Fun With Watercolor Pencils

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If you paint with watercolor, there’s always something new to master. In the past, an artist has had two choices: Paint in a tube or paint in a pan. Now, there’s a third choice: paint in a pencil. That’s right, watercolor pencils. How cool is this? You get the accuracy of a pencil with the added ability to just add water for an entirely different look.

Just think of how easy it would be to grab a handful of pencils, a bottle of water, a block of watercolor paper and a brush or two and be able to plein air paint whenever the mood strikes.

Wouldn’t it be great to use a pencil to make fine, uniform lines without running out of paint?

With watercolor pencils, you’ve got the best of both worlds: ease of use and total control.


What are Watercolor Pencils?

Watercolor pencils look pretty much like any other colored pencil. The difference lies in the binder used to create them. Colored pencils use a wax-based binder that is waterproof. Once applied to paper, the pigment stays in place, so it’s perfect for layering and blending.

Watercolor pencils use a water-soluble binder that releases the pigment when water is applied, intensifying the colors. You’ll find that with watercolor pencils, you can get some pretty amazing effects.

Watercolor Pencil Techniques

There are a lot of ways to use watercolor pencils in your painting. Just like any new technique, it takes practice to master a new medium, but it’s all part of your growth as an artist.

Draw, Then Add Water

Start with dry paper and dry pencils. Lay out your drawing and mass in color blocks. Use a brush with water to blend in the color masses. The more pencil you use in an area, the more intense the final color. Use a light hand with minimal pencil strokes for less intense color. You can build up multiple colors, just like mixing color on your palette.

Wet and blend the lighter colors first, working into the dark areas. If you start with the dark area, you’ll pull the deep color into the light.

Add Detail To A Watercolor Painting

If you’ve ever tried to paint a long, thin line like sailboat rigging, electrical wiring or architectural details, you know how hard it is with a brush and paint. With watercolor pencils, you can draw straight, uniform lines with no muss or fuss.

Draw Onto Wet Paper

By wetting your paper before using your pencils, you’ll immediately have a rich, intense color with a grainy texture. Wet one area at a time. The more water you apply to the paper, the longer you’ll have to work before the paper dries.

Use Watercolor Pencils as Portable Paint

Wipe a wet brush over the pencil tip like using pan paint. You can use the pigment on the brush to paint, just as you normally do. This is a pretty good method for spontaneous painting and sketching on-the-go.

When you’re using watercolor pencils, make sure you’re using watercolor paper. You’re adding water, so thinner sketch pads or drawing paper will buckle. Have fun and try out watercolor pencils for a new twist on an old standby.


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