Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tuesday Tips & Tricks: Discovering Watercolor Pencils

Down on the Farm – Piermont, NH
Watercolor pencils have been around for a while but until recently, when a student asked me about them, I hadn’t given them a lot of thought. I love the feel of drawing with the pencil on paper and the interaction of color and water on paper in watercolor. Could this be a match made in heaven?

There are many ways to use watercolor pencils. Here are a few to get you started.
This demo sketch was done entirely with watercolor pencils. I used Derwent Inktense watercolor pencils and a moderately-textured 180# paper to explore their potential.


1. Pick up color from the point of the watercolor pencil with a wet brush (I used a waterbrush) and apply it to the paper
That’s how I painted the sky in this sketch. I picked up the color onto the brush and ran it like a wash adding wet color as needed.

2. Apply dry pencil marks on dry paper and work with a wet brush.
The barn was done in several layers. First I applied light pencil shading in several colors then bended them with a waterbrush. When that was dry I added more dry pencil for texture and ever so lightly touched the texture with the rigor (liner) brush to activate the color a bit. The windows were added later.

3. Wet the point of the pencil and draw/make marks on the paper. I loved the feel of the wet pencil on the paper in this process! I used the waterbrush to run the different colors together. This technique gives you rich juicy color; note the trees and other darks in this sketch. The windows on the barn were added with a wet pencil point.

4. Add layers of color, shapes and textures. You can work into and push the pencil lines and washes with your brush to add interest to larger shapes.

5 & 6. Run the dry pencil back and forth on sandpaper and scatter pencil dust on the paper for added texture and interest.
5: pencil dust on wet area of the paper
6: pencil dust on dry paper then lightly sprayed with a water (Protect or block off the areas you don’t want affected by the dust and water.)

What do I hope to pass on to you in this post? 

  • Mostly, I hope to encourage you to enjoy the process of experimenting. Drawing and painting are verbs. Get lost in the process and the product will come. 
  • Discover watercolor pencils if you haven’t already. They’re a very versatile medium.
  • Brands of watercolor pencils vary in intensity and softness. Buy a few individual pencils from several brands to find which works best for you. Derwent Inktense are bright and juicy, and suit the way I work. 
  • Let the fun begin! 

I’m definitely adding a few watercolor pencils to my sketch kit (see #3).


  1. Thank you for all the tips! I'm new at this--just getting around to using watercolour pencils that I've had for a few years (a set of 24 Prismacolor pencils that I won at an art workshop), and enjoying it thorooughly! I'm doing a very elaborate design on hot pressed paper, and I love the luminosity I'm getting. I'm not sure if it's the paper or the extreme layering--must experiment further to find out!

  2. Gina, I'm glad you're enjoying our Tuesday Tips & Tricks! Keep on experimenting and having fun. Let us know your testing conclusions!


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