How to Use Watercolor Pencils

How to Use Watercolor Pencils? – Easy Tips And Techniques

Watercolor pencils are a type of pencil that contains water-soluble pigments, meaning that the colors react and blend when they come into contact with water. This artistic medium occupies a unique space between traditional drawing and watercolor painting. Artists often employ various techniques to create captivating watercolor pencil artworks. This article aims to provide guidance on using watercolor pencils and offers insights into different techniques.

Before We Begin

Before delving into the details of using watercolor pencils, it’s important to understand what watercolor pencils are. Essentially, they are colored pencils with water-soluble properties. This characteristic makes the way water interacts with the pencil’s pigment somewhat unpredictable. A notable advantage of using watercolor pencils is that you can easily reactivate your marks with a small amount of water if you wish to make adjustments. Working with watercolor pencils demands a relaxed approach, so ensure you have a comfortable workspace and ample time to explore the content of this article.

The Necessary Materials

To get started, it’s crucial to have the right materials at your disposal. Begin by selecting high-quality paper for your artwork. Any A3 watercolor paper is suitable, but it should have a weight of over 300 GSM to prevent warping when water is applied. Secondly, invest in a good-quality set of watercolor pencils. The availability of these materials may vary based on your location, but we’ve compiled a list of recommended supplies to help you get started. Additionally, you’ll need high-quality watercolor brushes, with acrylic paintbrushes being suitable for beginners. Finally, some cutting will be involved, so any sharp pair of scissors will suffice; there’s no need for specialized tools.

Here’s a list of suggested supplies:

  1. Arteza Watercolor pencils
  2. Sharpener
  3. Paintbrushes
  4. HB pencil
  5. 300 GSM paper (or higher)
  6. Masking/Scotch tape
  7. Ruler
  8. Ready to Use Watercolor Pencils


Before learning how to paint with watercolor pencils, let’s start by exploring the technique of creating drawings with them. Cut out small cards, each measuring 5cm by 10cm, from your watercolor paper. These cards will serve as a canvas for your watercolor pencil drawings, helping you practice various techniques essential for mastering watercolor pencil art. In this tutorial, we’ll cover seven distinct techniques, so prepare at least seven of these small cards.

Techniques for Creating Watercolor Pencil Art

While many watercolor pencil tutorials combine multiple techniques in a single drawing, this tutorial takes a simpler approach by breaking down each technique individually. This allows us to define and explore each technique comprehensively, making it easier to apply them in your watercolor pencil artwork. Watercolor pencil drawings are one way to use this medium, but another exciting approach is to use them for painting. We’ll guide you through the process of painting with watercolor pencils in this tutorial.

Method 1: Direct Watercolor Pencil Application

The Direct Watercolor Pencil Application is a fundamental technique in watercolor pencil drawing and painting. It serves as a cornerstone for your watercolor pencil skills. This method involves applying a watercolor pencil mark directly onto the paper and then using a wet paintbrush to blend and spread the color.

  1. Begin by using an HB pencil to create a small square on your paper where you intend to paint or draw. This square provides a controlled space for practicing precision when applying watercolor pencil strokes.
  2. Color the right side of the square with your watercolor pencil, gradually lightening the color as you move toward the left side. The water-soluble nature of the pencil allows for easy blending with water.
  3. Load your paintbrush with water and start painting over the darker-colored area. Maintain a steady and consistent motion as you work to fill the entire square with the blue pigment. Use the paintbrush to evenly distribute the color from one side to the other.
  4. Your goal is to ensure that the entire square has a similar tonal variety, even though there may be subtle variations in tone. The result should be a blue square that appears slightly lighter due to the water’s effect on the pigment. If you want more vivid colors, apply more pencil marks or pigment, but do so slowly and methodically by layering your marks.

How to Use Watercolor Pencils

Method 2: Fading Colors Technique

The Fading Colors Technique is ideal for creating unique and visually appealing color combinations in watercolor pencil drawings, especially for natural subjects and various textures. Incorporating this technique can add a captivating range of colors to your final artwork.

  1. Begin by drawing another small square on your paper. This time, you’ll use purple and orange colors. Color each side of the square, gently fading the color inwards toward the center where they meet.
  2. Dip your paintbrush in water and make strokes starting from one side, beginning with the purple area. Maintain a steady, swift up-and-down motion, causing the purple color to move towards the center of the square.
  3. While the purple area is still wet, dip your brush in water again and repeat the same technique on the orange side of the square. Continue with swift up-and-down strokes, moving the orange color towards the center.
  4. As the colors converge in the center, lighten your brush’s touch on the paper and gently merge the colors with light strokes. You can apply these strokes in a circular or side-to-side motion to seamlessly blend the colors until they merge seamlessly.
  5. Allow the colors to dry completely. If you notice some residual pencil lines after drying, don’t worry; they add an interesting quality to your artwork.

Method 3: Color Mixing Technique

The Color Mixing Technique allows you to create seamless color blends, resulting in entirely new colors formed through the mixing of available colors. This technique enhances the color variations in your painting or drawing.

  1. Start by drawing another small square on a separate piece of paper. Each side of the square should be colored with different colors, such as blue, yellow, red, or green. Allow the colors to overlap at the corners.
  2. Dip your paintbrush in water and begin to paint over the colors slowly. Start at one side and work your way around the square. Replenish your brush with water as needed, especially when transitioning between colors.
  3. Use your watered paintbrush to create wet strokes on each individual color and in the overlapping corners. The objective is to mix and blend the colors freely.
  4. As you go through all the colors around the square, make various movements to merge the colors. Experiment with an array of colors to achieve a broad spectrum of shades.
  5. Once the colors are thoroughly mixed, allow the image to dry completely. The final result should display dashes of individual colors with the emergence of new blended colors. This technique produces stunning and diverse color variations.

Method 4: Watercolor Palette Painting

The Watercolor Palette Painting technique leans more towards painting than drawing. Start with a spare piece of watercolor paper and create a palette of various colors. Activate these colors with a wet brush. You can then load your paintbrush with this activated paint for application.

  1. Begin by drawing a small square on a new piece of cut-out paper. On a separate piece of paper, create a palette by making some scribbles with one or two colors, such as blue and orange.
  2. Dip your brush in water and use it to activate the colors on your paper palette. Create three small color sections within your square in a painterly manner.
  3. Take another piece of cut-off paper and experiment with color mixing. Combine colors like green, red, and yellow. Using pencil pigment as your paint allows you to create new colors when mixed with water. Apply this new color next to the previously applied colors within the square. This method diversifies your mark-making style and results in a unique image composition.

Method 5: Drawing on Wet Surface

The Drawing on Wet Surface technique is an intriguing way to create highly saturated and contrasted marks. It involves drawing directly onto a wet surface, resulting in vivid and interesting marks.

  1. Start by drawing a small square with an HB pencil. Apply a clean, even coat of water to the surface of the paper within the square. Be cautious not to use too much water.
  2. While the paper is still wet, apply an assortment of colors and experiment with various mark-making styles, such as zig-zags and scribbles.
  3. Fill the square with a range of colors. The water-soluble pigment will slowly disperse towards the wet areas, creating a dispersion of colors. This technique is particularly effective for abstract work or when creating dynamic shapes in your artwork.
  4. As you apply different colors within the square, you’ll notice that the scratchiness created by the pencil marks is preserved to some extent. This technique produces a beautiful combination of textural and tonal variations.
  5. Allow the image to dry completely to reveal the final result, which will feature a captivating blend of textures and colors. When working with watercolor pencils, approach mark-making creatively.

Method 6: Pencil as Wet Brush

Similar to the direct watercolor pencil application, the Pencil as Wet Brush technique involves using a wet pencil tip to make marks on paper. This method allows for exciting color mixing and diverse textures within your artwork.

  1. Begin by simply dipping your watercolor pencil into water and applying strokes to the paper. Experiment with different colors and mark-making styles.
  2. Try mixing colors, such as yellow into blue, to create new color combinations or effects. You can also draw additional colors around the initial applied color. Remember to dip your pencil into water before making any marks.
  3. You can introduce red into the mix to create a range of colors within this technique. It’s a highly expressive way to apply marks to your artwork.

Method 7: Drawing Over Watercolor

The Drawing Over Watercolor technique can be applied not only to watercolor pencils but also to other mediums. It involves enhancing a watercolor pencil painting by drawing over it with a pen to add details and features.

  1. Create a small landscape with an assortment of colors, using watercolor pencils. Start by drawing a horizontal line with green for the ground, and draw a simple tree in the center.
  2. Add a blue sky on the horizon behind the tree, using the standard method of applying color with watercolor pencils, which will later be activated with water.
  3. Add a small brown horizontal shadow to the right of the tree to indicate the direction of the light source. You can also darken the right side of the tree with a darker green and lighten the left side with yellow.
  4. Activate the watercolor pencil marks by adding water with a paintbrush. Experiment with different brush strokes to achieve various effects, such as a bushy texture in the tree.
  5. After the image has dried completely, use a black pen to add interesting marks and details. Start with the branches and continue to enhance or create features like shadowed areas of leaves. Keep your marks loose and sketch-like to complement the free nature of watercolor pencils.

Drawing Over Watercolor

Remember, there’s no such thing as a perfect image, so embrace the freedom of this technique and enjoy the creative process. Your sketchy lines will add character to your artwork.

People also ask

FAQ 1: How do I get started with watercolor pencils?

Answer: To get started with watercolor pencils, first gather your materials, which include watercolor pencils, watercolor paper, a paintbrush, a container of clean water, and a palette or plastic surface for blending. Begin by sketching your subject lightly with the watercolor pencils. Then, use a wet brush to blend and activate the colors. Experiment with different techniques like layering, blending, and wet-on-wet to achieve the desired effects.

FAQ 2: Can I use watercolor pencils on regular paper?

Answer: While watercolor pencils work best on watercolor paper designed to handle the wetness, you can use them on regular paper. However, be cautious with the amount of water you apply, as regular paper may not handle moisture as well, and excessive water can cause the paper to warp or deteriorate.

FAQ 3: How do I create vibrant colors with watercolor pencils?

Answer: To create vibrant colors with watercolor pencils, layer the colors gradually. Apply multiple layers of pencil strokes, varying the pressure and direction to build up the intensity. Additionally, use a wet brush to blend and activate the colors. The more layers and blending you apply, the more vibrant your colors will appear.

FAQ 4: Can I use watercolor pencils for detailed artwork?

Answer: Yes, watercolor pencils are excellent for detailed artwork. Their fine tips allow for precision in drawing and coloring. You can create intricate details by sharpening your pencils to a fine point and using controlled strokes. Afterward, you can use a small, fine-tipped brush to blend and refine details further.

FAQ 5: How do I fix mistakes when using watercolor pencils?

Answer: Fixing mistakes with watercolor pencils is possible. If you make a mistake before adding water, you can erase or lift the color using a kneaded eraser or a clean, damp brush. If the mistake happens after adding water, you can blot it gently with a paper towel or use a clean, damp brush to lift the color. For more substantial corrections, you might need to let the area dry and then paint over it with watercolor pencils or opaque watercolors. Practice and patience will help you become more adept at managing mistakes.

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