Try These Watercolor Pencils for Brilliant and Unique Results
We tested out Prismacolor’s watercolor pencils to see if they meet the mark.
By Thea Voutiritsas
Prismacolor offers a wide range of high-quality art tools from markers to pastels, but the company is probably best known for producing some of the best colored pencils on the market. So, naturally, we had to check out what they have to offer, starting with the Prismacolor Premier Water-Soluble Pencils.
These professional-quality, fade-resistant watercolor pencils are designed for wet or dry use. The pencils are packaged in a slim, lightweight tin with a fitted lid that snaps securely closed. Prismacolor’s watercolor pencils are available in sets of 12, 24, and 36. The 24-piece set we tested runs about $24.99 at Target and on Amazon. You can also find these pencils at art supply stores like Michael’s, but often at nearly twice the price.
Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils Paper Test
Because the Prismacolor watercolor pencils can be used wet or dry, there are few rules when it comes to the type of paper you need. For dry use, an uncoated paper or cardstock will be fine. If you plan on adding water, go for a thicker, sturdier paper, like this mixed media paper or watercolor paper. If you can invest in a watercolor paper, we highly recommend doing so: It’s designed to be durable and resistant to warping when exposed to water.
Standard Copy Paper
We tested the pencils dry on standard 20-pound copy paper, as we know the lightweight paper wouldn’t stand up well to water. They felt fairly soft on the paper, but it took some pressure to get an opaque color payoff, likely because they are designed to blend with water. However, it was surprisingly easy to blend two or more colors dry. Using the white pencil over the top helped smooth out lines and blend together spots that were a bit more troublesome.
On our 60-pound uncoated cardstock, the colors were noticeably brighter when blended with water. The water dried quickly, making it easy to build up colors for a smooth gradient effect. We found it best to hop around the page as we colored to give one section time to dry before coloring another right next to it. The pencils felt smooth on the paper and blended well together. Though the pencils aren’t particularly streaky or scratchy to begin with, it was easy to blend away any pencil streaks with a wet brush. The cardstock began to warp a bit after water was applied, but since it’s not designed for water this was expected.
Because of the texture of watercolor paper, the pencils don’t look great when applied dry. Once we added water, the colors became much more vibrant and the small ridges in the paper filled in. It was effortless to blend away the pencil streaks. Plus, the paper didn’t warp with the addition of water and the water dried quickly, making it easy to build up layers of color for more intensity and shading.
Pros & Cons of Prismacolor’s Watercolor Pencils
Watercolor pencils take some practice to get right. For us, figuring out how to layer colors using these pencils took a bit of work. We found it was best to put a light wash down first, and then go in with darker colors after the first layer dried. But once you’ve got the hang of it, the pencil strokes blend away with ease. We think this allows you to be a bit more sloppy or experimental in the pencil stage since any errant lines are easily washed away.
The Prismacolor water-soluble pencils were easy to sharpen—they didn’t break off in our electric sharpener. They also didn’t break or split while coloring, even when we applied quite a bit of pressure. Their soft cores were durable and flexible compared to more brittle colored pencils that are prone to breaking.
These pencils can work well for detail work, but you’ll want to pay attention to your brush size if covering small areas is important to you. For this “Rose Bouquets” coloring page by Katie Vaz, we used a size 2 round brush. We found that this brush was perfect for filling in the flowers, adding shading, and fitting into the small spaces in between flowers. To cover larger areas, you can use up to a size 24 brush. However, keep in mind that larger brushes hold more water, and more water will create a lighter wash on your page.
Our favorite thing about this set of pencils was how well they blended. That’s a huge plus considering the largest set only contains 36 colors. With just the 24-pack, you’ll have to rely heavily on your ability to blend to get a wider range of hues to work with. Advanced colorists can probably get away with just the 12-pack if they’re willing to custom blend most of their colors. But, if you’re less confident about your ability to blend different hues to find the perfect shade, we’d recommend going for a larger set so you have more ready-to-use colors to choose from.
So, What’s the Verdict?
Overall, we think Prismacolor’s Prismacolor Premier Water-Soluble Colored Pencils are great for intermediate colorists who are looking to try something new. They’re pricier than the budget-friendly Crayola Watercolor Pencils, but their professional quality and lightfastness may be worth the slightly higher cost to those searching for a higher-grade set.