately, have no success.
Painting with watercolor pencils on the stone is difficult. First, you need a stone with only a slightly rough surface, and then you have to prime it. You may be able to paint on it with watercolor pencils, but whether it succeeds, the primer holds and the color result is right in the end depends on the stone.
Do I need a special sharpener for watercolor pencils?
A special sharpener is not necessary for watercolor pencils. Any sharpener for thin pencils can be used.
How well do watercolor pencils erase?
When erasing watercolor pencils, slight pigment residue remains. If the paper is too thin, trying to erase watercolor pencils can cause the paper to tear.
Alternatively, you can use water to blend the color residue.
Do watercolor pencils cover dark backgrounds?
High-quality watercolor pencils also cover well on dark backgrounds. However, we recommend that you use lighter colors when drawing on dark backgrounds, as these stand out more intensively against the background.
How can watercolor drawings be fixed?
After your drawing has dried, you can spray it with a fixative. This solution protects your painting from changes in color pigments and smoothes the surface, which makes the painting more lightfast. In addition, your image will be less sensitive to external influences.
How to Use Watercolor Pencils – Video
Do professional artists use watercolor pencils?
Absolutely! Professional artists can and do use any medium that resonates with their personal artistic expression, and **watercolor pencils** certainly fall into that category. As an artist, the medium you choose plays a secondary role to your talent, creativity, dedication, and ability to promote your work. So if watercolor pencils are your preferred medium, go for it! From my own experience as an artist, I can tell you that watercolor pencils are a versatile and rewarding medium to explore.
What is the best pencil for watercolor drawing?
Generally, the preferred pencils for watercolor work are graphite drawing pencils, specifically grades **F, H, or 2H**. Keep in mind, it’s important to strike a balance – if a pencil is too soft, it can mix with your wash and create a muddy effect, but if it’s too hard it might scratch your paper. Another excellent choice could be water-soluble graphite or water-soluble colored pencils. In my experience, these can blend beautifully with watercolours and provide you with great control over your work.
What is the difference between Faber-Castell and Winsor Newton watercolor pencils?
Both Faber-Castell and Winsor Newton produce excellent quality watercolor pencils, but they do have distinctive differences. For instance, Faber Castell’s pencil has the widest nib and the Winsor Newton’s is not only broad, but also long. I’ve found that with **Winsor Newton**, their nib is extremely adaptable and offers an experience akin to painting with a brush. On the other hand, the Faber Castell nib, in my experience, feels more like a felt tip or a typical marker and doesn’t offer much flexibility.
How do I choose a watercolor pencil?
Various factors come into play when choosing a watercolor pencil. The lead’s thickness matters a lot: a thinner lead works wonders for fine, detailed work, while thicker leads are ideal for quickly covering larger areas. As someone who’s worked with many different types of watercolour pencils, I can vouch for the **importance of experimenting with different thicknesses** and finding what works best for your style of art.