Watercolour pencils are amazing! I picked up a set of these a few months ago and have been playing with them now and then. I wanted to try oil painting but the paints are quite a bit more expensive than acrylic, and I was already doing plenty of acrylic painting so instead I considered watercolour. Watercolour paints looked rather messy and since I don’t have space for a proper studio at this point, watercolour pencils seemed like the next best thing. Turns out they are a blast.
Basically, they are just coloured pencils and you use them the same way as dry ones. BUT, when you brush over the drawing with water, the pigment dissolves into paint right on the paper!
I went all out and bought one of those brushes with water in the handle, but you don’t need that. It works just as well with a regular brush dipped in water, and I do prefer that for fine detail or very large areas. This brush also gives you a bit less control over how much water you’re applying, and it can quickly become too much so in many cases a regular brush is actually better but I do enjoy using this as well.
Here is a before and after:
On the left is the dry original drawing, and on the right is the final result after going over with a brush. The colours become richer and allow greater possiblities for blending and shading.
Of course it’s not as simple as just slopping water all over the drawing and it magically comes out perfectly. The water pulls the pigment around just like paint, and you can blend and mix colours right on the paper. The colour becomes richer, but also darker, so it definitely takes some practice and getting used to. It’s difficult or impossible to lighten it up or add highlights once an area is already dark, and going over a particular spot to correct something doesn’t work very well.
It’s a bit difficult to know how the colours will blend, and I think the type of paper has something to do with this as well. I tried a few different papers and noticed very big differences in the results. I ended up buying a nice pad of watercolour paper because regular paper tends to buckle and I found drawing paper didn’t behave nicely when I was trying to blend colours.
To help figure out how the colours interact with each other, the Faber-Castell starter kit I bought provided a chart and suggested combining all the pencils to see what they create. Here is that chart:
The letters stand for which colours were mixed in each square. R for Red, O for Orange, etc. It’s very handy to look at the chart and see which colour I’m after, then know which pencils to blend to achieve that colour.
Eventually I decided I liked these quite a bit, so I bought a bigger set with a better range of colours to choose from. I wanted to paint more natural tones like browns and greens, and the original 8-piece starter set felt a bit limiting. Here is a drawing I did after using the new set:
I definitely want to practice this more to get a better handle on blending and shading but overall these are a lot of fun to work with and it’s very easy to get a cool watercolour effect without mucking around with watercolour paints.