All the products we feature on Gathered have been chosen independently by our editorial team. We may get a small commission if you click on any products you see on this page. Learn more.

How to use watercolor pencils for beginners

Learn how to use watercolor pencils using this tutorial, plus discover the best watercolor pencils to buy!

Best watercolor pencils
Published: January 7, 2022 at 8:03 am
loading...
Try our magazines – get 3 issues for £5!

Looking for a new medium to try? Watercolor pencils great fun to try and can be used to produce a variety of stunning effects. They combine the best qualities of watercolor paints and drawing pencils and are very handy if you want to create artwork on the go.

Advertisement

Watercolor pencils are a great addition to your art supplies and can be used either by themselves or alongside other mediums.

There are times when watercolor pencils are more convenient to use than other mediums. If you're heading out to do some sketching and painting, you can leave your watercolor paints at home and bring these instead. You'll just need a sketchpad, some water and a paintbrush (or a water brush).

The best way to try them out is to invest in a set of watercolour pencils and experiment them. There are lots of affordable sets of watercolour pencils to buy if you want to test them out – and if you like them you can invest in a more expensive set at a later date. You might prefer them to your watercolor paints or enjoy using them alongside other mediums.

In this guide, we'll be exploring some simple watercolor pencil drawing techniques and looking at some of the best watercolor pencils to buy. Read on to discover everything you need to get started.

Featured image by Unsplash/Zany Jadraque.

What are watercolor pencils?

So what are watercolor pencils? Watercolor pencils are coloring pencils that can be blended using water to create effects that resemble watercolor paints. They can be used as normal colouring pencils too!

Unlike watercolor paints, you may still be able to see pencil marks once you've added a wash of water over the top, but that's just part of their charm! Watercolor pencils can sometimes appear muted, if you're looking for vivid colours then you might prefer to use water soluble ink pencils.

As the pencils are water soluble, you can wet them again to reactivate them and move the paint around using your paintbrush. You can't do that with water soluble ink pencils, which are permanent.

Looking for more art supplies to buy? Stock up on the best watercolour paints and the best acrylic paints, or discover the best drawing tablet for beginners.

If you're looking for drawing tutorials, you can learn how to draw a dog, how to draw a cat and how to draw a tree.

How to use watercolor pencils

Here are some watercolor pencil techniques you can try at home – experiment and see what works for you!

Dry shading

Watercolor pencils can be used by themselves. Try keeping a section of your drawing dry to create contrasting textures.

Best watercolor pencils – dry shading technique

Dry on wet

Wet the paper you're using, then draw over the top using your watercolor pencils. You'll find that the lines soften and may appear more muted in colour.

Best watercolor pencils – dry pencil on wet paper

Wet the pencil

Instead of wetting the paper, try dipping the watercolour pencil in water then draw directly onto your paper. This can be an interesting way to create a gradient effect. You'll notice that the color has become more intense.

Best watercolor pencils – wet pencil on dry paper

Blend using a wet brush

Draw onto your page using the watercolor pencils, then wet a paintbrush and brush it over the top to activate the pigment.

Best watercolor pencils – blending using a paint brush

Dry pencil gradients

Use two colours (or more!) to create a dry pencil gradient. Start shading lightly and build it up gradually for more intense shades.

Best watercolor pencils – blending using two dry pencils

Blended gradients

Create a dry gradient using different watercolor pencils, then blend them together using a wet paintbrush.

Best watercolor pencils – blending two colours to create a gradient

Layered colours

Mix colours by layering one on top of the other, then blending with a wet paintbrush.

Best watercolor pencils – layering colours on top of one another

Take colour from the pencil

Take a wet brush and apply it to the tip of your watercolor pencil. Paint onto your paper just as you would using normal watercolors. This is a great way to get a more traditional watercolor effect without the lines you often see when you use watercolor pencils. This is ideal for areas where you don't want too much texture.

Best watercolor pencils – taking color from the pencil using a brush

Lifting the paint

You can use a bit of tissue paper or kitchen towel to soak up excess paint and create lighter areas.

Best watercolor pencils – lifting color using a piece of kitchen towel

Best watercolor pencils to buy

Looking for a watercolor pencil set? Here are some of our favourite sets with options for beginners and more experienced artists!

Derwent Academy watercolour pencils

If you’re a keen artist, you’ll probably be familiar with the Derwent brand. Derwent produces a wide range of high-quality art materials and has a great reputation. Its Academy range is specifically designed with beginners, students and amateur artists in mind. This watercolor pencil set is ideal if you’d like to try out this medium without spending a lot of money. The pencil marks blend easily to produce an array of lovely watercolour effects. It includes a range of 12 beautiful colours for you to experiment with and a larger set with 24 pencils is also available to order. It comes in a sturdy tin, which will protect your pencils when you go out and about.

Buy the Derwent Academy watercolour pencils (set of 12) from Amazon for £7.95

Best watercolor pencils – Derwent Academy set

Caran d'Ache Suprasoft watercolour pencils

This set of watercolor pencils from Caran d’Ache is brilliant for beginners or art students. Children will love using them too! The pencils are extremely blendable and the pencil marks almost completely disappear when you apply water. The Suprasoft pencils are excellent quality when used wet or dry and won’t fade over time. This set only contains 12 pencils, but the Suprasoft range comes in larger sizes. You could always upgrade to a bigger set if you enjoy using them – the largest box in the range comes with 120 pencils! The Suprasoft watercolor pencil set is well-made – as you would expect from the renowned Caran d’Ache brand – and is presented in a durable metal tin.

Buy the Caran d'Ache Suprasoft watercolour pencils (set of 12) from Amazon for £17.75

Best watercolor pencils – Caran d'Ache Supracolor

Faber Castell Goldfaber Aqua watercolour pencils

Faber Castell’s Goldfaber watercolor pencils aren’t the most expensive out there, but the quality of this range is superb. We’d recommend buying the 24 pencil set, as it comes with an excellent range of colors and it’s great value for money. These colorful pencils blend wonderfully and come alive when brushed with water. The colors are bold and will stay bright over time. The tips of the pencils are fairly resilient and won’t snap easily – very useful if you tend to apply too much pressure. Suitable for artists of all levels and abilities.

Buy the Faber Castell Goldfaber Aqua watercolour pencils from Amazon for £18.95

Best watercolor pencils – Faber Castell Goldfaber

Winsor and Newton Studio Collection watercolour pencils

Winsor and Newton is a brand with a well-deserved reputation for producing high-quality materials for artists – and this pencil set is no exception. This set of watercolor pencils contains an array of beautiful colours such as Plum, Royal Blue or Burnt Sienna. These pencils can be used wet or dry and they blend very smoothly. The pencils have break-resistant cores, so they’re unlikely to snap under pressure. The cores are also wax-based to allow the colors to be applied evenly to the paper. Use this set with watercolor paper for best results.

Buy the Winsor and Newton Studio Collection watercolour pencil set (set of 24) from Amazon for £19.68

Best watercolor pencils – Winsor and Newton studio collection

Lyra Graduate Aqua pencils

This watercolor pencil set provides excellent value for money. The Lyra Graduate Aqua set contains 36 bold colored pencils for less than £20. They’re cheaper than some of the sets aimed at professional artists, but you’ll still get very good results with these pencils. The colors are brilliantly bright and super blendable. This is a good watercolor pencil set for students and amateur artists alike – you’ll be able to produce fantastic work without having to splash out on one of the pricier sets. This would also be a fabulous gift for an artistic friend or relative.

Buy the Lyra Graduate Aqua pencils (set of 36) from Amazon for £19.96

Best watercolor pencils – Lyra Graduate Aqua pencils

Cretacolor Aqua Monolith pencils

Cretacolor’s Aqua Monolith watercolor pencils aren’t like other sets on the market: the core of the pencil is covered by a very thin layer of lacquer, so you can shade using the side of the pencil as well as the tip. These pencils can be used to create broader lines than other types of watercolor pencil. As an added bonus, you can save the shavings when you sharpen the pencils and use them as paints. This is a great way to minimise waste! This set has very intense colors, making it a good buy for illustrators and artists who like to work with luminous tones.

Buy the Cretacolor Aqua Monolith pencils (set of 12) from Cass Art for £24.95

Best watercolor pencils – Cretacolor Aqua Monolith

Caran d'Ache Swisscolour watercolour pencils

These top-quality watercolor pencils from Caran d’Ache are excellent value for money. The pencils are light-resistant, so they’re unlikely to fade much over time. This set includes a selection of 30 colors, so you should have every shade you need to produce your drawings. The colors all blend wonderfully together, so you’re bound to be pleased with this set. The pencils are made of durable cedar wood, so they’re likely to last for a long time if you take good care of them. The pencils come in a smart tin so they can be stored safely or taken with on on the go. Caran d’Ache is a brand with a strong reputation and this set doesn’t disappoint.

Buy the Caran d'Ache Swisscolour watercolour pencils (set of 30) from Amazon for £26.69

Best watercolor pencils – Caran d'Ache

Derwent Inktense pencils

Derwent’s Inktense pencils aren’t technically watercolor pencils, but their properties are very similar – they can be used as normal coloring pencils or blended with water to create watercolor effects. As these pencils use ink-based pigments, they produce more vibrant shades. However, unlike watercolor pencils they can’t be reactivated with a second wash of water. These pencils would be a good choice for anyone who wants to create more colorful images – they can also be used to produce stunning illustrations. I love using these pencils because they’re so bright and your finished drawings look really professional.

Buy Derwent Inktense pencils (set of 24) from Amazon for £32

Best watercolor pencils – Derwent Inktense

Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer watercolour pencils

Ready to take your watercolor pencil drawings to the next level? This fantastic watercolor pencil set from Faber-Castell is designed for professional artists, so the quality of the pencils is exceptional. The watercolor pencils are heavily pigmented, meaning that you get rich, bright colors. This is the perfect buy for enthusiastic amateur artists who want to improve the quality of their work, or for art students who are looking for high-quality materials. We particularly like the Studio set, which comes in a sleek dark green box with 36 different colors to experiment with. This set would also make a wonderful gift for the artist in your life.

Buy Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer watercolour pencils from Amazon for £42.72

Best watercolor pencils – Faber Castell Albrecht Durer

Caran d'Ache Museum watercolour pencil set

If you’re an artist looking for top-notch watercolor pencils then you should definitely consider this set from Caran d’Ache. The Museum range includes watercolor pencils with rich, flawless colors – with this set, you get exceptional quality. The set includes 76 incredible colors, which are all lightfast whether you use them wet or dry. This is a great option for professional artists or amateurs with a larger budget.

Buy the Caran d'Ache Museum watercolour pencil set from Amazon for £205.40

Best watercolor pencils Caran d'Ache Museum

Other materials to buy

Winsor and Newton watercolour paper

If you're using watercolor pencils, make sure you're using a pad of watercolor paper. Watercolor paper is more absorbent than other types of paper and it's less likely to warp or buckle. Winsor and Newton's paper is ideal for this – it's thick and acid-free.

Buy the Winsor and Newton A4 watercolor paper pad from Amazon for £12.54

Best watercolor pencils – Winsor and Newton paper

Winsor and Newton Cotman watercolour brushes

Watercolor brushes come in handy when you want to blend your watercolor pencils – and they're useful if you plan to use watercolor paints too. This set from Winsor and Newton has brushes in a variety of shapes – perfect for all of your painting needs.

Buy the Winsor and Newton Cotman watercolour brushes from Amazon for £24.11

Best watercolor pencils – Winsor and Newton Cotman brushes

Faber Castell 9000 drawing pencils

If you're working with watercolor pencils, it can be helpful to sketch out your designs before you begin. Add some sketching pencils to your art stash, like these ones from Faber Castell!

Buy the Faber Castell 9000 drawing pencils from Amazon for £11.49

Best watercolor pencils – Winsor and Newton 9000 set
Advertisement

Looking for more painting projects to try? Explore our watercolour painting for beginners guide, discover easy watercolor painting ideas, learn how to paint a self-portrait, explore our favourite watercolor leaves tutorials, or try painting easy watercolor flowers.

Authors

Sarah OrmeDigital Editor, Gathered

Sarah Orme is a UK-based linocut printmaker, digital editor, feature writer and award-winning podcaster. She's been editing the sewing and art sections of Gathered.how – and before that our sister website calmmoment.com – for over 3 years. She’s the host of Gathered’s We’ve Made It podcast and A Calmer Life podcast. She’s a keen crafter and artist and loves creating DIY tutorials for Gathered. Sarah has previously written features for The Guardian, In The Moment Magazine, Project Calm Magazine, countryfile.com, radiotimes.com and yourhomestyle.uk. She enjoys designing her own unique lino prints and dreams of opening her own online shop. She shares her work @sarahormeprints

Comments, questions and tips

Rate this recipe

What is your star rating out of 5?

Choose the type of message you'd like to post

Choose the type of message you'd like to post

Overall rating

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sponsored content