Best Pencils for Watercolor Artists Explained

  • By: Michael Smith
  • Time to read: 11 min.
Michael Smith
I'm Michael Smith, the founder and creative director of Art and Drawing. With over a decade of experience in the art and design industry, my keen eye for detail and passion for creating inspiring artwork drive my work. I'm dedicated to capturing the world's beauty through vibrant, expressive pieces that spark imagination and emotion.

Watercolor pencils are a versatile tool that combines drawing and painting techniques. They can create dry marks like a regular colored pencil, but when water is added, they transform into rich washes. In this article, we will explore the different brands of watercolor pencils and compare their properties to help you find the best pencils for your watercolor artwork.

Key Takeaways:

  • Watercolor pencils combine drawing and painting techniques
  • They can be used dry or activated with water
  • Derwent, Caran d’Ache, Faber-Castell, and Winsor & Newton offer top-quality watercolor pencils
  • Consider factors like lightfastness and blending capabilities when choosing your watercolor pencils
  • Experiment with different techniques to enhance your artwork

What is a Watercolor Pencil?

Watercolor pencils are a versatile tool that combines the qualities of both colored pencils and watercolors. They are similar to regular colored pencils but have a unique water-soluble binder, which sets them apart. This innovative binder allows the pencils to be used both dry and wet, giving artists the freedom to create a variety of effects.

When used dry, watercolor pencils behave like traditional colored pencils. You can create detailed drawings, blend colors, and layer them to achieve depth and texture. The dry marks are easily blendable, allowing for smooth transitions and beautiful shading.

Watercolor pencils offer the convenience and precision of drawing with the flexibility and vibrancy of painting.

However, what sets watercolor pencils apart is their ability to transform into stunning washes when activated with water. When water is applied to the drawn areas, the pigments dissolve and spread on the paper, creating a watercolor-like effect. This allows you to achieve soft, subtle gradients and transparent layers of color, adding depth and dimension to your artwork.

The composition of watercolor pencils includes clay, water-soluble waxes, a starch-based binder, and colored pigments. The clay and binder help the pencil marks adhere to the paper, while the water-soluble waxes allow the colors to dissolve when in contact with water. The pigments provide the vibrant and intense hues that watercolor pencils are known for.

How do watercolor pencils work?

The process of using watercolor pencils is simple. Here’s how it works:

  1. Start by sketching or drawing with the watercolor pencils on paper, just like you would with regular colored pencils.
  2. Once you have your desired drawing, you can activate the colors by adding water. You can do this by applying a wet brush over the pencil marks, dipping the pencil tip in water and drawing with it, or dipping the paper into water.
  3. The water reacts with the soluble binder in the pencils, dissolving the pigments and spreading them on the paper.
  4. You can adjust the intensity and transparency of the colors by adding more or less water. More water will create softer, more diluted washes, while less water will result in bolder, more concentrated colors.
  5. Allow the paper to dry completely before adding further layers or details.

Watercolor pencils offer endless possibilities for creativity, allowing you to achieve a wide range of effects and textures in your artwork. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced artist, these versatile tools can enhance your artistic expression and bring your ideas to life.

Derwent Watercolour Pencils

When it comes to watercolor pencils, Derwent is a trusted name in the art world. They offer a wide range of options, including their popular Inktense range and their softer Watercolour range.

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Derwent Inktense pencils are known for their firm texture and ability to dry to a permanent finish. This makes them perfect for creating vibrant and translucent colors that really stand out. Whether you’re working on paper, card, or fabric, these pencils deliver exceptional results.

For artists who prefer a softer core, Derwent also offers watercolor pencils in their Watercolour range. These pencils are easier to blend and layer, allowing for more flexibility in your artistic creations.

Both the Inktense and Watercolour ranges from Derwent are known for their excellent lightfastness, ensuring that your artwork remains vibrant and fade-resistant over time. With a wide selection of colors available, you’ll have no shortage of options to bring your artistic visions to life.

Derwent Watercolour Pencils Comparison Table

Aspect Inktense Pencils Watercolour Pencils
Firmness Firm Soft
Finish Permanent Blendable
Surfaces Paper, Card, Fabric Paper
Lightfastness Excellent Excellent
Color Range Wide Wide

Caran d’Ache Watercolour Pencils

When it comes to high-quality watercolor pencils, Caran d’Ache is a brand that stands out. Their Museum Aquarelle range is particularly renowned among watercolor artists. These pencils are known for their exceptional pigment concentration, resulting in brilliant and radiant washes that bring your artwork to life.

Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle pencils can be used on their own or in combination with other watercolor paints and colored pencils, allowing you to experiment and create unique effects. The high pigment concentration ensures intense and vibrant colors, making your artwork truly captivating.

For artists at intermediate skill levels, Caran d’Ache also offers the Supracolor range. These watercolor pencils have a soft texture that allows for effortless blending and layering. Whether you are creating subtle gradients or bold strokes, the Supracolor pencils provide excellent control and versatility.

Caran d’Ache’s commitment to quality is evident in their watercolor pencils. The smooth application, excellent color payoff, and blendability make them a top choice among artists around the world.

Caran d’Ache Watercolour Pencil Comparison

Range Features Pros Cons
Museum Aquarelle – High pigment concentration
– Brilliant and radiant washes
– Can be used with other mediums
– Intense colors
– Smooth application
– Excellent lightfastness
– Higher price point
Supracolor – Soft texture for blending and layering
– Versatile for various techniques
– Suitable for intermediate artists
– Good color selection
– Easy to control
– Reliable performance
– Not as high pigment concentration as Museum Aquarelle

Faber-Castell Watercolour Pencils

If you’re looking for high-quality watercolor pencils, Faber-Castell offers the Albrecht Durer range that delivers exceptional performance.

With a smooth texture and excellent blending properties, these watercolor pencils allow you to create stunning artwork with ease. The colors have good intensity, allowing for vibrant results when layered. Whether you’re a beginner or a professional artist, the Albrecht Durer pencils are suitable for all skill levels.

You’ll also find a wide range of colors available, allowing for endless possibilities in your artwork. Additionally, these watercolor pencils have a high percentage of colors rated as excellent or very good for lightfastness, ensuring your creations remain vibrant over time.

Properties Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer
Texture Smooth
Blending Excellent
Color Intensity Good
Lightfastness Excellent/Very Good
Skill Level All levels

Whether you’re creating detailed illustrations or experimenting with different techniques, Faber-Castell watercolor pencils guarantee a smooth and satisfying artistic experience. The Albrecht Durer range is trusted by artists worldwide, making it a reliable choice for any watercolor project you undertake.

Winsor & Newton Watercolour Pencils

When it comes to watercolor pencils, Winsor & Newton is a brand that stands out in the art world. Their watercolor pencils offer exceptional quality and performance, making them a popular choice among artists.

One of the key advantages of Winsor & Newton watercolor pencils is their versatility. These pencils can be used both wet and dry, allowing for a wide range of techniques. Whether you prefer to work with dry marks or create stunning washes, these pencils have you covered.

Another highlight of Winsor & Newton watercolor pencils is their excellent blending and layering capabilities. The colors blend smoothly and effortlessly, allowing you to achieve seamless transitions and subtle gradations. This makes them an excellent choice for creating depth and dimension in your artwork.

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When activated with water, the colors of Winsor & Newton watercolor pencils come to life. The vibrant pigments retain their intensity, ensuring that your artwork remains vibrant and expressive. Whether you’re adding a touch of water for a soft wash or fully activating the colors for a bold statement, the results are always impressive.

To give you a visual idea of the outstanding performance of Winsor & Newton watercolor pencils, take a look at the example below:

As you can see from the example, the colors remain true and vibrant even after being activated with water. This demonstrates the high-quality pigments used in Winsor & Newton watercolor pencils.

Overall, if you’re looking for watercolor pencils that offer great quality, versatility, and vibrant colors, Winsor & Newton is a brand you can trust. Their watercolor pencils are loved and highly recommended by artists around the world.

Comparison Chart

In this section, we will provide a comprehensive comparison chart highlighting the key properties of the top watercolor pencils for artists mentioned in the previous sections. Evaluating factors such as lightfastness ratings, color intensity, erasability, and layering performance will help you make an informed decision when selecting the perfect watercolor pencils for your artistic needs.

Brand Lightfastness Ratings Color Intensity Erasability Layering Performance
Derwent Excellent High Fair Good
Caran d’Ache Very Good Brilliant Poor Excellent
Faber-Castell Excellent Good Fair Very Good
Winsor & Newton Very Good Vibrant Good Excellent

This comparison chart will serve as a valuable guide in your watercolor pencil selection process. Consider your preferences, desired effects, and individual artistic style when analyzing the different properties of these top watercolor pencils.

Now that you have an understanding of the advantages and characteristics of various watercolor pencil brands, let’s explore some techniques and tips to enhance your artwork in the upcoming section.

Watercolor Pencil Techniques and Tips

Unlock the full potential of your watercolor pencils with these useful techniques and expert tips. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced artist, these techniques will help you create stunning watercolor effects and bring your artwork to life.

Activating the Pencils

One of the unique features of watercolor pencils is their ability to be activated with water, giving you the freedom to create beautiful washes. To activate the pencils:

  1. Start by laying down your desired colors on paper using light pressure.
  2. Use a wet brush or a water brush to blend and spread the colors. The more water you use, the more intense the colors will become.
  3. Experiment with different brushstrokes and techniques to achieve the desired effects.

Creating Washes

Washes are transparent layers of color applied to your artwork, adding depth and dimension. To create washes:

  • Dip your brush in clean water and remove any excess water by blotting it on a paper towel.
  • Apply a thin layer of water to the area where you want to create the wash.
  • Using the side of the watercolor pencil, apply the color to the wet area and let it spread naturally.
  • For lighter washes, use more water and less pigment. For darker washes, use less water and more pigment.

Blending and Layering Colors

Blending and layering colors with watercolor pencils can add depth and complexity to your artwork. Here’s how:

  1. Start by laying down a base layer of color using light pressure.
  2. Choose a compatible color and lightly layer it on top of the first color.
  3. Use a wet brush to blend the colors together, creating smooth transitions.
  4. Continue layering and blending colors to achieve the desired effect.

Lifting Color

If you make a mistake or want to create highlights, lifting color is a useful technique. Here’s how:

  1. Dip a clean, damp brush in water and gently scrub the area you want to lift color from.
  2. Blot the area with a paper towel to remove the lifted color.
  3. Repeat the process until you achieve the desired result.

Remember to experiment with different techniques and have fun exploring the possibilities of watercolor pencils. With practice and creativity, you can master these techniques and create breathtaking watercolor pencil artwork.

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Conclusion

Watercolor pencils offer a unique and versatile tool for artists. With the ability to combine drawing and painting techniques, they provide a wide range of possibilities for creating beautiful artwork. When choosing the right watercolor pencil for your artwork, consider factors such as lightfastness, color intensity, blending capabilities, and personal preferences.

Reputable brands like Derwent, Caran d’Ache, Faber-Castell, and Winsor & Newton offer high-quality watercolor pencils that cater to different needs and preferences. Derwent’s Inktense range provides vibrant and translucent colors, while their Watercolour range offers a soft core for easy blending and layering. Caran d’Ache’s Museum Aquarelle pencils feature a high level of pigment, resulting in brilliant and radiant washes.

Faber-Castell’s Albrecht Durer range is known for its smooth texture and excellent blending properties, making it suitable for artists of all skill levels. Winsor & Newton watercolor pencils offer great quality and performance, allowing for a range of techniques. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced artist, these brands provide options that can help you achieve your desired artistic effects.

Experiment with different techniques and have fun exploring the possibilities of watercolor pencils. Remember to consider your specific needs and preferences to choose the best pencil for your watercolor artwork. With the right watercolor pencil in hand, you can create stunning masterpieces filled with vibrant colors and captivating details.

FAQ

What are watercolor pencils?

Watercolor pencils are versatile art tools that combine drawing and painting techniques. They have a water-soluble binder that allows them to be used both dry and wet. When activated with water, the colors transform into rich washes. They are made with clay, water-soluble waxes, a starch-based binder, and colored pigments.

How do watercolor pencils work?

Watercolor pencils work by applying dry marks on paper, similar to regular colored pencils. When water is added, the pigments dissolve and spread, creating a watercolor effect. The colors can be blended and layered like traditional pencils, and the results can range from dry pencil-like marks to fluid washes.

What are Derwent watercolor pencils?

Derwent is a popular brand that offers watercolor pencils, including their Inktense and Watercolour ranges. Inktense pencils have a firm texture and dry to a permanent finish, while Watercolour pencils have a soft core for easier blending and layering. Both ranges have a wide range of colors and excellent lightfastness.

What are Caran d’Ache watercolor pencils?

Caran d’Ache is known for their high-quality watercolor pencils, particularly their Museum Aquarelle range. These pencils contain a high level of pigment, resulting in brilliant and radiant washes. They also offer the Supracolor range, which is great for intermediate skill levels.

What are Faber-Castell watercolor pencils?

Faber-Castell offers the Albrecht Durer range of watercolor pencils, which have a smooth texture and excellent blending properties. They have a wide range of colors, good color intensity, and can be layered for vibrant results. These pencils are suitable for all skill levels and are widely used by professional artists.

What are Winsor & Newton watercolor pencils?

Winsor & Newton is a well-known brand in the art world, and their watercolor pencils offer great quality and performance. These pencils can be used both wet and dry, allowing for a range of techniques. They have good blending and layering capabilities, and the colors remain vibrant when activated with water.

Is there a comparison chart for watercolor pencils?

Yes, there is a comparison chart that showcases the different properties of watercolor pencils. The chart includes information on lightfastness ratings, color intensity, erasability, layering performance, and more. This comparison can help you make an informed decision about which brand of watercolor pencils suits your needs.

Can you provide tips for using watercolor pencils?

Certainly! Some tips for using watercolor pencils include activating the pencils with water to create washes, blending and layering colors for different effects, and lifting color for highlights. Experimenting with different techniques and exploring the possibilities of watercolor pencils can enhance your artwork.

How do I choose the right watercolor pencil for my artwork?

When choosing the right watercolor pencil for your artwork, consider factors such as lightfastness, color intensity, blending capabilities, and personal preferences. It’s helpful to try out different brands and ranges to see which ones you prefer.+