Watercolor pencils are incredibly versatile. They can be used dry, like any other pencil, or mixed with water for a watercolor effect. This is because the pigments on watercolor pencils are water soluble, unlike regular pencils which are either oil or wax based. Watercolor pencil sets usually come in sets of 36 or 72 colors, but there are larger 120 colors set as well. This is our guide to the brands offering the best watercolor pencils for all skill levels.
Best Watercolor Pencils For Experimentation
Caran d’Ache produces some of the best watercolor pastel crayons in the market. You can use this set of watercolor pastels on a variety of materials, including cardboard, paper, glass and even signs and panels. For this reason, this brand provides the best watercolor pencils set if you want to experiment with mixed media.
As any other watercolor pencils, they can be used dry or wet, but they have the added bonus of also behaving like wax based pastels. This means you can do Scraffito, adding a layer of dark color and scrapping sections of it to reveal the underlying colors. You can also use them on textile if you apply to wet fabric and use an iron to heat set. And of course, you can use them dry or wet on watercolor work. They come in a variety of pack sizes, from 10 to 84 colors.
Best Watercolor Pencils For Vibrant Shades
The Inktense Ink Pencils by Derwent are some of the best watercolor pencils available if you are after very bright, vibran t shades. They have very little bleeding, as the pigments dry very quickly, making the end result look like ink. Contrasting colors can easily be placed next to each other when dry, and they won’t bleed into each other and become muddy. They have a round 4mm soft lead core and can be mixed to create new colors, or dilluted with water to create lighter and more translucent versions of the original color.
Another huge benefit of the Ink pencils is that they are ink-like in terms of permanency. Once it dries it won’t become watery again, which means you can layer colors without them bleeding into each other. However, this means it’s more difficult to create blended effects.
The overall palette of this brand is vibrant and intense. If you want traditional soft pastel watercolors, there are other options that are more suitable. They come in various set sizes, from 6 to 72.
Overall Best Watercolor Pencils
- Comes with quality sharpener
- 48 eco-friendly watercolor pencils
- Rich colours with silky smooth colour laydown
- Hexagonal shape pencils for better grip
- High pigmented medium soft 3.3 mm leads with special (SV) bonding to prevent breakage
If you are after a set of watercolor pencils for adult coloring books, theNo products found.
Those also make a wonderful gift for an art student interested in watercolor pencil art.
Best Watercolor Pencils For Adult Coloring Books
- Pair with a brush and the water soluble cores help you sketch flowing liquids and create shimmering effects
- Pigments have excellent solubility for smooth laydown
- Richly saturated, lightfast colors are great for adult coloring books
- Can be used both wet for effects or dry to match the Prismacolor palette
- Includes 36 premium watercolor colored pencils
The Prismacolor Premier Watercolor pencils range is a good starting point for adult coloring books, as the 36 shades in the box cover a wide spectrum and are easy to use. They have a soft core, which means you need to be careful with the pressure (or they’ll break. If that’s a problem for you the Faber Castell ones are better). They however shade beautifully when using water and blend like a dream.
Best Water Soluble Oil Pastel Packs
- Cretacolor Aquastic Watersoluble oil Pastels Tin Set of 40 Professional Watercolor set
- Work on various surfaces including canvas, wood, glass, and more
- For 200 years Austria’s Cretacolor has manufactured the highest quality drawing materials
- Cretacolor AquaStics watersoluble oil pastels have exceptional water solubility & pigmentation
- Best price offer on the web!
The Cretacolor Watersoluble oil pastels offer the versatility of pastels on water soluble pigments. You can use pastel techniques on them instead of pencil ones, making them perfect to color large areas for example or do shadowing.
- WET OR DRY: Crayola Portfolio Series Oil Pastels have rich color and creamy laydown. Colors are easy to blend & pointed tips allow for detailed drawing. Water soluble means these pastels double as watercolor pastels!
- OIL PASTELS: Perfect for art classrooms, poster making, community art groups, and more, Crayola pastels make art projects easy and fun! Choose your favorite colors & make sure you're never without the perfect pastel.
- CREATIVE PROJECTS: Whether you're creating a landscape masterpiece or decorating t-shirts with your Girl Scouts troop, Crayola has the markers, pens, kids markers, paints, colored pencils & crayons you need to make your project pop in bold, bright colors.
- CRAYOLA PASTELS are a must-have art supply for your tiny Van Gogh. Our classic colors are always a hit with kiddos, and for the more mature young artist, oil pastels can provide a new medium to engage their creativity and imagination.
- FROM MARKERS TO SIDEWALK CHALK: Markers for kids or adults, washable paints, bright crayons, even scented markers, we've got it all! Crayola gives kids the power to express all that inspires them as they explore, discover, play, pretend, create & dream.
Crayola offers a very affordable alternative in terms of water soluble oil pastels, with a pack of 24 usually available under 10 dollars. They are easy to blend and smooth, and have opaque colors perfect for coloring books. But you need to be careful, as unlike water color pens they can smear. If you have a child interested in watercolor those make a wonderful introduction to the media minus the mess.
How To Use Watercolor Pencils
Watercolor pencils are both a pencil and a watercolor wet medium, and that makes them really versatile in terms of technique. Besides using them dry on dry paper, like a regular pencils, here are some other techniques you can use.
Wet Watercolor Pencil On Dry Paper
If you want extra vibrant color from your watercolor pencil, you can dip the tip into the water and apply the color straight to dry paper. This will make the colors much more vibrant and it’s perfect to create accent colors that really stand up.
Dry Watercolor Pencil on Wet Paper
If you use a watercolor brush to wet the paper you can use the pen to draw really fine lines that will bleed a bit, creating really clear details. This effect looks great when drawing buildings, grass or branches, and it’s easier than waiting for the base to dry and then using a detail brush with a very dense watercolor pigment to draw the details.
Adding Water to Watercolor Pencil
The most common way to use this kind of media (and where it pays to invest in the best watercolor pencils possible, as the pigment is more soluble) is to use a watercolor brush to add water to the pencil pigment on the sheet. You can add more or less water, which will dissolve more or less pigment and make the pencil lines blend more or less giving the final result more or less texture. You can see more examples on this video.
Watercolor Pencils vs. Colored Pencils vs Watercolor Pans
When buying watercolor pencils it is important not to get confused with regular color pencils. They often look the same, but they are totally different. To start with, watercolor pencils use a water-soluble binding agent instead of wax or oil to create the lead. This makes them softer than regular coloring pens, and allows for the watercolor transformation when you add water. But why would you use watercolor pencils instead of a traditional watercolor pan or tube and a palette?
The main reason is convenience. If you are painting watercolors away from your desk or studio, watercolor pencils are mess free and easy to transport. All you need is your pencils, brushes and a pot for water. You can even use watercolor pencils to sketch the composition, and add the watercolor blending and details once you are back at your studio.
If you want to paint watercolor outside, tools such as the colorless blender for detail work and a Pentel water brush set for larger surfaces are the perfect complement to your watercolor pencils set and highly portable.
Overall, the above four brands produce the best watercolor pencils for both beginners and experienced artists. But that doesn’t mean they are the only ones, and more brands are coming up with innovative watercolor pencils and watersoluble pastels to suit various skill levels and needs.
They all can be used with regular paper, but if you intend to use water to make the most of the watercolor effect you will need a thicker, treated paper watercolor sketchbook or the paper will bleed and wrinkle.