How to Use Watercolor Pencils

How to Use Watercolor Pencils

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Want to learn how to use watercolor pencils to create your masterpiece? Let’s explore the step-by-step process from material to techniques to use watercolor pencils like a professional artist!  

Watercolor pencils offer a unique and versatile approach to painting, allowing you to effortlessly blend the precision of colored pencils with the fluidity and vibrancy of watercolor paints.

Watercolor Painting Basics

How to Use Watercolor Pencils

In this guide, we will explore the fundamentals of using watercolor pencils, from understanding the materials to mastering essential techniques, so you can create stunning watercolor artworks that truly reflect your artistic vision.

Materials Needed

Before diving into your watercolor pencil journey, ensure you have the following materials at hand:

1. Watercolor paper

Opt for a heavyweight, acid-free paper specifically designed for watercolor painting to prevent warping and maximize color saturation.

2. Watercolor pencils

Invest in a high-quality set of watercolor pencils with a wide range of colors. Brands such as Faber-Castell, Derwent, and Caran d’Ache provide excellent options.

3. Brushes

Have a selection of different brush sizes, including round and flat brushes, to achieve various effects.

4. Water

Use clean water for diluting and activating the watercolor pencil pigments.

5. Palette or mixing tray

A palette or mixing tray is necessary for blending colors and achieving the desired shades and tones.

6. Paper towels

Keep some paper towels nearby to blot excess water and achieve precise control over your pencil strokes.

7. Masking fluid (optional)

This masking fluid can be used to preserve areas on your artwork where you want the paper to show through.

Techniques for Using Watercolor Pencils

1. Dry Application

The simplest way to use watercolor pencils is to put them on paper dry, allowing you to create rich, vibrant layers of color. Begin by selecting your desired colors and outlining your subject lightly with your pencil.

Then, build up layers of color, gradually adding depth and dimension. Experiment with various pressures on the pencils to explore different levels of saturation.

2. Wet Application

Wet application is where the magic happens in watercolor pencil art. Activate the pigments by using a wet brush or by dipping the pencil tip in water before applying it to the paper.

The water will dissolve and spread the pigments, creating fluid washes and graceful transitions. Utilize this technique for backgrounds, large areas, or for blending and softening intense colors.

3. Layering and Gradation

Watercolor pencils lend themselves well to layering and creating smooth color transitions. Start with light shades, gradually proceeding to darker hues, layering each color on top of the other.

Use a gentle touch and build up colors gradually, allowing each layer to dry before adding the next. This technique enables you to achieve beautiful gradients and tonal variations.

4. Dry on Wet

To create texture, you can apply dry watercolor pencil strokes onto wet paper. First, wet the paper with clean water using a brush.

While the paper is still damp, apply the dry watercolor pencil strokes. These strokes will blend with the underlying wet layer, resulting in interesting textures and effects.

5. Lifting and Blending

One of the advantages of watercolor pencils is that you can lift or move the color with water even after it has dried. This technique helps correct mistakes or adjust the intensity of specific areas.

Dampen a brush with clean water and gently stroke the dried color to reactivate it, allowing you to blend it or lift it entirely off the paper.

6. Detailed Pencil Work

Watercolor pencils can also be used for intricate, detailed work. Sharpen your pencil to a fine point and apply it precisely to add intricate details or subtle textures to your artwork. Use light pressure and build up the details gradually to maintain control and clarity.

How to Make Watercolor Paint


Watercolor pencils offer a unique and exciting painting experience, unlocking a new world of creative possibilities. Whether you are a seasoned artist or a beginner, mastering the techniques outlined above will help you create stunning watercolor artworks that showcase your unique vision.

Embrace the versatility and expressive power of watercolor pencils by experimenting with different techniques and exploring your creative boundaries.

With practice, patience, and a keen eye, you can bring your artistic visions to life with the vibrant colors and fluidity that watercolor pencils offer.

So, pick up your watercolor pencils, unleash your creativity, and let your imagination flow onto the canvas. Happy creating!

Key Takeaways (How to Use Watercolor Pencils)

  • Watercolor pencils combine the precision of colored pencils with the fluidity of watercolor paints.
  • Materials needed: watercolor paper, quality watercolor pencils, various brushes, clean water, palette/mixing tray, paper towels, and optional masking fluid.
  • Techniques:
    1. Dry Application: Create layers of color by applying dry pencils to paper, and experimenting with pressure for saturation levels.
    2. Wet Application: Activate pigments with a wet brush or by wetting the pencil tip, creating fluid washes and transitions.
    3. Layering and Gradation: Build up colors gradually, starting with light shades and progressing to darker hues for gradients and tonal variations.
    4. Dry on Wet: Apply dry pencil strokes to wet paper for textured effects, blending with the underlying wet layer.
    5. Lifting and Blending: Correct mistakes or adjust the color intensity by lifting or blending even after the color has dried.
    6. Detailed Pencil Work: Sharpen pencils for intricate details, applying light pressure to maintain control and clarity.
  • Watercolor pencils allow for correction, lifting, and detailed work, offering a unique and versatile painting experience.
  • Embrace the creative possibilities by experimenting with different techniques, and with practice and patience, bring your artistic visions to life.

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