By Matt Fussell
Watercolor pencils are a unique medium for creating art. They combine drawing with painting in a manner that no other medium can replicate.
Watercolor pencils are a medium that give the artist the best of both worlds of painting and drawing. They are similar to colored pencils but behave differently when water is added. This is because colored pencil pigment is held by a waxy or oil-based binder, while watercolor pencils have a water-soluble binder.
Because the medium is encased inside of a pencil that can be sharpened, the artist can create detailed and delicate marks that may be difficult to achieve with a brush.
When water is applied to areas where watercolor pencils have been used, a watercolor effect is achieved. When this happens, the medium behaves in a similar manner as that of watercolor.
Typically, water is applied with a brush, but sponges and other tools can be used as well. Nylon brushes work well for this, but natural hair brushes work too. Bristle brushes are typically used for heavier bodied media like oils or acrylics, so it may be best not to use them with watercolor.
Traditional watercolor techniques can be used even when watercolor pencils are used.
The manner in which watercolor pencils are used is ultimately up to the artist. But, as with any medium, there are some things that may be helpful to keep in mind. Here are a few suggestions for drawing with watercolor pencils...
Drawing with Watercolor Pencils
Watercolor pencils can be applied just like colored pencils, but they will behave differently on the surface. This is, as mentioned before, due to the binder.
Activating Watercolor Pencils with Water
Watercolor pencils differ from colored pencils further with the ability to be activated with applications of water. It is advised to slowly build up applications and activate them in layers so that the value and intensity of the color can be fully controlled.
Layering Applications of Watercolor Pencils
As layers dry, additional applications of watercolor pencil can be drawn over layers underneath. This allows the artist to control the color and adjust the painting gradually.
Areas do not have to be completely dry. Pencils can be applied while areas are still wet producing interesting effects.
"Lifting" or Erasing Watercolor Pencils
Areas can be erased or "lifted" using traditional watercolor techniques. Water can be applied to the area that is desired to be removed and a cotton swab or brush can be used to pull color up. Although it may be difficult to remove the color completely, areas can made lighter using this technique.
Watercolor pencils should be applied to watercolor paper or a heavy board such as illustration board. As water is applied, thinner papers will buckle or even tear.
Watercolor papers typically have a heavier texture or "tooth". While some artists will prefer the texture, others may find that smoother surfaces are better suited for their needs.
A solution for these artists would be illustration board. Illustration board will provide the rigid support that is required while providing a smoother surface for more precise detailing.
Watercolor pencils are inexpensive and portable giving them an advantage over traditional watercolors. They can be picked up at any art store. Because they can be sharpened to a fine point, it is easy to apply details that may be hard to get with traditional watercolor paints. Watercolor pencils can be used alongside traditional watercolor pencils.
While watercolor pencils provide some advantages, there are some traditional watercolor techniques that may be difficult to duplicate.
The following video art lesson demonstrates an overview on how to use watercolor pencils...
Looking to pick up some watercolor pencils? I recommend Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils
There's more to explore on using watercolor pencils. Here's an additional video that features excepts of a Live Lesson (1 Hour) of a demonstration on watercolor pencils... (There's more information on this page as well.)