Working with watercolor pencils is like no other medium. These unique tools have the ability to both draw and paint with vivid colors in a way that just isn’t possible with other art tools.
Where watercolor pencils differ from regular colored pencils is the binder which holds the colored pencil pigment together. With regular pencils these pigments are held together with either an oil or wax-based binder. Watercolors are held together with a water soluble binder, giving them the unique ability to transform into paint with the simple addition of water.
Another special quality which sets these pencils apart is the medium in which they are held. Because a watercolor pencil is still a pencil, you have the ability to dull or sharpen the tip which can create vastly different effects. With paintbrushes alone, this just isn’t possible.
The range of effects you can create with watercolor pencils is astounding. You can choose to wet the paper once you have drawn your design or work with a damp canvas. You might like to use a separate piece of paper as a paint palette or draw solely with your pencils. Softening, blending and bleeding are just a few of the techniques possible with watercolor pencils.
We are going to take a look at how to use these amazing art mediums in a basic watercolor pencil tutorial as well as look at the most popular techniques and tips for these tools.
How to Use Watercolor Pencils
Using watercolor pencils in art opens up the best of both worlds with the ability to paint and draw or do both together. Depending on the design and effect you are hoping to achieve, how you use your watercolor pencils will change.
Each style has its own unique abilities, so here is the basic rundown for how to draw and paint with watercolor pencils.
To start your picture, you will need to know how to draw with watercolor pencils before getting to the painting stage. Depending on what you are drawing, you might like to use a variety of colors and drawing techniques.
It takes a lot of experimentation to figure out your drawing technique and whether you want to add water to it to make it paint or if you want to leave the boldly drawn lines there. The beauty of watercolor pencils is that you don’t have to add water to them, so you can just create a drawing if that’s what you want.
As you draw, try to leave some blank spaces on the page so that the colors are contrasted properly. The effect of your pencils will be heightened so much more if there is white space next to them. If you are new to drawing, you might like to try different layers, shades and shapes with your pencils so that you can get a feel for them.
The options for creating art are limitless and you can go as far as your imagination will allow. Some great ideas for watercolor art include landscapes, abstracts and portraits. However, if you are only starting out you can try something simpler like a tree or ocean setting.
Now that you have the basis for your picture drawn, you next need to know how to paint with watercolor pencils. Watercolor pencil art can be tricky to get the hang of as the pencil version is quite different to how it will look once you add water.
There are a few different techniques available for adding water depending on the effect you want, with some of these listed below. In general, use simple strokes as you add the water to your art, being careful not to scrub the brush or go over it too many times.
Focus on the lighter colors first, as darker ones have the tendency to carry pigments in them which can ruin your lighter shades. Once the paint has dried you might like to use your watercolor pencils to go over the areas that you wet, depending on the effect you are aiming for.
If you are unsure of where to get started with your watercolor drawings, you might like to try your hand at adult coloring books. As the outline for the artwork has been provided for you, you can experiment with different colors and shades that can later be applied to your own artwork.
Watercolor Pencil Techniques
There are countless techniques available for watercolor pencils, all with different outcomes. Here are a few of the popular ways that artists use these tools to create unique effects.
Using Watercolor Pencils to Add Small Details to Paintings
Once you have washed the painting you can use your pencils to go back over and add intricate details such as wires or building outlines. The contrast of the washed paint with the bold lines of your pencil on the top with have a beautiful effect on your image.
Add Patterns to Paintings
Another useful way to use your pencil once you have washed the art is to add patterns. Patterns could be used for a border or to add detail to clothing and more.
Layer Colors and Then Paint Over
A handy way to change the intensity of your colors is by layering the pencil on first before wetting it. A small amount of pencil will product a very light effect, where a few layers of bold colors will come out quite vibrantly. You can even experiment by mixing colors together to get different shades.
Use Watercolors as Paint
Rather than carrying around paint and pencils, your watercolor pencils can be used as both. To use pencils as paint, simply draw a spot of color onto some paper and wet your paintbrush. You can also use a wet brush directly onto the pencil as well.
Wetting the Paper First
For a completely different look, you can wet the paper first before drawing on it. When slightly damp, the paper will allow you to create soft lines with your pencil and can also be effective in making a bleeding look to your image.
Use Different Tools for Effect
Instead of relying solely on a paintbrush, why not experiment with different household items to see what the outcome is? Try applying the water with a sponge for a blotting effect, or with a toothbrush for something a little rougher.
To add some pizazz to your paintings you can get a glittery look with watercolor pencils. Apply some wet salt to your paper and allow it to dry, then apply the paint to the top for a sparkly effect.
Wet your paper first and select two separate colors. Apply one at each end of the wet patch and then let the colors blend together on their own.
Now that you have the basic knowledge of how to use watercolors, you can put some of these techniques to use with your own set.
Guide to Finding the Best Watercolor Pencils
Whether you are purchasing your first set of watercolor pencils or you are a seasoned artist looking to try a new brand, there are a few things to consider. Depending on the projects you are working on and what type of art you create, you might have different specifications for what constitutes a good watercolor pencil.
Here are some of the considerations you will need to keep in mind before your purchase.
It’s a common belief that the more shades available in a set the better, but this can be wrong. High-quality watercolor pencils come in all sorts of color ranges so make your selection based on the shades you’ll need.
If your art is varied, a set with a wide selection is good but so too are watercolors with high solubility that can be mixed together to create new shades. If you want to stick to earthy tones for simple sketches, find a set that uses both colored graphite and pigment to create this new look.
Your budget will likely be the biggest factor in determining which watercolors you can purchase but that doesn’t mean you should opt for the cheapest set. Nor does it mean that the most expensive is the best.
There are a few larger art supply brands that people remain faithful to but just because there is a recognized name behind your watercolor set it doesn’t mean the watercolor pencils are an area of speciality for them. Before purchasing anything, have a look online at the customer reviews or speak to someone who has knowledge of watercolor pencils.
This relates to how well the water dissolves the pigments and it is extremely important for watercolors. Find a product that promotes its water solubility as this will demonstrate how well the wash will carry the pigments in your painting. Some might state that they have a light effect and others creamy, so it will depend on the look you are trying to achieve in your work.
If you are looking for a starter set it is useful if it contains a blending brush, pencil extender and sharpener in the collection.
There are so many mediums available with watercolors outside of the traditional pencil form. Some other common types of material include pastels, crayons and woodless pencils. The pastels are ideal for shading larger was at a time and creating a creamy consistency.
Watercolor crayons work in a similar way and they will need a fair bit of water to wash them effectively. A woodless pencil watercolor is the same as a standard one but without the need to sharpen it ever.
Works Wet or Dry
This is an important consideration for artists, as you will need to know what conditions your pencils can be applied in. Some watercolor pencils are marketed for dry use only and recommend that water is applied after you’ve finished sketching.
However, there are also pencils available which recommend a wet tip for a better effect. A good compromise is a watercolor pencil that offers both wet and dry, so stick to this if you are unsure of what your preference will be.
Size and Shape
As artists know, you can spend hours at a time working on a project without giving it a second thought. Watercolor pencils require varying grips depending on the pressure or force you’re using to apply it to paper. The design of the pencils is important here, as it needs to comfortable enough for the artist to use all day
Some watercolor pencils come in a triangle shape to help prevent cramping, so if you are going to be spending hours at a time with your art you might consider this option. Otherwise, you can purchase a separate grip to be used with all of your pencils which provides a cushioned barrier between your fingers and your tools.
Graphite or Pigment
Although most watercolor pencils are made from colored pigments, there are some available in graphite. Whether they are 100% graphite or a mix of both pigment and graphite will have a different effect on their color. The pencils with graphite in them generally look darker and have earthier tones so they are great for sketches that don’t requite a lot of vibrant colors.
With a few simple tips and techniques under your belt, even the amateur artist can begin to create stunning art with watercolor pencils. Ensure you use a quality product that will help you work to the best of your potential as this will be half the battle.
With such a vast range of effect, designs and colors achievable with watercolor pencils they make a smart addition to any beginner or serious artists’s toolbox. Watercolor pencils are a truly unique item that takes the best of the drawing and painting world to create one easy medium.
So finally, if you are inspired by the possibilities with this exciting medium, treat yourself to one of our quality sets HERE.