View Full Version : Watercolor Pencils Information

05-02-2013, 10:34 AM
Hi all,
I am not sure where to put this, so I decided to put it here. I just got some watercolor pencils so I can use them anywhere, and also because I am a loosey-goosey painter, and need some more details, and this is good for me. I have a few questions. The ones I got are the Fantasia brand - they don't seem to have very rich color when I wet them. They fade a lot. What are some good brands?

Also, does anyone know of any good tutorials here that teach how to use these? I was poking around for a while the other day, and didn't really find anything, so I thought maybe one of you would know something good. Oh, and also, how do you sharpen these? Thanks!!

Gorgeous here in upstate NY - maybe I can get out for some plein air painting this weekend!!! Hope you all have a great weekend!

05-02-2013, 04:48 PM
I love the Derwent line. I have a small tin of their w/c pencils, and a larger (24, I think) tin of the Inktense, and I really enjoy using them.

But...I don't think they're very lightfast.

ETA: I use a regular pencil sharpener. I guess if you'd like you can use a knife and save the shavings to make a small amount of "paint" with them, but I've never tried it.

05-02-2013, 05:46 PM
I have a nice set of Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer pencils. For some reason, I really cannot get deep, saturated colour from them. I haven't tested them for lightfastness, either. I do use them occasionally for fine details, but really don't paint with them.

Quinacridone Gold
05-02-2013, 06:10 PM
Snap again Char! Albrecht Durer are my favourite and I have a beautiful wooden box of 80, Derwent second, because the colours in each are 'real world' colours. I checked their websites ages ago and the lightfast ratings are pretty good all round for the Durer, unlike some.
I do quite like some of the dark inktense ones too - but you have to watch the lightfast ratings.
There are so many ways to use watercolour pencils - as a normal pencil alone or draw and colour carefully and then spray with a very fine water spray to blend (only for the brave!) or use a brush to blend where you choose; for additional accents on a watercolour painting; 'grate' the pencil with sandpaper over a wet water or watercolour wash and the gratings will form interesting dotted textures on the paper; use to make a super mini watercolour palette by colouring in squares of very strong pigment in the back of a sketch book. When you need it, touch the squares with a wet brush to pick up some pigment and paint away! Use to do the initial drawing for a watercolour in a light colour so that when you wash over it the lines will be diluted and disappear...
And so on...

Marcio C
05-02-2013, 06:40 PM
I have used Caran D'Ache (love the pencils but the colors are very intense and require blending for a more realistic style), Durer and Derwent, always paying attention to the lightfast rating of each color. I would recommend Durer, I think.
Char, for saturated color, dip the tip of the pencil in water, then apply it to the paper. Or pick up the pigment with a brush from the pencil. Another option is to shave the tip and then dilute with water, but by then you might as well switch to pans or to watercolor sticks for the job. Watercolor sticks are not as detail-friendly as pencils, but give you very intense color very fast.

Oh, one other thing, if you want a lot of color, apply a lot of pencil before you add any water... once you water the pigment, it quickly saturates the paper and tends to resist further applications.

05-02-2013, 07:06 PM
Thank you all, for the suggestions and tips. I am off to go,check them out!

05-02-2013, 07:31 PM
A friend of mine bought some water soluble graphite pencils... what fun they were to play with! They're colour, although quite restrictive, was beautifully intense. Great neutrals and warm shades.

Marcio, I think you've told me what I have been doing *wrong*. I wet each layer as I colour it and it just never seems to strengthen in value.

05-03-2013, 12:45 AM
I have a dozen Derwent Aquatones - woodless watercolor pencils - and a handful of DS watercolor sticks that I have used with an Aquabrush and journal while traveling. About the same as carrying a small paintbox except you can draw with the sticks. When applied directly to paper (like a crayon) before adding water, most of the paint dissolves but some of the marks remain. Haven't tried Durer yet.

I have a few Inktense pencils and like them for small details where I might otherwise use ink; touched with a tiny bit of water, the dark colors bleed a bit and really pop. I like them for adding veins to leaves, for instance. The Tombow dual brush markers are similar and also work well in monotone sketches (the ink bleeds into great washes when touched with water).

I also just bought a big box of Caran d'Ache Neocolor II (I think they are called crayons instead of pencils) because the colors are so rich and because they leave no marks on the paper if they are applied dry then wetted. You can also wet the paper first and let them sort of melt into the paper as you rub. And I just read that someone placed paper on a heating tray and let the crayons just melt onto the warm paper while applying them.

I found several YouTube demonstration videos by googling the product names mentioned but mostly I have just played with them to test and compare. Many of the videos are made by the stamp craft set and young journal makers.

05-03-2013, 05:09 AM
I have a set of 60 Albrecht Durer pencils and I find them quite good but I will mention one observation that I have made. With certain papers/boards, it is difficult to put layers of colour on with them. Your layers must be made quite lightly and you have to make sure every single layer has been completely washed with water to make sure it doesn't lift during wetting the next layer.

(I'm probably using all the wrong jargon but hopefully I make some sort of sense!)

05-03-2013, 05:23 AM
You might check out The Watercolor Handbook whenever you have a question like this. There is a section with links to several threads about Watercolor pencils:

*Watercolor Crayons and Pencils*

Watercolor Crayons by rue d'oak

Watercolor Pencils

Watercolor Pencil Brands Comparisons

Derwent Graphitint Watercolor Pencils by artbyboon

The link to the Handbook is in my signature line and at the top of The Learning Zone. :D


05-07-2013, 10:48 AM
there is good info on youtube as well

05-07-2013, 01:16 PM
Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer and Caran D'Ache Supracolor Soft II are both good lines of water color pencils. The FC are most consistently noted as the closest to actual watercolors, though I don't find a great deal of difference between the two lines in actual handling. The Derwent Inktense pencils have an enthusiastic following.

Watercolor pencils are simply not as saturated and intense as top quality tube watercolors, but I think you can still get good results with them, and the attraction of them is the combination of disciplines, portability and lack of mess.

Lightfast is a bit more problematic. Faber-Castell is very specific about its ratings - a 3 star rating is equal to a 7 or 8 on the blue wool scale - which is ideally what you want. A two-star is a 5 or 6. Trouble there is that 6 is generally speaking as low as you want to go, and some prefer not to go that low, but you don't know if it is a 6 or the 5. The further trouble is that there a lot more two star rated pencils in their watercolor pencil line than their traditional line, and it tends to be in whole groups - violets and reds are hard to find with 3-stars. How accurate these self-ratings are I don't know - yet. I've recently put up my test strips in the windows to see how they do. Caran D'Ache uses the same number of stars system to indicate lightfastness, but I don't know if they translate directly to a known standard like the blue wool scale such as the Faber-Castell claim to.

My preferred use of them is in my sketchbook/journals, often as an underpainting and then reworked with regular colored pencils (Faber-Castell) on top for added depth and clarity. A couple of waterbrushes, the sketchbook, pencils in their case and a sharpener and I'm good to go. The lightfastness is less of an issue since they are not on display in a room constantly.

Avena Cash
05-07-2013, 05:39 PM
I have the Caran D'Ache Supracolor and I like them a lot but the pencils have their limitations as well as I think any colored pencil will naturally have. You kind of want to have drawing-style marking intentions as part of the work because they are still very pencil-y ... They have a gentleness like all colored pencils and the watersolubility tempers but doesn't eliminate that.

I also have the Caran D'Ache Neocolor watersoluble crayons and those I love for richer color when wetted. You can essentially make paintings with them and really mix the marking and washing up if you like that. The color is much more dense and more intense.

I think this company has high standards for lightfastness. I bought mine a long time ago but I remember looking for that quality.

When I use them I work the way I work in graphite pencil, and I start with grays and darks, shading in zones with marks and occasionally throwing in something looser and rougher that I might keep. I move around and around in layers. I only wash out some of it so I keep texture in some places. I start with the darks and midtones and grays and save the highlights and brighter colors for last.

Here's a sketch (10x14.5) I did of some apple blossoms. You can see I made it full of drawing marks, layered, sometimes on top of the washes as well. I did start with a graphite value sketch, which was light and I left it in place. Then I used both the aquarelle pencil and then the crayons, and also used some white goache. You can wash it further but after trying a lot of things it seemed that these work best for me this way--as a drawing/painting mix. I used the pencils only for a while before beginning to add in the heavier and brighter crayon. So the softer layering came first, sketched areas like pencil shading, then the brighter paint marks making certain parts more and more decisive.



Have fun!