Watercolour pencils: a guide to using them

A guide to using watercolour pencils 

Are you starting out using watercolour pencils and want some guidance? We’ve got you covered with our guide which includes popular pencil brands, techniques for using them along with a brief education on some of their benefits. 

What are watercolour pencils? 

Watercolour pencils are great if you want to create a more blended fluid effect on your colouring pages, they differ from normal colouring pencils as the binding in the pigments is water-soluble whereas normal pencils tend to use oil or wax in their binding, allowing them to stick better to paper. This is great if you want to create more intense styles in your colouring, as once you add water to the pencils, the binding releases extra pigment. 

Note: if you’re someone who loves layering using normal coloured pencils then you won’t be able to get as many layers using watercolour pencils, so just bear that in mind before you start colouring. 

If you tried watercolour painting before and were put off by its difficulty, then not to worry as it’s not exactly the same. When using pencils it’s easier to add more detail to your work, for example, you may choose to use pencils for the main focus of your page and then use paints for the background. That being said, if you are someone who is interested in watercolour painting then starting off with pencils will help you get a better understanding of how water affects pigments, moves paint across the page, and how to blends colours.

Picking your watercolour pencils

The great thing about watercolour pencils is you can get started with only the three primary colours: red, yellow, and blue (black and white as also useful). That being said, we suggest starting with a 12 pack of colours so you can get some more variation in your palette and practice blending different colours. 

Some brands we suggest are; Derwent they have a wide range of single colours available to add to your collection, or you can make up your own set of 12 colours. Faber-Castel Albrecht Duerer pencils are great but are quite an investment if you’re looking at larger packs.

When considering what brushes to use, you should also consider what brush size will work best for your pieces as this can help persevere the detail you’ve coloured. Watercolour brushes are also popular for adding water to the coloured surface as these can help control the density of colour when squeezing on the barrel. This is important when using watercolour on different types of paper as not all colouring books or papers can take a lot of water, for example you will need to use heavier paper that can handle water being added to it. Our Colouring Heaven pages are great for using watercolour pencils as they are 100 gsm, find out more about adding the correct amount of water to your pages by featured Colouring Heaven artist, Lisa Mitrokhin, here.

Let’s get colouring: watercolour pencil techniques 

There are a few different techniques when it comes to colouring with watercolour pencils, picking one is down to personal preference and the desired outcome of your colouring – there’s no one correct method. But, first, let’s get accustomed to the basic method  

The basics – colour first and add water when you’re done. 

Most artists use watercolour pencils to create a drawing and add water afterwards, or in the final stages of colouring.

Start by outlining the subject or main focus area in one main colour, then continue to fill in the rest of the page working by adding the lightest colours first and then move onto darker colours, adding layers as you go and then finally shading. Then you’re ready to add water!

Tip: leave the lightest areas white.

Before adding the water make sure you get as much water off the brush before you apply it to the page, for example, run the tip of the brush on the edge of your water dish and then onto a clean wet paper towel. 

When adding water make sure to start with the lightest areas, then paint the water onto your drawing (remember to be careful with how much water you paint on as adding too much can ruin your work!). As you add more and more water the pigments on the page will become much brighter. Make sure to rinse and clean the brush before painting over different colours or darker sections, this will prevent your work from becoming muddy. Tip: when you’ve finished you can use the remaining water on the brush to create a subtle background. 

Now sit back, relax and let it dry.

Don’t forget to share your work with us on our Friends of Heaven Colouring Facebook page. We also have more tips for using watercolour pencils in our How to colour section.

Watercolour pencils by Fábio Hanashiro on Unsplash

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