6 Reasons to Try Out Watercolor Pencils
Get creative with your coloring pages using watercolor pencils.
By Thea Voutiritsas
Anyone with a coloring book is no stranger to colored pencils. They’re available in a wide array of colors and materials and in any price range. But watercolor pencils are a fun and easy way to change up your coloring style, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro. They give you the control of a typical colored pencil, but with the soft, painterly look of watercolors. With a little practice, you can use watercolor pencils create beautiful and unique designs to fill your coloring pages. Here are a few of our favorite reasons to add them to your repertoire:
Why You Should Love Watercolor Pencils
1. They’re versatile.
Watercolor pencils can be used wet, dry, or a combination of the two. You can start by painting a larger area, then add detail with a dry pencil later. While they’re typically paired with—you guessed it—water, they can also be blended with solvents like linseed oil, mineral spirits, baby oil, or even Vaseline for different results. You can experiment with dipping the pencils directly into solvents or using brushes to spread color over the paper. There are tons of brush techniques you can use to create different effects: Try brushing lightly, or scrubbing away color using a brush with firm bristles. You can create gentle gradients or strong, bold lines by experimenting with different brushes and brush strokes. Really, the possibilities are endless! Pro tip: We love these Ohuhu watercolor brush pens that come in various shapes and sizes (especially convenient for watercolor-ing on-the-go!).
2. They’re buildable.
Watercolor pencils make it easy to lay down thin washes of color, building them up slowly to add shadows and dimension (even with only one color). Just be sure to wait for the wet paper to dry before attempting to layer on more color and avoid using too much water at once so the paper doesn’t buckle. You can also experiment with layering different colors to change the hues or undertones of a certain color. For example, in landscapes, you can fill in the sky lightly with orange before adding blue on top to create the look of a warm sunset. Remember: More water = less intense color. For more opaque color payoff, use more pencil and less water.
3. They’re portable.
If you like to color on the go, watercolor pencils are easy to bring along: They don’t take up much space, and they won’t spill in your bag like acrylic or oil paints can. You can even use a convenient carrying case to help keep them organized.
You can also carry a collapsible water container and pick up some water wherever your travels take you (think bathroom sink, water fountain, or heck, even a pond!). If adding water on-the-go is out of the question, you can always blend your pages later. Just take note of what areas you want the most color, and use more pressure there, creating little “pigment banks” for yourself that you can blend out later.
4. They’re easy to control.
While watercolor pencils aren’t as precise as traditional pencils, they’re still shaped the same way. You can intuitively add as much or as little pressure as you like to change the line weight and color value. Using them dry allows you to easily create patterns, dots, or stipples, almost like you would with a regular pencil. You can even dip the pen in just a little bit of water to mimic the look a gel pen or standard ink pen. And don’t think you’re limited to the colors that come in the box. Watercolor pencils are perfect for layering to create a whole new color. Even with a pack of 12 colors, you can layer several to create endless variations. Just be sure to layer in the order you’d like the colors to appear, using the most dominant color last. Take your time and experiment with different ways to use the pencils with water. Even if things get a little out of control, that’s just part of the fun.
5. They’re relatively low maintenance.
The drying time for watercolor pencils is pretty quick compared to other types of paint, which can take up to days to fully dry. Not only can you layer colors sooner, but also you won’t have to let it dry as long — an hour tops. Cleanup is easy, too. Compared to oil or acrylic paints, or even a basic watercolor set, watercolor pencils don’t make a huge mess or require many supplies. Your basic needs are a cup for your water (or other solvent), a paper towel or rag, a brush or two, pencils, and paper. Just give the brushes a quick swish in some clean water, and then lay them out to dry. No scrubbing or solvents necessary.
6. You can get creative.
There are endless ways to combine watercolor pencils with other products for unique effects. Check out how artist Teresa Roberts Logan uses fun techniques like adding salt, using sponges, and applying wax crayon to add depth and dimension to her coloring pages. Try out masking fluid to create highlights and unique designs. You can also try creating mixed-media projects by layering watercolor pencils with sharpies or gel pens: Add detail with finer point utensils or make areas pop with bold colors and lines.
Watercolor pencils can take some getting used to; so don’t worry too much about making it perfect the first time around. Part of the beauty of watercolor pencils is the natural and organic look they can create. As Bob Ross once said, “We don’t make mistakes; we just have happy accidents.”