5 Ways to Use Watercolor Pencils

What are watercolor pencils? Are they just like watercolors in a wooden casing? No, not quite. Normal color pencils use wax as a binding for the pigment, which makes them better for drawing and blending. Watercolor pencils are water-soluble, so when gotten wet the pigment releases into the water, making them paintable. Some other color pencils are slightly water-soluble, I’ve found, but since they’re not meant to be painted with, the effect is greatly reduced.

Watercolor pencils are actually a very recent invention, as new as the 1930s. The colors always become more vibrant when water is added, but they have become popular not only for painting but as regular color pencils, too. Many companies also make graphite varieties of water-soluble pencils.

Here are five methods for using watercolor pencils with visual examples.  These are not types or techniques per se, but ways to use them which may open your mind to some new possibilities and inspire you, or give you a good start if you’re new to the medium.

1. Draw on dry paper, then add water

This method is great for creating light washes. Be careful, though, that if you don’t shade the area evenly enough with your pencil, you may still see the drawn lines through the paint. So if that isn’t the effect you’re going for, one of the other methods might be for you.

2. Draw on wet paper

This will result in a more pigmented wash and the color can be moved around a lot more completely using this method. Another way to do this is to draw in this way over a light wash to make details.

Watercolor Art of a Turtle

3. Wet the pencil and draw on dry paper

This can be used to create very bold lines. The pigment is easily reactivated and can be used similarly to the first method if you so wish, but it can also be activated by mistake, so be careful and perhaps make this your last step in your painting.

4. Wet the pencil and draw on wet paper

The lines will be very soft when you draw this way and spread out, and it will be very easy to move the color around, but not to keep it where you want it. This I would recommend for less detail-oriented work.

5. Take pigment directly from the pencil

You can use the pencil to transfer paint onto a wet brush and then paint with no pencil lines whatsoever. This is like painting with regular watercolors, except you will use your brush as a palette or to mix, unless you prefer to draw on a palette with a wet pencil.

Wolf Watercolor Art
Wolf head painted in watercolor

Thank you for reading! If you have a comment about how you use watercolor pencils, we welcome your comments below.  We publish a new blog every Tuesday and Friday so, until next time, goodbye!



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